California Bay Area Shelter-in-Place and Re-opening Plans
The ALS has been under a shelter-in-place policy since March 17, with most ALS staff working from home. While the accelerator was restarted March 30 to enable SARS-CoV-2 experiments, only a handful of staff have been allowed onsite. This has disrupted planning and progress in a number of areas, including user experiments and preparations for the long summer shutdown. One consequence is that the shutdown work will be shifted from the summer shutdown to later shutdowns, and the ALS Schedule for the 2020-2 cycle (Aug-Dec) has been re-drafted with a shorter, August 11–September 21 shutdown period. It should be finalized and published soon.
Berkeley Lab is planning to gradually bring staff back onto the Lab’s sites over the coming months, consistent with federal, state, and local guidance. These plans will begin on Monday, June 1, with a small on-site pilot group. We expect a few limited activities at the ALS to be part of this pilot. These plans are contingent on DOE’s approval. The ALS is organizing the projects that can be worked on safely by this pilot group. Given the difficulties of allowing users to work onsite and in close proximity at the ALS, we see this as an opportunity to ensure new beamlines and upgrades are commissioned and ready for users once the environment improves. This period also allows us to develop and establish robust procedures for new safe social distancing working practices.
Beamline upgrades for remote access
We do not expect to host onsite users before the summer shutdown, and it will likely be significantly longer before users return in person. The number of ALS staff allowed onsite will also be limited. The team is exploring how each beamline can set up remote operations to best leverage the time that our limited beamline staff are able to run and support user experiments while maintaining social distancing. The ALS is currently assessing which beamlines are already able to operate with remote/mail-in usage and what upgrades can be made to other beamlines to enable remote operations.
Proposal review cycle and notification of users
The current proposal review cycle, for 2020-2 beamtime, has been moving more slowly than usual. PSP meetings to finalize scores took place in late May. Usually this meeting is immediately followed by allocation of beamtime based on a ranked list of proposals and beamtime requests, and the number of shifts available. Once the ALS schedule for the 2020-2 cycle has been published, we will develop a detailed plan for allocating beamtime to proposals. This will include information on which proposals lost time in the 2020-1 cycle plus which experiments can be performed remotely. We may need to collect information from users on which experiments can be done remotely, with users sending samples to beamline staff, and which users have samples ready to go. Users with highly-rated proposals will be asked to provide information related to their ability to adapt their experiments to the remote access environment. Please wait to be formally asked for this information to enable us to collect and collate it in an organized fashion.
Staff in the User Office are available throughout this process to answer user queries and help you. Do not hesitate to contact us for advice.