One of the things I cherish most about living and working at Fermilab is our open campus and culture. Our friends and neighbors from the surrounding towns (and my relatives, whether I want them to or not) can bike, walk and drive through campus, enjoy the scenery and take selfies with our bison herd. Employees are able to move freely about the campus and its buildings, with minimal regulated access. Similar open access applies to our many users and visitors who rely on us to conduct important scientific work.
While we have no plans to change Fermilab’s open culture and welcoming atmosphere, we do need to gain a better understanding about who should and does have access to certain areas of the lab and how the lab manages those situations.
This year, DOE assigned Fermilab a PEMP goal to evaluate existing processes relating to Fermilab site access and ID badging. PEMP, which stands for Performance Evaluation Measurement Plan, is the mechanism DOE uses to evaluate its laboratories each year. To ensure that we meet our goal, a team was assembled to carry out an extensive evaluation of access and badging lab-wide.
During the evaluation effort, a number of improvement opportunities were identified. Many of them related to creating a more automated, self-aware process. The first area for action is to create awareness among all lab employees that site access and badging requirements exist. Fermilab is the most open lab in the DOE complex but that doesn’t mean we get to care the least. In some ways, it means we have the greatest responsibility to ensure that everything is clear, simple and appropriate. There are currently varied levels of awareness across the lab regarding these requirements. You may be acutely aware of them, but your coworker across the hall may not be. This creates a challenge for us to consistently meet those requirements. If you’ve read this far, you are now aware—and are helping us meet our PEMP goal!
The second step involves improved coordination with Fermilab employees who extend invitations to colleagues from foreign countries or foreign institutions. If you are an employee, user or visitor and will be inviting guests to visit Fermilab, you are now required to inform the International office prior to the visit so that we can stay in compliance with DOE requirements. In my personal view, this notification also allows us to provide the best hospitality.
Third, the process of bringing citizens of other countries to the lab has been formalized, and when visas are needed, we will help prepare invitation letters that confirm the purpose and duration of the visitor’s event or activity. Again, send notification of all visits by non-U.S. citizens to the International office and they will gladly assist you.
Over the next year, we’ll continue to keep you updated on our progress as we work through additional process improvements.
While none of these changes will keep my Aunt Martha or mother-in-law from dropping by Wilson Hall unannounced, they will—over time—make it easier for us to carry out our scientific mission with the support of DOE and our many international partners.
Tim Meyer is the Fermilab chief operating officer.