The field of materials tribology has entered a phase of instrumentation and measurement that involves accessing and following the detailed chemical, structural, and physical interactions that govern friction and wear. Fundamental tribological research involves the development of new experimental methods capable of monitoring phenomena that occur within the life of a sliding contact. Measuring friction phenomena while the process is ongoing is a major improvement over earlier techniques that required the surfaces to be separated and analyzed, thereby interrupting the friction-causing event and modifying surface conditions. In the past, MRS Bulletin has highlighted how in situ approaches can greatly enhance our understanding of materials structure, processing, and performance. This issue highlights in situ approaches as applied to materials tribology, namely, the study of contacting surfaces and interfaces in relative motion.