Chapter 5: Planning Your Experiment at Fermilab

The Fermilab director, with the advice of the Physics Advisory Committee (PAC), determines the experimental program by selecting the experiments to be done at Fermilab. The PAC normally consists of 14 members appointed by the director for overlapping four-year terms. The director customarily seeks advice from the Users Executive Committee in selecting new PAC members.

The Program Planning Office coordinates the experimental physics program at the Laboratory, developing experimental schedules and establishing priorities among experiments, in consultation with the director.

Proposing an Experiment

Scientists who would like to carry out an experiment at Fermilab first submit a formal research proposal to the laboratory director. Although it ís not a requirement, it often helps to discuss the proposal with Fermilab staff before making the formal submission.

Consideration of Proposals

In deciding whether or not to approve an experiment, the director usually relies heavily on the recommendations of the PAC, which meets several times a year to consider proposals. During an open PAC session, the proponents, or scientists proposing an experiment, make an oral presentation to the PAC. After the presentation the PAC has a preliminary discussion of the proposal and the presentation. Afterward, the PAC may have questions or comments for the proponents, which are addressed either orally at the time or in written form for the next meeting.

At subsequent meetings the PAC considers all the material available regarding the proposal, including the responses to questions and impact statements prepared by laboratory staff, before making a recommendation to the director.

Deciding on Proposals

The director makes a decision about the proposal on the basis of the PAC recommendation and other factors. The decision may result in approval, deferral or rejection of the experimental proposal.

Approval. The director may grant Stage I approval if the proposed physics goals are worthwhile, the experiment seems technically feasible, and the costs in laboratory resources and running time of the experiment appear appropriate for the expected physics results. Experimenters need to recognize that Stage I approval does not represent a commitment of laboratory resources, either in support for setting up the experiment or in running time. Rather, it helps laboratory staff and experimenters in planning long-range projects.

After Stage I approval, the experimenters and the laboratory carry out a careful technical design and cost study for the experiment, and prepare a first draft of the Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU), as described later in this chapter. If the PAC finds the results of this procedure acceptable, and the experiment fits into the overall priorities of the experimental program, the PAC recommends Stage II approval. In some cases, the director grants full approval without the Stage I-II process.

Deferral. The director may defer the decision on a proposal for a number of reasons; for example, a technical question may need clarification or the appropriate Fermilab facility may not be available within a reasonable time. In the case of deferral, the director notifies the spokesperson in writing of this decision and the reasons for it, specifying the conditions to be met before reconsideration.

Rejection. The director may reject a proposal. The director notifies the spokesperson in writing of this decision and the reasons for it.

Withdrawal of a Proposal. The proposal may be withdrawn from consideration at the request of the spokesperson.

Withdrawal of Approval. The director may withdraw approval if the conditions of the experimentís approval have changed sufficiently to warrant reconsideration. The director will not withdraw approval without first discussing the situation with the experimenters and with the PAC.

Appeals. Proponents who wish to appeal a decision should send a written appeal to the director. The director may form an ad hoc committee to help in reviewing the proposal. The final decision on the appeal rests with the director.

Test Beam Requests

Detector R&D or calibration of a detector in a beam line requires a less formal consideration process. However, experimenters must submit a written request to the Program Planning Office well in advance of the proposed beam use time.

Letters of Intent

A scientist may submit a Letter of Intent (LOI) describing a particular physics goal or measurement, without the details of a full proposal. However, it may or may not receive formal consideration.

Memorandum of Understanding

When the director notifies the spokesperson that a proposal has been approved, the laboratory asks the spokesperson to review the support required for the experiment with the Accelerator Division, Computing Division, Particle Physics Division, and Technical Division. Normally, the spokesperson prepares a draft memorandum of understanding, or MOU, for implementing the experiment, which is then reviewed by the various divisions.

In particular, the staff of the divisions review the draft MOU for feasibility of the experiment in terms of personnel, cost, accelerator impact and time scale. If the request for support in the MOU differs significantly from the proposal, or if the proposal cannot be implemented with the available resources of the divisions in a reasonable time, the proposal goes back to the director for reconsideration. When an acceptable MOU has been drafted, it goes to the director for signature.

The MOU serves two important purposes. First, it lets the laboratory assess the demands posed by approved experiments, including the adequacy of available funds and the scope of the experimental program. Second, after the laboratory and users have negotiated and accepted the document, it serves as an understanding between Fermilab and the users through the planning and data-taking steps of the experiment. The MOU includes computing needs for data analysis and provision for the removal of the apparatus. The more specific the MOU, the fewer the misunderstandings that arise during the course of the experiment.

Drafting an MOU

Personnel. The MOU provides a list of people who work on the experiment and their home institutions. The MOU clearly designates a scientific spokesperson and deputy spokesperson for the experiment. The document shows any additional research commitments for each participating physicist listed.

Beams. The MOU sets forth details of the beam requirements, such as maximum momentum, incident proton intensity, beam intensity, spill length, or luminosity.

Equipment and Services. The MOU sets forth all major items and services needed for the experiment, clearly identifying which items Fermilab will provide and which will be provided by users. To facilitate review of the MOU, ordinarily the laboratory list is separated into subgroups, one for each division that will make a contribution. As a rule, the laboratory provides general purpose, reusable equipment for approved experiments, while users provide items unique to each experiment, or items that the group will keep after the experiment ends. The cost of each item should be shown in the right margin of the page.

The MOU includes estimates of construction costs of building special facilities for the experiment. It also includes estimates of major operating costs such as rigging, gases, computing and the like. The laboratory may distinguish between operating and equipment costs in editing the MOU.

Funding. The MOU presents a summary detailing what funds are available and in what fiscal year, including required incremental funds. The document should indicate sources of funding and give a rough breakdown of budgets.

The laboratory normally adds administrative charges to user direct charges. (See Chapter Six.)

Special Considerations. The MOU tells how much beam time the experiment needs, taking into consideration the time needed for setting up, testing, data-taking and dismantling of the experimental equipment. If the proposal's approval calls for a specific number of particles on target, the MOU should say so. This is called the duration of the run, and it influences planning; it must agree with the conditions of approval. This section describes any special operating conditions that may be required; e.g.: test beam needs. For experiments performed within accelerator enclosures, a protocol between the Accelerator Division and the experiment outlines the safe design, installation and operation of the experimental apparatus. It addresses requisite safety responsibilities, reviews and concerns.

Experimental Planning Milestones. The MOU presents experimental milestones in sequence and includes tentative dates for beginning the installation and for beginning data-taking. If the experiment requires construction of major pieces of equipment, the MOU should specify dates for one or more stages of the design, procurement and construction process.

Computing. The MOU sets forth the allocation of computing resources to the experiment according to terms negotiated between the Computing Division and the experiment.

The experiment offline liaison and the Computing Division offline liaison (see Chapter Eight) negotiate the offline portion of the Computing Section of the MOU. To determine the computing resources required for data analysis, the experimenters describe plans for analyzing their data and the number of stages anticipated, from code development through production, stripping, final data analysis and Monte Carlo.

The MOU sets forth the Computing Division's support of experiments' online requirements. The Computing Division MOU coordinator, in collaboration with the departments involved in experiment support, meets with the experimenters during the early stages of experiment planning to define the commitment of the division to the experiment's online and data acquisition needs, among other things. For online needs, they consider:

  • Software support needed for the experiment during the online life cycle stages of planning, commissioning, and running.

  • The overall architecture of the data acquisition and online system.

  • The computer system types, the attached peripherals and networking considerations.

  • Front end instrumentation and data acquisition buses to be employed.

  • Online and data acquisition software requirements.

  • Hardware and software maintenance and support requirements.

    The Computing Division then budgets for the above requirements and procures the necessary resources. Experimenters should make sure to allow enough time for procuring equipment before the expected turn-on dates, because no stock facilities exist for some devices and systems.

    Finally. the MOU includes a copy of the current one-page summary of the experiment, as an appendix. MOUs need to be amended from time to time; in some cases, the spokesperson and the laboratory completely rewrite them.

    Schedule of Experiments

    The Program Planning Office develops the schedule of experiments following the guidelines set by the director.

    At the Monday All Experimenters' Meeting, groups with running experiments or preparing experiments to run describe the status of their experiments and present their requested running conditions for the forthcoming week.

    Representatives from various sections of the laboratory meet with members of the director's office at the Tuesday Morning Scheduling Meeting to discuss the details of the schedule and to assign priorities.