Public Release: 

National Research Council presents long-term priorities for US nuclear physics program

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine

WASHINGTON -- Nuclear physics is a discovery-driven enterprise aimed at understanding the fundamental nature of visible matter in the universe. For the past hundred years, new knowledge of the nuclear world has also directly benefited society through many innovative applications. In its fourth decadal survey of nuclear physics, the National Research Council outlines the impressive accomplishments of the field in the last decade and recommends a long-term strategy for the future. The report builds on the Nuclear Science Advisory Committee's 2007 five-year plan and commends the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation for effective management of the U.S. nuclear physics program. Recommended priorities for the future include exploiting recent upgrades of nuclear physics facilities, the timely completion of the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams, the development and implementation of a targeted program of underground science, and the creation of two national competitions for graduate students and postdoctoral researchers.

"The recommendations in this report will help ensure a thriving and healthy field that continues to benefit society from new applications at an accelerating pace," said Stuart Freedman, professor of physics at the University of California at Berkeley, and chair of the committee that wrote the report. "The impact of nuclear physics extends well beyond furthering our scientific knowledge of the nucleus and the nature and origin of visible matter. Nuclear physics is relevant to the most important of today's problems in energy, health, and the environment."

Sophisticated new tools and protocols have been developed for successful management of the largest projects in nuclear physics, the report says. But to keep the U.S. program nimble and competitive, the committee recommends that federal agencies develop streamlined and flexible procedures tailored for initiating and managing smaller-scale nuclear science projects.

The report also advises the theoretical nuclear science community to develop a plan for exploiting the rapidly increasing power of modern computing, and to establish the infrastructure and collaborations now in order to take advantage of these capabilities as they become available. Additional priorities for the field should include continued investment in accelerator and detector research and the possible development of an electron-ion collider.


Two videos have been prepared in conjunction with the report to illustrate several of its main ideas. The videos are suitable for classroom use and clearly articulate the scientific rationale and objectives for nuclear physics, placing near-term goals in a broader international context. The videos are available here:

The study was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation. The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council make up the National Academies. They are private, nonprofit institutions that provide science, technology, and health policy advice under a congressional charter. The Research Council is the principal operating agency of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. For more information, visit A committee roster follows.

Lorin Hancock, Media Relations Officer
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Pre-publication copies of Nuclear Physics: Exploring the Heart of Matter are available from the National Academies Press; tel. 202-334-3313 or 1-800-624-6242 or on the Internet at Reporters may obtain a copy from the Office of News and Public Information (contacts listed above).

Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences
Board on Physics and Astronomy

Committee on the Assessment and Outlook for Nuclear Physics

Stuart J. Freedman (chair) 1
Department of Physics
University of California

Ani Aprahamian (vice chair)
Department of Physics
University of Notre Dame
Notre Dame, Ind.

Ricardo Alarcon
Department of Physics
Arizona State University

Gordon A. Baym 1
Department of Physics
University of Illinois

Elizabeth Beise
Professor of Physics
Department of Physics
University of Maryland
College Park

Richard F. Casten
Yale University
New Haven, Conn.

Jolie Cizewski
Department of Physics and Astronomy
Rutgers University
Pistacaway, N.J.

Anna Hayes
Technical Staff Member
Theoretical Division
Los Alamos National Laboratory
Los Alamos, N.M.

Roy J. Holt
Distinguished Fellow
Physics Division
Argonne National Laboratory
Argonne, Ill.

Karlheinz Langanke
Director of Research
GSI Helmholtzzentrum fuer Schwerionenforschung
Darmstadt, Germany

Cherry A. Murray 1,2
School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
Harvard University
Cambridge, Mass.

Witold Nazarewicz
Department of Physics and Astronomy
University of Tennessee

Konstantinos Orginos
Physics Department
College of William and Mary
Williamsburg, Va.

Krishina Rajagopal
Professor and Associate Head of Education
Center for Theoretical Physics
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

R.G. Hamish Robertson 1
Director, Center for Experimental Nuclear Physics
and Astrophysics; and Professor
Department of Physics
University of Washington

Thomas J. Ruth
Senior Research Scientist
TRIUMF/British Columbia Cancer Research Center
Vancouver, Canada

Hendrik Schatz
National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory
Michigan State University
East Lansing

Robert E. Tribble
Department of Physics and Astronomy
Texas A&M University
College Station

William A. Zajc
Professor and Chair
Department of Physics
Columbia University
New York City


James Lancaster
Study Director

1 Member, National Academy of Sciences
2 Member, National Academy of Engineering

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