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Posts Tagged ‘budget’

This article ran in Fermilab Today April 19.

Fermilab Director Pier Oddone

The Continuing Resolution enacted last week for the remainder of this fiscal year contains cuts that amount to approximately $38 billion compared to the FY10 budget, the current level of government spending. The cuts to the DOE Office of Science represent about 1 percent of its FY10 budget but are larger when compared to the proposed President’s budget for FY11. Nevertheless, these cuts are much smaller than the cuts proposed several months ago in the House. The relatively small cuts to the DOE Office of Science in the final bill reflect the role that the DOE Office of Science plays in the future of our country.

At this time I cannot tell you exactly what the situation will be at Fermilab for the rest of the year since we have not received the final bottom line for the year from the DOE Office of Science. We should receive the number in the next few days. I would expect that we will be able to run the Tevatron as planned and that we will have an orderly transition after the Tevatron is shut down at the end of September.

We are very appreciative of the support we have received from our neighbors, the mayors of various surrounding communities, the business and scientific communities and the many citizens who have voiced the need for science and innovation in this country. We are especially appreciative of the support we’ve received from our legislators throughout the last few months. Senator Richard Durbin has played a leadership role in the budget negotiations and has eloquently articulated the value of the national laboratories. Our Representative Randy Hultgren has visited the laboratory several times and I have met with him in DC several more times to provide information on the impact that various budget scenarios would have. He has been a strong supporter of Fermilab in his speeches and in interactions with his colleagues. We also received support from Senator Mark Kirk. (On a side note: I will be co-chairing his Energy Advisory Board with Dan Ustian, the CEO of Navistar.) Of course it has taken many more legislators both in Illinois and throughout the country to recognize the values of the Office of Science laboratories as represented in the budget compromise.

This concludes the first chapter in the debates about how to bring the federal deficit under control. It is soon to be followed by the much more serious debates on the FY12 budget. They will have to look at all aspects of both government income and outlays, and we again could be in the line of fire. Continuing the excellent performance of our laboratory in all domains will be our best defense.

— Pier Oddone


Lots of interesting news last week about Fermilab, including the releases of a new version of Scientific Linux and Illinois representatives supporting a reduction in proposed cuts to Fermilab’s budget. Below are three stories I found particularly interesting.  

Science asked Have Physicists Already Glimpsed Dark Matter?  Fermilab theorist Dan Hooper thinks so and argues a new look at data from the experiments DAMA, CoGeNT, XENON100 and CDMSII bear him out. But spokespersons for those experiments disagree.

What do you think?

New Scientist published an article by Fermilab Director Pier Oddone about how the closure of the Tevatron later this year won’t put an end to the great scientific results coming out of its detector collaborations, CDF and DZero.  More than 10 petabytes of Tevatron data will provide scientists with plenty of data to sift through for several years

“During that time new ideas and better tools will be developed to squeeze ever more information out of the data,” says Oddone. “This will allow us to continue chasing down the hints of new physics we already see in our analyses.”

Oddone put pen to paper again, this time with the help of Argonne Director Eric Isaacs, to outline effects of proposed science budget cuts on the two labs and beyond in a Chicago Tribune op-ed piece.

    High-tech jobs are just the first casualty of such cuts. Rolling back funding for basic science would dim our nation’s spirit of discovery and entrepreneurship. It would curtail research into how our world works — research that spurs new theories and technologies. And the cuts would be felt across Chicago’s wider high-tech community, which depends on collaboration, new ventures and a workforce trained at some of the world’s most sophisticated facilities.
— Tona Kunz

This article ran in Fermilab Today March 1.

IL. Sen. Richard Durbin visited Argonne National Laboratory Monday, Feb. 28, to meet with directors of Argonne and Fermilab. Photo: Courtesy of Argonne National Laboratory

During the last week we have had two important visits by our legislators. Last week the Honorable Randy Hultgren visited the laboratory and spent an hour with senior managers hearing about our contributions to science and our plans for the future. We appreciated his visit very much in this season of great uncertainty. Representative Hultgren explained his support and enthusiasm for the work we do here at Fermilab. He also explained the difficult fiscal situation for the nation and the fact that cuts will have to be made in many programs. He was eloquent in expressing his commitment to our long term success and he plans to visit again later this month. He has expressed this support for Fermilab in other venues as well.

Yesterday I had the privilege to participate in the Honorable Richard Durbin’s visit to Argonne National Laboratory. Eric Isaacs, director of ANL, Bob Zimmer, the president of the University of Chicago and senior managers from Argonne, Fermilab and the DOE Chicago Operations and Argonne site office hosted Senator Durbin. We were able to explain the broad range of science carried out by our two laboratories. Senator Durbin explained his support for science, for technological innovation and the roles that the two laboratories play in Illinois and the nation. He explained his position that a much broader approach to getting our fiscal house in order is necessary, where all aspects of government expenditures have to be on the table and the transition towards a more balanced budget must be done without causing irreparable damage.

About a month ago I visited the Honorable Mark Kirk in Washington, DC. He expressed his support for the science we do at Fermilab. Senator Kirk is quite familiar with Fermilab and a very enthusiastic supporter. I always remember running into him in Wilson Hall one Saturday some time ago, when he had brought a bus full of students from his district to learn about Fermilab!

We are very fortunate that our two Senators and our representative, as well as the representatives of other districts in Illinois, understand the importance of a healthy Fermilab and healthy ANL for the good of Illinois and the nation. They are committed to our success and we must continue to give them good reasons for that support.

— Pier Oddone, Fermilab director


 Many media outlets have been discussing the potential impacts on Fermilab of a proposed 20 percent cut in the current fiscal year’s funding through the Department of Energy’s Office of Science. Scientific American wrote about how the cuts would prematurely shutter the Tevatron. Geneva Patch.com wrote about potential layoffs and furloughs at Fermilab and Argonne national labs and how that might affect local business that support the laboratories and their employees.

The proposed cuts come as part of an appropriations bill for the FY2011 budget, which has yet to be approved even though five months of the budget year have passed.  Government has been working on a continuing resolution, which assumed budget levels stayed flat, but that continuing resolution expires March 4. The proposed House budget would not keep funding levels flat for key science agenciess as assumed by the continuing resolution but cut them by 20 percent, requiring labs such as Fermilab to come up with a year’s worth of savings in the last six months of the budget year. That equates to a 40 percent cut in six months, as Fermilab Director Pier Oddone has stated.

GenevaPatch.com published a letter that Illinois Senator Dick Durbin sent to fellow Congressmen and Congresswomen about proposed cuts to a key funding source of national laboratories.

… cuts critical research and robs 10,000 American workers of their jobs during a very weak economy.  This is not the path to economic growth.  We need to invest in crucial research that fuels American innovation.  Fiscal responsibility demands thoughtful allocation of our resources that will lead us to a stronger economic standing.  …  I look forward to working with you to ensure that our labs continue their world-class research.

Durbin stressed in a previous press release the need to balance needed cuts with continued support of industry and R&D that will promote innovation, and thus jobs. The President’s proposed FY2012 budget supports science and keeps funding for Fermilab relatively flat from FY2010 levels.

Finally, the President’s Budget also recommends targeted investments in key research and development programs for the next fiscal year to help promote innovation on our campuses and in our labs so that the growth industries of tomorrow are founded here today.

—  Tona Kunz


Publish now?

Friday, February 18th, 2011

It’s a busy time. First, the LHC was closed up today for the first time this year, allowing the start of machine checkout and then, eventually, circulating beams. The beginning of the 2011 run is in sight, although we won’t have collisions for physics for a while yet. Also, we’re getting close to winter conference season. The Recontres de Moriond meetings are traditionally a venue for the presentation of new experimental physics results, and you can be sure that all of the LHC experiments are readying some interesting stuff for that. I have previously discussed the internal review processes of experiments, which can take a while, so even though the conferences are a few weeks away, a lot of analyses are becoming finalized and starting to be reviewed right now. Whether you are a reviewer or reviewee (or both), it can take a lot of time. (Oh, and then there is the recent discussion of federal budget cuts in Washington, which has us all reading the newspapers pretty closely.) So we don’t lack for things to do.

But, meanwhile, here is something to consider. The ATLAS and CMS experiments are ultimately very similar — they both have similar goals (which are different than for ALICE and LHCb, hence their absence from this discussion), and similar enough capabilities (although differing strengths and weaknesses), and they both record pretty much the same amount of data. So why don’t they publish the same measurements at the same time? Just as an example, the two experiments submitted publications on measurements of rates of W and Z bosons three months apart, with the later one analyzing ten times as much data (and having much more precise results) than the first one. Please note, in an attempt to be neutral, I am not naming names here!! Let’s instead take this as an introduction to a broader question — given that the LHC will continue to pile up data over time, when do you stop and say, “OK, let’s publish with what we’ve got?” How much data is enough?

I’m not going to claim to have all the answers to this question, and for any given measurement there will be a unique set of circumstances. But here are a few possible considerations:

  • Is there a break in the action at the LHC? This is a totally pedestrian consideration, but if the LHC isn’t going to run for, say, three months, as is happening right now, for many measurements it might not be worth the wait for more data, so you should just publish with what you’ve got. There are going to be a lot of publications based on the data recorded in 2010. It’s true that in 2011, if the collision rates are as expected, the 2010 data will quickly be superseded, but why wait those few months, especially if you are doing a measurement in which additional statistics might not make a meaningful difference?
  • When can I make a scientific statement that has sufficient impact on the world? If you only have enough data to make a measurement that’s, for instance, ten times less accurate than the most accurate measurement of the same quantity that’s currently available, there’s no point in publishing. But if you are at least in the range of comparable to the best measurement (even if not yet the best), it might make sense to publish, because it’s accurate enough to make a difference in the world’s understanding. If you average two measurements of equal precision, then the average will be a factor of 1/sqrt(2) = 1.4 more accurate than either individual measurement. Seems worth it, right?
  • Am I worried that someone else is going to beat me to something? Let’s face it, there is some glory to being first, especially if there is something new to report. If you are worried that competitors might get to it first, perhaps you will decide that you have to release your result, even if you know you might do a better job yet, either by recording more data or just having more time to work on it.
  • Then again, it’s better to be second than to be wrong. A wrong result would be embarrassing, for sure, so it’s better to do the work necessary to have greater confidence in the result.
  • If you really can do a much better job with not much more time or effort, why not just do that? If you do, then your measurement is going to be the one in the history books, even if you weren’t first.
  • Do I finally have enough data to report a statistically significant result? Well, this is what we’re all waiting for — at some point some new phenomenon is going to emerge from the data. At first, the statistical strength will be marginal, but as more data are analyzed, the signal will stand out more strongly. You can be sure that once any anomaly is observed, even at a low level, it will be tracked very carefully as additional data are recorded, and as soon as an effect reaches some level of statistical significance, it’s going to be published just as quickly as possible, without delay.

These are just a few of my own musings, dashed off quickly — I invite our readers to offer ideas of their own. (OK, and now I click on the “Publish” button on the right….)


 The House will vote on Thursday on FY2011 budget appropriations bill that slashes the Department of Energy’s Office of Science and thus high-energy physics funding by 20 percent, even as the President’s FY2012 budget shows support for science with relatively flat funding.

If the FY2011 cuts are enacted, they could force 400 layoffs and two months of furloughs at Fermilab, Director Pier Oddone said in a meeting with laboratory staff, which you can view here.

Several area newspapers and blogs have written about the House proposal and its potential impacts. See stories in Crain’s Chicago Business, Science Insider, Patch.com, Cosmic Variance, and Physics and Physicists

Oddone addressed the dire situation of the FY2011 budget in his column in Fermilab Today Tuesday.

The proposed cuts for Office of Science are a stunning 20 percent. Because we will be six months into the fiscal year by the time the final FY11 budget is passed, this would amount to a 40 percent cut for the remaining of the year and would be catastrophic not only for our laboratory but for all Office of Science labs. It would stop the operation of user facilities and lead to major layoffs and furloughs. We are working with our representatives to explain the consequences of such cuts on us, on the standing of our nation in science and innovation, and on how we will be viewed by our international partners.

Congressional actions so far seem to reflect a misunderstanding of the role of the Office of Science within a generally supportive atmosphere for science and innovation as demonstrated by the bi-partisan support of the America Competes Act. The Office of Science is the main agency for physical science research in our nation and indispensable in the overall framework of scientific research. It provides the main user facilities such as ours at Fermilab, the light sources, neutron sources, electron microscopes, nanoscience centers and large computational facilities that support scientific research and innovation carried out by thousands of people in universities and industries. Without the Office of Science, the scientific enterprise in our country would be crippled.