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Hubs Aim to Reinvent DOE Research Culture

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Science  24 May 2013:
Vol. 340, Issue 6135, pp. 914-918
DOI: 10.1126/science.340.6135.914

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The brainchildren of Steven Chu, the Nobel Prize–winning physicist who stepped down last month as secretary of energy, the energy innovation hubs are a bold experiment in how the U.S. Department of Energy does research. The hubs aim to make the sprawling and notoriously bureaucratic agency more nimble and responsive. Each would focus on a single problem, assemble "under one roof" all the scientists and engineers needed to tackle everything from basic research through technological development, and take a free-wheeling approach to hammer out a solution as fast as possible. The problem-oriented approach draws plaudits from researchers and some policymakers in Washington, D.C. However, the hubs will have to prove their worth at a time when budgets are likely to be tight, and evaluating them will not be easy.