March 7, 2003  


New Committee Focuses on Building Knowledge for the Future

By Shawna Williams

Personnel build up an incredible amount of knowledge here at SLAC–from physics to facilities, accelerator operations, computer systems and more. But what happens to all that know-how when someone leaves the Lab?

A new Continuity of Knowledge Committee is working to ensure that information is captured and continues to be available to future staff.

The Continuity of Knowledge Committee participants (clockwise from upper left): Frank Topper (BSD), Lee Lyon (HR), Linda Ahlf (HR), Herman Winick (SSRL), Neil Calder (COM), Dick Blankenbecler (TP), Kim Sutton (TIS), Janice Dabney (TD) and Jean Deken (TIS) (Photo by Diana Rogers)

The idea for setting up a committee came from staff feedback. "Three to four suggestions came in that all related to the general subject of how do we pass knowledge on at SLAC," explained Lee Lyon, Director of Human Resources. "So the Suggestion Committee thought we should address the larger issue, rather than just dealing with individual situations."

One problem the new committee will tackle is making sure retiring employees pass on knowledge they’ve gained over the years. "We’re trying to determine how to document it in some way," said Lyon. Another issue is recording how systems work in a way that ensures accessibility decades from now, to avoid disasters like hitting a power line while digging a trench.

In the next few weeks the committee will ask about 30 SLAC employees to participate in a focus group, where they will answer questions like, "How much operational knowledge was available from your predecessor or from the lab to help you ramp up when you were hired?"

"We’re trying to get a cross-section of the SLAC community, and ask them how big a problem they think this is, what they’re doing about it, and what ideas they have to do it better," Lyon explained. The committee will use this information, along with suggestions employees have submitted individually, to make recommendations, probably within six months.

For more information on the Continuity of Knowledge Committee, see: Lee Lyon, Ext. 2283,


The Stanford Linear Accelerator Center is managed by Stanford University for the US Department of Energy

Last update Friday March 07, 2003 by Kathy B