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History of IGPP Systemwide


In 1996 IGPP celebrated its 50th anniversary. It was founded at UCLA in 1946, and then additional branches were added: at UC San Diego (Scripps Institution of Oceanography) in 1958, at UC Riverside in 1967, at Los Alamos in 1980-81, and at Lawrence Livermore in 1982. By 2002, two more branches were added: University of California, Santa Cruz; and University of California, Irvine.

The branches at the National Laboratories were founded as an experiment, i.e., in response to the criticisms of several ad hoc committees established by the UC to evaluate continued university management of the laboratories. These committees were unanimous in pointing out that research collaborations between the labs and the campuses were inadequate and needed to be improved.

IGPP Systemwide, with its stature and already existing informal ties to Los Alamos, was put forward by Orson Anderson, the Systemwide IGPP Director, as a solution to the problem. Thus the LANL branch was to provide formal research connection between Laboratory scientists and the faculty and students of university campuses.

The main document of record is a joint proposal, dated May 19, 1980, to UC President David S. Saxon from Laboratory Director, Don Kerr, and Dr. Anderson. This 23-page document formulated the rationale, organization, and functions for the Los Alamos branch.

One attraction for the universities was the opening of many large Laboratory research facilities to university use. The overriding goal of the project, however, was to provide for collaborative research between university faculty and laboratory staff, including graduate students wherever possible. It is interesting to note that the proposal designated that IGPP offices be located in University House, recently constructed at Los Alamos by the UC.

On September 18, 1980, the Regents of the UC on the recommendation of President Saxon voted unanimously to establish a branch of IGPP at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

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Formative Years (1981-1986)

Paul Coleman, formerly of the Earth and Space Sciences Department and IGPP at UCLA, was named its first Director in October 1981. He was the first leader of the newly organized Earth and Space Sciences Division (EES-1) at LANL. IGPP began to function as a cohesive project in 1982, soliciting proposals for collaborative research. Paul quickly established IGPP's enduring character. In May 1982 Paul reports that 24 projects had started; the following year this increased to 30. Also, studies of the Rio Grande Rift Valley had begun, and efforts to establish a National Ionosonde Facility (at NSF request), a computer communications network linking campuses to the lab, and a geophysics field camp that became the SAGE program.

Over the next years IGPP solidified its funding and its basic modus operandi, the "mini-grant program", workshops, lecture series, and additional projects. The Grant program was roughly divided into three areas: earth, space, and atmospheric sciences. Some 30 projects were funded each year and a growing number of refereed publications appeared. A significant number of laboratory facilities were made available to the researchers. But University House was never made available to IGPP, which was instead crammed into two small offices in the Physics Building. Nevertheless, the next years saw IGPP achieve its goals of bringing university and lab scientists together in meaningful research. One important addition was the Lab's fledgling climate research program under Bob Malone and Sig Gerstl, which IGPP began to support.

This effort was to bring considerable recognition to Los Alamos both because of Malone's contributions in development of one of the Nation's best climate codes, and in his subsequent modifications to that code to simulate the Nuclear Winter scenario. Also, the summer geophysics field camp SAGE came into being, and the annual summer workshop on modeling convection in the Earth's Mantle, a ten year success story, kicked off its first two years. In the summer of 1986 Paul Coleman decided to resign as Director. His tenure as Director had seen IGPP solidly established at Los Alamos. Conditions were changing at the Lab and IGPP was asked to address two concerns: 1) that its research impact was too diffuse, and 2) that IGPP had not sufficiently become a part of the Lab. It was time for some re-evaluation.

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Restructure (1987-1993)

In November 1986, Chick Keller was appointed by John Whetten and Orson Anderson as acting Director and a search committee was set up. In April 1987, Keller was named the second Los Alamos IGPP Director and given the task of responding to the review committee's concerns. During this time, Paul Coleman was of great assistance in briefing Keller and introducing him to important UC contacts. Keller began by sending out to groups and divisions a request for proposals in areas of focused research. The idea was to select four or five areas for concentrated research so as to have a larger, more recognizable research impact. Keller was able to group most of the twenty proposals into four focuses, and a fifth was added within the year. At the present there are now seven focuses, and all have seen quite a bit of evolution and change in response to Lab interests and needs. Each focus is steered by a quarter-time Focus Leader who spends the other three quarters of his or her time in a Lab group. Because the focus leaders are involved in programmatic work, they would be more attuned to Lab interests and needs when working at IGPP.

The Focus concept has served Los Alamos and IGPP well and has indeed produced some spectacular research results. Keller's style has been not so much to change what Coleman has begun, but to make sure that it was more closely tied to Laboratory programs and interests.

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Recent Evolution (1993-Present)

Until the early 1990s, although allied with Lab efforts, IGPP was not called upon to assist in a proactive manner in developing Laboratory programs and competencies. However, since that time there has been an increasing stress on all Laboratory organizations to work more closely to ensure the future of the Lab. Major direction changes and reorganizations in which the function of all Centers has been questioned have had a profound affect on IGPP. In addition, beginning in 1993 administrative funding cuts caused IGPP to reassess its role and scope. In a reprise of the call for research focuses done in 1987, IGPP again made such a request in 1994 and accompanied it with informal visits to a number of group, division, and program leaders, seeking input as to future directions where IGPP could be of most service. Remarkably, the dominant response was for IGPP to continue to provide opportunities for basic research, particularly in collaborations with universities. This reaffirmation of IGPP's enduring 14-year mission was an important factor in plans for the future. IGPP is taking seriously its role in supporting laboratory Core Competencies and Tactical Goals. Chick Keller resigned from the Laboratory in 2001.

In 2002, Gary Geernaert was appointed the third director of IGPP. In addition to a focus to sustain deep commitments to basic research, a new effort was placed on mapping revolutionary science to programmatic opportunities. This led to an increase in Laboratory support for IGPP, particularly in the space and climate sciences. Unfortunately, the Laboratory shut-down in 2004 had negative impacts on a large number of LANL agendas, e.g., including recruitment, support for science, and institutional reputation. This was followed with a decision by DOE that management of the Laboratory would be re-competed. After several years, the outcome was that UC would no longer be the sole LANL manager on behalf of DOE, but a coalition of private and public entities (Los Alamos National Security [LANS], LLC) would lead the Laboratory; the primary entity of LANS is Bechtel Corporation, and the UC remains as a minor partner responsible for much of the research oversight. These changes led to a much larger administration within the Laboratory, thus putting pressure on the G&A resources that previously supported IGPP’s operations. As of this writing (in 2009), the Laboratory G&A resources supporting IGPP’s administration and workshop support has declined by 30%, relative to FY06. In a philosophical change, IGPP’s use of LDRD funds has similarly shifted, i.e., such that a balance between basic research and feasibility analysis was to be required, starting in FY09.

In spite of the shift from UC to LANS as the LANL manager and in spite of an economic downturn facing the nation, IGPP remains relatively healthy. We will continue with the “minigrant” program through FY11, but the formal arrangements of the collaborative projects are subcontracts.

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Advisory Board 2013
External Committee

Richard Aster - Chair
New Mexico Tech

George Fuller
UC San Diego

Brian McPherson
University of Utah

Mike Liemohn
University of Michigan

Greg Taylor
University of New Mexico

Carol Anne Clayson
Woods Hole

Dave Gutzler
University of New Mexico

Katrin Heitmann
Argonne National Laboratory

Donald "Don" Wuebbles
University of Illinois

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