TRIUMF announces both an interim director and an unusual job sharing plan with Japan

A July 17, 2013 TRIUMF news release announces a new interim structure (CEO? and name change?) and an international search for a permanent replacement while they wish current director Nigel Lockyer well as he dances out the door to his new job as director of the US Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Chicago, Illinois,

TRIUMF’s Board of Management today announced plans for interim leadership of the laboratory.  Present director Nigel S. Lockyer will be leaving TRIUMF and headed to the U.S. Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory as its new director effective September 3, 2013.  Interim leadership will be provided by the Board and a team of current senior staff.

In its discussions, the Board reviewed the following considerations:

+ The laboratory’s near-term activities and plans are well-defined and
publicly declared in its Five-Year Plan 2010-2015;
+ Effective stewardship of the laboratory in this interim period requires
familiarity and experience with TRIUMF;
+ The senior management team of the laboratory is successful and efficient;
+ The Board of Management, representing the university owners of TRIUMF, is
ultimately responsible for the laboratory and its operations and the
fulfillment of the laboratory’s mission.

To achieve these objectives, an interim-leadership structure composed of a management team, direct participation by members of the Board, and a new President and CEO of TRIUMF Accelerators, Inc. will be implemented on August 1, 2013 (thereby providing one-month overlap with the present Laboratory Director).

The Board of Management will exercise oversight and control of TRIUMF through weekly meetings between laboratory management and the Chair of the Finance Committee of the Board and monthly meetings between laboratory management and the Chair of the Board.

The laboratory will manage day-to-day operations using a team of existing senior staff.  The team will consist of three elements:

1. Scientific and Engineering Leadership Team (including the Heads of the Science, Engineering, Nuclear Medicine, and Accelerator Divisions);
2. Administrative Leadership Team (including the Chief Financial Officer; the Head of the Business and Administration Division; the Manager, Environment, Health and Safety; and the Head of Strategic Planning and Communication); and
3. An Interim Chief Executive Officer / Chief Administrative Officer (CEO/CAO) who will have signing authority for TRIUMF and will be responsible for the smooth operation and performance of the teams.  This role will be filled by Jim Hanlon who will be accountable to the Board on a day-to-day
basis for the laboratory. Jim is currently Head of the Business & Administration Division and Secretary to the TRIUMF Board of Management.

The new interim President and CEO of TRIUMF Accelerators, Inc. will be Jim Hanlon.  [emphasis mine] Other officers remain as they are.  The interim and transitional arrangement will be operative for six months, or extended following review, until the next director is appointed.

With regard to selecting a new director of the laboratory, the chair of the Search Committee has been identified and the full committee is being convened.  The international search will be launched by August 1.

This is fascinating and it’s nice to have a name for the new ‘head poobah’  although they’ve decided to restructure in a rather **unexpected and dramatic fashion with the decision to appoint a temporary Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and President, not a director as was Lockyer. Plus they seem to have changed the organization’s name in **the news release, TRIUMF Accelerators, Inc., as opposed to TRIUMF; Canada’s National Laboratory for Particle and Nuclear Physics. Oddly, the name change is not reflected on the website as of July 18, 2013 11:45 PDT nor is it officially announced in the news release.

I did speculate as to some of the issues that might arise when a leader departs in a June 21, 2013 posting where I used Tim Meyer (Head, Strategic Planning & Communications) as an example and described some of the issues that might arise regardless of whom is chosen from an internal pool for an interim position but I never anticipated this dramatic shift to a structure that mimics a corporation rather than a scientific enterprise. (It seems to me their appointee, Jim Hanlon, heads the Business & Administration Division and is Secretary to the Board of Management is in the unenviable position of not having much authority, other than signing authority,  in a situation where he carries a lot of responsibility.)

Assuming that this is a permanent change in structure, they will be searching for a president and CEO not a director which along with the name change suggests that the emphasis will be on business qualifications as much as, or perhaps more so, than on research qualifications. *Coincidentally or not, the new, as of July 15, 2013, Minister of State for Science and Technology, Gary Rickford has an MBA (Masters of Business Administration) in addition to his nursing qualifications and legal degree. I covered this latest cabinet shuffle and the change to the junior ministry (Sci & Tech) and its parent ministry, Industry Canada, in my July 17, 2012 posting.)

Given the Canadian federal government’s appetite for commodifying scientific research and imposing business models on the research community, this seems like a smart and strategic move on TRIUMF’s part. (For an example of the Harper government’s appetite, I wrote about Canada’s National Research Council and its change to a business-oriented focus in my May 13, 2012 posting and May 22, 2013 posting.)

I note this change to a corporate name and structure comes from within the science community and is not being imposed by the government. It seems that as scientists see how the wind is blowing they will turn direction. Of course, that’s pretty standard behaviour in any sector. What makes this situation at TRIUMF particularly interesting is the implication for the future as young scientists are likely to increasingly adopt business attitudes to their work. Since business is primarily about making money and the last time we encouraged youth to pursue money at all costs we ended up with at least two economic meltdowns and a generation of investment bankers, we are likely to run short (again) of critically needed skills in areas that **don’t promise ‘a fast buck’.

Finally, here’s my bit about a unique job sharing plan between TRIUMF (issued prior to the name change?) and a laboratory in Japan. From a July 11, 2013 TRIUMF news release,

In an unusual alliance between TRIUMF, Canada’s national laboratory for nuclear and particle physics, and the Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe (Kavli IPMU) in Japan, a long-term joint research position has been created in order to recruit, develop, and
support a world-leading scientist in two countries.  The catch?  After working for the first four years with 75% of his time in Japan and 25% in Canada, the candidate will choose which laboratory’s long-term job offer to accept. American physicist Dr. Mark Hartz has been selected for this
high-stakes competition and in five years will be choosing his long-term home in Tokyo or Vancouver.

From either side of the Pacific Ocean, there will continue to be a great demand for Hartz. He has been appointed as assistant professor and is expected to carry out the full range of duties of a grant tenure track research scientist at both Kavli IPMU and TRIUMF. Additionally, he will serve on internal committees and represent both institutes at the national and international level. His cross-cultural and cross-laboratory experiences will be a great benefit for both Kavli IPMU and TRIUMF.

Dr. Nigel S. Lockyer, director of TRIUMF, acknowledged the rarity and significance of Hartz’s role. Lockyer said, “We need more competitive, cross-border positions like this to enrich and strengthen top talent. I’m delighted that Japan agrees that Hartz is worth fighting for, and yet I’m confident that in the long term Canada is the right place for him and his world-class research ambitions.”

Dr. Hitoshi Murayama, director of Kavli IPMU, said, “Mark is a tremendous addition to our team and will help expand our institutional role in the Japanese flagship T2K neutrino experiment. Once he comes to Kavli IPMU and sees our fantastic environment with interdisciplinary interactions with
astronomers and mathematicians, I have no doubt that he will settle down here.  We already have a great track record of keeping our non-Japanese scientists happy and productive.”

In recent years, Hartz experienced the enormous benefits of global collaboration through research at the Tokai to Kamioka (T2K) neutrino experiment-an international investigation into the behaviour of neutrinos as they travel from one location to another, where he led national efforts to develop beamline monitors and analysis specific to the experiment. With his advanced technical and engineering background, Hartz is an ideal candidate for this cross-laboratory role. He will continue to focus his tenure on the T2K collaboration and is expected to build a strong T2K experimental group at Kavli IPMU.

“The T2K experiment is a textbook example of scientists working across borders to drive new discoveries and pursue the best science,” said Hartz. “This joint position is a brilliant opportunity to work with research communities and give momentum to those interactions.  Although national
borders are invisible to the scientist in me, I am curious to see where I’ll end up in five years!”

As a post-doctoral fellow at both York University and the University of Toronto, Hartz gained extensive experience with the T2K Optical Transition detector and led both the beam analysis and Near Detector to Far Detector Extrapolation analysis groups. He completed detailed predictions of neutrino beam properties prior to the neutrino changing its form in a phenomenon called “neutrino oscillation”. Additionally, Hartz developed sophisticated analysis tools to constrain the neutrino beam flux-an important element for analyzing the oscillations of neutrinos.

Other than being confused as to whether Hartz is making his choice of laboratory and country after four years or five, I do find this to be an innovative approach to recruiting researchers and I see advantages for both the researchers and the labs. I am curious as to why it’s a 75%/25% split in favour of the Kavli Institute (PMU) in Japan. Does it have something to do with initiating this unique opportunity? O perhaps since the researcher is Canadian and more time is needed in Japan so he might acclimate and make a more informed decision?

Regardless, bravo to both the Kavli Institute (PMU) and TRIUMF for taking a bold approach to attracting exciting researchers to their respective institutions.

* Opening paranthesis removed on July 19, 2013.

** ‘and’ removed, ‘the’ added’, and ‘didn’t’ changed to ‘don’t’ on Aug. 1, 2013

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