Sunday, April 10, 2005

Sandia definitely grasps that it's incredibly important

From Anonymous:

Improving LANL's image/learning from Sandia—what a joke. Many folks have commented to me on Sandia's greatly superior ability to "sell" its science. Why? Because, historically, upper management at LANL has shown little inclination in that direction and/or has found ways to take positive initiatives/vehicles for doing such "science-merchandising" and eliminating them. There appears to be the attitude that "we're Los Alamos, we don't need to worry much about selling our science," whereas Sandia definitely grasps that it's incredibly important.
I had to chuckle at a self-proclaimed outsider's comments on the blog, namely,
Lots of outrage about why the outside world thinks 

Los Alamos is arrogant, some of it even arrogantly stated....

A kind of naivete about the real world
Those comments speak so well to an attitude that, "we're the greatest . . . and everyone else should know that."

John Q. Public can't figure out for himself how good you are, unless you explain it to him—on HIS TERMS, on an appropriate cognitive level! Reactive press releases that sound like the typical pap written by press-release-skilled geeks just don't cut it because most interested parties are savvy enough to figure out what they are. Nor will highly technical papers crafted in field vernacular move anyone (except your peers) to any sort of "great science" realization. Take a look at what Sandia—and for that matter, Livermore—throws out there, and you'll discover pubs at an intermediate level, the level at which terrific science teachers—armed with four-color creative graphics, analogy, metaphor, and any other rhetorical device that works—get complex ideas across to somewhat naive minds. And guess what, Richard Feynmans are a rare breed, indeed—doing great science rarely implies that you're also a great teacher of science to John Q. As long as Los Alamos clings to the belief that it doesn't have to go that public-accommodation route, the image stasis will continue to feed back its systemic coagulatory roadblocks (in the form of disdain rather than adulation).

Los Alamos always did its best advertising via seismic waves. They were well read in Moscow and Beijing. Now Los Alamos just sends out stale baloney and unfounded claims of greatness.
This post is a bit odd. First Sandia
does not publish that much. What are
intermediate publications? I do not think
this poster is scientist. Also the
self-proclaimed outsider is not an
outsider at all.
5:40 PM

And you know the self-proclaimed outsider is in fact a local because of what evidence, exactly?
Regardless, I still get up every morning and look in the mirror and say "I'm glad that I don't work at Sandia."

There are lots to good aspect to Sandia but doing good science is not one of them!
LANL is ranked 11th in terms of physics
publications and citations during the
1990-2000 time period. I think Sandia
is around 200th. Look Sandia is fine
it just is not really a science lab. It
is not what they do. If you look at
PRL from 2004, LANL has 120 publications
and Sandia 19. LANL is the top of
the DOE labs. It is silly to compare the
two labs since they do such different things.
But, is the point that the real mission at LANL is to not lead the world in science but produce a credible fear in other parts of the world that the US could reach out and make them non existent?

Remember that we do not set LANL's 'mission'. The executive branch of the government sets our 'mission' with Congress controlling the money.

If we need another decade or two of great science to really be able to do stockpile stewardship, then we need to make a credible case for that. If the complex can just make replacement weapons using current designs then we really need to face that issue. No wishing for past years. We should do what makes sense on technical terms but communicate the facts in a way that some one else will understand.

Our first critical step is to do what makes certification more feasible. I think we on the inside of LANL would generally say that this process includes a healthy dose of research and ongoing development. But maybe we do a lousy job of communicating these needs to our sponsors ( DOE, Congress, ...).

I hear so much about great science but it is actually a death sentence for any LDRD ER proposal if you can make a real contection to a weapons issue. I was personally told by an LDRD DR committee that our last DR proposal was too close to something that a program office 'should' have funded so they could not consider us any further. That was the concensus of the committee.

Many folks have stoppped trying to do 'science' through the LDRD process because we see it as welfare for folks who are connected.
A few of my favorite quotes to stir the cognitive juices:

"Reality is for people who lack imagination"

"Even absurdity has a champion"

"The fundamental principle of science, the definition almost, is this: the sole test of the validity of any idea is experiment."
-- Richard P. Feynman

"Mediocrity finds safety in standardization."
-- Frederick Crane

"Genius may have its limitations, but stupidity is not thus handicapped."
-- Elbert Hubbard

"It is easier to resist at the beginning than at the end."
-- Leonardo da Vinci

"Tell a man there are 300 billion stars in the universe and he'll believe you.
Tell him a bench has wet paint on it and he'll have to touch to be sure."

Q: "What is the burning question on the mind of every dyslexic
A: "Is there a dog?"

"You can be goodly badly, but you cannot be badly goodly."

"Forgive him, for he believes that the customs of his tribe are the laws of nature!"
-- G.B. Shaw

"It is not the critic who counts, or how the strong man stumbled, or whether the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, and who spends himself in a worthy cause, and if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that he'll never be with those cold and timid souls who never know either victory
or defeat."
-- Teddy Roosevelt
There is so much misinformation on this blog it's amazing. Just look at the information in the orange bar on top. It says that the shutdown cost $850 million, even though information in this very same blog says $350 million (congressional hearings). And where is the massive exodus mentioned up there in the orange? And has anyone noticed that if an opinion doesn't mesh, it mysteriously disappears? Wasn't the original intent of this forum to provide uncensored communication? Yet now it's censored. And isn't it amazing that all the people who whined about being called names are doing the majority of name calling and personal attacks? If there is some good coming out of this thing it's the irony. Amazing irony.
Why in the world is Doug Roberts at LANL. There is more than one place to do good science. Most people are flexible and move as appropriate. LANL is a decent lab and no doubt many people can work within the current situation. This is a wonderful democracy and free market place - move if you don't like where you are.
Doug undoubtedly suffers from the same handicap that many of the rest of us Los Alamos long-timers do. He not only really likes what he does at work but he really likes the environment he lives in outside of work. Or at least did until the fire decimated so much of the surroundings.
Since there really isn't anyplace else in the world where you can have both the work and the environment there is real incentive to put up with the general managerial incompetence. Otherwise you have to give up either the work you do or the lifestyle you live.
Livermore doesn't have this problem, since there are other places you can work without a significant change in lifestyle. The same can be said for the other DOE labs.
Add to the 8:30 post and for all those
that post.

" Whoever battles with monsters had
better see that it does not turn him
into a monster. And if you gaze long
into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you"

Friedrich Nietzsche
Doug Roberts is someone who loves their job and the place he lives, and wants to do his part to make it survive. We should all feel so passionate.

...this coming from an anonymous poster -- now I feel shameful.
Regarding the cost of the shutdown, referenced at the top of this blog, the estimates vary. There has been no official accounting, but LANL has low-balled the cost at ~$100 million, and POGO (The Project on Government Oversight) estimates it at approximately ~1 Billion. Other estimates ave ranged from $500 million to over a billion.
To 10:17 PM -- If you want to know why Doug is at LANL, why don't you ask him? He can be reached at
That the Director Nano's cost estimate of the stand down is ~$100M and Linton Brook's is ~$350M is in itself an indictment of the incompetence of both parties neither of which knows what the hell is going on. I'm glad they are not my pharmacists. Better still considering the season, suppose I used such accounting in filling out my 1040 tax form. The real story is thatif one includes all the work that was dubiously charged to programs to support the stand down, the number now almost certainly exceeds the $1B POGO figure. This direct charging to programs began within weeks of the stand down. If the IGs needs to look into anything they need to look at how this shell game was carried out to cloak real costs of the stand down and to deceive the American taxpayer, as I prepare to send in my 1040 tax forms for 2004.
Sandia was created from LANL's old Z Division (Ordnance design, testing, and assembly) as a "hard" engineering lab - not a "soft" science lab. And its mission was to take the science that came out of LANL and turn it into practical things. AT&T was then hired to manage the lab, specifically they were instructed to instill industrial engineering discipline and a more structured way of doing business into the lab's culture. SNL's strength is still engineering, not basic research and science (that's the role UC plays at LANL, Livermore, and Berkeley Labs).

So if Lockheed Martin (an engineering firm) and U of Tex (research university) are now going to run both SNL and LANL, why should the two labs be separate entities? Why not remerge the labs, rename SNL - Los Alamos National Lab at Sandia. This would save the taxpayers lots of money but combining redundant business functions at the two labs (procurement, HR, safety, environmental, security, legal, etc) and trimming excess support staffs.

Any thoughts?
Yeah, here's a thought...rename Los Alamos National Laboratory:
Sandia National Laboratory at Los Alamos.
After all, LockMart and UT were at SNLA (Albuquerque) first.
'Bout them apples?
I assume that the 6:37 post was from an employee or Lockheed Martin with dreams of power. Such a merger would be very good for Lockheed Martin. I am not convinced a mega-weapons lab is the best way to do science. Scientists are notoriously quirky and mocking of the small minds who create meaningless rules.
Large corporations are notorious for enforcing meaningless rules and lots of paperwork.
LANL did its best work when quite small and full of quirky people. One would hope that the LANL of tomorrow will have room for the Feynmans and other strange but brilliant scientists.
Why don't people just leave if they don't like it here? Well, plenty are doing so. Just look around and count the number who are no longer working around you. This exodus has been quiet but has been going on for a year. And it isn't just the older people trying to save their retirement. One scientist-team leader who had hired some of the "best and brightest" was complaining to me yesterday that he lost them during the shut down. They were miserable while doing nothing and found other jobs.
But LANL is not a corporation. In a corporation, leaving when unhappy is very appropriate. LANL on the other hand is a government facility with a proud tradition. Many of us who are trying in our own ways to fix LANL are doing so because we consider ourselves to be part owners of this venerable institution.
Whereas I would not make the faintest attempt to change a corporation unless I were a stockholder, we are all stockholders of LANL and have an interest in having it be successful no matter who owns it.
You go Doug Roberts. You are in good company!

Define plenty. I have to assume you mean those leaving. I don't think you and others mean the net change.

Latest figs thru the end of March compared to end of 2004.

UC Regular - 8225
Other UC Employees - 2039
Contractors - 1189
Total - 11,453

UC Regular - 8491
Other UC Employees - 2010
Contractors - 785
Total - 11,286

Looks like a net loss of 167 people Total (-1.5%) and a net increase of 266 UC Regular (3.2%).
I would be interested to see the breakdown of employment numbers by division. I know of a number of 'seasoned' staff from DX and T that have gone or are going this summer. Is there any chance that not that many folks are really willing to retire early or are the numbers misleading as some organizations such as PS keep hiring?

Adding folks in 'support' organizations just bogs down the statistics and the effort of the remaining research and production staff.

Just wondering. Where can this information be found?
LANL Homepage - Choose HR Under Services - Choose Workforce Data & Analysis - Choose Under Demographics.
This HR workforce data is a bit misleading. Remember that there was this business of converting contract personnel to UC staff. That produced the hiring of ~300 UC people. Look at the data in the 9:58 PM post: the number of contract personnel has been reduced by almost 400.
A belated comment to 4/10/2005 08:47:21 PM (and above) posting. If you look at the technical professionals at LANL about 65% are physical scientists, 35% engineers. Sandia is the reverse about 60% engineers, 40% physical sciences. The computer geeks and math nerds, well, who knows if they are scientists or engineers (probably offended at being called either) are spread throughout. Basically, Sandia is an engineering lab and judging them on publications in physics journals is not valid.
Ok, real quick counts for UC Regular Employees -

Mgmt 674
SSM 1677
TEC 1828
TSM 3338
Total 8225

Mgmt 669
SSM 1847
TEC 1880
TSM 3358
Total 8491
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