Working together to drive discovery

Michael Weis

Michael Weis, DOE Fermi Site Office manager, wrote this column.

The release of the P5 report has all of us thinking about how best to align Fermilab’s programs with the high-energy physics community’s priorities and thus drive discovery. The Department of Energy, and particularly the Fermi Site Office, works hard with laboratory management to enable its scientific mission and improve operations at the lab.

We are always looking for opportunities to simplify the complex requirements associated with doing business at a federal laboratory. We use our strong partnership to reduce duplication of effort and to focus resources on the areas with the highest risk to people and the most benefit to projects and the lab’s mission.

We liken Fermilab to a well-tuned car that is on a journey to scientific discovery. Fermilab Director Nigel Lockyer and his team have been asked to drive the car, and the site office is sharing the drive, watching the gauges and other indicators for signs of trouble. When problems arise, which is inevitable, FSO gives the lab a chance to respond, correct deficiencies and implement changes to prevent recurrences. Fortunately, we have avoided serious events and personnel injuries that could adversely affect individuals, our environment or scientific work. That is a testament to the vigilance of everyone at Fermilab. Responding appropriately to warning indicators is critical to preventing disruptive events and ensuring long-term success. The Fermi Site Office often follows up on responses to even minor events and near misses, because each one represents an opportunity for learning and a chance to improve our strong safety culture.

Moving forward with the P5 report recommendations will require increased communication as we look to upgrade and build new facilities needed to host the world’s leading neutrino program. We will need to create stronger international relationships through the federal system. Our tasks include refining work controls to maintain everyone’s safety; evaluating and limiting environmental impacts; and creating appropriate financial arrangements, contract mechanisms, and property management and real estate approaches. This is true both on site and elsewhere.

The success and future of Fermilab depends on our continued commitment to operational excellence. The Fermi Site Office is focused on creating pathways to enable science while making sure the work is being done safely, is protective of the environment and is respectful of the taxpayer. Let’s work together to drive discovery here at Fermilab.