Source: AIP | September 11, 2020

DOE Office of Science Director Chris Fall

Chris Fall speaking at a National Academies event in February. (Image credit – Karen Sayre / Eikon Photography, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

FYI spoke with the Department of Energy Office of Science Director Chris Fall about a range of issues bearing on the national lab system, including a new “Labs of the Future” thought exercise, pandemic recovery, diversity initiatives, and research security.

FYI spoke with Department of Energy Office of Science Director Chris Fall last month about a range of policy issues affecting the $7 billion research portfolio and 10 national labs he oversees. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

“Labs of the Future”

What is the intent of the Labs of the Future initiative your office is undertaking?

We have an annual strategic planning process, but a strategic plan is relatively incremental. Labs of the Future is meant to be a clean-sheet sort of exercise where we ask the questions, “What if we didn’t have all these labs and we decided as a country that we wanted to build up a research enterprise in the public interest for basic science? What if we weren’t tied to our legacy starting back in the 1940s through the Cold War with a lot of security? What if we weren’t tied to the physical spaces? What if we weren’t tied to government contracting, procurement, personnel policies, and so forth?” And let’s look around the world for examples, such as the science cities constructs in Europe. We’ll get to whether we could implement some of this stuff after we come up with the ideas.

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