re: Rock letter
Dear Chair Leiman:
The members of UCORP thank you for sharing the letter from Dean Rock, UC Davis,concerning the UCORP report. His opinion is similar to that of many, but not all, UC faculty with collaborations at the LABs and expressed at one or another of the forums on the DOE LABs.
As we see it, Dean Rock's fundamental premise is that a significant number of faculty from UC Davis and other UC campuses are principal investigators in research projects funded by DOE LABs and that UCORP should have approached the LAB contract renewal issue in a fashion that would not jeopardize this research funding.
A corollary of this premise is that UCORP could have strengthened its arguments by collecting detailed statistics about the number of projects and the substantial benefits experienced by the large numbers of UC faculty PIs.
And finally, UCORP should have interviewed each researcher on a case-by-case basis, presumably both UC and nonUC researchers alike.
Based on the information available from diverse sources gathered over 18 months, UCORP found that UC's management of the DOE LABs exists under some truly extraordinary circumstances; a great public institution has been asked to serve the nation in a matter of exceptional sensitivity without any gain or loss. The contractual document commits UC to achieve the missions and goals with respect to these LABs in accordance with policies laid down by the President of the United States, the DOE, and the Congress. The central mission of the two weapons LABs is to assure the safety and reliability of the nuclear arsenal and to maintain the capacity of these weapons to meet unexpected needs. Fostering faculty research and training of graduate students is entirely peripheral to this central mission. In order to use DOE funds efficiently, the LAB Directors are obligated to seek expertise wherever it is available, either within the UC system, or elsewhere. The UCORP Report includes statistics which clearly demonstrate that a major part of the academic research supported by LANL and LLNL goes to nonUC researchers. Indeed, the LAB Directors cannot legitimately provide research funding for UC faculty unless the research is directly relevant to the LABs' missions; or else, there will be a conflict of interest.
For these reasons, UCORP followed a different premise in regard to the LABs' contract renewal than the one espoused by Dean Rock. UCORP addressed more fundamental questions, such as public service, relevance to the mission of a teaching and research institution, and so on. Within this broader context, the question of the impact of contract renewal on faculty research was relevant, however, and was given due consideration by UCORP. Neither the contract language nor experience so far indicates that research funding will be lost if UC does not manage the LABs. UCORP is well aware that some faculty members are very concerned about the uncertainty of research continuity, as reflected in our Report. Many believe, incorrectly in our view, that this funding is somehow tied to the management contract. Evidence on this point is found in the UCORP Report, particularly with respect to Oak Ridge National Laboratory, but also regarding the number of research interactions at LANL and LLNL with UC and nonUC research personnel.
For the reasons outlined above, it was neither possible nor part of UCORP's charge to poll every single PI about his or her research links with the DOE LABs. Nor would such a case-by-case analysis have been practical or financially feasible. It is also apparent that the significant differences between Dean Rock's perceptions and those of UCORP in regard to the DOE LABs stem from fundamental differences in the philosophies followed by Dean Rock and UCORP.
CC: Dean Rock