Friday, December 15, 2006


Alternatives to LANL

From Anonymous:

There are other national labs that have a significant role to play. Some LANL staff have left for LBL (and retrained their UC pension and UC employee rights!). Others have moved to more stable labs like ORNL and SNL. SNL is looking particular good these days, as less than half of the lab is dependent on NNSA funding. SNL has leverage and project diversity that is obviously lacking at LANL, where a short-sighted focus on nuclear weapons work is now causing major funding problems. Even little ol' INEL seems to be a rising star these days.

You don't have to stay at LANL to make a difference in the world of science. There are plenty of other good national labs. The days of beating the chest and claiming "LANL's the Greatest!" are past. From what I've witnessed, LANL is rapidly failing apart at the seams. It's getting harder and harder to avoid the distractions and get science done for most of the staff.

Given this situation, making the jump to another national lab seems like a rational choice, and it's a decision that more and more of the "best and the brightest" at LANL are starting to make. What makes this decision even easier to accept is realizing that LANS actively *wants* staff to leave. After all, they've already told the workforce they need at least 400 people to get out during FY '07. In FY '08, they'll undoubtedly need even more staff to leave.

In the end, I suspect LANL will have lots of managers and support workers, but a much reduced work force of scientists. If you're one of the few top weapons designers, it will be just dandy. However, for most of the other LANL scientists, there will be far better places to do your work.

I tend to agree that LANL is in a downward slide toward becoming a pit factory and that those us us not in the weapons program are going to have to make some hard decisions soon. A key question that we can begin to share information about is:
"Where else in the area (NM or Southwest) can bright folks with skills x, y and z find new employment?" NM High Tech Jobs ( is a starting point, but I think if we could use a portion of this blog to discuss other opportunities, it would give us a chance to funnel some of our frustration with LANL and LANS into something useful. If you have ideas, please post away.
If there is enough interest in this, perhaps it can get elevated to a top-level sticky post.
Our three Labradors give the new LANL blog a three-paws-up rating.
"Labradors," did you say?


This little story is so bad it's funny. And true.

I was talking to my wife over a cup of coffee, at Borders, about a new project I'm doing. It's a neat project, with a lot of visibility and interest in the real world.

At some point, my wife noted I was acting pretty animated about it all and asked me if I had gotten caffeinated coffee by mistake. (I had not).

Geez, you indicate interest and enjoyment in what you're doing on the job at LANL, and people assume you're on drugs.

Which is not surprising. Everytime I talk to a longtime employee, the same story is heard: "this is the worst I've seen it in 20 years". Or 30. Or 40.

Most people I know at LANL have lost all joy in their work. They come in, but unlike the times of 3 years ago, you don't see them working late. It seems we're doing just enough to get by, waiting for the layoffs to come next June.

And, as noted, many of the good ones are either gone, on the the way out, or looking.

I wish I could believe that the Congress and Senate and DOE care that they are destroying one of the world's great science labs, but I already know they don't. It's a shame to see them stick the knife in LANL science, at a time when science in the US is in decline. They are doing great harm to the US by wrecking LANL.

Yes, there were problems here, and certainly some of them were a result of local incompetence -- and, in some cases, outright corruption. But destroying LANL is hardly the right way to solve those problems.
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