Saturday, April 16, 2005

This is a message from a friend

From Anonymous:

Doug, the message beginning "This is a message from a friend." - first comment under your "By golly" post, is so good I suggest you elevate it to a top level post.

_______________________________________________________________


This is a message from a friend.

Here's the deal. Like it or not, the government pays you to do the stuff they want. Nukes, quantum whatevers, the geek meal ticket is issued by We, the People, in Congress Assembled. Looks like they might be changing their minds. Time to deal with it. So what if they've blown the budgets on this or that...LANL and all the rest have gotten way more than their fair share of pork
over the years, and still do.
I've heard talks by eminent LANL folks...and a lot of their work can easily be done in a university.
Maybe a lot of LANL folks might be going that way soon. Is that so bad? Where is it written in stone that nothing shall ever change?
What entitlement was established that the govt should fund any endeavour, ad infinitum?
Maybe they are shortsighted, maybe they are wrong...but they make the rules. And whatever some managers do, Nanos etc...they really can't come into your office or lab and interfere with what you are doing (shutdown excepted)...so if what you are doing is important,
enjoyable, critical for national security...get to work! If not, find other work, or retire, or if your personal circumstances limit your ability to leave, "Suck it up", and get a hobby for after work.
Life is short. All this stuff is not going to matter one iota inside of 5 years. The world changes too
quickly. Pick your battles, fight them honorably, blow the whistle when it really matters, sue the management when they break the law, put in an honest day's work, and call it even all around.
There are allegations that many are impressed with themselves at LANL.
My experience in the national security field is different. The people making the difference not only aren't always honored or acclaimed, they are equally likely to be ignored or pilloried. That's the way of the world,
in all human endeavours. So if you find yourself gainfully employed at LANL, give thanks, or heave a sigh
of relief at the dice that rolled your way. So very many people in the world are cold, hungry, and sick,
and would weep in joy at the chance to sleep in the lobby and check the dumpster after lunch. Get a grip, people. Take a deep breath, or two. Get a good night's sleep. Laugh at all the puffed up execs. Remember we are all a little hollow, a little stuffed, "our headpieces filled with straw." If you are doing some good at LANL, to the best of your lights, do it. We return you now to our normal programming...



Comments:
This is, for this web site, a rare and forthright statement of reality, and a lot of good advice. In my experience, many of the LANL staff are too isolated to have a realistic perspective on the real world. They feel that they are entitled to do whatever they think is important and they feel that the government should pay for what they want to do. Wake up people. In the real world, university researchers submit 5 proposals for every one they get funded. In the real world, people hold you accountable for what they pay you to do.
 
The 4/16/2005 03:29:28 PM doesn't have it quite right.

First, it is bit of a generalization that "many of the LNAL staff are too isolated." That is an gross overstatement.

Second, as far as proposal submission, the LANL LDRD system has a success rate of only one in 10! And, with annual reviews and a renewal process for three-year proposals, there is in fact some accountability in the LDRD system. Admittedly, there are some flaws in the LDRD system, but, in general, it does work quite well.

I can say that, on average, the LDRD proposals that I have reviewed are at least as good in quality and benefit as the NSF and DOE/SBIR proposals that I review. Indeed, for the LANL LDRD proposals, there are no set-asides for fraudulent "women-owned" small businesses.
 
Please. LDRDs take a minimal effort to write (a week is plenty), and pushing the right buttons to get something funded is not that hard. Postdocs can get an LDRD funded.
I've seen LDRDs in the third year being renewed with gross logic errors involved. They wouldn't even get to the second round with most funding agencies.

Typical NIH, NSF, NASA etc proposals are ten times longer and better be close to perfect or you're just wasting your time. A month might not be enough time to write one.

Not that I am saying LDRDs are a joke. They are for seed money, and work OK for that purpose. Comparing them to "real" proposals that the first poster was talking about is not reasonable, though. Successful professors get 1 in 5 funded. Many others submit 20, get none funded, and are denied tenure or promotion. I know full profs who are widely regarded in their fields who've been rejected a dozen times in a row for funding. It's hard out there.
 
I spent a career in Academics, and then time at Los Alamos. I have chaired dozens of panels for proposal review at NSF, DARPA, DOE and DOD. The majority of winning LDRD proposals (the A list) would be in the top few percent of the NSF proposals. There is not a better quality of proposal at "university" agencies. B list proposals were usually quite good, although these choices are often driven by politics or strategic decisions, which of course, is not the same as peer review. To be fair though, DARPA, DOD, etc. often have very narrowly focused proposals.

Two years ago the National Academy looked at the NSF research portfolio. The results are quite mixed -- the majority of research does not result in significant new knowledge, and even less often is the research translated into invention or commodity.
This is not necessarily bad, but in my opinion the research in LDRD at LANL has been more productive (based on a review of the last 10 years).

For some reason there seems to be a bitterness by some posters to this blog towards anything called "good" at LANL. I am not sure why the anger, but the research portfolio at LANL is second to none in the NNSA complex.

I have been on the review committees for 9 different academic departments, all research I universities. Again, I would say that the research done at LANL compares very favorably -- much better in some areas, as you might expect.

Finally, there seems to be an impression that "universities" are real world, but LANL is not. This is a very strange, and incorrect, assertion. As an academic I found that I could work on problems of interest to me, write proposals that got funded, but in the end have zero impact on society. Academics can be very, very narrow, and achieve fame on being the foremost expert on a self defined subject. I know, I was one of those professors.

LANL is an outstanding research resource for the nation. The issues of present leadership are extremely serious -- we must find a way to effectively serve the nation, and we are not doing that now. It would be best to seperate the issues - there is room for improvement everywhere, but LANL really does some unique and amazing things.

Does Sandia perform Science in the Service of the Nation (LM)? Sure, but not nearly to the quality and quantity that LANL does. The structures for LDRD at Sandia is very much shifted towards the technical application, short term end. The long term focus of LANL makes the short term SNL possible. It is impossbile to imagine innovation with basic research.
 
The basic science at LANL is some
of the best in the world. LANL is ranked 11th institution in the world
in terms of citations and publications
for 1990-1999. A large portion of this
is done on LDRD. Make no mistake there
are a lot of good people who can leave
and will. If LANL does lose these top
people than LANL will not be worth
very much. By the way LDRD success is
less than 10% NSF is is like 30%. Some very good LDRD's get funded but some are just the
most worthless stuff ever and
are insane. These are usually ones associated with X, DX,
or D. By the way the 7:39 poster
does not know what he/she is talking
about and I doubt knows any professors at a University.
 
Can 10:29 PM provide any examples of "worthless" LDRD projects from D, DX, or X? The only ones I have seen are from P Division.
 
To th 7:30 post.

You have to be kidding. I say to you
name one LDRD from X and DX that
is not junk. Look, I do not want to
be mean but just examine the quality
and the educational backgrounds of the people in X and DX. Scary is it not? By the way P-divsion has some of the best people in LANL and two years ago produced the most cited paper for that year in PRL. This is big stuff. I know people in X and DX complain about LDRD. The people in T, P and MST on the other hand work much-much longer hours on the order of 60-80. All the publications and breakthroughs come from these groups. UC and U Texas want the lab because of them. We do not ask much. LDRD is simply 5% of the budget. Now at this point I have to be brutal and tell you the truth. If one day push comes to shove and we really need LANL to produce again in
a war-time situation it will be the
people from T, P, and MST that will be brought in to do it. If you push us out this place will be wothless. This is the reality.
 
There are pockets of arrogance at LANL and Nanos and the poster at 11:52 proves it. But, for the most part people here are pretty level headed.
I know just as many outstanding scientists in DX, X, and B Divisions as I know in P Division.
I also know some real dullards in P Division as well. Get you head out of the clouds, or where ever it is you keep it, and realize that the world does not revolve around P Division. When we are called on again to produce for this nation it will be with hard work and dedication from people around the laboratory.
 
11:52, I'd be interested in what context you think LANL would need to be called on to produce in a wartime situation? Particularly one in which no one else could be used.
 
11:52.Why be so shy? After all, you are part of the "elite" in P-Div. Use your name next time or shut the f*&k up! You have no idea what you are talking about. All Divisions at LANL have good people and zero's. The main reason that DX and X have so few LDRD's is that they are busy taking care of the nuclear weapons while you live in your ivory tower.
 
I'm not in X, P or T, but if I had to bet some hard cash on people DOE/NNSA worry about leaving LANL (to the extent they care of course), it would be those in X.

I cannot imagine them losing too much sleep, one way or the other, over those supported primarily by LDRD.
 
You see, 04:51:34 PM, there you go again, making an assumption. I have seen absolutely no indication that NNSA (nor DOE nor UC) gives a good God Damn about what happens at LANL, much less losing any sleep over it.
 
I disagree 11:52.

This place will not be worthless. Because while entities such as UT, UC, etc. might enjoy having obviously bright people such as yourself around, there is the small issue of the latest proposed fee of about $60M for running an institution with a $2B budget. I saw no link to a reduced fee or budget based on how many people left from P (nor any other Division for that matter). Hardly worthless, no?

I have to assume if you in particular leave, it will be for a tenured appointment at one of the Top 10 institutions in the world ranked higher than LANL's 11th place position in terms of citations and publications for 1990-1999. Good assumption? Perhaps you can also share that Top 10 list with us? So we can all say we knew you when.
 
Sure the $60M management fee makes for a cushy feed-trough, folks seem to be missing the 6+% Gross Receipts Taxes that will be going to the State.

On a $2B budget that could be another $120M skimmed right off the top!

$180M per year would make for great line-item projects or alternatively keep ~750 people on the payroll.
 
Not much can be done about the $120M to NM off the top. Part of the cost of doing business in NM. Probably why so many companies with high-paying jobs locate here...

Guess we'll have to hear what LM does with their fee from running Sandia. In the absence of other info, assume it makes its way back to LM.

Probably reasonable to plan for $180M off the top. 750+ retirements will take care of that.

Next item?
 
C'mon now 4:56...that's the kind of bad attitude we here at LANL need to work on. That kind of negativity shows you're a "negative Nellie" as one of my coworkers said. You need to turn that frown upside down, not worry and be happy. Remember, St. Pete said no one is trying to hurt you. You need to look on the positive side. Smile and the whole world...sorry, I have to stop now because the Doris Day movie is over and the drugs are starting to wear off...
 
The Lord is the only friend you need! Repent your sins, sinners! The time of tribulation is at hand! Do not worry about LDRD, but instead worry about LoRD. He will meet your needs. He is the ultimate science! All answers to all questions await in the arms of the Lord. Give yourself to Him! The time is short!
 
How much time 8:38? I need to know.
 
8:38 might be a wing nut, but he's a funny one.
 
Kind of like that silly Jim Jones and goofy David Koresh rolled up into one.
 
With maybe a dash of Tammy Faye Baker.
 
Is Tammy Faye still on TV somewhere? Watching her and Jim Baker when I was in grad school was priceless.
 
So what's the penultimate science? 8:38, anyone?
 
http://www.tammyfaye.com/

And she's still priceless:

http://www.tammyfaye.com/note20050328.htm
 
To the 9:26 poster.

Tammy Faye is indeed still on TV. She
was on the reality show "Sureal World"
Where she, Vanilla Ice, some model,
Ron Jeremy (the porn star), and one
the actors from the 70 show CHIPS, and
the guy how plays Boby Brady in "The
Bradys", are on. This is the real world. This is what we have come to.
 
02:14:39 PM wrote:
"I'd be interested in what context you think LANL would need to be called on to produce in a wartime situation? Particularly one in which no one else could be used."

During the month before the 1st Gulf War which began 15 January 1991, a team of Los Alamos workers (many in Physics Division) developed and prepared for fielding a LIDAR (laser-induced detection and ranging) system to detect chemical weapons in Iraq. The project was secret at the time, but they later received a Distinguished Performance Award for this work.
 
2:14, you forgot to mention that the LIDAR project was never fielded. A distinguished performance award for a multi-million dollar project that never helped anyone and was never used...a perfect example of the typical LANL product. "World's Greatest Science Protecting America"...

I hope Lockheed comes in here with a bunch of engineers that are able to turn the great science here at LANL into products that will actually be used to help the U.S. taxpayers instead of just wasting their hard-earned dollars.
 
The war didn't last long enough!
 
I believe that the Army wanted to field the LIDAR on the battlefield all by themselves. Armies are particular about things like that.
 
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