From COO Tim Meyer: User or visitor: which is sweeter?

Tim Meyer

In his famous play “Romeo and Juliet,” Shakespeare wrote, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” At Fermilab, we have many such roses that are also just as sweet: our employees, users, visitors, guests and the public. They go by different names, but all are vital to the laboratory.

Fermilab is a DOE national laboratory and is supported by American taxpayer dollars. With that comes requirements, rules, and expectations, of course, and these rules can change over time. And Fermilab works with thousands of people from all around the world. Generally speaking, our commitment is to be warm and welcoming to all people coming to the laboratory who want to contribute toward the lab’s great science. By understanding in advance who you are (name, institutional affiliation, favorite food and so on) and what you want to do at Fermilab (come to work, respond to a service call for a broken photocopier, meet with a Fermilab scientist, attend a public lecture and so on), we can better serve you and keep everything just as sweet for everybody.

For the purpose of this discussion, I’m going to consider only the people who want to come to the laboratory for Fermilab “business.” I’m also going to set aside people who want only electronic access to Fermilab, but when I say “come to the lab” or “come to the site,” I am including the people who are involved in South Dakota for LBNF/DUNE and want to go to the “leased space” at SURF.

There’s one obvious group of people who want to come to the lab: our employees. But nonemployees who want to come to the lab for business can fall into a few other categories. As a follow-up to my Aug. 31 column “Site access, badging and you,” this column specifically examines the distinction between a Fermilab user and a visitor. Has this distinction been clear in the past? Maybe, maybe not. But we have started to use these terms in specific ways to help us help you better. Really!

The bottom line is this: Based on who you are and what you need to do at Fermilab, you will fit into one of several categories that sets our expectations of you (and your home institution) and gives you certain privileges and permissions (which often require advance training) while you’re here. Written agreements, badging, training and all that comes subsequently.

Who are users?

Over the past few years, the DOE Office of Science has sharpened its definition of what it refers to as a “user.” The term is narrower and more specific than we ordinarily think and it has to do with what the individuals are using — DOE users use DOE-approved Scientific User Facilities. Great! But what does that mean? Certain facilities have been designated as Scientific User Facilities, and the nomenclature refers to funding mechanisms, open-access requirements and so on. At Fermilab, we have two Scientific User Facilities (well, one, and the second is almost approved formally): the accelerator complex and CMS. Correct — the Dark Energy Camera is not part of a DOE User Facility, but the Fermilab Test Beam Facility is.

From the Fermilab perspective, we don’t treat DES collaborators differently than CMS collaborators and test beam participants. Thus, all of the “moderate- to long-term” researchers who need after-hours access to the lab and the ability to get trained to perform complex work are users. DOE may ask us how many of our “users” are “users of the approved Scientific User Facilities,” but that’s kind of inside baseball.

So, what does Fermilab (by DOE requirement) need to give users this access and set of privileges? You guessed it: a written agreement. This could be a Non-Proprietary User Agreement (NPUA), an active Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA), or other some other agreement managed through Fermilab’s Office of Partnerships and Technology Transfer. The irony is that while we will eventually need signed agreements between the lab and all users’ home institutions, we only have approved NPUA templates for the two major Scientific User Facilities.

All users are required to have an ITNA developed by their ITNA contact or assigned manager and must complete all required training prior to obtaining an identification badge. All users are required to have a Fermilab point of contact (POC), which may or may not be the user’s assigned manager. POC contact information is required for users to obtain a (computing) Services account/Fermilab email account. Users who are not U.S. citizens will also have a Fermilab-assigned host who will help welcome and support them.

So, what is a visitor?

In short, visitors are individuals whose business with Fermilab requires less training and fewer preapprovals. This typically means that they would be at the lab for less than two consecutive weeks, that they can conduct their work either in public areas or while escorted in the nonpublic areas*, and that they don’t need to perform functions that require advanced training. Visitors are often approved at the division head level, and they are required to have a designated POC. If you are the POC for a visitor with citizenship outside of the United States, be sure to notify the Fermilab International Office.

Your trusty pizza delivery person is also considered a visitor and should let the entrance gate security guards know what brings them to the lab (pizza!) and where they are headed. After hours, someone should have alerted the gate house in advance, otherwise they charge a pizza tax! (Just kidding.)

If a visitor will be at Fermilab for a longer duration (more than two weeks or for regular, short stints over the years), it may be better to consider the person a user. The Fermilab POC must then ensure that the visitor completes the proper training and that appropriate ID badging is obtained prior to visiting nonpublic areas of the laboratory. Again, this is to make sure that we can safely and diligently carry out our scientific mission.

What’s a Fermilab point of contact?

A Fermilab POC can be any Fermilab employee, user or visitor with an active Fermilab ID badge who has extended an invitation to an approved visitor to Fermilab. As a Fermilab POC, you are responsible for making sure that the visitor is escorted as needed (typically, when unbadged and in nonpublic areas). The POC should provide the visitor with a general awareness of what to do in the case of a fire alarm, tornado warning or other emergency. (Should the POC buy the visitor a hot cup of coffee on a cold day? I leave that up to you.)


So, some of us are users, some are visitors, some are points of contact. But we need all of you, and by any other name, you are all just as sweet to Fermilab!

Questions about any of this? Contact the Global Services Office and they will be happy to assist you.

*More information on public vs. nonpublic areas will be explained in an upcoming column. I’ll also cover in more detail people who come to the lab for nonbusiness reasons, including tour participants and bison viewers. In the meantime, if you are not sure what is considered a nonpublic area, contact the Fermilab Security Office. Please be aware that most of Wilson Hall is considered to be a nonpublic area, with the exception of the ground, first and 15th floors, and the second-floor art gallery.

Tim Meyer is the Fermilab chief operating officer.