Report of the Coleman Subcommittee of the Academic Council Concerning UC Management of the DOE Laboratories

As the University of California approaches possible negotiations with the Department of Energy (DOE) for extending its contracts to manage the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) and Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), the Academic Council proposes the following course of action. We received from the University Committee on Research Policy (UCORP) a detailed review produced by eighteen months of analysis of reports made by previous Senate Committees, study of a large number of documents related to the management of the Laboratories, and consultation with directors and members of the Laboratories and UC faculty. This UCORP report, which does not involve the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), acknowledges the scientific contributions of the Laboratories, but identifies many problems and criticizes the University's insufficient oversight in the Laboratories' management.

The Academic Council believes the faculty should take an active role in reshaping the management of the Labs. While the Academic Council does not absolutely agree with all the particular assessments of the UCORP report, we acknowledge that the report's criticisms must be addressed. We have begun that process by using UCORP's analysis and criticism of current Lab management to forge a set of recommendations on how elements of the contract with DOE should be recrafted in order to address stubborn problems and ineffective practices. Instead of holding a yes/no vote on the continuation of UC management of the Labs, we propose that the University of California faculty should consider the ways is which UC management can be improved to where the faculty believes UC is contributing positively.

We proceed by outlining a series of management problems that must be addressed, and then proposing a process of structural change needed to address them. This process of structural change is needed on three levels. First, the contract itself should address a series of issues. Second, we need mechanisms to ensure that the Senate plays an active and informed role in the negotiations of the contract, and has not only eyes and ears, but a voice, at the table. Third, we must institute a true Senate contribution, in accordance with shared governance, to the ongoing, steady-state management of the labs. We believe our recommendations will not only improve UC management, but result in Labs that better serve the nation.

We begin with two observations on university management and its impact on the Lab culture. The materials provided by the Labs and OP continually refer to "oversight" and "overseeing," but without defining those terms in a practical sense. According to the "Facts Sheets" we were given, the Provost "oversees" the science and technology of the Labs, while the Vice President-Administration "oversees" the administrative functions. How can the OP staff and these two executives truly "oversee" such a massive and complex set of institutions as the National Laboratories in addition to the nine campuses? As the UCORP report charges, the OP necessarily delegates most of its responsibilities to the Lab directors and their associate directors.

This delegation in turn impairs one of the chief advantages that University management of the Labs is thought to provide--namely, the introduction of academic culture to these governmentally sponsored research institutions. A central and significant feature of the academic organization of the University of California is spirited discussion of what we are doing and why. A university maintains its standards of excellence and renews its intellectual vigor through a process of continual self-analysis and self-criticism. This obligation to self-study and self-review is a central academic practice embodied in the Senate. More direct Senate involvement in the management of the Labs would bring these core University values to the Labs.



The Laboratories should be required to develop a plan for physically and administratively delineating their classified and non-classified research within a specified time-frame. Such a plan would make it possible for the Labs to consider the feasibility of sub-contracting the administration of the weapons re-manufacturing process to a commercial vendor. Among the benefits of such a plan, and its eventual implementation, might be reduced pressure on DOE to put Lab operations out to bid, the defusing of moral objections to UC management of the Labs, increased UC faculty collaboration and cooperation with lab researchers, and a greater number of joint UC-Lab appointments.


The terms "oversight" and "oversee" must be defined with specific language, and accompanied by description of the mechanisms implied by them.


The University of California should require that a specific percentage of the Laboratory budgets be spent for science and technology, that is, non- classified projects in both pure and applied science.


Lab researchers should be partially supported by intermural peer-reviewed funding that might be made available as well to University researchers. This would institute an on-going peer-review of Lab research and staff productivity and promise simultaneously to prune less efficient programs while strengthening more effective ones.


The academic culture of the Laboratories will be strengthened by giving OP authority to institute proper mechanisms for the greater protection of intellectual freedom, scientific freedom, and freedom of speech within the Labs. While recognizing that classified research may limit open discussion, exchange of information, and public comment on some topics, university policies protecting whistle-blowers and preventing the Laboratories from harassing critics should be extended to laboratory personnel in all appropriate cases. Some form of cooperative governance should also be instituted, that would grant research staff a voice in defining the direction of their mission and the process of their management. The Labs should emulate universities by instituting and fostering on-going critical self-reviews.


Since we question whether all aspects of the Labs can truly be excellent to outstanding, we recommend regular intramural and extramural program reviews. The form of these reviews should be objective, and evaluate established criteria and benchmarks as indicators of quality. Although any formal graduate programs based at the labs (e.g. UC Davis Applied Science at Livermore) are reviewed by the campus Graduate Councils, appropriate committees of the Academic Senate such as CCGA and UCEP should periodically examine these reviews to monitor the quality of graduate and undergraduate educational experience at the Labs.


The contract must improve OP's ability to ensure that Laboratory personnel policies conform to UC standards. OP must effectively monitor the implementation of these policies by Laboratory management, and require the establishment and conduct of more effective grievance procedures.


OP should monitor senior administrators' practices to ensure fair and effective performance evaluations. Mechanisms for ensuring independence, uniformity, and objectivity in performance evaluations should be established (perhaps in emulation of CAP reviews)--including, if feasible, peer review.


OP should utilize ad hoc, neutral external reviewers to supervise Laboratory program compliance with existing local, state, or national environmental, as well as health and safety regulations. OP should also ensure responsive treatment of internal and public complaints in these areas.


The contract must include provisions for a mid-term (third year) review of the effectiveness of UC management of the Labs by outside management consultants.

As the contract negotiations go forward, the Academic Council must be assured that these concerns, and issues brought forth by the Divisions, are seriously considered. We believe that shared governance should maintain during the negotiation process. We therefore urge that the negotiating team include a representative from the Academic Council, and that the Council be kept informed as the contract is crafted. This responsibility could be delegated to UCORP, and a member of UCORP could serve on the negotiating team, with opportunity and responsibility to regularly report to UCORP and the Council.


We recommend that the Academic Council demand changes in the on-going academic oversight over the Labs.

1. The President's Council should be expanded to include 3 or 4 currently active Senate members (with no other administrative role in UC). These faculty should represent a diversity of fields, experience, and personnel profiles, to ensure a vigorous variety of input into the management process. One of these new members should be a member (regular or ex officio) of UCORP.

2. Based on careful--optimally external--review of OP management of the labs, a mechanism should be developed for limiting delegation of responsibility to Lab directors.

3. OP must monitor and curtail the constant motion of personnel between Lab management positions and OP oversight positions, since this creates the perception, as well as the possibility, of conflicts of interests. UC staff that is independent of the DOE Labs must occupy the most responsible oversight positions.

4. Opportunities for faculty and student collaboration at all three Labs should be broadened to include more researchers from the entire range of the nine campuses. An accurate database should be maintained of university faculty and students working at the Labs and in collaboration with the Labs. This information should include time allocated by the faculty, numbers of students involved in the project, whether the research was Lab or University initiated, the amounts of extramural support, and the like.

5. The Academic Council, through UCORP, should develop mechanisms for its own oversight of Laboratory activities. This may be achieved either by increasing the membership of UCORP, or creating a subcommittee of UCORP to function as the Senate's liaison to the Labs. These liaison Senate members would be added to the President Council seats already held by the Academic Council Chair and Vice Chair.

The Academic Council should transmit to the President the request that we receive regular reports on the progress of constructive changes at the Labs, and in UC's management of them. Significant progress on these issues must be made during the next contract term or the Senate and faculty will judge UC incapable of managing the DOE Labs, and vigorously refuse support of future contract renewals.