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Dorfan Today: The Importance of Review and Policy Committees

(Photo - Jonathan Dorfan)Jerusalem, Israel
On Dec 1 and 2, 2006, the SLAC Policy Committee (SPC) convenes for its semiannual meeting. Fifteen preeminent professionals, drawn from around the world, with expertise in photon science, particle physics, particle astrophysics, accelerator science, ES&H and management will assess our recent performance and future plans. The SPC is Stanford University's oversight committee and hence their advice and evaluation are made orally to Provost Etchemendy and Vice-Provost Arvin at the close of the meeting and soon thereafter in a written report to President Hennessy. But in doing so, the SPC provides us at SLAC with invaluable guidance and feedback on all aspects of SLAC operations and future planning. External peer review is a crucial part of maintaining excellence and we are extremely fortunate to have people of the caliber of our SPC generously giving time from their very busy schedules to visit us twice a year. Meetings of this kind also serve to foster long-lasting personal relationships that enhance our scientific vitality and often spawn collaboration. The meetings are a forum for exchanging ideas, which provides an opportunity for the SPC members to take back to their institutions new ideas, techniques and lessons learned.

And so it is that we at SLAC participate reciprocally in helping our worldwide sister institutions by serving on their peer review committees and institutional governance structures. Today I return to the Laboratory after a visit to Israel, where I attended the Board of Governor's Meeting at the Wiezmann Institute in Rehovot and, in a separate meeting in Jerusalem, chaired a committee that reviewed Israel's contribution to the CERN/LHC experiment ATLAS. Weizmann Institute faces management and academic challenges that are similar to SLAC's and shares many common areas of scientific exploration. So while helping them as a reviewer and advisor, I was able to gain insights and make connections that I believe can help strengthen us as an institution. For the ATLAS review, our Committee was charged by the Israel Academy of Sciences with assessing the Israel group's contributions to the construction phase of ATLAS, which is now essentially complete. During the past nine years, particle physics experimentalists and their technical support teams from the Technion in Haifa, Tel Aviv University and the Weizmann, have designed built and constructed a very large number of so-called thin gap chambers and associated readout and trigger electronics for the ATLAS muon system. This system plays an equivalent role to that of the Babar resistive plate chamber system that has just recently completed its upgrade (for more information, click here). Our Committee found that the Israeli group had done an outstanding job of delivering this complex system. We were further asked to judge the appropriateness and proposed cost of their future plans which have a very strong parallel with what we at SLAC are doing on ATLAS, namely that Israel provide and support a Tier II computing site for ATLAS With highly talented people on the Committee, including ATLAS Spokesman Peter Jenni, I gained new insights into ATLAS which I hope will help me better support the SLAC-based effort.

—Jonathan Dorfan, November 20, 2006