Working for you: The RHIC & AGS Users' Center and Executive Committee
by Brant Johnson
The goal of RHIC news is to "cover the breadth of the efforts at RHIC, from physics results to machine and detector development." Appropriately, most of the contributed articles are about significant accomplishments and future plans, but here I write about continuing efforts to improve our working and living conditions. The RHIC & AGS Users' Center and the Users' Executive Committee work closely together on behalf of all users to facilitate physical and electronic access, safety training, communications, outreach, quality of life, and even to help ensure that there is adequate funding. How is this effort organized and how can you help?
First, here is a bit of personal history. From 1993-1999 I served as the RHIC Liaison for PHENIX during the design and construction phase. Along the way I assumed the role of Scientific Secretary of the PHENIX collaboration and became very involved in the myriad of issues involved in local support of users. In 1999, as the operational phase of RHIC approached, Tom Ludlam and I recognized the need for a RHIC and AGS Users' Center and worked hard to secure approval and funding for its inception.
Since 1999, I have regularly attended UEC meetings. I was formally elected to membership in 2002 and helped to change our Charter from having a single Chair serving successive two-year terms, to having three Chairs with staggered three year terms, first as Chair Elect, Chair, and then Past-Chair. After serving as Chair-Elect in 2004, when I became Chair in 2005, we instituted two major changes. First, a number of standing committees were consolidated into four Working Groups (see figure). Second, the Users' Group Charter was changed to effectively double the number of elected and appointed members. The first change was motivated by a desire to encourage "working" in groups, rather than "standing" in committees. The second change was made in recognition that service on the UEC is done in parallel with many other responsibilities and distractions. The membership was doubled to increase the probability that a significant number of members would actually be "working."
What does the UEC do? After each Annual Users Meeting (this year June 18-22) the current Chair assigns each elected or appointed member to one or two of the four Working Groups. The Director of the Users' Center and the three UEC Chairs, currently Susan White DePace, John Hill, Rene Bellwied, and I, are all members of each working group, convener of one of them, and responsible for encouraging work and reporting on progress for that one at each monthly UEC meeting. To report on progress and to solicit input from the user community we hold quarterly Open Forums (typically at the Fall DNP Meeting, in December at BNL, the April APS Meeting, and June annual User Meeting)
What have we done for you lately? Below are a few highlights of actions within each of the four working groups over the last few years:
Site Access and Science: Working with the excellent staff of the RHIC & AGS Users' Center the UEC tried to stay abreast of changes (and proposals to change) rules and regulations affecting access to BNL, safety and training, and both physical and cyber access to the laboratory and its facilities. The UEC conducted a user survey on cyber security concerns, invited NSLS users to also participate, and then shared the survey results with the laboratory administration (see articles by Martin Purschke and George Stephans in this issue for further details). The UEC also requested that street lighting be installed on the road out to and around the RHIC ring for improved safety of pedestrians at night.
Meetings, Communication & Outreach: The UEC has organized and held monthly UEC meetings, quarterly Open Forums, and our Annual Users' Meeting in June, which has achieved international status. In 2007 a major international conference agreed to alter its already announced dates to avoid overlap with our annual meeting. For broader communication and outreach the UEC has also sent representatives to the annual meetings of the National User Facility Organization (NUFO).
Funding, Politics, and Programatics: The three UEC Chairs and various members of the RHIC & AGS user community have met with Congressional representatives and staffers in local and state offices and in Washington, D.C. to discuss the importance of our science, our significant contributions to education and training of young scientists, and the crucial importance of adequate funding for all national user facilities. The UEC encouraged our users to write letters of concern and thanks for efforts to increase funding for user facilities such as RHIC & AGS. The UEC also investigated the feasibility of providing test beams at RHIC.
Quality of Life: Recently, we (led by former UEC members Peter Steinberg and Carla Vale) have spearheaded the effort to open a coffee kiosk in the lobby of the new Research Support Building (Bldg. 400) and supported the BNL administration effort (led by Christine Carter) to relocate the Association of Students and Postdocs (ASAP) lounge. The UEC has raised the issue of adequate housing for females in dormitories and the BNL administration has responded with a commitment and a plan to address this issue. The UEC also recommended improvements to the dormitories and other aspects of living conditions at BNL.
Further details on UEC activities are available through links from the Users' Center web pages.
How can you help? We encourage all users of the RHIC & AGS accelerator complex to help us identify areas of concern and to suggest improvements. Please feel free to contact any of the UEC chairs or members or any member of the Users' Center staff.
Thanks! As my third year as one of the three UEC chairs draws to a close, I offer my thanks and gratitude to all those who have served with me on the UEC, for the responsiveness of the BNL administration to user concerns, and most especially to Susan White DePace, Angela Melocoton, Kelly Guiffreda, and Regina Robinson of the RHIC & AGS Users' Center for their tireless efforts.