Science and Technology 2009

Science and Technology 2009
July 22, 2009

Having just completed the annual Science & Technology Review, there was no doubt about the subject of this "Montage." For our primary mission, the annual delivery of science, the S&T Review provides us with a vehicle to judge ourselves. But it behooves to ask why it is that both we and the Department of Energy pay so much attention. After all, the review team, the consultants who are called in to help, is just a bunch of people off the street, our peers.

But, indeed, that is the point, nearly the whole point - they are our peers. They are the mirror on the wall in which we can see ourselves. Of course, they really are well chosen. They come from our sister laboratories, from our sister institutions and from our own user universities. They have responsibilities equivalent to those of our own senior managers, they have been heads of accelerator divisions and they have experienced praise or criticism when an accelerator did or did not work well. They have been chairs of physics advisory committees, maybe even for our own program. To complete the makeup, they bring a theorist and a management expert. We did not choose the team, but we would have been pleased to come up with such a good one. And oh, by the way, the people in the Office of Nuclear Physics are also very well respected.

A second reason why we respect the process is that we actually prepare for the event. It’s several months ago that Tony Thomas was exchanging drafts of the agenda with Nuclear Physics and taking input from our divisions. We then assign the talks and eventually demand a dry run, or two, or even three. As a result of the dry runs, each of our divisions knows its own weaknesses. And amazingly, while the talks are improved, there is a compulsion to demonstrate that we know our subject. We do not hide the weaknesses. Apparently, nothing could be worse for a division leader than to have some reviewer point out a fault of which he had not already demonstrated he was aware. Sometimes it happens, but more often our manager demonstrates he is on top of the game by calling out the issue; we instill our own self-assessment into the process.

So how did we do?

We heard some of the highlights verbally from the initial report before the reviewers left, and since then we have received a draft for limited circulation to check for factual accuracy. The report is enormously complimentary about our programs, what we are trying to do and how well we are doing them. There was praise for almost everything from the operations and results from our experimental program through to our interaction with the scientific community. In fact, the overwhelming message from the review was extremely positive.

Of the nine major subject areas a couple received recommendations. One recommendation concerned the absence of full prototypes of the superconducting radiofrequency modules for the 12 GeV Upgrade. It was recommended that we do some work to explicitly underpin the current plan.

The second area of concern was the management of the multiple transitions in the laboratory that are necessary over the next several years. As we discussed in the June Montage article, we are in the midst of just such a phase change right now. We had a very good discussion with the reviewers about the stresses on our engineering and design effort. However, we will also make a transition out of the construction period into 12 GeV operations in the 2014-2016 period. Based on studies done to this point, including one over the winter, we are projecting a need for more people than were needed for 6 GeV operations. With a new experimental hall and a more complex accelerator, that is expected. But it has quite broad implications inside and outside the laboratory. Consequently, we have been asked to come up with a staffing plan through into the 12 GeV era that also ties back to 2004.

So, there is work to be done, and we will plan it carefully, but the review by calling out our real successes, was a vindication of your efforts and I would like to reiterate what I said at the review closeout, "I am really proud of the work to which you all contribute."