Sue Bailey, User Services Group Leader
As head of ALS User Services for the past six years, my goal has been to make the ALS user experience as smooth and efficient as possible. I am constantly looking for ways to improve the processes for users to apply for beam time, register, complete their training, and coordinate experiments. I am a primary liaison with the ALS Users’ Executive Committee (UEC) and we work together to ensure the success of the annual ALS User Meeting , which attracts more than 400 participants each year.
ALS User Services is currently transitioning from a dated software and database system to a new user portal, which will provide a much more interactive environment. The transition will be evolutionary, so users will notice many small changes over the next two years. We have already implemented some components, including the RAPIDD Proposals system, which complements the existing General User Proposal process. RAPIDD is a flexible system that allows users to obtain relatively short beam time allowances to perform single experiments. It provides rapid access to structural biology, small molecule crystallography, SAXS/WAXS, and tomography facilities. It is also the formal mechanism for applying for Director’s discretionary beamtime and for submitting industry proposals. We will soon be rolling out an online user interface that will provide more intuitive ALS access. We are also working on software for an experiment tracking system, which will replace the current Experiment Safety Sheet.
Explaining and promoting science to the wider community is an essential role for all of us who work in science and at user facilities. This year I was fortunate to be elected to the National User Facility Organization (NUFO) steering committee and to help run a science exhibition to educate our elected representatives on the wide range of science and innovation happening at the ALS. I organized this year’s NUFO meeting, which was held at LBNL, and it provided an excellent opportunity for ALS staff to contribute to discussions of new outreach ideas and best practices across national facilities.
The ALS values user input and ideas and there are both formal and informal ways for users to make their voices heard. The UEC is a very important link between ALS management and users; I encourage users interested in learning more about and helping to determine how the ALS operates to talk to current UEC members and consider running for election. The UEC will be looking for new members within the next few months. ALS also solicits input from users on our user satisfaction form—we like to hear what went well and where there is room for improvement. My door is always open and I encourage users to talk to me or other ALS staff so that we can help support their science.