Sunday, March 27, 2005

UC, LANL team joined by state Universities

Los Alamos Monitor
Sunday, March 27, 2005


UC, LANL team joined by state Universities

ROGER SNODGRASS, roger@lamonitor.com, Monitor Assistant Editor

A trio of New Mexico Universities will participate in a new Institute for Advanced Studies in affiliation with Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The announcement by the University of California Thursday named the University of New Mexico, New Mexico State University and New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology as potential partners should the UC Board of Regents decide to compete for the contract to manage LANL.

The arrangement recognizes the universities, to be known as the New Mexico Consortium, as the first academic partners UC intends to include on its management team. The partnership is contingent upon UC winning the contract award.

Gov. Bill Richardson said in a release the collaboration was something he has encouraged.

"(F)or too long academic institutions in New Mexico were on the outside looking in at educational partnerships and opportunities at Los Alamos National Laboratory," he said in an announcement Thursday. "I applaud the University of California for recognizing the research potential that these fine institutions have to offer the lab and the nation."

Sen. Pete Domenici, R-NM, also praised the arrangement.

"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.

"I see their collaboration with the University of California as evidence that UC is actively working to present a reconfigured and competitive bid to remain the contractor at LANL. I only wish UC didn't tie this sort of effort to winning the contract and would, instead, pursue them as a matter of course."

Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-NM, also agreed.

"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. "I applaud their efforts to join forces to assist the lab."

The selection of the next manager of the laboratory is expected by the end of September this year, for a contract that would begin next April.

The three institutions of higher learning have all signed Memoranda of Understanding with the University of California and LANL in the last year.

The Institute for Advanced Studies would become a research and education center where New Mexico students could take part in fundamental and applied research activities in association with the laboratory.

Fields of collaboration could include astronomy, biology, computational science, environmental science, energetic materials, materials science, optics, quantum computing, water and radioisotopes, among others to be considered.

Comments:
After the disaster of the failed merger of the University of California San Francisco - Stanford University Medical Centers in the late 1990s, which lasted only 2 years and ended in an embarrassing employee/public relations mess for both institutions, I don't believe that UC will agree to an equal management arrangement.

So I expect that IAS will hire its own staff, no UC employees (exception some possible joint appointments). It will have its own independent Director/Management team, probably appointed by an oversight board made up of an equal number of individuals appointed by the four institutions - UC, UNM, NM Tech, and NMSU. UC will argue that no DOE money will go directly into this new Institute's operations/management, which may allow it to get more access to federal research grants - a lot of these have strict prohibitions against national labs competing for them - as well as more private sector funding.

Here's what the official tagline for LANL to add to the Lab's letterhead, signs, website, and business cards might look like:

"Los Alamos National Laboratory is operated and managed for the US Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration by the University of California in association with the Institute for Advanced Studies (a New Mexico Consortium formed by the University of California, the University of New Mexico, the New Mexico State University, and the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology)."

Throw in an industrial firm or two and you get:

""Los Alamos National Laboratory is operated and managed for the US Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration by a University of California, Bechtel National (a Bechtel Corporation company), BWX Technologies, Inc. (a McDermott company) and the Washington Group partnership lead by the University of California in association with the Institute for Advanced Studies (a New Mexico Consortium formed by the University of California, the University of New Mexico, the New Mexico State University, and the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology)."

Either way I think the LANL business cards are either going to need to be bigger or use a much small font...

But at least there will be clearer and less ambiguous management lines at LANL :)
 
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