Fermilab has a Site Access Task Force

Last October, Lab Director Lia Merminga convened a Site Access Task Force to evaluate site access policy and procedures at both the Batavia, Illinois, and Lead, South Dakota, campuses. This task force is charged with reviewing site access requirements at both sites and ensuring the site access processes and procedures are clear, user-friendly and also fully comply with Fermilab’s requirements and policies.

“Our users and affiliates are absolutely critical to successfully achieving the scientific mission of the laboratory and the broader particle physics community,” said Bonnie Fleming, Fermilab’s chief research officer. “We are committed to improving access to site for our community to accomplish our scientific mission

While gaining access to Fermilab sites has encountered some challenges, the new Site Access Task Force is evaluating how to facilitate accessibility while complying with the lab’s security regulations. Photo: Reidar Hahn, Fermilab

Co-chaired by Bo Jayatilaka, CMS scientist and co-coordinator of the LHC Physics Center, and Joe Rogers, deputy director of security, this task force includes representative members across the lab’s landscape. Over the next several months, the Site Access Task Force members will review the site access requirements. The goal is to identify what’s working well and where there are opportunities for improving or streamlining the process while maintaining focus on compliance with Fermilab processes.

Why the task force is necessary

At the same time the lab site was physically closed to all but essential workers for nearly three years due to the COVID pandemic, Fermilab enhanced and clarified its site access requirements.

Now, many people, especially Fermilab users and affiliates, want to return to the lab to conduct research, but the changes in the site access, policy, procedure and process during that time have made accessibility an issue, Jayatilaka said. Because so many fewer people were present at the time the site access rules changed, there is a general lack of awareness about them.

In January, Director Lia Merminga spoke to a group of newly badged users who came to Fermilab for the first time ever to attend a CMS collaboration event. Photo: Marguerite Tonjes

“Many people are excited to return to the lab to perform important work. The changes in site access have created some confusion and consequently some access issues,” said Scott Tingey, the lab’s chief operations officer.

Improving site accessibility to Fermilab is a very high priority for lab leadership, hence the creation of the Site Access Task Force.

The task force will respond to feedback on site access challenges that have occurred since the changes have been implemented, and then it will provide recommendations to improve the site access experience.

Finding a way forward

In practice, a significant portion of the task force’s charge is improving communication and fostering understanding between the mission and mission support functions of the lab. As a result of the task force, missions support has gained a better understanding of the constraints on and needs of the mission side of the lab, while those on the mission side now realize what’s already been done by the support team and what’s still to be done, as well as the potential priorities.

“I think everyone recognizes that there are challenges with site access,” said Rogers. “It is imperative that the solution is compliant while ensuring people can effectively come here and do research.”

The SQMS Annual Meeting took place in person at Fermilab on Oct. 17-19, 2022. Approximately 170 of those who attended were users or affiliates. Photo: Ryan Postel, Fermilab

The task force has already made inroads since its inception, affecting positive change in the access process.

“Some of the ways in which Campus Access approaches requests has changed as a result of conversations we have in this task force,” said Rogers.

One of the task force’s accomplishments to date is that it has created the ability to see the status of all access requests.

Over the next several months, the task force will continue to meet and evaluate all aspects of site access. It will follow a graded approach: Any immediate actions that could be taken to reduce the time and steps necessary for access were identified in approximately the first three months, and implementing IT solutions to make access less complicated will take place in the three-to-six-month timeframe. The task force expects to report its final findings, recommendations and solutions to lab leadership by Fall 2023.

The ultimate aim of the Site Access Task Force? “To be compliant and allow us to execute our mission, because in the end, that’s what we’re trying to do; our mission is high-energy physics,” Jayatilaka said.

For questions related to the task force and its mission, contact Bo Jayatilaka (boj@fnal.gov) and Joe Rogers (jrogers@fnal.gov). The task force charter can be found here (Services login required).