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Monica Dunford | USLHC | USA

View Blog | Read Bio

Organizing Fairness

Once, a very long time ago, I made the personal resolution that my job would never require making or looking at charts like this

I thought. Physics, that is the complete opposite of practical. That is perfect.

Yet, even in Physics, management tasks are necessary. And I have clearly failed in this resolution. Because I have to deal with charts like this all the time.

The surprising thing is that once you start making organizational charts like this, you can really get into them. I mean, I have had hours of conversations with people about whether or not this line should be dashed versus solid. Or do we call it a ‘shift’ versus a ‘task’? Or should we name this ‘Data-Quality Validation’ or ‘Detector-Quality Assessment’? These are very important questions.

Life in high-energy physics is in many ways just like any other job. There are the things that everyone wants to do. Like discover Supersymmetry and win the Nobel Prize. And there are the things that nobody wants to do but are absolutely necessary to be done. Like spending hours and hours in the control room making sure the detector is working properly.

And in this field, we believe very strongly that every person must do his/her fair share of the dirty work.

Therefore to monitor ‘fairness’ within ATLAS, my all-time favorite acronym was created: OTSMOU.

This stands for ‘Operation Task Sharing and Maintenance and Operation Update’. If you have no idea what that means, you are not alone. No one else on ATLAS does either.

I love OTSMOU, I really do. Because it offers such an excellent anthropological insight into the inner working of physicist’s mind. The purpose of OTSMOU is to ensure that there is an even distribution of dirty work (or more politely service work) for all physicists. In other words, no one gets to eat the cake without having helped set-up for the party first. It sounds like a simple task in principle, but it has been attacked with the same statistical methods and precision as searches for new physics. Different jobs and people have different weights. We have ‘tasks’ versus ‘privileges’. We have charts (like above) to display how the different tasks fit into the ‘big picture’. We have graphs and distributions to plot all the results (by funding agency even).

Fairness, like so many other aspects in life, is one of those things which theoretically is so simple to understand and yet requires very complicated software to actually achieve.

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