Patrick Looney, Assistant Director for Physical Science and Engineering in the Office of Science and Technology Policy, advised Fermilab users on Wednesday morning that advancing the science of matter, space and time requires a keen sense of timing, planning and communicating.
Looney said building the proposed International Linear Collider "is not impossible-not easy, but not impossible." And from the vantage point of a policy advisory body operating out of the Executive Office of the President, he outlined the political realities of Washington that would be involved in making the machine a reality.
"In DC, if you get 'No' as an answer, you're out of luck," Looney told the full house in Ramsey Auditorium, opening the Users Annual Meeting. "If you say, 'Can we have several billion dollars to build this machine?' you will get a 'No.' You want to try to ask a question that will not get a 'No,' such as, 'Can we keep this path going?' Then you need to make the decisions one at a time, and not try to make them all at once." He used the ITER fusion reactor project as an illustration of step-by-step decision-making, while admitting that ITER was hardly a paradigm: "The one thing ITER did right," Looney said, "was to make a construction decision only after $1 billion had been spent on R&D."
Ironically, ITER also figured in Looney's assertion on the need for international consensus on US responsibility to take its "turn" in building a big machine. He said the US was pressed from the highest levels of other governments, by Prime Ministers and presidents, to rejoin ITER. "We need to have other countries press the US to step up to the plate," Looney said.
No single argument or consideration would "sell" the ILC, Looney said, citing the need for constant communication over several years. And while scientific merit is the priority for program decisions, the priority increasingly shifts to the value of science and the benefits to society as communication approaches the political levels of government, and the public. "In a tight budget," Looney said, "big money is going to generate big political interest, so you need to understand the political environment when you're talking to people." Tight budgets also place a priority on planning. "It's important to plan to be in the right position when the budget breaks," Looney said.
Joe Dehmer, Director of the Davison of Physics at the National Science Foundation, also noted the constraints of tight budgets but predicted a change to increased funding sometime in the future. "There's no doubt that there will be another wave," Dehmer said, "and the prepared people will do very well."
Planning also depends on timing, and Looney observed that construction decisions on ILC-level projects are strongly influenced by US national election cycles: A go-ahead for the ILC would have to be a Presidential initiative, he said, coming early in a first term, pointing to 2009 and 2013 as the likeliest milestone years. Looney also said any policy decision would require results from the LHC.
OSTP, Looney said, functions to offer advice on science as a "small of larger policy problems," bringing information to the policy debate but usually not being asked what policy should be. But from a position close to the constant debate, Looney and OSTP are sensitive to what he called "the tone of discussion in DC," and he detected a change in the tone of discussion about particle physics-and specifically, particle physics at Fermilab.
Gone is a pervasive negative sense of Run II at the Tevatron, which Looney said had been fueled by "sensationalist" reports of poor performance. He said the tone had grown from the lack of a baseline for Tevatron performance, and poor communication from the Office of Science. "They're talking differently now," Looney said. "The negative stuff is behind us. The Office of Science has made great strides in communicating." He also cited the work of Robin Staffin, the Office of Science Assistant Director for High Energy Physics, as projecting competence and instilling a sense of confidence in policy-makers: "That depends strictly on the fact that if they give you money, you do good things with it," Looney said.
In the audience, incoming Fermilab Director Pier Oddone listened approvingly. He judged Looney's message as "completely consistent with the way we're approaching the roadmap for Fermilab. Oddone, who formally assumes his responsibilities on July 1, was also gratified about the change in "tone" that Looney noted, and its reflection of strength in the lab's current operations. "We're all pleased that there's been this large degree of progress over the last three years," Oddone said. "Michael Witherell deserves a lot of the credit, along with all the troops and staff. We're now in a different situation, and we have a good platform for where we're headed. At the same time, [Looney] showed us there is a lot of work to be done."
There's also a lot of scientific work going on at the lab, as the presenters showed on opening day. In neutrinos, Fermilab's Nicki Saoulidou said MINOS is gathering data at both the near and far detectors, with systematic studies and analysis underway at the near detector. Ray Stefanik described MiniBooNE compiling "the world's biggest neutrino dataset in the 1GeV range," and said electron neutrino analysis was under way. "We expect to open the box late this year," he concluded. Ray Ransome of Rutgers University said the MINERVA neutrino-nucleon scattering project could begin construction in October, 2006 in the MINOS near detector hall, with possible startup in the fall of 2008.
Ioanis Kourbanis reported the Accelerator Division was on track to meet and
exceed integrated luminosity goals, with Run II upgrades producing 8 fb-1
by 2009. Kourbanis said electron cooling was going well and slip-stacking
was operating, with antiproton production remaining as the major challenge.
Out at the detectors, DZero has recorded about 0.75 fb-1 to tape, said
Bill Lee of Florida State University, expecting 1 fb-1 by the end of Run
II; while Catalin Ciobanu of the University of Illinois reported CDF had
record about 0.8 fb-1. DZero has made the best measurements yet of the
Bs lifetime, while CDF has the best Top mass measurement and
Top datasets. The fixed-target program produced the lab's Result of the Year
(featured in Fermilab Today
new measurement of V(us) by KTeV.
Today's lineup includes a presentation by Robin Staffin of the Office of Science, along with a full slate of physics talks and the presentation of the URA Thesis Award and the Tollestrup Prize. The formal program concludes with Oddone's "Report from the Director-Designate" at 4:30 p.m., followed by the New Perspectives reception and poster session in the Atrium. Looney's slide on national domestic spending might have been a noteworthy addition to the displays, with the predominant pieces of the pie going to Social Security, Medicare and military spending. Said Looney: "It looks like an insurance company with an army."