There can be no doubt that a modern and effective research infrastructure is critical to maintaining U.S.
leadership in S&E. New tools have opened vast research frontiers and fueled technological innovation
in fields such as biotechnology, nanotechnology, and communications. The degree to which infrastructure
is regarded as central to experimental research is indicated by the number of Nobel Prizes awarded for
the development of new instrument technology.
Concepts of infrastructure are expanding to include distributed systems of hardware, software, information
bases, and automated aids for data analysis and interpretation. Enabled by information technology, a
qualitatively different and new S&E infrastructure has evolved, delivering greater computational
power, increased access, distribution and shared use, and new research tools, such as data analysis and
interpretation aids, web-accessible databases, archives, and collaboratories. Many viable research questions
can be answered only through the use of new generations of these powerful tools.
Among Federal agencies, NSF is a leader in providing the academic community with access to forefront
instrumentation and facilities. Much of this infrastructure is intended to address currently intractable
research questions, the answers to which may transform current scientific thinking. In an era of fast-paced
discovery, it is imperative that NSF's infrastructure investments provide the maximum benefit to the entire
S&E community. NSF must be prepared to assume a greater S&E infrastructure role for the benefit of