Minutes of SHUG Executive Committee Meeting of April 2, 2001
Summary of discussions at the ORNL meeting of April 2, 2001 - SHUG executive committee meeting with SNS and HFIR management.
The Executive Committee met Sunday night for dinner followed by a “closed” discussion session at the SNS building on Scarboro road. The committee reconvened around 8:30 AM Monday morning at the SNS facility and heard presentations from Thom Mason and Jim Roberto on the status of their respective projects. Jim Roberto, Herb Mook, Thom Mason and Al Ekkebus asked for some immediate guidance on specific issues. The rest of the morning and lunch saw a vigorous discussion over a range of issues of concern to SHUG. There is clearly a need to balance a variety of concerns and the discussion provided a good foundation. With no final decisions being reached by the end of the working lunch, the committee agreed to examine the two key issues for which management would like some immediate guidance plus a related issue brought up by the committee itself. Three individuals were appointed to lead the discussion/research on those items. The committee was encouraged to send their thoughts on the issues to the entire committee via email during the next few weeks in preparation for a conference call meeting in which the committee could come to a consensus on the recommendations to be made.
Request for input:
HFIR: Herb Mook indicated that he does not have a good feel for what the user community wants the HFIR proposal system to look like. He needs some input fairly quickly as HFIR hopes to have its first instrument back in the user program by December of this year.
SNS: Thom’s biggest need is to settle the question of the minimum amount of time to be available to the user community on a given instrument, which affects the maximum time available for IDTs. He needs to finalize what the boundary conditions are so that he can begin serious negotiations with a number of groups interested in providing IDTs. The initial draft of the IDT guidelines would indicate that 75% of the time would be available to the fully funded IDT. EFAC however recommended that number not exceed 60%, thus he would like our recommendation. He also needs feedback on the overall user guidelines, IDT guidelines etc.
Some of the issues:
- Questions were raised about whether 25% time being reserved for the facility on IATs was too much. Thom indicated that included more than just instrument scientist “personal” time. A breakdown was requested. In particular whatever fraction that is instrument maintenance and upgrade should be separated out. Time for helping develop new users should not end up resembling an in-house mechanism for controlling research efforts on the instruments in the manner in which some facilities have operated in the past.
- All time allocated whether in the user program or not should be public and easily accessible to ensure fairness.
- The issue of how (and whether) to create a system in which internal staff do not have any advantage over external users when a hot new topic arises. This lead to a discussion of recent problems in the situation surrounding MgB2, including what some regarded as unacceptable behavior on the part of some of the US neutron sources.
- On the other hand, another point expressed was that having easy immediate access to the instrument might be considered one of the perks for doing the often onerous job of instrument scientist.
- That brought up the issue of what is required of an instrument scientist group vs a purely science group and how the differences in funding between SNS and HFIR might affect HFIR’s ability to be a true “user facility” (as opposed to the “collaborative facility” it has mostly been) and thus reach it’s potential of 700-800 users/year (vs. 2000 eventually anticipated for SNS). A suggestion was floated that HFIR follow the ILL model of hiring “young people” for fixed 5 year contracts to be the instrument scientists who would then go on to universities and thus grow the community. This was supported by some, but was not greeted with much enthusiasm by others.
- On the question of how much the user program for HFIR and SNS should be one and the same, the facilities appear to now be taking that for granted, while the committee seemed divided with some thinking it clearly should be a single “program” and others arguing that the facilities are too different (partly harking back to the previous question). One item that seemed to be universally accepted was that general radiation training should not have to be repeated if working at both facilities (however Thom pointed out that SNS will not be rated as a nuclear facility and thus will have different training requirements).
- It was generally agreed by everyone that an independent fast access proposal mechanism needs to be in place, but there are different views on how this should be implemented. In particular, the facilities view is that it should simply be the director’s discretion while many on the committee seemed a bit uncomfortable with that for different reasons.
- To some extent this ties into the answer to one of the questions brought up by SHUG with respect to the proposal review panel. The facilities feel strongly that the panel is just like all the other panels: it is appointed by management and is advisory only. The feeling is that the advice would always be followed, but the director should maintain the right to ignore the advisory panel if he/she decides that is the right course. In the end “the director is responsible for the facility and that responsibility requires authority.”
- On the subject of IDT’s the primary concern was what level of “guaranteed” beam time is required to provide enough incentive to teams to find the funding and build the instrument. Thom pointed out that so far all the interested groups want to build the instrument, but would like SNS to operate it. Since operation is about the same cost as the construction the IDT would only have half of 75% or 60% (i.e. 37.5% or 30%). On the other side it was argued that 30% of an SNS instrument is a LOT of beam time .. and maybe more than enough if the team only provides half the instrument cost. Other suggestions such as reviewing regularly to determine if the science coming out justifies the guaranteed time and the possibility of “graduating” the guaranteed time (40% the first 3 years then drop to 30% for x years etc…) were discussed.
- It was noted that one of the IDT’s brings money from outside the US to build an instrument for which there is no real US expertise to build. This group would rather spread their x% over all the instruments. Some thought that money being brought in from outside (i.e. not from the same pot that all the users are also competing for money from - DOE, NSF etc.) should perhaps be treated differently (preferentially?). Thom doesn’t think that giving different groups different time for the same financial contributions sets a very good precedent.
- A strong statement was made that the review panel should be by discipline rather than by instrument (similar to ILL’s colleges) to minimize the number of proposals getting rejected because the science they do is foreign to the majority of the committee. It was suggested that in the beginning only a few would do, and more sub panels could be added as the programs grew.
- A suggestion was floated that perhaps the proposal program could work on a rolling, continual basis until instruments begin to be oversubscribed (good proposals not getting beam time).
The three issues and their “point person”
- IAT – is 25% time for the facility reasonable – Rob McQueeney
- IDT – is 40% the right minimum for the user community – Takeshi Egami
- HFIR proposal program (how should it work) – Costas Stassis
Of the 11 committee members 8 were present. The members in attendance were:
- Dave Belanger
- Paul Butler
- Takeshi Egami
- Robert McQueeney
- Scott Misture
- Costas Stassis
- David Vaknin
- Angus Wilkinson
*Thom Mason - Assoc. Lab Director for SNS
*Al Ekkebus - User Program Manager
*Jim Roberto - Assoc. Lab Director
*Herb Mook - Neutron Scattering Section Head
The meeting ended with a tour of the SNS site which is far more impressive up close than in any of the pictures.