Lamont Weekly Report, January 6, 2012

Happy New Year and welcome back.

As you know, we had another water main break just before New Year's holiday. Dick Greco and his crew worked overtime to get it repaired before the long weekend, with just some roadwork to complete as soon as temperatures allow. Thanks to everyone for accommodating the work and the road closures.

The condition of our infrastructure and the demands on space continue to be twinned challenges, from the perspectives of both budgeting and facility staff workload. Like Columbia - and other universities more generally - we are engaged in one of the most exciting times for our science at the same time that we are trying to convert a campus to serve purposes that it was never designed to support. As a data point, the Seismology and Marine Biology Building, a temporary structure, turns fifty this year. This is a more strategic challenge. The Comer Building/Ultra Clean Lab, the renovation of the New Core Lab and parts of Geosciences, and the construction of the new Geodesy and Rock Mechanics Labs show what we can do when science drives our building strategy. This thinking has to be part of our strategic planning efforts as we move into 2012.

There are immediate tasks. Over the next two months, we will be preparing the Observatory's FY13 budget for submission to Low Library. Each of the Associate Directors has been asked to identify their division's personnel and capital needs by the end of this month for discussion and reconciliation by the Observatory Management Group.
Principle objectives in this budget cycle include securing the lab and office needs of recent and in-process recruitments, budgeting appropriate funds to maintain the commitments to existing staff, and setting aside reserves against the potential for complexities in federal funding. Where possible, we will make important investments, including opening searches to populate new science and education initiatives, and we will continue to invest in the development of philanthropic support. Additionally, we will be setting aside institutional resources to assist Lamont scientists in organizing, writing and submitting the complex, multidisciplinary proposals that increasingly are part of the national scientific agenda. I intend to be as transparent as possible as this year's budget evolves, and the Lamont Executive Committee will have a
fundamental role in these discussions.

On another matter, Mike Purdy has convened a task force, on which Peter deMenocal and I serve, to look at Columbia-wide issues in research computing. I'll report periodically on the task force activities as they progress. As a start, for those of you interested in Columbia-wide activities in high-performance computing, Research Computing Services hosts a HPC special interest group. Information can be found here:

You may have heard that Bob Bookbinder has resigned after about four decades at Lamont. Bob didn't want a party, but I would be remiss if I didn't call him out for all he has done for Lamont over the years. Bob and his group transformed our computational infrastructure back in the 80's, and he has been a continuing leader in providing the support needed to do our science. Bob has agreed to come back part-time as we develop plans for the future of computer support on campus and to help with the transition. I will be appointing an interim manager of the computer support group within the week.