Lamont Weekly Report, August 12 2011

No, we're not installing Time Warner or Cablevision. Those cable reels you see being offloaded on the driveway to the warehouse/instrument lab are hydrophone streamers for the Langseth. Sean Higgins and his crew in Marine Ops had been keeping their ears to the ground and found a company willing to donate these critical components for the cost of shipping. These reels are the reason why we have been cleaning out the warehouse over the past few months, not a small task. Congrats to Tom Eberhard, Pat O'Reilly and their crews - and all of you who pitched in - for actually getting this done. For a while there, you could see the floor of the warehouse. It'll be full again soon enough, so forget your dreams of an indoor basketball court.

Some of you have asked me whether the mess in Washington will affect us going forward, so I want to give you a sense of where we are. Edie Miller and her staff have been working on closing out the books on FY11, and we have ended up with an operating surplus. This is a good way to start the new fiscal year, but, more importantly, it means that we can have some confidence as we project observatory-wide expenses and revenues going forward. And we are growing, in an intellectually coherent way. As you know, we are working very closely with our representatives in Washington to decipher the science funding bills as they work their way through Congress and the Administration, and Mike Purdy's office is heavily engaged in getting our opinions to the right people. As a group, our proposal success rates are very good, which is, of course, one measure of the excellence of our science. Institutionally, the overhead from grants and contracts keeps the lights on and pays for administrative support, so we are sensitive to the agency budgets. The income from our endowments, much of which is devoted to our salary insurance plans and additional science support, is relatively stable, even given the wild volatility of the markets over the past few weeks. This is because the management of the endowments and the release of income are designed to smooth out such high-frequency fluctuation. Nevertheless, we're keeping a very close eye on our administrative expenses and I'm not about to minimize the challenges ahead. We should bear in mind, however, that the intellectual strengths of the Observatory are deeply rooted in the intellectual strengths of its people and we are, in no small way, strategizing from a position of great scientific strength.

The next two weeks will be a bit lighter around here. Academic Augusts always have had their rhythms, but soon enough, September will intrude.

And so it goes...