Martha Krebs Talks About Future of Energy Research

June 28, 1998

By Paul Preuss,

Midway through a day of talks and tours for the Department of Energy's annual On-Site Review here last Tuesday, Martha Krebs, director of the Office of Energy Research, gave an upbeat assessment of DOE's increasingly visible importance to the nation's science and technology research program, and of Berkeley Lab's role in the effort.

"DOE is now recognized as a science and technology agency," Krebs told a Lab audience, noting that DOE's research budget is the nation's fourth largest after those of the Department of Defense, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and bigger than the National Science Foundation's.

Energy Research Director Martha A. Krebs (right) toured the Advanced Light Source during her visit to Berkeley Lab. With her are Deputy Director Pier Oddone (left) and Ari Patrinos of the DOE.
Photo by Roy Kaltschmidt

Krebs gave a progress report on the Fiscal Year 1999 budget, still working its way through Congress. The House Appropriations Committee has approved considerably less than was requested for such programs as climate change, the Spallation Neutron Source, and transition costs for the Internatio-nal Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), and nothing at all for the Next Generation Internet project. Overall, the Senate Appropriations Committee has been more generous, however, and even the House-approved budget represents a significant increase from last year -- a far cry from the situation when Krebs took office, shortly after the fusion budget had been slashed and the Superconducting Supercollider had been killed.

Berkeley Lab people have been helpful in improving the situation. According to Krebs, Berkeley Lab's record of management, for example of components of the U.S. contribution to the Large Hadron Collider, has led Congress to look favorably on funding the U.S. participation in the International LHC effort and other projects.

Krebs also noted the contribution of Lab personnel to the "Science for America's Future" theme and roadmap initiative, intended to lead to a new Strategic Plan for the Office of Energy Research -- an initiative supported by Ernest Moniz, Under Secretary of Energy. In developing research themes, Krebs deliberately sought to engage "people not generally asked -- the people who perform the science," and she was determined not to be bound by organization charts and budget categories.

In a reference to events at Brookhaven National Laboratory, which she called "an object lesson to all of us," Krebs stressed the importance of integrated safety management and attention to community concerns, saying that Berkeley Lab's response "has been in the right direction."

Krebs spoke in the middle of a busy day, which began Tuesday morning with a 7:30 a.m. working breakfast and continued into the evening. Krebs and officials from DOE Headquarters, the Oakland Operations Office, and the University of California held discussions and heard talks by Director Shank and other Lab leaders, as well as individual scientists, focusing on recent highlights and future strategies. A wide range of topics was touched upon, ranging from physical, biological, and computational sciences to safety issues and Lab organization and operation.

Krebs and other Department of Energy representatives from Washington and Oakland spent the day getting briefed on the Laboratory's highest scientific and operational priorities. Director Charles Shank presented an overview of the state of the Lab and previewed key initiatives. These included the Strategic Simulation Initiative, a scientific supercomputing proposal outlined by Associate Laboratory Director Bill McCurdy; the Advanced Light Source science roadmap, offered by outgoing ALS Director Brian Kincaid; a new Physical Biosciences initiative covering structural and functional ge-nomics and protein crystallography by Division Director Graham Fleming; and an Inertial Fusion Energy initiative with prospective heavy ion research facility by physicist Roger Bangerter.

Other presentations were made by Eva Nogales of Life Sciences on her seminal work in imaging the structure of tubulin; Chris Martin of genome sciences on the sequencing goals of the Joint Genome Institute; Daniel Chemla, Division Director for Materials Sciences and the ALS, on the prospects for the National Center for Electron Microscopy adding a Dynamic Atomic Resolution Microscope to its capabilities; and Jim Siegrist, Division Director for Physics, on scientific collaborations between the physics and nuclear science programs.

Environment, Health and Safety Division Director David McGraw briefed the attendees on the Labora-tory's new Integrated Safety Manage-ment program and on prospects for external regulation of radiation activities by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. And Deputy Director Klaus Berkner reviewed support and infrastructure accomplishments and challenges, including a positive report on the new Administrative Services Department.

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