BTC supports Argonne’s successful LDRD Program by providing communication expertise, leadership
Through the Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD) program, Argonne researchers have cultivated viable scientific and technical breakthroughs by starting with novel concepts. The Advanced Photon Source, Argonne Leadership Computing Facility and Joint Center for Energy Storage Research are examples of how concepts can become critical resources for world-class research as a result of LDRD support.
As noted by Argonne Director Paul Kearns in the fiscal year 2017 LDRD annual report, “LDRD‑supported research projects represent Argonne’s commitment to delivering high-impact science and building foundations for technologies that will shape our nation’s future.”
In support of that commitment, Business and Technical Communications (BTC) staff have a long history of providing communication services, including project management, editing, writing and strategic consultation and planning, for a number of LDRD communication products and activities. Examples include the LDRD Annual Report, LDRD Day and LDRD concurrence.
BTC’s contributions to the LDRD Annual Report are multi-faceted and complex, ranging from preparing guidance for authors on how to write project reports and team-editing principal investigator (PI) reports to managing the Box-based workflow during the report editing and review cycle. In terms of strategic planning and consultation, BTC project leadership has recommended and implemented process improvements and changes to report structure. Preparing the annual report requires several months — the first phase of work typically begins in late November, with report delivery by the end of March, as required by U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).
According to Vivian Sullivan, LDRD program manager, “BTC contributes considerable talent, skill and leadership to the development of this important DOE deliverable. I’m impressed with the way BTC project leaders encourage collaboration among LDRD Office, Creative Services and research staff, bringing together a cross-disciplinary team that, despite schedule constraints and process changes, delivers a product that sets a high standard in LDRD project reporting. For example, the creation this year of a one-page template showing the LDRD PIs what their report would look like as they typed helped both the PIs and the LDRD Office provide individual reports at the right level of technical detail.”
While the LDRD annual report is the key deliverable for the program, internal outreach and communication are also important to the program’s success. BTC staff play an important role here as well by supporting LDRD Day, a relatively new annual event that fosters collaboration and communication. In January 2018, the LDRD Program Office hosted Argonne’s third annual LDRD Day, which highlighted 16 research projects that have the potential to become the newest innovations in science and technology.
“One of the greatest benefits we’ve found resulting from LDRD Day,” explains Sullivan, “is the opportunity for the Argonne community to gather and share ideas during the daylong event, especially during the popular poster session, which showcases novel research underway across the laboratory.”
In collaboration with LDRD Program Office and Communications and Public Affairs staff, BTC staff managed the overall project, including workflow and planning, which involved coordinating the review and production of the posters, as well as the development and implementation of the first-ever survey to gather feedback about LDRD Day and the related LDRD seminar series.
A bit more behind the scenes than LDRD Day is the ongoing LDRD concurrence process. BTC writers and editors use proposals submitted by PIs to prepare concurrence write-ups that will be used to finalize project funding. Notes Sullivan, “All LDRD projects must receive LDRD concurrence from the DOE site office to confirm that these projects support the DOE mission. BTC is part of the critical path for proposal approval as PIs can need help in translating their science into a clear statement of goals and support of DOE mission — and that clear communication is essential for success.”
Next year, as the LDRD program office upgrades the MyLDRD system, the submission and review process will change, but the key contributions of BTC communicators will be just as valuable. Explained Sullivan, “As it can be difficult for PIs to describe their work without also referencing other work they are doing or being over-technical, we will need technical writing assistance from BTC to help the PIs clearly communicate their goals and milestones for the specific LDRD project.”
By Kevin A. Brown (BIS-BTC)