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From the Director: Change Has Come

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At 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday, January 20, a very significant fraction of the lab's staff were glued to their computer screens. Some watched alone. Others gathered in small groups. In the Director's suite, we spontaneously delayed our 9:00 a.m. meeting and crowded into Keith Hodgson's office (he had the foresight to get streaming video set up before the network got bogged down) to watch and hear our 44th President take the oath of office and deliver his inaugural address. We had a 30-second delay between the video and audio feeds, but it didn't matter. It was a great moment.

Two days later, the new Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu, gave an all-hands broadcast that we watched in Panofsky Auditorium. We had the same 30-second delay between video and audio feeds, but again, it didn't matter. As Secretary addressing the Department of Energy staff and contractors, Chu displayed the candor, directness and eagerness to communicate that are familiar to his scientific colleagues. The meeting was followed immediately by a teleconference with all national laboratory directors.

It is clear that the change our new president is signaling for the nation will very quickly permeate into the DOE. I cannot predict the impacts, but it feels different already. In both the all-hands and the lab director's call, the secretary spent most of the time responding to questions. He wanted to know what we were thinking; he wanted our input and feedback. His responses were candid. He strongly signaled his desire to have a relationship between the agency and the laboratories that is built on trust and mutual respect.

We at the laboratories have to realize that this will only become reality if we take our full measure of responsibility and are fully accountable for our performance in all areas from safety to project management to science delivery. We should be very strongly motivated to do our part to make this partnership work. 

Change has come; the actions of one season prompt the response of the next. This change is both a consequence and a beginning. For the lab, it is a chance for growth, for building, for new initiatives and new discoveries. As one season ends, we are rushing toward a new season of partnership, progress and success.

—Persis Drell
SLAC Today, January 23, 2009