1996 Executive Meeting Minutes

November 26

The second meeting of FY 97 was held November 26th in the third floor conference room of building 137. Attendees included: P. Allen, S. Barrett, A. Fischer-Colbrie, D. McKay, P. O'Day, D. Segel, D. Shuh, R. Stevens, H. Thompson and B. de Vos. Also in attendance were A. Bienenstock and K. Hodgson.

Artie Bienenstock, Director of SSRL, opened the meeting with a review of the results of the Science Policy Committee (SPC) meeting held November 22- 23, 1996 at SSRL. The SPC expressed strong support for a SPEAR upgrade but cautioned that SSRL needs to further define the scope of the project, the budget and a realistic schedule. The SPC also stressed that SPEAR and the beamlines must be functional at 200 mA after the upgrade. The FEL project was also supported by the SPC but was considered more of an R&D than construction project at this point. Keith Hodgson added that SSRL will need important input from the SSRLUO in terms of scientific justification for these new projects and capabilities. Sean Brennan of SSRL will be handling the scientific case for the SPEAR upgrade. Realistic cost estimates and vigilant cost containment will also be important aspects to any new project at SSRL.

Regarding the FY98 budget, it is likely that there will not be across the board action against DOE. Some departments will fare better than others. The OMB staff is fighting hard on behalf of Basic Energy Research in large part due to the letters sent by SSRL users and other synchrotron facility users to Washington.

The Basic Energy Sciences Advisory Committee (BESAC) which is tasked with examining synchrotron facilities in the US is still searching for a chair for the committee. The committee is expected to perform a general study in the spring with a report issued in the summer of 1997. They will then look at individual facilities in 1998.

A. Bienenstock then reviewed the same viewgraphs he had presented to the SPC. The presentation highlighted the following areas:

  • scientific and technical demand for synchrotron radiation
  • distribution of SSRL users
  • number of SSRL users, proposals submitted, shifts delivered
  • unique capabilities and particular strengths of SSRL
  • SSRL vision for the future
  • impact on user community if SSRL were shutdown

Gordon Brown will lead the environmental molecular science portion of the BESAC study that affects SSRL. Keith Hodgson will handle the structural molecular biology portion of the SSRL response.

Keith Hodgson then addressed the shutdown activities and beamline 9 update. New staffing to support extended user runs has been curtailed due to budget constraints. SSRL had planned to fill 18 billets but are now holding back on 9 of the full time engineer billets. Some of the billets affected include a software engineer for the accelerator systems division (ASD), a detector specialist, a mechanical engineer in ASD, and technical support staff in ESRD. SSRL is hoping to complete the building 131 extension over the summer. Initial estimates to construct a building adjoining buildings 120 and 131 during the September-October 1996 shutdown were extremely inflated. New proposals from area contractors will be solicited shortly.

Hodgson reported that beamline 9-1 will have 5-8 times the intensity now seen in beamline 7-1. Tests on BL 9-1 to date indicate excellent stability and focus. One of the strengths regarding BL 9-1 is the ability to resolve large unit cells.

Kent Robinson presented an update on the status of the computer and network upgrades. Alpha computers have been installed on beam lines 4-2, 4-3, 6- 2 and 7-3. DEC terminals are presently on beam lines 1-5AD and 7-1. Martin George (SSRL) plans to test the Grand Interconnect on beam line 2-3 in February and SSRL will then interface the Grand Interconnects to the Alphas. The Alphas are expected to be weaned from the Micro VAX III's in March. The wiring for the network infrastructure is still underway with beamline 9 now complete. New X-terminals have been received and the staff is looking for areas around the beam lines to install them. The new user computer area in building 131 is wired for an ethernet printer and will eventually have networked PC and/or Mac computers loaded with Windows NT software. SSRL has received the optical disk writer and it will be set up once a suitable location is determined. It is anticipated that not all beamlines will have Alphas and X-terminals installed by the end of the FY97 run due to competing manpower demands on the computer staff. Furthermore, there is a need to run tests that would adversely impact any users on the beam lines.

Suzanne Barrett provided a brief update on the status of the user area improvements:

  • The user reception furniture (ordered 7/96) is due any day now
  • The user computer area in building 131 mezzanine is complete but still needs to be outfitted with a printer and two computers; one station will remain empty for laptop use
  • Drawings and plans are complete for the kitchen/lounge re-design efforts in buildings 120 and 131
  • All kitchen appliances and lounge furniture have been ordered
  • Estimates for custom cabinetry for the kitchen areas is slowing progress in these areas; estimates are almost 80% higher than anticipated

Elections were held for the new SSRL users organization vice-chairman. Dave McKay of Stanford University was unanimously elected. Dave McKay will serve as the vice-chair of the 1997 SSRL Users Meeting and assume the chairmanship of the committee in September 1997.

The was a short discussion on the proposal review process. The issue had been previously discussed in the last two meetings and it was decided that it was necessary to provide the Proposal Review Panel (PRP) with more specific concerns or examples before anything further could be accomplished. The concerns may be incorporated into a general user survey to be completed later this year.

There was a brief discussion on the need for proposal expiration dates to be incorporated onto the beam time request form so that spokesperson can be kept apprised of the status of their proposals. The letters routinely sent out to spokespersons informing them of proposal expiration dates are often delivered late or simply misplaced once received. SSRL will work to accomplish this change.

The members of the SSRLUO unanimously agreed that SSRL needs to reduce the need for hard copies of support paperwork and move toward a more automated on- line system similar to NSLS. The users would like to see the following forms available on the web so that they can then be completed on-line and emailed rather than submit paper originals:

  • Beam time request forms
  • Safety Forms -- original signature executed upon check-in
  • User Support Forms
  • End of Run Summary Forms
  • MSDSs - already available on line but need to develop link to them
  • Improved beam line schedule format

Users on line at the end of the FY96 run experienced lots of delays in trying to get off-line in a timely manner due to the availability of only one duty operator. It was suggested that there be more than one duty operator available prior to shutdown periods.

There was a concern expressed that while new computer equipment is being installed at the beamlines there is no documentation to let the users know what is available on the new equipment. For instance, is Netscape available on-line or is there a plan to have it available? The issue will be forwarded to the computer group.

David Shuh and Peggy O'Day agreed to serve on a subcommittee to support the BESAC study. The goal of the subcommittee will be to create a general user survey and summarize the position of SSRL users for the BESAC.

In an effort to recognize the efforts of the SSRL staff throughout the year it was suggested that the SSRLUO fund the purchase of a keg of beer at the annual end of the run party. The issue of funding still needs to be resolved.

The next meeting will be held in late January at a date yet to be determined. More information regarding the BESAC study should be available at that time.


October 26

The first meeting of FY 97 took place following the SSRL Users' Conference on October 25th. Attendees included: P. Allen, S. Barrett, A. Fischer-Colbrie, D. McKay, P. O'Day, D. Shuh, and H. Thompson. Also in attendance were A. Bienenstock and K. Hodgson.

David Shuh, 1997 chairman of the SSRLUO Executive Committee, welcomed the newly elected members to the SSRL Users' Organization. Brief introductions were madevfollowed by a review of the SSRLUO charter. SSRLUO serves in an advisory capacity to communicate general users' needs and concerns to the Director of SSRL and SSRL Science Policy Board. The SSRLUO provides input regarding users concerns and needs to the funding agencies and fosters the use of synchrotron radiation. Members are elected to the SSRLUOEC for a two-year term.

The SSRL Director, Arthur Bienenstock, thanked the members for their hard work over the busy FY 96 user run and stressed the importance of open communication between the SSRLUO and SSRL management.

As ex-officio, Alice Fischer-Colbrie reviewed some of the outstanding issues from the last meeting in August. Alice attended the August Proposal Review Panel (PRP) meeting to relay the concerns and frustrations of the users regarding the criteria used by the PRP to rate proposals. The PRP panel members were surprised by the perception of "mysterious criteria" and referred the users to the SSRL Proposal Guidelines Booklet. They did not feel any further clarification of the criteria was necessary but agreed to pursue the subject again at a later date. K. Hodgson stated that the major criteria applied to proposals is scientific and technical excellence. A. Bienenstock suggested that a poll of the users would help determine if there is a lot of discontent with the current proposal review process.

However, this suggestion was couched with the concern that there may be larger issues for the SSRLUO to deal with in upcoming months. A BES subcommittee will be formed to study synchrotron radiation. One of the questions to be studied is the consequences of shutting down one US synchrotron facility. A. Bienenstock will be calling upon the SSRLUO to help address this issue in the near future. In addition, there are strong indications that the proposed SPEAR upgrade may be funded if a strong case can be built to present to BES. The SSRLUO will be instrumental in assisting this project as well.

It was determined that the next meeting will be held Tuesday, November 26 at 10:00 am in the 3rd floor conference room of Building 137. Elections for a vice-chair will be held at this meeting due to the absence of several new members.

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