Science and technology review

Fermilab Director
Pier Oddone

Last week we had a three-day science and technology review of laboratory operations. The DOE S&T Review is one of the principal yearly reviews of the laboratory and has a very wide scope, including evaluations of:

  • the quality and significance of recent S&T accomplishments and the merit and feasibility of future plans to maximize scientific opportunities
  • the effectiveness and efficiency of facility operations and of the planning for future facility upgrades
  • the effectiveness of laboratory management in strategic planning, developing core competencies, setting priorities and promoting a culture of safety
  • the leadership and creativity of laboratory scientific and technical staff
  • the quality of our interactions with the scientific community

Listening to the presentations would make any employee of Fermilab proud of the enormous quantity and quality of work the laboratory is doing. Overall, the committee was impressed with our program and had important advice for us in a few areas.

One area where the reviewers felt we could do better is in communicating and working together with the national particle physics community. This is an area that is very important for us, and we take this advice seriously. We have done all our strategic planning with the community’s involvement, we implement programs and projects in collaboration with many members of the community, and scientists from more than 100 U.S. institutions collaborate on Fermilab experiments. Still, it was important for us to hear that we could do better in this area, especially as the community looks toward the Snowmass conference in 2013 where the scientific opportunities of the future U.S. program will be discussed.

A second concern of our reviewers was our choice to maintain a full plate of projects and programs, even at the risk of some delays. The committee understood the importance for the laboratory of pursuing multiple projects, but advised us that this strategy is acceptable only if it does not endanger U.S. competitiveness. We currently have a considerable lead over other world regions in all of our projects, but this could change in the future. Vigilance in this area is very important.

The reviewers also recommended that we step up our efforts in providing the simulation framework to allow folks here at Fermilab, as well as our collaborators at universities, to make extensive simulations throughout the development of our projects, from design to analysis. They also advised us on the importance of MicroBooNE, not only because of its potential for revealing interesting physics, but also because demonstrating mastery of liquid-argon time projection chamber technology is so important for the future of LBNE.