Session T10: History of Physics II

3:30 PM–5:06 PM, Monday, May 2, 2011
Room: Garden 1

Sponsoring Unit: FHP
Chair: Gloria Lubkin, Physics Today, Retired

Abstract ID: BAPS.2011.APR.T10.1

Abstract: T10.00001 : Building the Superconducting Super Collider, 1989-1993: The Problem of Project Management

3:30 PM–3:54 PM

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  Michael Riordan
    (University of California, Santa Cruz, and Stanford University)

In attempting to construct the Superconducting Super Collider, US particle physicists faced a challenge unprecedented in the history of science. The SSC was the biggest and costliest pure scientific project ever, comparable in overall scale to the Manhattan Project or the Panama Canal - an order of magnitude larger than any previous particle accelerator or collider project. Managing such an enormous endeavor involved coordinating conventional-construction, magnet-manufacturing, and detector-building efforts costing over a billion dollars apiece. Because project-management experience at this scale did not exist within the physics community, the Universities Research Association and the US Department of Energy turned to companies and individuals from the military-industrial complex, with mixed results. The absence of a strong, qualified individual to serve as Project Manager throughout the duration of the project was a major problem. I contend that these problems in its project management contributed importantly to the SSC's 1993 demise.

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