I was recently asked about what goes on behind the scenes to organize a large project review. Although it pales in comparison to the work the project must do to prepare, organizing a review is a small project in itself. It requires defining the purpose and scope of the review, arranging the logistics and assembling the committee. We also try to help the projects prepare based on our experience in the roles of reviewer, reviewee and organizer.
Much of the logistic organization is handled by Lisa Temple, who works with each project to complete a long checklist involving travel, document preparation, IT support, websites, room reservations, agendas, announcements, photos and of course food. My high school Latin teacher used to say “there’s no accounting for taste.” Project reviews usually spend lots of time on accounting issues, so I figure if the food is a hot topic then the review is going pretty well.
Assembling the right review committee is a challenge. The makeup of each committee is based on the project scope and the review charge. Committees are diverse with experts in project accounting, scheduling, management, procurement, safety and any number of technical areas such as accelerators, detectors, civil construction and cryogenics.
There are a few hard rules, some guidelines and many unwritten expectations for each review, but ultimately the outcome is determined by the general impressions of the committee. They need to be chosen carefully, since they have the difficult task of making judgments and providing meaningful feedback in the space of a few days. OPSS maintains a database of past reviewers that can serve as a starting point, but usually the process of identifying reviewers involves a lot of networking and brainstorming. Reviewers often have demanding day jobs and limited availability, so once a list is created, we must prepare for the disappointment of having many of the invitees decline. The just reward for those that decline is a request to recommend someone else. And so on. Despite our best intentions, sometimes we are really sweating it out until the last minute.
Working on reviews has kept us busy lately. In June and July there were reviews of SLI-UUP, Muon g-2, PIP-II and three of LBNF/DUNE, which indicates that our projects are moving forward. Our hope is that all the behind-the-scenes work remains there so the spotlight remains on the projects where it belongs.
Marc Kaducak, head of the Office of Project Support Services, wrote this column.