Minutes of the APSUO Steering Committee Meeting

Held on July 12, 2000, at Argonne National Laboratory


M. Antonio, J. Budai, D. Chapman, J. Day (presentations only), S. Dierker, P. Dutta, D. Haeffner, E. Isaacs, B. McDowell (presentations only), D. Mills, S. Muchmore, T. Rauchas, A. Rosenzweig, G. Shenoy, B. Stephenson, S. Strasser, C. Vanni, and P. Zschack

Routine Business:

Minutes of the May 4, 2000, meeting were approved; there were no action items from that meeting.

APS Update and Reports:

APS update: Gopal Shenoy summarized FY 2000 operational statistics to date, noting that the APS is on target with x-ray availability (95.5% for the fiscal year so far). Faults per day are at 0.84 (just slightly off the target rate of 0.8).

Shenoy also reviewed some initial statistics from the recent week of top-up operation, noting that the injection system has proven to be fairly robust. Anecdotal reports from bioscience users indicated that they had no significant problems using the beam during this time. The top-up operation with a more constant stored current level results in a more stable storage ring and, consequently, a very stable particle beam. The group expressed an interest in seeing stability data added to the operational statistics comparing top-up operation and regular operations. Tony Rauchas indicated that the data from the week of top-up testing is currently being evaluated. The group discussed the difference between the return of the beam after top up vs. refill after decay. It was noted that SRI-CAT has compared measurements and did not see any shift after top up in sector 1. Both the APS and various vendors have been modifying software to address parameters introduced by top-up operation. This was identified as a good topic for discussion at the TWG (Technical Working Group meeting). Various other technical details of top-up operation were discussed, including injection efficiency, periods between injections, and the projected time frame for further testing and final implementation.

The President's FY 2001 budget for DOE science was very favorable (dramatic increase in funding), especially for facility enhancement initiatives, the Spallation Neutron Source, and the nanoscience initiative. The House mark-up, however, reduced the budget to FY 2000 levels. Shenoy reviewed the potential impact of a flat budget on the APS. He noted that this reduction could adversely affect several planned upgrades for the facility. The chairs of the users organizations from the synchrotron community had gone to Washington D.C. earlier in the year to lobby for funding support for the President's budget; Eric Isaacs (current chair of the APSUO) sent a letter to the director of the Office of Management and Budget urging support for an increase in funding. Other synchrotron facilities have also made efforts to convey the community's common interest in supporting the President's budget. This is a critical time period for facility funding issues, and it is crucial that the entire user community recognize the importance of actively pursuing potential increases in funding for FY 2001 and beyond.

Turning toward a discussion of coming events, Shenoy announced that the Structural GenomiX (SGX) CAT will be signing its Memorandum of Understanding with the APS on Thursday, July 20, 2000. (Note: The actual signing took place on Wednesday, July 26. Secretary of Energy Richardson attended and served as one of the witnesses to the signing.) Next month, the second National School on Neutron and X-ray Scattering will be held at Argonne from August 14-26. Dennis Mills noted that 60 students were selected from more than 150 applicants for this year's school. The deadline for invited talks for the March 2001 American Physical Society Meeting is September 1, 2000. The group was urged to generate symposia for this meeting. The next Program Evaluation Board meeting is scheduled for October 11-13, 2000.

The group discussed at length the importance of maintaining a high-quality, highly visible public relations connections between the APS and both the scientific and public communities. Toward that end, there was also extensive discussion about improving the mechanisms for gathering and disseminating information about the scientific achievements and advancements happening at the APS. The user community must be encouraged to submit information about "hot topics" in research for inclusion in Research, publication data for the publications database, and papers for the User Activity Report, etc. The group emphasized that it is important that Research be a forum in which the full spectrum of APS research be represented.

APS survey report: Dennis Mills reported on the results from the May 2000 APS User Survey. The survey, which was distributed in both hard-copy format at the 10th Users Meeting and in an electronic form on the Web, consisted of 25 questions (including 24 comment opportunities). Responses were received from 293 users who offered more than 800 comments. Mills briefly reviewed some of the statistics culled from the survey, touching on the demographics of the respondents and various trends in their responses. Future survey activities will include follow up on user comments that require an APS response (already underway for some comments) and posting of the survey summary on the Web.

DOE computer security issues: Bill McDowell presented an overview of cyber security concerns at both the APS and Argonne National Laboratory. The call for stronger security requirements is coming directly from the White House. Currently, the DOE Office of Independent Oversight and Performance Assurance is conducting a cyber security inspection at Argonne. McDowell reviewed some of the preparation and changes in protocol that have been implemented in advance of the inspection. It was requested that non-DOE networks (e.g., CAT networks) not be scanned during the inspection. McDowell also described plans to enhance the APS firewall and router systems, outlined the expected impacts, and assured CATs that the APS will work with them to ease this transition.

Argonne Guest House (AGH) report: Joanne Day reported some statistics of the Guest House's facilities and capacity, noting that APS users have gone from being 10.3% of the total AGH occupancy in 1997 to 21.5% of the total occupancy in 1999. One of the facility's 16 "quad" units (four sleeping rooms, two baths, and a sitting room) is leased on an annual basis by a CAT for its user groups. Day reviewed the AGH's booking policy and also explained the system in place for managing operating revenues.

Plans have been made to provide a grill service in building 401 out of the catering kitchen. The service (available sometime after Labor Day) is expected to provide a selection of sandwiches and a "signature'" food item from Monday through Friday from 5:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m. The group suggested that it would also be helpful to expand the dining room dinner service hours to a later hour to better mesh with typical user dining habits.

APS Independent Investigator (II) proposal submission and review process: Susan Strasser reviewed the background of the II program and the current policies governing the implementation of an official II program at the APS. At the outset, it was mandated that all II proposals would be received through a centralized system. Strasser reviewed the submission and review processes for incoming II proposals, describing in detail the flow of information between the CATs, the User Office, the prospective IIs, and the reviewers (when the centralized review process is used). The current set of Web pages developed to manage submissions were presented for review and feedback from the group.

The group had a number of suggestions and comments.

  • Reduce the number of text pages allowed for proposal description from five pages to no more than approximately 1500 words.
  • Address handling of graphics: it was suggested that one option for proposal submission be the .pdf format (which would allow for straightforward inclusion of graphics).
  • Consider "appointing" the people who will select appropriate reviewers from the computer-generated list to two-year terms.
  • Consider allowing the IIs to suggest potential reviewers AND to list people that they would prefer NOT review their proposals.
  • Provide a mechanism for IIs to access and modify the ESAF forms associated with their proposals.
  • Address the issue of "program-type" II proposals handling: Will follow-up beam time requests be handled through the Web-based system or will IIs work directly with the CAT to schedule follow-up sessions?
  • Determine if a consistent set of proposal deadlines should be set for the CATs that are participating in the centralized review process.
  • Send out "reminder letters" on a regular basis to the user community database to solicit submissions to the II program.
  • Establish a "hardship" method for accepting hard copy proposals.

Executive Session:

Election of an APSUO vice chair: Eric Isaacs called for the nomination and election of a vice chair. Paul Zschack was voted the new vice chair of the APSUO.

Executive session discussion was held as a follow up to the topics of promotion of science and public relations for the APS. Isaacs called for the formation of a small focus group to start organizing/promoting symposia. The group agreed that this is an important activity, but that it needs to be pursued by all APSUO members, not just a few. Brian Stephenson, Pulak Dutta, and Eric Isaacs volunteered to spearhead the effort to promote greater science exposure for the APS.

The group also felt that the APS needs additional staff to better manage public relations related activities and the promotion of user science. More frequent and diverse communication avenues (monthly electronic newsletters, e-mail mailings, Web page improvements) should be considered. The APS Web home page is currently being revamped to put user science information in a prominent position on the home page.

Next Meeting:

The next meeting of the APSUO Steering Committee will be held Thursday, October 19, 2000.

APSUO SC 7/12/00 meeting Action Items:

  1. Summarize stability statistics for both regular operations and top-up operations and present this information at the next Steering Committee meeting. (APS)
  2. Add the topic of modifying beamline and other equipment software to address parameters introduced by top-up operation to an upcoming TWG meeting agenda. (S. Heald)
  3. Generate symposia for the March 2001 American Physical Society Meeting. (all SC committee members)
  4. Look at all II proposal submission process materials and provide feedback to S. Strasser. (all SC committee members)
  5. Send out URL for the draft II proposal submission Web site to APSUO Steering Committee members for review. (S. Strasser)
  6. Evaluate suggestions and comments from the APSUO Steering Committee regarding the II proposal submission process (see bulleted notes in text of minutes). (S. Strasser)