Communicating the Worth of Our Work

HIS past year and a half has been one of the most unsettled periods in the history of the Livermore Laboratory. Our laboratory, like all federal laboratories, has felt the winds of change from Washington. Various committees are questioning the way in which the federal government supports scientific research and the appropriateness of certain programs. Indeed, such questioning is inevitable and necessary in light of trillion-dollar budget deficits, continuing economic uncertainties, and widespread concern about health care, social security, crime and violence, education, and other basic survival issues.
At the same time, many of the problems facing the nation and the world today involve science and technology. For example:
  • Ensuring national security, not only by maintaining the U.S. nuclear deterrent but also by stemming the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
  • Understanding, remediating, and preventing damaging effects of human activities on the environment.
  • Solving the mystery of the genetic code.
  • Developing advanced technologies, processes, and products (particularly those related to energy production, biotechnology, and electronics) that enhance the quality of life while securing the nation's preeminence in the global marketplace.
  • Improving the quality and reducing the cost of health care.
    We believe that national laboratories like Livermore are as important now as they have ever been. Our overriding mission of serving the nation through the application of science and technology remains unchanged. However, as the science and technology required to solve important national problems grows more complex, we must make sure that we explain our work--and the value of that work--in ways that are accessible and meaningful to a broad audience. And we must remember that the value of scientific research (particularly publically funded research) lies, to a large extent, in its ability to solve real-world problems.
    No longer is it sufficient for scientists to communicate only with other scientists through professional journals or at technical conferences. Neither is it sufficient for laboratories to communicate primarily with each other and with their funding agencies. We must also reach the large numbers of interested, educated nonexperts--government representatives and congressional staffers, community leaders, and the general public--all of whom through their taxes contribute to the Laboratory's funding and therefore have a vested interest in the Laboratory's work.
    Science and Technology Review is one of the principal mechanisms by which we inform and educate a broad readership about our research programs and accomplishments. Much of the Laboratory's research is at the cutting edge of science and technology, making it particularly challenging to describe state-of-the-art accomplishments and their significance in widely understood terms. Our goal is that the articles presented here represent the full range of projects at Livermore and convey the challenge and excitement of working at the frontiers of science and technology.