This past week, NSF hosted its annual “Large Facilities Workshop”. Several RCRV team members were on hand, including my CO-PI, Dr. Clare Reimers. Here is her report:
May 4, Blog Post by Clare Reimers, RCRV Project Scientist
This week I represented the RCRV Project at the National Science Foundation’s Large Facility Workshop that was held in Alexandria VA. This annual workshop is organized to share knowledge to promote good practices and address common challenges amongst NSF’s Large Facilities community. The members of this community come from a portfolio of “Big Science” facilities ranging from the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) managed by CALTECH whose developers received the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics, to the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) managed by Batelle, the Ocean Observing Initiative, and many more. RCRV is one of four major facilities in the construction phase and the newest project in this category. A project still in the design phase is AIMS, the “Antarctic Infrastructure Modernization for Science” project that is planned for modernization of McMurdo Station.
What I took away from the workshop is that it demonstrates NSF’s intent to maintain healthy collaborative relationships between the agency, its advisors, and the institutions/organizations it supports whose personnel are managing Large Facilities for innovative and challenging scientific research. Although it was difficult to get very “excited” about talks addressing awardee audits and how to demonstrate fulfillment of core competencies in project management, I did appreciate the spirit of NSF providing information about the sources of new requirements and how to meet to them. Lessons learned ranged from how the dish radio telescope facility in Puerto Rico, “Arecibo Observatory’ successfully implemented it emergency response plan during hurricane Maria, to approaches LIGO is using for nailing down costs estimates for operations. It is clear the large budgets needed for Large Facilities to address the questions at the forefront of science get extra scrutiny from the Office of the Inspector General, the National Science Board and Congress, as they should. Therefore, the Large Facilities workshop provided inspiration for project personnel to be at the top of their game to deliver on science missions and stay on time, scope and budget during construction phases.
One session I especially liked was given by a former Navy Seal, Larry Yatch, who is now in the business of instructing groups in how to create highly functioning teams through effective project management. He gave many pearls of wisdom based on his years of strategic combat planning and leadership, but the pearl that shown for me was the reminder that for teams to be highly effective, everyone needs to know their roles and feel enabled to make the right choices. He also advised that we all are “lead-followers” with roles that can switch back and forth. I’ll be heading out to sea next week on the R/V Oceanus as a chief scientist and will be keeping this in mind. I will also be paying more attention to everyone’s roles on Team RCRV and working to add clarity to “the desired end state”. So – thank you NSF and Larry for these reminders. It feels good to work within a collaborative support structure that truly believes in the importance of the science enterprise.