Sunday, March 27, 2005

Lab Partnership Proposal Timely

Albuquerque Journal North
Sunday, March 27, 2005

Lab Partnership Proposal Timely

EDITORIAL: After several years of successive scandals at Los Alamos National Laboratory— possible espionage, missing classified data, embezzlement— the federal government decided to put the lab management contract out to bid for the first time in more than 60 years. Many think that without the historic lab manager, the University of California, in charge, the lab will suffer a decline in prestige and scientific competitiveness.

It remains to be seen whether anybody besides UC is actually interested in running the lab. In the meantime, however, UC officials seem to have awakened to the fact that they're going to have to take a fresh approach if they want to continue in charge.

With that in mind, UC and New Mexico's premier universities announced last week that they intended to work closely with LANL to create more research opportunities for New Mexico graduate students, win more scientific research funding and keep it working in-state. The University of New Mexico, New Mexico State University and New Mexico Tech announced that they would partner with UC to form an Institute of Advanced Studies in Los Alamos if UC wins the new contract. Cynics might view the announcement as just more UC maneuvering to make sure it does win the bidding. But even if that's the proximate cause of the institute proposal, that doesn't make it a bad idea. (The proposal may be as much the brainchild of UNM president Louis Caldera, himself a veteran of the much-admired California state university system and an accomplished politician— he served three terms in the California Assembly.)

This kind of collaboration is arguably long overdue. The state, and especially northern New Mexico, would have benefited if a closer intellectual partnership between UNM, other state universities and LANL had developed somewhere nearer the beginning of the massive federal investment in science here. Even if UC doesn't win the contract, New Mexico universities should figure some way to keep the institute idea alive.

And just who is the "UC" that suddenly discovered the joy of collaboration with New Mexico schools? It is the "Laboratory Administration Office", the lobby within the UC President's office, led by Bob VanNess, and the LANL folks. The UC system, as a whole, could care less about the pork barrel politics in New Mexico, and the New Mexico Universities.
And yes, the LANL proposal is "timely", totally driven by the contract competition. Using the promise of US tax dollars to garner support of NM schools, the whiff of green works wonders. History predicts that, after the contract is let, this will be just another LANL dominated money extraction scheme with the NM schools having no real say in the enterprise. Simply there for a few table scraps.
Using US tax dollars to buy the support of NM schools; sort of throws off a stench, doesn't it?
New Mexico politicians have been trying to get UC to work with New Mexico universities and to hire their graduates for a long time. They haven't really gotten a lot of satisfaction, but now, with UC about to lose the contract, they may succeed.
I truly hope that they do and that LANL stops being an isolated little fortress on a hill. New Mexico graduates could fill many slots at LANL. If UC would work out cooperative programs with these universities, the New Mexico grads would have a better chance.
I think this is a great idea, both politically and for the citizens of New Mexico.
I think grads from New Mexico can fill all the slots at LANL - every single one of them - from the Director on down. In fact, I think the new NM Consortium should bid on running LANL without UC or any other partner. Go for it.
Anybody have info given that a person has a degree, how many people work at LANL that received at least one of their degrees in NM? vs say UC? Can't be that hard of a question to answer.
The 8:09 and 9:46 posters need to get realistic about the NM universities. These are third tier institutions. UNM doesn't even have a residency requirement for a PhD. The NM universities are even close to on a par with the nation's best institutions (Cal, Cal-Tech, MIT, etc.). Yes, there are places for the graduates of the NM universities at LANL, but those places are unlikely to be in leadership roles. UC was prudent in avoiding close relationships with these institutions.
C'mon 5:54, how can you say that? Look at the following from the preceding posted article -

"UNM, NMSU, and New Mexico Tech are top-notch scientific research institutions, and together they would be a tremendous asset to Los Alamos National Laboratory," Bingaman said in a statement.

See, Senator Bingaman says right there they are top-notch scientific research institutions. You don't think he would misrepresent something important like scientific research do you? He having gone to Harvard as an undergrad in Government and then Stanford Law School.

And look what Senator Domenici had to say, "Our New Mexico universities have evolved into reputable research institutions and have plenty to offer to advance LANL research missions," Domenici said in a statement.

While it's unclear what they evolved from to become reputable research institutions, Senator Domenici wouldn't make baseless claims would he? He having gone to UNM as an undergrad in Education and the University of Denver for a law degree.
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