From Director Lia Merminga: Updates to Fermilab’s Batavia site access

Public message from the Fermilab director on Fermilab access

Dear colleagues and friends of Fermilab,

Throughout our history, Fermilab has had a tradition of being open and welcoming to staff, users, the scientific community and neighbors. However, we know that for some members of our community, this tradition has not been upheld over the past few years. My team and I vowed to do better. After all, Fermilab must foster a culture of openness and collaboration in order to keep leading the country — and the world — in particle physics research, education and outreach.

I am pleased to share a significant step forward in these efforts. Today, Jan. 23, 2024, Fermilab is reopening our iconic Wilson Hall to the public.

As of today, any member of the public who enters the site with proper identification has access to portions of Wilson Hall: the atrium and café on the main floor, Ramsey auditorium for public conferences, the credit union on the ground floor, and the Fermilab Art Gallery on the second floor.

This is a development many months in the making, and I appreciate your patience as my team and I worked diligently to make this happen. I am deeply appreciative of the DOE Headquarters and Fermilab Site Office for their partnership with us that made this possible and the Site Access Steering Committee for their ongoing work to ensure the lab is open and accessible to the community, users and affiliates.

As of Jan. 23, 2024, any member of the public who enters the site with proper identification has access to portions of Wilson Hall: the atrium and café on the main floor, Ramsey auditorium for public conferences, the credit union on the ground floor, and the Fermilab Art Gallery on the second floor. Credit: Dan Svoboda, Fermilab

Additional recent developments

Since my last letter in May 2023, we have made solid progress in improving site access. In October, a review of Fermilab site access controls and requirements was conducted by peer labs, and a Site Access Steering Committee was established to work with teams across the lab to ensure cross-functional collaboration in determining the vision for the site access end state, objectives, goals, and action steps needed to achieve the vision, and the accompanying communications for each milestone achieved.

We also opened the Aspen East Welcome and Access Center to provide a location for our team to help collaborators and business visitors complete the badging process. And in November 2023, we benchmarked site access policies and procedures against other comparable DOE laboratories and restarted public tours, more of which will come in 2024.

Access to additional buildings was enabled for all badged employees, users and affiliates. The buildings included in this first phase were IERC, IARC, ICB and FCC. More buildings, including SiDET, will come in future phases. An online single-form access request became available, streamlining the access request process for our collaborators, visitors, and guests. And we have established robust communications with employees and stakeholders to gather input and keep people informed.

As we have done for over a year, Fermilab is pleased to continue to welcome onto the Fermilab campus public visitors showing proper identification for site access. The Batavia and Warrenville gates are open for walkers, bikers, dog walkers, and visitors to enjoy the campus, visit our bison, tour the science experiments and displays in the Lederman Science Center, hike our restored prairie trails, and now, visit the Wilson Hall atrium, art gallery and credit union. Saturday Morning Physics with live tours and other STEM activities returned to the Ramsey Auditorium in early 2023.

In the 2023 calendar year, we are proud to have welcomed over 19,000 people to Fermilab’s site, including 11,000 business visitors, 4,000 users and 2,000 contractors. Separately, over 5,500 public visitors came on site to enjoy our science exhibits, nature trails and bison.

Please check the website for the lab’s current site access requirements.

Progressing toward the future

As outlined in my previous letter, Fermilab is a federal institution and is therefore required to implement federal regulations and U.S. Department of Energy requirements that have been established for all DOE National Laboratories. These requirements have shifted in the last decade and in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Like similar labs, we believe we should strive to provide a welcoming environment for our scientific and community partners while ensuring safe and secure operations.

While we have made progress toward these objectives, the job is not complete. We are still working on several of our goals, including further streamlining the access request form and approval processes, and defining our desired future state with a project plan. We still intend to provide regular reporting on site access metrics and trends as well as the project plan’s progress via email and messages to collaborators and neighbors.

We are deeply committed to our culture of openness, and we are also deeply committed to the safety of our employees, subcontractors, users, affiliates, visitors, and neighbors and to the security and stewardship of the world-class facilities, infrastructure and data at the lab.

I continue to thank you for expressing your views, concerns and opinions with me. The dedication and passion shown by our employees and community members demonstrates how seamlessly integrated Fermilab is as an institution, and it is extremely valuable and appreciated.

With best regards,

Lia Merminga