Mapping the Impact of Research Infrastructure

The National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center, the workhorse supercomputer for Office of Science researchers, is used by scientists across the country, including the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico.
Photo courtesy of DOE Office of Science

The National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center, the workhorse supercomputer for Office of Science researchers, is used by scientists across the country, including the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico.

Nobody wants to get stuck on a summer vacation without a map. Whether on your car’s GPS or tucked in your backpack, maps provide that big picture of where you are, where you’re going, and, if you look carefully, they can show connections you’ve never seen before. Now available, a new online mapping tool reveals the hidden connections, and widespread benefits, from use of a unique collection of research centers operated as user facilities by the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, which hosted more than 30,000 researchers in the last 12 months alone.

Scientists from universities, industry, and other research centers all across the country use the resources in the facilities, which are available through a competitive peer-reviewed process. No fee is charged if the results are made available to the public; if the research is proprietary, the government charges for the cost of using the facility. With the resources in these facilities, scientists are making breakthroughs in fields ranging from energy and human health, to a new fundamental understanding of the universe.

The online map provides insight into the scale of some of today’s great scientific collaborations. Take, for example, the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center, NERSC, at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California. Astronomical observatories in New Mexico and Arizona, farther away in Massachusetts and New York, and in Australia, Brazil, and South Africa all use the center to contribute to the Office of Science’s research into dark energy and dark matter.

From October 2013 through September 2014, more than 800 scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory used the center’s resources. That number is dwarfed by the 5,000-plus NERSC users from institutions around the globe. While greater than 80 percent of the facility users hail from U.S. institutions, the unique capabilities of the Office of Science user facilities attract a range of scientists affiliated with international research institutions, including the University of Cambridge and France’s atomic energy agency. The facilities draw talent from around the world to U.S. national laboratories and hasten advances in science relevant to the DOE mission.

By using the map, it is easy to see how cities, congressional districts, states, and ultimately the American public benefit. In Missouri, for example, more than 200 scientists used Office of Science facilities in other states. Users came from large research universities and laboratories, such as the National Weather Service and Washington University in St. Louis; however, they also came from smaller institutions, such as Missouri’s Maplewood Richmond Heights High School.

More than 200 scientists from across Missouri performed research at user facilities in other states. For example, scientists at Lincoln University, Pfizer Inc., and the University of New South Wales all conducted studies using resources at the Advanced Light Source in California.
Photo courtesy of DOE Office of Science

More than 200 scientists from across Missouri performed research at user facilities in other states. For example, scientists at Lincoln University, Pfizer Inc., and the University of New South Wales all conducted studies using resources at the Advanced Light Source in California.

The map also provides information about how scientists at different institutions use the scientific facilities. At Harvard University, 145 researchers used resources as far away as Illinois and California. At the University of California-Davis, 268 researchers used more than 20 different facilities nearby and across the country.

The map was created by the Office of Science using a Google Map interface built by a small business known as Maptive. At DOE, experts worked to ensure the information was consistent across the user facilities. The map provides multiple ways to discover information, including a text search, a proximity search, and sophisticated data filters. The source data is also available as an Excel spreadsheet, for those who enjoy the details.

The map is part of the Office of Science’s ongoing efforts to provide expanded information resources for its stakeholders. A similar map of Office of Science grant recipients is also available.

The Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information please visit http://science.energy.gov.