Friday, January 21, 2005

Disappointed by the tone and accuracy of the director's comments

Note: This letter was submitted to the LANL NewsBulletin on 1/21/2005. It is being published here as a back-up, in the event the NewsBulletin staff choose not to publish it, or to impose a multi-month delay in publishing it.

Disappointed by the tone and accuracy of the director's comments

During the employee update meeting of Jan. 19, 2005, the director
included some harsh remarks about the LANL scientist who authored a
recent Physics Today Opinion column that questioned the basis and
necessity of the lab shut down. I am disappointed by the tone and
accuracy of the director's comments. The director stated that the
author had not only ridiculed the laboratory but, had Physics Today
been a peer-reviewed journal, the article content would have been
quite different. In fact, articles published in Physics Today are
peer reviewed, including Opinion columns. The director's comments
implied that the safety statistics used in the article were either
wrong or did not support the article's conclusions. He made this
point in reference to one of his view graphs that showed two plots of
accident rate versus time. He mistakenly referred to the lower curve
as the DOE complex average rate and stated that the LANL rate (upper
curve) was more than a factor of two above it. In fact, both curves
were LANL accident rates, the top curve was Total Reportable Cases
(TRC) for LANL, and the bottom curve was the Days Away from Work,
Restricted Work Activity, or Job Transfer (DART) for LANL. His next
view graph did show a comparison between accident rates at LANL and
the average across the DOE complex. However, the DOE complex average
includes non-scientific and non-manufacturing sites, where the
principal risk of injury is dominated by office and clerical work.
The Physics Today article compared TRC data for LANL with other DOE
research institutions on a site-wide basis. Thus, no meaningful
refutation of either the data or conclusions of the Physics Today
article were presented. The director and others commonly allude to
the rate of accident "near misses" as being unacceptably high at LANL
as compared to other sites as a justification for the shut down, but
no quantitative statistical data or analysis were shown to corroborate
this claim. If this data exists, it should be made available to the
LANL community. Finally, the director claimed that "the author
perjured himself" in the article. This is a troubling and curious
statement since the word "perjury" is a legal term with a very narrow
definition, "deliberate false testimony under oath by a witness in a
criminal proceeding". At the very least, the director seems to be
accusing the author of lying in the article. If the article does
contain statements that can be demonstrated to be false, then it
should be corrected as soon as possible. Nothing less than the
scientific integrity of LANL, UC, and DOE is at stake. The director
needs to write a response to the article in Physics Today pointing out
what he considers the factual errors to be, and why the author should
have known that they were false, i.e., was lying.

David E. Hanson
Staff Member, Theoretical Division, T-12 Group
Phone: 7-2306 email:


David E. Hanson MS B268 (505 667-2306)

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