Sep 7, 2007

Comment of the Week

This is a week that deserves another "Comment of the Week". Coming on the heels of yesterday's announcements of potential sizable RIFS at LANL and LLNL, this particular comment was selected for its insight and perspective regarding what DOE and coporate America are doing to our national "science" laboratories.

And yes, the part about playing football with bricks of $100 bills is true.

Raise your hand if you still think that corporatization of the labs was a good idea.

--Gussie

From the Los Alamos Head Warns of Possible Cuts By SUE MAJ... post:

________________________________________________________

Congress gets paid $165K a year plus perks, generous pension and medical benefits, and their staff personnel have a shot to jump over to the well-paid lobby industry or into political appointee jobs. The Congress did not produce a budget last year. They are not going to produce a budget this year. Seems to me, the Congress and the Hill staff are not doing their jobs. I'd say they all might be in for a RIF come November 2008. What do you think?

My take on the NNSA Lab budget "crisis": Congress and the Executive Branch pay the military-industrial complex for what they value. Over to Iraq, they shipped in container loads of cash, billions. They played football with bricks of $100 bills in the Green Zone. Most of that money disappeared without a trace (surprise, surprise). If they valued what NNSA Labs were doing, they would pay for it. There are other things they value more.
Google "Iraq for Sale" if you'd like to learn more about your tax dollars at work.

The way this will likely shake out is that all the folks with 35+ years in are going to be gently encouraged to retire, the ones critical to the effort will come back on contract, the contractor rolls will be cut back, and belts will get tighter. Managers without staff and staff without project funding are next in line to feel the friendly hand of assistance out the door. For all managers, future new hires are more likely to be retired 0-5 military and below with graduate and MBA degrees who will be the "project/program managers". The retired colonels and generals will be hired as the upper and senior management. Look around, it is happening already. If you think they value "science", wake up. They like things that work, come in on schedule, and under budget. A little science on the side is good to have, but it ain't the reason the heat is on in the winter.

77 comments:

Anonymous said...

I disagree with the statement that implies that the bloated LANL budget "serves science." On the contrary, monies that are given to the lab without peer review or proper disclosure do a disservice to our nation.

Anonymous said...

Peer review is key, outside peer review from University panels is very much in order for the LDRD programs as a whole. From an NSF standing committee perhaps, with anonymity to ensure free feedback?

Anonymous said...

You are reading an implication that I don't see, 9:25. LANL's budget has been suffering bloat since the Don Kerr days, with each subsequent year "serving" less science.

Further, for those who are secretly longing for the days of UC stewardship, don't forget that it was UC who opened LANL's door to the US military industrial complex, and then handed them the keys. This, of course, is in reference to UC having hired Nanos without benefit of a national search for a replacement director after Brown was fired, and then supporting his bogus decision to shut the lab down in 2004 -- an event that expedited the process of handing LANL over to Bechtel & friends.

Anonymous said...

Peer review of *what*, 9:39?

LANS' tripling of top-level managers? DOE's plans to turn LANL into a pit factory? A peer review of our bloated $450K per FTE rate?

What the fuck are you are talking about?

Anonymous said...

I believe 9:39 was down in the weeds, talking about peer reviewing LDRD, which is what, about 1 1/2 % of the lab's budget? Mikey & DOE are talking about a $300 million budget shortfall: RIFing 2,500 people, and this guy was concerned about LDRD peer review. Its no wonder LANL staff have a reputation for having but a passing acquaintance with the real world.

Anonymous said...

Indeed, external peer review of LDRD is kind of pointless considering that the funds are skimmed from programmatics and are intended, in some fashion, to bolster the Lab's mission capability. It's hard enough already to make a case to NNSA and Congress for continuation of the LDRD portfolio, without it being even further mis-directed by a bunch of academicians.

Anonymous said...

Hello 9/7/07 11:01 AM, please allow me to clarify and extend my remarks. The past is not changeable, but understanding the roots of the current situation is key to improving the future. That is essence of my comment about LDRD.

LDRD funding is on the order of ~$100M and change...that is a great deal of research funding to do actual science. That science might be able to discover things that might contribute to national security (military and economic). Those advances can turn into new programs of engineering development, employing hundreds and more. Without peer review, that large budget can be spent on "program development", propping up old technology efforts or software sandboxes that masquerade as science.

The lack of competent peer review on LDRD in the past is one of the primary reasons that today's problems exist. Over the past ten years, adding up all the three weapons labs LDRD, I'd say well over $3B in current dollars has been invested in what is supposed to be "cutting edge" research. Cutting edge research attracts world class talent. They in turn produce cutting edge work. I don't think it is too much to ask of a $3B investment to produce a diversified annual programmatic funding stream return of say, $600M? So today's shortfall in weapons would be manageable with some economizing.

Regarding my acquantaince with the real world, it is both substantial and current, and features civil discourse as a norm.

Anonymous said...

Point taken, 11:23, at least with regards to civility. However, I still could not disagree with you more about the significance of LDRD as pertains to LANL's current sad state.

The decisions that led to Bechtel and their pet LLC having assumed complete control over LANL had nothing to do with the perceived quality of past LDRD projects. Rather, the decision process that has led us to our current sad state, as the post under which these comments are appearing indicates, was purely military-industrial in nature.

DOE and NNSA want LANL to become a pit manufacture facility to replace the one they lost when Rocky Flats was shut down. Bechtel and their partners want to make lots of money building and running this new pit manufacturing operation.

The quality of science done at LANL under the LDRD program is of very little interest to those in control of the lab these days.

Anonymous said...

Jeez Louise, guys. You are talking about this as if it is some kind of huge revelation. Exactly what *did* you expect when one of the US's largest, greediest, war-profiteering corporations won (bought) the contract to run LANL? Disneyland For Scientists?

I echo 11:01's uncivil observation: you LANL blokes wouldn't recognize reality if it came up to you on the street and gave you a blow job.

Anonymous said...

My recollection is that LDRD proposals do have outside reviewers.

Anonymous said...

11:23AM

As for LDRD, it has worked fairly well.
Of course some junk gets funded. However
if outside per-review came in (which I favor) most of the people who complain about how the could not get LDRD would
never see a dime again. Alot of the people complain they cannot get funnded from LDRD are out and out horrible. Making the peer review more rigorous would ensure that that their chances are
zero, which is good. I just suspect that
11:23AM is one of those people who really would suffer with more peer review.

Anonymous said...

Are we ignoring the point that the big programs are not being properly reviewed either?

Anonymous said...

1:10.

Yes, just as we ignoring the fact that the current Bechtel/LANS-imposed working environment (bloated overhead, bloated FTE rates, bloated security procedures, bloated management heirarchy, bloated procurement system, bloated IT support system) makes it damn near impossible to get any real work done in the first place, peer-reviewed or not.

It makes perfect sense to me that our current working conditions are as counter productive as they are because Bechtel/LANS could not care less about our "scientific" accomplishments. We seem to be ignoring that, too.

Anonymous said...

9/7/07 12:49 PM, I would lay serious odds that 11:23 is on the LDRD "donor" side of the Laboratory, possibly in the WFO or nonproliferation arenas. Why do I say this? Statements like "I don't think it is too much to ask of a $3B investment to produce a diversified annual programmatic funding stream return of say, $600M?" and "Those advances can turn into new programs of engineering development, employing hundreds and more." are a key tip-off that this person is not interested in their own personal sandbox but rather wants to see LDRD projects funded that can be leveraged into new program opportunities. I don't mean leveraged into a $150K BES project, which seems to be most LDRD proposers' idea of nirvana.

The 11:23 poster is correct that the current selection process - even with external reviews - does not promote the awarding of LDRD funds based on their future ROI. This is especially true for the ER projects, where a typical "mission impact" statement includes such whoppers as "This project will result in numerous publications in high-profile journals such as Science and Nature [yeah right] and will enhance LANL's international reputation in the field." Blahdy blahdy blah. So f'ing what? So then we can attract still more postdocs who want to become LDRD-queen TSM's someday?

It seems like some 3-5% of the Lab's population just fundamentally doesn't get that LDRD is an overhead skim off the dollars that arrive from external sources. You can't "grow" LDRD, you can only grow the revenue stream that supports LDRD. Scientific publications are not, in and of themselves, a self-sustaining product!

Anonymous said...

It seems like you people want to talk about LDRD, rather than the important issues, like the fact that we can expect some 2,500 people to be RIF'ed this year, and the reasons that LANL has sunk to this state.

Ok, talk about LDRD. Good old predictable head-in-the-sand LANL staffers doing what they do best: steadfastly ignoring reality.

Anonymous said...

1:51pm

You do not seem to get the whole "science thing" do you. Giving LDRD money to poor quality scientsists will never result in anything much less more money.

Remember almsot all the good things you hear about LANL come from LDRD.

"Scientific publications are not, in and of themselves, a self-sustaining product!"

From this statement I can only assume that you do not publish nor are you a scientist. It also shows how ignorant you are of the workings of science. It is not the publications that are self-susstaining it is what is in the publications. I am really shocked that someone like you could be working in LANL. Maybe this RIF thing is a good idea.

Anonymous said...

Re: 2:01's comment --

Maybe its time to bring up the subject of day care again. That would give staff something really safe to talk about while avoiding the reality of why so many of us are facing job cuts.

Anonymous said...

9/7/07 9:39 AM here again...

LDRD means "Laboratory Research and Development". Doing actual R&D means one obtains results of experiments, numerical simulation or theory development, unique observations, or novel instrumentation or analytical techniques, or prototypes of new designs. If these are not classified, external publication is the customary means to advance the state of knowledge and utility. Writing a paper for an external peer-reviewed publication is a very minor investment of time compared to the actual execution of the work. At least, that has been my experience. Most of my time in the past few years has been invested in executing WFO projects, with a portion of time contributing to the LDRD projects of other staff. I've had a few of my own proposals funded as well, and served on outside advisory panels to government and private sector efforts, and as a reviewer for journal papers. We've had a top-shelf university professor come visit in my lab and publish jointly, had industry R&D folks come in and do the same, done pro-bono work for nonprofits, got a patent pending. So whatever real world there is, I'd say I'm acquainted with it. It might not be the world that occupies your time, but everybody has a different role to contribute, in the end its a good day's work for a fair day's pay.

Have a nice weekend!

Gussie Fink-Nottle said...

Oh, thank you, 4:41. I'm now going to delete your comment (but include it in quotes, below as an example of a worthless, content-free contribution). Next time you have something to say here, don't try to be so coy about it, just spit it out.

--Gussie

The offending comment:

" The first Los Alamos business has closed since the RIF article appeared.

9/7/07 4:41 PM"

Anonymous said...

Good job, Gussie. The comment formerly known as "4:41" certainly had the character of Eric "I know a secret and you don't" Fairchild about it. Thanks for holding it up as an example of how not to share information.

Anonymous said...

9/7/07 2:06 PM, a heavy sigh goes out to you. I was correct in prognosticating 11:23 as a WFO project person, so I'm going to venture a guess on your identity. Your post displays equal parts of cockiness and a sheltered cluelessness, therefore I'm guessing you are a postdoc. Yes, I'm going to be a bit condescending to you, because you've earned it.

To encourage further discussion, I'm giving you my scientific credentials. PhD in a physical science, with NSF Graduate Fellowship to a top-10 university in my field. Recruited to LANL by then-Division Management, hotly sought after by staff members in two different groups. LANL Director's Postdoc, followed by conversion to TSM via a job posting nationally advertised in the trade magazine for my field, with some 80 applicants. That was how things were done in my division at that time; there were no "strategic hires" made by the stroke of AD's pen. I am well into my second decade at LANL. I witnessed the 1995 RIF, and don't you dare suggest that watching one of your coworkers get laid off is ever, ever a good thing. At that time, we all worked on whatever we could get funded to do. Sometimes it was LDRD, more often not.

I burned out on being a scientist in one instant at a conference, when I realized that all 100 people who would ever know or care about my work were in that very room with me, patting each other on the back for their own brilliance. It took me two years after that to build the confidence to walk away from my reseach career. I left with a respectable but not earth shattering publication record. Since then, I've been a Program Manager, where my interactions with DOE eventually resulted in 25% growth in my portfolio. This was brutally difficult, much, much harder than being a scientist. I am currently in line management for a technical (but not research) organization, and I spent most of last night lying awake trying to imagine how I could ever look at myself in the mirror again if I have to lay off 20% of the terrific people in my group.

So, I think I do know whereof I speak. I have my own biases based on my own experiences and values, but you cannot call me ignorant.

Now, a few points I think you missed.

(1) LDRD is, by definition, a 6% share of the Lab's budget. Perhaps you have not thought through the fact that a $400M reduction in the Lab's overall budget translates to a $24M reduction in LDRD. That's equivalent to eliminating over 100 LDRD-funded positions. Historically the Lab does not RIF postdocs, so this means 100 LDRD-funded TSM's are going to be laid off, or will go looking for programmatic work within LANL. To be brutally frank, my experience is that people who are used to doing (only) basic research such as yourself perform poorly when asked to deliver specific results on a specific schedule. It takes an entirely different discipline to execute project deliverables that have been defined by someone else, than to "do science" which rarely requires you to actually arrive at a certain point at a certain time.

(2) The only way that a RIF can be prevented is through increased programmatic funding. Publications, no matter how many or how prestigious, do not result in increased funding or even continued funding, except within the narrow (10% or so) slice of the Lab's budget represented by BES, NIH etc. Even an instantaneous doubling of the activity in these areas would not save LANL from a RIF.

(3) The only currently available mechanism for LANL to invest in the development or acquisition of new capabilities that would support the acquisition of new programmatic funds is LDRD. We cannot restore a $400M shortfall, $200K at a time, by getting more funds for basic science projects. Therefore we cannot afford to measure the success of LDRD anymore by how many publications are produced.

(4) As above, there is not necessarily a correlation between high-quality scientists and high-quality program development. Good science is a key hallmark of LANL's past, but it has never, ever been the sole or even the main reason for LANL's existence. And it will not be the means to LANL's survival.

I repeat, "Scientific publications are not, in and of themselves, a self-sustaining product!" Delivery of products that paying customers value CAN be self-sustaining, and for a very small subset of LANL's potential customers, the desired product happens to be scientific publications. But publications alone will not save any of us from losing our jobs in the end.

Gussie Fink-Nottle said...

Well said, 6:56pm.

Your summary statement is a lesson that many LANL staff could learn from.

Unfortunately, I expect that few at Los Alamos will benefit from your experience, for the very same reasons that you claim to have once experienced instantaneous scientific burnout: i.e. too many LANL staff are far too busy patting themselves on their backs to take advantage of someone else's input. However, on the off chance that repetition will help to carry the lesson:

"Scientific publications are not, in and of themselves, a self-sustaining product!" Delivery of products that paying customers value CAN be self-sustaining, and for a very small subset of LANL's potential customers, the desired product happens to be scientific publications. But publications alone will not save any of us from losing our jobs in the end."

--Gussie

Anonymous said...

9:39 AM here again, just want to elaborate a bit about LDRD...I've done LDRD, WFO, manufacturing, and project management in my career. When you invest in LDRD you have the chance to discover something new and unique; a composition of matter, a catalyst, a new type of solid-state device, something totally new. If your discovery was done as "science with the end in mind", you might find that your lab is able to produce a fuel cell with triple the efficiency of any other in existence, or a solar cell with double the efficiency of any other, or a communications method that is impossible to intercept...and those inventions can be the basis of a new funded program of prototyping and development and even small volume manufacturing for field evaluation. I hope that clears things up. Of course, getting LDRD up to peer quality across the board is not going to solve today's problem. I don't know what can solve today's problem, except adept crisis management. LDRD might help solve tomorrow's problems, that is, if there is LDRD around. When I was in the private sector technology world, the Fortune 50 company where I worked had about 4% to 6% off the top invested in R&D, about the norm for that sector at the time. Our LDRD is not that off base in comparison.

Anonymous said...

5:01 pm:
"LDRD means "Laboratory Research and Development"."

Not quite, know it all. The first "D" stands for "Directed" as in Laboratory Directed, that is, no direction from DOE or any other outside sponsor. Just internal review and approval based on an involuntary tax on those who are doing work other folks are actually willing to pay to have done. All you "pure" scientists with lily-white, unstained publication records are living off of the core mission of this Laboratory, without (mostly, there are a few mission-oriented LDRDs) contributing to it.

I know, LDRD acccounts for a large fraction of LANL peer-reviewed publications and therefore provides a service and contributes to LANL's reputation. However, too many LDRD-supported folks think their crap doesn't stink.

Anonymous said...

9/7/07 2:06 PM is a recently converted LANL TSM in Chemistry - the land of arrogance, denial, accidents and home of the LDRD queens. No more job ads, no more competition for jobs, just a stroke of an ADs pen gets you a job and lots of funding. The new folks are full of self-entitlement and they make fun of us who actually do programmatic work. They take funds from the programmatic programs (e.g. isotopes program) and do nothing for the effort except their own research under the directive of the AD. Nice work if you can get it but please don't be a profit about LDRD.

Anonymous said...

5:01 - With respect to LDRD Priedorsky has been sucking someone. He has not lived up to the great standard created by Watkins. Bill put his pets in as committee chairs, who picked people from their own teams and groups to help pick proposals, that well, were from their own. This is back to the day when Satellberger was in charge of LDRD and funded his pet projects. LDRD is now just a mechanism to keep people on the ADs and PADs "must keep" list, most of whom are foreign nationals. What a joke.

Anonymous said...

"
"Scientific publications are not, in and of themselves, a self-sustaining product!" Delivery of products that paying customers value CAN be self-sustaining, and for a very small subset of LANL's potential customers, the desired product happens to be scientific publications. But publications alone will not save any of us from losing our jobs in the end."

--Gussie

9/7/07 7:17 PM "

Science is not about paying customers. It is more like art. You do it because it makes life worthwhile.

Anonymous said...

Wow, 8:51.

Just wow.

Anonymous said...

8:51 is a pompous little twit, isn't he?

Anonymous said...

To 6:56 PM - right on! Sounds like Terry Wallace should have hired you as his deputy as opposed to McBranch who tanked his own start-up company. Just the kind of deputy that makes Terry (the guy threatened by smart competent women) feel good about himself. I wonder what female Terry is going to fire next?

Anonymous said...

To 9/7/07 9:46 PM - or she...

Anonymous said...

"Anonymous said...
8:51 is a pompous little twit, isn't he?

9/7/07 9:46 PM "

True enough, but he has a point.

Anonymous said...

8:45pm

Do you really thik RIFS are a bad idea? Really?

Anonymous said...

8:27pm

You sound like someone who breathed in too much Aqua Regia.

Anonymous said...

Hey 9:52 - how did McBranch tank his own start up?

Anonymous said...

How's your start up coming along, 9:52? Yeah, I thought so.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how many people we'd have to RIF to ensure that we got rid of 8:51?

Anonymous said...

9/7/07 8:51 PM

Fine, go rent yourself a gallery on Canyon Road for your science.

Anonymous said...

"
"Scientific publications are not, in and of themselves, a self-sustaining product!" Delivery of products that paying customers value CAN be self-sustaining, and for a very small subset of LANL's potential customers, the desired product happens to be scientific publications. But publications alone will not save any of us from losing our jobs in the end."

--Gussie "

This post reflects (1) The sad state of affairs that LANL has become if this is commonly believed at LANL (2) A total and complete lack of understanding what science is and how is works.Any good scientist knows that it is not the publications themselves. In any case every outstanding scientific establishment will have also be accompanied strong publication record. This is way it is considered the standard metric of excellence. Again it is not the publications themselves.

The mentality in the quoted post is appropriate for pit production. There is no science only a paying costumer and a well defined product. Rocky Flats was not a science lab. 6:56pm sounds like somone who is rather bitter about themselves. Fair enough, however that does give him the right to condem how real science works.

Anonymous said...

I found that the 6.56pm post to be one of the more creepy ones on the blog.

Lets do some deconstruction on what 6:56pm is really saying. 6:56pm said they will be condescending and ventures that I am a postdoc. Well I venture to guess that you are
a person who faild at science and now you are in management.

"To encourage further discussion, I'm giving you my scientific credentials."

"PhD in a physical science:"

So you do not have a Ph.d in physics, chemistry, or mathematics but something like materials science.

"Fellowship to a top-10 university in my field"

So the 10th ranked school in your
subfield? Not Harvard, MIT, or Caltech but more like Penn State or RPI.

"followed by conversion to TSM via a job posting nationally advertised in the trade magazine for my field, with some 80 applicants. That was how things were done in my division at that time; there were no "strategic hires" made by the stroke of AD's pen."

How ironic that the "internal candidate got the job"

"At that time, we all worked on whatever we could get funded to do. Sometimes it was LDRD, more often not."

Which really means "none of my ER's got funded" This may explain why you are so bitter about LDRD. Is it possible that your science was not up to par?

"I burned out on being a scientist in one instant at a conference, when I realized that all 100 people who would ever know or care about my work were in that very room with me, patting each other on the back for their own brilliance."

i.e my work was not well received
at the conference. This also consistent with not getting ER funding. What to do? Instead of blame everyone else at the conference for being irrelevant
scientists.

"It took me two years after that to build the confidence to walk away from my reseach career."

I was in denial for two years that I was a total failure

"I left with a respectable but not earth shattering publication record."

My publication record was weak.

"Since then, I've been a Program Manager,"

How is it that in LANL when you are a failure at actually doing something you end up becoming a manager. This who thing makes no sense but it may explain why we have such bad management at LANL.

"my interactions with DOE eventually resulted in 25% growth in my portfolio. This was brutally difficult, much, much harder than being a scientist."

Even though I faild at science I succeeded in a field which is much harder than science. I believe Freud would call this rationalization.


"I spent most of last night lying awake trying to imagine how I could ever look at myself in the mirror again if I have to lay off 20% of the terrific people in my group."

I am in management so I will never be RIFed.

Anonymous said...

We can venture some guesses about 9:46.

I wish I were a professor, but:

> I was not hard working enough / smart enough to get a professorship.

> I would rather masturbate at LANL and think I was a professor, while not actually doing any of the real work that keeps this institution alive.

Anonymous said...

Poster 8:51 PM / 9:46 AM,

While you may not realize it, your posts tells me and others much about you. Your posts tell me that you are a sick person who is in need of some mental health assistance. I say this not to denigrate you but to help point out an escape from your mental prison. I would suggest that you look up Narcissistic Personality Disorder on the Wiki. Unfortunately, most people who fit this profile rarely seek the help they need. My guess is that most of those who work around you already realize that you have some type of a "problem". It's hard to hide these types of things. I pray that you get some help so that you can live a more normal and fulfilling life as you get older.

As far as the post of 6:56 PM, he demonstrates a heart-felt and clear understanding of what is can be like in science as one's life progresses. He speaks with some wisdom and I enjoyed what he had to say. There is a lot of clarity and truth to his words. Your vicious belittling of his post, paragraph by paragraph, only serves to demonstrate the mendacities that have infected your mind. Please seek some help.

Anonymous said...

2:06PM: Here's a few words you should familiarize yourself with. "Primadonna", "Ivory tower", "Reality".

LANL isn't the academic world, no matter how hard you or others try to pretend that it is. You sound like one of those T division weenies.

Anonymous said...

11:14AM: Yup. Nailed it. LANL has a few of those types wandering the halls. They generally get very angry and vocal about the sanctity of pure research and how people "just don't understand how science works" every few months when their funding source asks for a report or deliverable. There are some great examples of this in T.

Anonymous said...

This thread is living proof, if any was still needed, that there is not just one "type" at LANL.

Anonymous said...

2:21: Of course! Even Pete knew that. LANL has...

- Cowboys
- Buttheads
- Primadonna scientists
- Dead wood
- Double dippers
- And a few thousand of those who don't get mentioned frequently on here : good scientists

Anonymous said...

'Oh, thank you, 4:41. I'm now going to delete your comment (but include it in quotes, below as an example of a worthless, content-free contribution). Next time you have something to say here, don't try to be so coy about it, just spit it out.

--Gussie

The offending comment:

" The first Los Alamos business has closed since the RIF article appeared.

9/7/07 4:41 PM"

9/7/07 5:06 PM'

I guess it would have been a better post if it contained a number of 4 letter words and slurs against a number of people identified by name.

If you want a hint, try buying lunch at the restaurant next to Casa Mesita. Next try lunch at Canyon Bar and Grill.

Anonymous said...

9:46 AM - you are so obviously from the primadonna scientists pool in ADCLES or ADEPS. You know, a so-called LDRD queen who has been used to working on projects and not delivering, submitting patents as your own that actually come from someone else's ideas, and refusing to work on anything programmatic because you don't believe in the Lab's mission. You likely get funding from programs and do not deliver - from the "just give me money and I will do good science" camp. Those days are gone and poster 6:56 hit the nail on the head. Instead of realizing the fact that you have been living the high-life and your road trip is about to end, you pick on someone who speaks the truth that you don't want to hear. As 12:33 indicated, your attack again 6:56 revealed quite a bit about you.

Anonymous said...

"I will do good science" camp. Those days are gone"

So the days of doing good science are gone? Why do we have science at Los Alamos. Any good institute will have some portion of funding for basic research 5-6%. Presumably this would be science and if you are going to have have science than it should be good science. Most of the time it does not pan out to something great but somtimes it does, that is sort of the whole point. A number of these posters seem to just want to get rid of LDRD, as there are no deliverables in it and so on. Maybe some would say that it needs to be improved? The suggestions are that it needs to be more directly tied into the "core" mission of the lab. But the probelm with that is that it really would not be RD at that point but just programatic work.
The other problem is the "core" mission is not really really set in stone for the future. Making LDRD highly programatic could really backfire in the long run if the lab really needs to move in new directions. I saw some of the funded DR proposals are on bio, energy, terror, and waste, you know stuff Udall is talking about. Sounds like a good way to have some sort of diversification to me.

Anonymous said...

"Any good institute will have some portion of funding for basic research 5-6%."

Care to support this statement?

What other institution does this?

Many institutions invest, but LDRD really has never shown any strategic investment value.

And before you answer, look into your heart. You know that it has never had any investment value - name some successes where LDRD turned into something significant.

Anonymous said...

9/7/07 6:56 PM-

You nailed it.

9/8/07 9:46 AM-

You are either clueless, or malicious. There is no room for you at LANL. Good luck with the wanna-be professor gig.

Anonymous said...

Hey 8:45 - that is a pretty incendiary statement. Who submitted a patent that actually came from someone else?

Anonymous said...

9:52 PM wrote "Many institutions invest, but LDRD really has never shown any strategic investment value."

Bullshit. 9:52 you are an idiot, a PD or new TSM. What about P-rad, Pu superconductors, beryllium immune response research, quantum dots, or inorganic nanocomposite scintillators for gamma-ray detection ?

Anonymous said...

I don't know what p-rad is, but

Pu superconductors - you have to be kidding. What has that led to???

Beryllium immune response research - an LDRD-DR. Any external program come of it?

Quantum dots - Victor's playground. Again, no significant external program has come of it (maybe it is significant to Victor's team, but not to anyone else).

Inorganic nanocomposite scintillators for gamma-ray detection - led to a couple 100K in nonproliferation money. Nothing big.

That is your list of successes????

(and for good measure, some more question marks-?????)

Anonymous said...

ps - am I an idiot, a PD or new TSM? Three guesses.

Anonymous said...

pps - i didn't ask what was cool out of ldrd, just what actually led to something in an investment sense.

Anonymous said...

I have had some talks with colleagues about LDRD. If we had gotten rid of LDRD a few years back would things be better for the programtic side now that RIFs may be looming. So the question is what would have happened if there had been less tax on the programs?
These groups simply would have hired more people with the money and would be bigger as a result.
In this way they still would be just as short and would still have to RIF people.

If you have a good year with a surplus you hire more staff, needed or not needed. I think this may be why LANL has just gotten bigger and bigger. People brag about how they increased the funding to their groups which just means they hired more people from the outside of LANL into the group. I never really understood how more people is better, aren't better people better. In LANL the only way to tell if a group is successful is if it is "getting bigger".

Anonymous said...

8:45- That sounds just like a few people I've run across at the lab. Do you have any specifics in mind?

Anonymous said...

With all of this talk about ldrd taxes -- don't forget that it's a small amount compared to the rest of the overhead that we have to deal with.

Anonymous said...

Poster 10:05 AM, here is a point to consider. Back in '94 the lab had about 7,000 workers right before the '95 RIF. Today that has ballooned to 12,000 workers. That's a lot of new workers in a period when the need for nuclear weapons was decreasing! Thus, we are going to have to downsize by a large amount if we ever hope to achieve any type of "right-size" for LANL's future. We can do it now and move forward, are suffer years and years of back-to-back RIFs that slowly kill the spirit, or what's left of it, in LANL's workforce. I vote we get on with it and make the choice to "right-size" LANL this year so that LANL has a clean slate to move on to a brighter future.

Anonymous said...

"With all of this talk about ldrd taxes -- don't forget that it's a small amount compared to the rest of the overhead that we have to deal with." - 9/9/07 12:44 PM

First, remember that LDRD taxes are taken from programmatic funds right off the top as the money first comes into the lab, so the pain is amplified just a bit. Then, realize that the same mea culpa could be given by all the other taxation centers at the lab: "It's only 4%, or 8%, or 10%. What's the big deal?" The big deal is that it begins to add up when everyone is standing in line to take a cut of the incoming programmatic funds. Even CTN is now into the overhead taxation action with their new 3% "network support" tax. Little by little it all adds up and we end up with an average FTE rate of $450K. And now that LDRD staff are charged at the full FTE rate starting this year, even LDRD funding doesn't go very far these days, does it? The overhead taxation and stealth "service charges" at LANL need to be controlled before it begins killing off the programmatic funding that LANL still receives. Overhead taxation at LANL needs to be put on a strict diet. Hell, it needs to be put on a gastric by-pass operation!

9/7/07 6:56 PM said...

9/8/07 9:46 AM, You've deconstructed my resume beautifully. Fine, I'll accept your assessment of "failed scientist."

Scary, isn't it? If someone with my academic credentials could "fail" at LANL, what does that bode for your own future?

Anonymous said...

" 9/8/07 9:46 AM, You've deconstructed my resume beautifully. Fine, I'll accept your assessment of "failed scientist."

Scary, isn't it? If someone with my academic credentials could "fail" at LANL, what does that bode for your own future? "

I think it is unfair to say that LANL caused this to you. Sometimes it just happens to people and it is very common in academica. For whatever reason they are no longer doing research and it is not connected to credentials. Credentials can only be used statistically. They mean that a person is more lilely to succeed but it does not guarentee it. What matters is what you actually do. This is just one reason why peer-reviwed publications are usefull for evaluating people, it means they actually did something.

What I have a problem with is your tone.
Just because you faild at science it does not follow that science itself is bad or that people who are successful at it are somehow worthless.

In anycase I am sure that alot of those LDRD people you hate so much might just a have a bit better credentials than you.

Anonymous said...

The smell of scientific cockmanship is clearly at play based on the ending statement of 9:43 AM.

I don't hate LDRD funded staff. I greatly admire most of them. I do feel sad that some of them exhibit a type of brash, arrogant attitude and sense of entitlement that are clearly evident in many quarters of LANL. Brilliant people don't have to be asses, and, indeed, I have a problem with your tone, sir.

Anonymous said...

LDRD needs to be tied much more tightly to the programmatic side of the house. Given the dire budget situation which LANL now faces, I'm surprised that more of the LDRD crowd can't see this to be true. If LDRD can be used to help grow the programmatic side, then LDRD can grow along side it via the LDRD 8% tax. Would that be such a bad thing to happen? I think not.

Some of the LDRD staff are living in scientific fantasy land. The fantasy is over, so welcome to the Real World where bills have to be paid, deliverables met, and the customer needs to be kept reasonably satisfied. The equation is pretty simple: No paying customers = No lab and no science.

Anonymous said...

11:36,

No, no no no no no no no no:

LDRD exists for the detached, arrogant "scientists" to "do science".

Tied more tightly to the programmatic side of the house?

I fart in your general direction!

Anonymous said...

Just curious, so a few questions for those with knowledge.

1) Is LDRD currently 6% or 8% of (I assume) operating funds?

2) Whatever the amount, isn't LDRD discretionary? As in the 6/8% is the cap that can be taxed/allocated to LDRD? There is no requirement to go up to that cap? So LANL, in theory, could say the discussed 3% tax for CTN will be offset with a, say 1%, reduction in the LDRD tax rate?

3) Does the same percentage (cap) apply to all the Labs? If so, how much do Sandia, LLNL, and others allocate to LDRD?

Anonymous said...

"I do feel sad that some of them exhibit a type of brash, arrogant attitude and sense of entitlement that are clearly evident in many quarters of LANL."

Name one. I hear this primarily from the people who lose during LDRD competition time. I'd say they're just sore losers.

Anonymous said...

OK 1:27 et al. LDRD comes from? That's right - 6-8% off the top of programmatic $$ that come into the Lab. So quit your self-righteous bitching about LDRD. We are lucky to have it and some of you people are just making me ill and act like it is some god-given right. Bottom line is that it mostly comes from weapons program $$ and so the programs should have some input and not teams made up of people who don't like the Lab's mission.

Anonymous said...

8:25PM: So, you're a WP person who is bitter about not having control over LDRD projects?

Anonymous said...

9:33 PM - actually, until quite recently, I was a "hated" manager who has been and continues to be quite successful in the LDRD arena and in scoring WFO funding. But thank you for depicting me in such a positive light. Sounds like you might be having some funding issues and are striking out at others because of your own funding situation. I could say more but why bother. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Poster 12:16 PM, the LDRD rate is 8%. It comes straight off the incoming programmatic funds before they ever get down to your group level. I've lost a fair share of programmatic funding this way.

Many of the LDRD people seem to think this money just appears out of thin air. No, it doesn't. The programmatic side of the lab works hard pleasing various customers with proposals and deliverables to help get it for them. A little gratitude from the LDRD side would seem to be in order. Instead, I frequently see attitudes like those of poster 9:43 AM. Not all LDRD people are like this, just some.

Of course, since we are looking at a 20% drop in programmatic funding for next year, some of the LDRD staff won't be around too much longer to enjoy their LDRD projects.

I hope the large majority of decent LDRD people stay on, but the ones with the crappy, prima-donna attitudes (see 9:43 AM, et al) should be shown the exit. I don't care how smart a person is, an ass is an ass is an ass. Good credentials don't necessarily keep the lights on or help pay the bills.

Anonymous said...

From 11:05 AM ... "I do feel sad that some of them exhibit a type of brash, arrogant attitude and sense of entitlement that are clearly evident in many quarters of LANL."

Good God do I hear you brother. Lots of these types seem to sign up to work on big LDRD efforts and never produce anything for the projects. What is really bothersome is that they take the money and spend it either on their own research or on supplies for their other projects. In the end, the project with deliverables suffers.

Anonymous said...

Either this is a universal behavior with LDRD projects across the lab, or you guys must work with people near where I worked. Scary how spot on these descriptions are.

Anonymous said...

9/10/07 1:27 PM - I will give you three: Toni Taylor, Victor Klimov (fellow), and Chris Morris (fellow and ADEPS' husband). ALL of which who have threatened to leave at one time or another if they did not get LDRD funding. The insitution caved, of course. In fact, this was conversation during LDRD-DR meetings about how awful it would be if we lost one of the three. This is one reason why Taylor gets put up for any and every award LANL has to offer (except she is not a Fellow yet - darn!). The last individual on the above list sent out a wide distribution missive to the DR committee (and ADs) about how he should have gotten funding but didn't this year.

Anonymous said...

9/11/07 7:54 PM

You sound really sad and bitter to me. Do you think it is really a good idea to slam the best people at the lab.

Anonymous said...

I think it's interesting how people who receive LDRD funds usually espouse the view that the system is totally fair and unbiased, and that people who argue for a different strategic direction or process must necessarily be LDRD-wannabees.

At least, they say so right up until the moment that the system stops working in their favor. Then, you get the kind of whining that Chris Morris engaged in last go-round.