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Glenn Fox

Glenn Fox

Associate Director for Physical and Life Sciences

Collaborations Enable a Bright Future

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is home to   cutting-edge research and some of the world’s most innovative technology, including the world’s most energetic laser and some of its fastest supercomputers. We consistently invest in new instruments and capabilities to support our national security research, but we cannot site every tool we need on our one-square-mile main campus. One key to the Laboratory’s success involves its collaborations with other research institutions and experts, nearby and across the globe. The complexity and cost of modern experimental capabilities require that broad research directions and investments be set by research communities, not individual institutions. Cultivating relationships with other research centers enables the creation and supports the success of ambitious experimental facilities and allows us to work together to tackle complex scientific challenges that would be difficult or impossible for a single research group or institution.

As described in the feature article "Extremely Bright, Incredibly Fast," Livermore researchers conduct experiments using some of the world’s brightest x-ray sources. Many of these sources are located in the United States and are funded by the Department of Energy (DOE), for which the construction and operation of large-scale scientific user facilities have been integral to the mission of the DOE Office of Science from its earliest days. Others are located at research facilities in Europe and Asia, some of which are newer partners for us. For instance, Pohang X-ray Free Electron Laser, where our researchers have performed remarkable shock-compression experiments on iron, is located in South Korea, where we have been growing our research relationships over the past decade with several universities, particularly in the area of clean energy technology.

Of course, collaborations are about more than working together to build, operate, and use the biggest and newest scientific facilities. By collaborating with researchers from other institutions, we inject different perspectives and approaches into our scientific investigations and many times come up with new and better solutions. The value and ubiquity of collaborations in our work is apparent when you look at our publication statistics on peer-reviewed, unclassified journal articles published. For example, in the Physical and Life Sciences (PLS) Directorate, where roughly 1,000 such scholarly papers a year are authored or co-authored, more than 80 percent of published papers are the product of collaboration between PLS researchers at the Laboratory and other institutions. In fact, close to 40 percent of PLS’s scholarly output involves international collaboration.

Ensuring the nation’s security and prosperity by delivering leading-edge basic and applied science and technology is far too large a mandate for us to fulfill alone. Collaborations with other national laboratories and with a diverse collection of universities and other research institutions help us accomplish the mission. Collaborations also serve an important recruiting function, exposing the next generation of engineers, scientists, and technicians to Livermore people, resources, and research challenges. Like any productive relationship, though, research collaborations take time, effort, and mutual understanding to generate meaningful results. It is vital that we keep these research relationships vibrant, especially now and over these past two years, when travel to other facilities has often proven challenging due to the pandemic.

One pandemic-era collaboration success story is detailed in the article "Polymer Production Enclave Puts Additive Manufacturing on the Fast Track." Lawrence Livermore and the Kansas City National Security Campus partnered to create a polymer production enclave, sited at the Laboratory, to better integrate polymer design activities—performed by Livermore staff—with polymer parts production—performed by Kansas City staff—for the national security enterprise. Working side by side, researchers and technicians from the two DOE facilities have already achieved several technical breakthroughs.

Collaboration is also the theme for the second highlight in this issue. The article "Hydrodynamic Experiments Support Stockpile Stewardship" explains how multidisciplinary teams composed of skilled Livermore designers, engineers, and technicians devise and diagnose hydrodynamic experiments that help ensure that the nation’s nuclear stockpile remains safe, secure, and effective.

The third highlight "Delivering Exceptional Promise," focuses on the work performed by emergent, extraordinary scientists and engineers, and how a relatively new awards program pays dividends for both awardees and the Laboratory. After all, great people are central to Livermore’s formula for success.