There has been a dramatic increase in the demand for synchrotron radiation facilities to carry out x-ray crystallographic studies to determine the structure of biological macromolecules. Existing facilities now struggle to provide scientists with high quality crystallographic beamlines and beamtime as well as necessary technical support. Primary funding responsibilities for individual facilities typically rest with single agencies, but user demand comes from scientists supported by a variety of sponsors including DOE, NSF, and NIH. Tight budgets are making it more difficult for single agency programs to fund facility operation and also fund the instrumentation and up-grades needed by the wide range of facility users.
To address this problem, the Office of Science and Technology Policy charged an interagency working group to develop an approach to synchrotron facilities support and planning. Their report, Synchrotron Radiation for Macromolecular Crystallography, reconfirms that the demand for synchrotron access is high and likely to increase even more rapidly given the growing importance of timely and accurate information in drug discovery, the study of larger more complex systems including whole viruses and genomics where the discovery of new proteins will provide opportunities for understanding protein structure and functional genomics.