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SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

SSRLUO Executive Committee Meeting Minutes

Meeting Notes: March 7, 1997

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The third meeting of FY 97 was held March 6th in the third floor conference room of building 137. Attendees included: P. Allen, S. Barrett, D. McKay, D. Segel, D. Shuh, R. Stevens, H. Thompson and B. de Vos. Also in attendance were SSRL staff members A. Bienenstock, H. Winick, P. Kuhn, S. Barrett and M. St. Pierre. SSRLUOEC members unable to attend were Alice Fischer-Colbrie, Jack Johnson, Peggy O'Day, and Roger Prince.

Director's Report: Arthur Bienenstock, Director of SSRL, opened the meeting with a review of the FY97 and FY98 budget status. The President's FY98 budget request for Basic Energy Sciences (BES) represents a 3.5% increase over the FY97 budget. This was considered a good sign since initial projections showed a 8% decrease from this year's budget. Dr. Bienenstock once again thanked the SSRLUOEC and all of the user community that wrote letters to Washington, DC in support of BES. The SSRL portion of the BES budget for FY98 was reasonably strong and will allow SSRL to make some necessary instrumentation improvements.

Sen. Phil Gramm has introduced a bill to double the budget for basic science over the next 10 years. In addition, a Senate Science and Technology Caucus has been developed to increase the FY98 budget for science. The Caucus has strong bipartisan support. Twenty-three professional societies have called for a 7% per year increase in basic science budgets which will lead to a doubling of the budget in ten years.

Dr. Bienenstock urged the SSRLUO to decide whether it wants to support the President's budget or the 7% increase proposed by Senator Gramm and the Caucus. If the SSRLUO is going to support either or them, he recommended that letters from users to Washington should be targeted to particular committees such as the House Budget Committee, House and Senate Authorization Subcommittee, House and Senate Appropriation Subcommittee and the new Senate Science and Technology Committee.

The status of the BESAC Synchrotron Radiation Panel was then addressed. R. Birgeneau will chair the Panel. Dr. Birgeneau is presently the Dean of Science at MIT and has conducted x-ray phase transition experiments at SSRL in the past. Z.X. Shen of SSRL will serve as co-chair. Dr. Birgeneau will visit SSRL on April 17. The first panel meeting will be held May 9-10 and the panel will visit SSRL and ALS July 7-11. It is expected that the panel's final report will not be completed in time to effect the President's FY99 budget. Consequently, the Free Electron Laser (FEL) project will not be able to earn an endorsement from the panel prior to SSRL's budget submission and will most likely be excluded from the SSRL FY99 budget proposal.

The SSRLUOEC was then asked to contribute their expertise and opinions in formulating responses to the BESAC questionnaire. Dr. Bienenstock pointed out that the structural molecular biology and environmental communities at SSRL have done some analysis of their own communities which should help formulate responses, while the materials science community has not done so to date.

Beamline 9 Update: Peter Kuhn of the structural molecular biology group began his presentation with an update on the information and user forms available to BL 7-1 and BL 1-5 users on the web. The group is quickly moving to a paper-less system and encourages users to go on-line to browse the information available and offer constructive comments and/or changes to refine the material.

Peter then assured the SSRLUOEC that BL-9 is indeed alive and once again operating at the same specifications achieved in the August 1996 commissioning after correcting the wiggler mis-alignment. First light into the BL 9-3 double crystal monochromater was achieved on 3/5/97. Additional achievements include:
-Si 311 crystal replaced the Si 220 crystal on BL 9-1
-hutch table has been rigidified
-SSRL design of the cryostream system is in place
-FTS cold stream system in place
-first trial run of the Grand Interconnect system and new control
-network has been updated to 100Mbit/second
-500 MHz processing computer has been installed

Network and Computer Update: Hector Prado reviewed the status of the SSRL network upgrade. The network group is trying hard to respond quickly to user needs. Hector urged users to give the computer group advance notice of any need for unique cabling or hook-ups so that the network group could prepare the beamline appropriately for users before they arrive. Buildings 120 and 131 have new network infrastructure of fiber optic cables able to communicate at 100Mbit/second. New catalyst switches enable large file transfers without adversely impacting other users on the network. A new router allows users to send files at high speeds to wide area networks. New computer lines have been installed in different user areas throughout the facility to allow users access to the network from more locations.

Ellie Fazli of the computer group presented the latest information on the beamline computers. Seven Alphas are presently installed on beamlines with the 8th scheduled to be installed the week of 3/10/97. Alphas are scheduled to be installed on beamlines 3-3, 10-2, 8-1 and 7-3. X- terminals will be installed on all beamlines equipped with an Alpha. The first X-term will be installed in the bldg. 131 user computer room. Ellie cautioned the users that memory quotas can be filled very quickly on their computer accounts if they connect to the web and that user cache files must be cleared out manually.

Operations Update: Suzanne Barrett presented the user demand statistics for the various beamlines for the second scheduling period in FY97 (March 5- May 18). A comparison of the beamline demand from the first portion of the run (Nov 4 - March 4) to the second portion demonstrated fluctuating demand on a variety of beamlines with most beamlines remaining significantly over-subscribed. Beam time request forms for the final portion of the FY97 run (May 19-July 31) are due March 14. It is expected that the FY98 run will begin in November 1997 after a three month maintenance shutdown.

The new user kitchen/lounge area in building 120 is progressing slower than anticipated due to the need to conform with the Davis-Bacon Act. An outside contractor will be employed to complete the project. The contract specification has been drafted and will be released for competitive bid in late-March with renovations beginning in early May. The building 131 kitchen/lounge re-design has been put on hold due to budget constraints but plans to relocate staff and workshops from the new kitchen/lounge designated areas continues. The new user computer room in bldg. 131 has been outfitted with new furniture and computer cabling. An X-term has been ordered for the area and a laser printer is expected shortly. It is anticipated that SSRL will also provide a PC computer in the area and leave the third workstation free for laptop hookups. Telephone lines have been ordered for a modem hookup and a standard wall- mount telephone.

Executive Session: David Shuh opened the executive session by soliciting input from SSRLUOEC members in order to address the BESAC questions posed to SSRL. Preliminary responses were drafted although further information from various sources will need to be collected before complete responses can be provided to Dr. Bienenstock. Questions to be addressed include:

  • What is the scientific and technological demands for synchrotron radiation? From what fields and sectors?
  • What is the user demand at each of the DOE synchrotron light sources? What is the distribution of users? Are there niche communities at the different light sources? Are these communities growing or declining?
  • What is the capability of each synchrotron light source over time? How do the capabilities complement one another?
  • What is the vision for the future for each synchrotron light source?
  • What would be the consequence of the shutdown on one or more of the four DOE synchrotron light sources?

The SSRLUO requested a short briefing on the proposed SPEAR upgrade as well as the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) project to better answer the questions above. The SSRLUOEC will address the answers to the above questions at the next scheduled meeting. The next meeting is tentatively scheduled for late April.

The issue of scheduling periods and the possibility of reducing the number of periods from three to two periods per fiscal year was briefly addressed. The point was made that it is a significant burden on the administrative staff to divide the run into three separate periods, as well as a "paper chase" on the part of users. The issue was tabled until a more representative sample of Materials and VUV users could be polled for their opinion.

On-line forms and the format for the End of Run Summary were discussed. While SSRL has made progress in getting a number of user forms on the web (beam time request forms, user support, hazards form, and end of run summary) the forms still need to be refined and tested. Users are encouraged to access the forms on-line and provide comments and suggested changes. SSRL also needs to tie the on-line submittals by users to a database rather than just receiving the information as email.

The revised End of Run Summary form was critiqued. The new format reduces the number of response categories for rating beam quality to three categories in lieu of the previous four (eliminating the "very good" category). The users felt this change would produce artificially low responses and requested the four rating categories be reinstated. The new format was also criticized as stifling narrative comments both positive and negative. The on-line form will be revised to eliminate the need for comments to be inserted after every question. The committee also felt that it would be best if blank forms were available at the beam lines to complete at the end of the run as well as available on line for the users to complete from their home office. SSRL will re-evaluate the End of Run Summary form in light of these constructive comments.

The SSRL annual users' meeting will be held October 16-17 this year. APS is expected to hold their conference on October 13-14. David McKay, SSRLUOEC vice-chair, and John Bargar will serve as co-chairs.

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