LIVERMORE, Calif — Imagine Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory without a nuclear weapons program or as a facility that has a virtual workplace of telecommuters, or one with researchers who move seamlessly between various UC campuses such as Los Alamos, Berkeley and Livermore.
These were among the possibilities considered by the 23 members of the Lab’s Long-Range Strategy Project, which recently distributed its report on what the Laboratory may look like in the years 2015 to 2020. Their conclusions can be found in the report, "2020 Foresight: Forging the Future of LLNL."
Tom Isaacs, director of LLNL’s Office of Policy, Planning and Special Studies, says exploring novel "far off" ideas was an important part of the two-year process. Members of the group were chosen for the diversity of views they would bring to the discussion of the Laboratory’s long-term future.
"We wanted them to have the freedom to discuss different ideas. A lot of the discussion was pretty intense. People got really involved and put a lot of energy into the project," said Isaacs.
The idea was to provide the Laboratory’s current and future leadership with food for thought on the Lab’s evolution over the next 10-20 years, and to bring together those people who might be among the future leaders.
The group was officially chartered in March 1998 to explore, analyze and evaluate new scientific and technical opportunities appropriate for the Laboratory; identify new programmatic needs where the Lab can play a significant role in the coming 10-20 years, and investigate effective ways of doing research and development business, including identifying potential sponsors.
Members were divided into subgroups to discuss a first set of topics, including nuclear deterrence in the 21st century; computations and communications; bioscience and biotechnology, and the future of public and private R&D. Teams then reorganized and discussed a second set of subjects: emerging national security threats; the "middle third of the Lab" — energy, environment and supporting disciplines; the public policy landscape in 2015, and the Laboratory workplace in 2015.
"Just think about what has happened at the Lab in the last 10 years. Who would’ve predicted the growth of the Internet?" said Terri Quinn, assistant department head of the Lab’s Scientific Computing and Communications Department. "There’s an almost unlimited set of possibilities for 10 years out."
The report cites the University of California’s management as key to the Laboratory’s long- term stability and ability to attract the best minds in science. "The interactions with other universities and labs is critical to our own success," said Greg Simonson, deputy division leader in Non-proliferation, Arms Control and International Security.
"The LRSP process gave me a greater appreciation of the people here. The Lab has an amazingly collegial atmosphere," said Lisa Stubbs, of the lab’s Biology & Biotechnology department. "I now have a better feeling how Biological research fits into this special context. I understand how science done at LLNL should, directly or indirectly, support the national security mission."
Simonson agreed. "This was a challenge and a lot of good possibilities came to light during the discussions," he said.
Note: The "2020 Foresight Sight" report is available to reporters. Contact Charity Smith at (925) 422-4599 for a copy.