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From the Director and COO: Input from SLAC's Board of Overseers

(Photo - Persis Drell)
(Photos by Linda Cicero.)

In 2008, we as a laboratory embarked on a major improvement program. We spent a lot of time generating plans and establishing the culture change necessary for our future. We started 2009 by saying that this was the year to start to execute and deliver what we have planned! We all saw that 2009 was a year when we, as a lab, needed to make a lot of forward progress.

Progress can be hard to see when you are caught in the daily struggle to move forward. However last week we were benchmarked by external reviewers against where we were six months ago.

Just to remind you, Stanford University is responsible for the oversight of SLAC science and operations. To a large extent this is conducted by the Board of Overseers (BoO), appointed by the President of Stanford, to provide guidance, oversight and advice regarding both scientific and operational issues. The BoO has four committees: Scientific Policy Committee (SPC), Operations, Finance and Audit, and Human Resources. 

All four of these committees met last week as part of their semiannual visit. As you read this, the Board of Overseers is presenting their report to Stanford Vice President for SLAC Bill Madia. While there will be observations and recommendations for improvement, we wanted to share some of their enthusiasm for what they saw.

Graham Fleming, Chair of the SPC notes: "We were thrilled to see the wonderful success of the Linac Coherent Light Source, which is tribute to the depth of expertise at SLAC. It is exceeding all expectations as it has moved into user assisted commissioning. We also noted how FGST is continuing to deliver on extraordinary promise. We are now focused on how to advise the lab and the university to ensure that you can reach your full potential."

Larry Gibbs, chair of the BoO for the Operations Directorate, notes: "It is evident that significant change has taken place in the mindset of the new leadership and management. There is observation of clear cultural change and it is important for every individual within the laboratory community to embrace and apply the concepts and culture surrounding 'One Lab' and the conduct of safe science, and to do so soon."

Randy Livingston, Chair of the BoO for Finance and Audit notes: "What an amazing change in the past six months! The new leadership team appears to be settling into place, and they are totally aligned in pursuing SLAC's mission." The report will also speak to the recognition of need to invest within constrained financial resources and their observation of the building sense of accountability.

It is really wonderful to be able to communicate these findings from our Board of Overseers to the laboratory. All of SLAC shares in these achievements. Of course, we have a long road ahead of us but we have significant forward momentum. And while we must continue to be our own harshest critics, we also need to stop for a moment, here and there, and relish our successes to date.

Kudos to all of you!

—Persis Drell and Alexander Merola
SLAC Today, November 13, 2009