Laboratory Director Thom Mason welcomes visitors to Oak Ridge during the Annual Meeting of the National User Facility Organization (NUFO) meeting held in late April at ORNL.

Laboratory Director Thom Mason welcomes visitors to Oak Ridge during the Annual Meeting of the National User Facility Organization (NUFO) meeting held in late April at ORNL.

Four-day conference brings staff from Office of Science User Facilities together for sharing, collaboration

Attendees of the National User Facility Organization (NUFO) annual meeting had the opportunity to tour the US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), attend discussion panels, and participate in breakout groups in which they collaborated on specific topics of interest when the group met in Oak Ridge April 20–23.

DOE Office of Science user facilities such as the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility (OLCF) and Spallation Neutron Source (SNS) receive a large portion of the government funds allocated for open science research.

“Over the years Congress has prioritized these unique scientific user facilities so that they are available for US industry, universities, national laboratories, and federal agencies based on the merit and impact of the proposed projects,” said Jack Wells, director of science for the National Center for Computational Sciences, home to the OLCF and the Titan supercomputer.

Last year more than 30,000 researchers used these resources. NUFO represents the interests of these users and others, from administrative staff to interns, affiliated with the Office of Science national scientific user facilities. The organization works to improve the facilities by streamlining processes and facilitating communication between users and administrators as well as by highlighting significant scientific findings.

Ashley Barker, group leader for the OLCF’s User Assistance and Outreach Division and the center’s representative at NUFO meetings, emphasized the important role that NUFO plays in helping the user facilities run efficiently. “The annual NUFO meeting is a great opportunity to collaborate with other user facilities to identify ways we can enhance our services and make it as smooth as possible for users to make effective use of these facilities,” Barker said.

The annual meeting, which the national laboratories host in rotation, offered an opportunity for members to collaborate, see Titan and other ORNL resources, participate in panel discussions, and hear presentations featuring speakers from different user facilities.

Barker gave a presentation on how the OLCF tracks publications that result from users’ research, and OLCF staffers Chris Fuson and Suzy Tichenor participated in panels about user outreach and industry research, respectively.

Ben Brown, senior science and technology advisory for the Office of Science, gave the keynote speech on the creation of a user facility database. Such a publicly accessible index would collect statistics about current users and projects at all the user facilities to increase transparency and allow for a richer understanding of the programs.

On the final day attendees broke into working groups that focused on specific topics of interest to their individual communities, such as university relations and administrative affairs.

This spirit of collaboration was present throughout the meeting, according to Barker. “The things that have come out of this organization are really about sharing best practices … and finding ways to be more efficient so that users have fewer issues and can be more effective when they come to these facilities.” —Christie Thiessen

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