Praise, criticism and recommendations for MAX IV – on the way to world-leading science

The Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsrådet), which funds the majority of the MAX IV operations budget, conducted a project review of MAX IV on 16–17 November. This was the fifth review since summer 2018. The charge to the seven-member review committee was to evaluate the project cost and schedule, technical, management and organisation, science, and strategy aspects of MAX IV. 

Download the review report
VR MAX IV 5th project review report 2021.pdf

The committee commended the MAX IV staff for further developing the performance of the accelerators, new beamlines, and user access capabilities. In particular, the committee noted that:

“The progress achieved during the past year in the accelerator and beamline areas is impressive and the MAX IV staff should be commended for their hard work. Transition to full operations has seen very significant progress.”

“The committee is impressed by what has been achieved, also with respect to remote access and mail-in access and acknowledges the high level of [user] engagement and extensive effort of the staff to achieve this.”

“The staff should be commended for their immense effort that has enabled successful experiments and scientific results under very challenging conditions.”

The committee also recognised the growth in publications from work performed at MAX IV:

“The committee is pleased to see the growth in publications and the increase in “high-impact” publications. It congratulates MAX IV for having ~15% of 2021 publications in the >10 category.”

In addition, the committee remarked that significant progress was made on strengthening the project governance, restructuring the pooled resources to improve their effectiveness, continuing to complete the planned scope of the funded beamlines, providing the user community with up-to-date information on beamline capabilities and performance parameters, and developing of a new 10-year strategic plan.

However, this review also was strongly critical of MAX IV and drew attention to several areas for improvement, especially with regard to teamwork at higher levels of management. In the first two of its eight recommendations, the committee requested MAX IV management and the board to conduct a self-critical assessment of the processes in the management environment, and to take actions to improve issues as well as communication with staff. Follow-through with the implementation of professional training, starting with senior management, is a high priority.

The other six recommendations focus on the development of a more transparent model for presenting the MAX IV budget, defining the scientific goals, timelines, technologies, and infrastructure needed to finalise the strategic plan, establishing a technical division to centralise the pooled resources, benchmarking MAX IV beamline performance against other facilities, providing greater software support for the beamlines, and assuring that clear and well-defined protocols and an efficient support structure are in place to minimise safety risks.

I commend everyone at MAX IV for the many excellent accomplishments as reflected in this review report. I also thank the review committee for its critical as well as constructive feedback. These will strengthen the Laboratory and its development, to the benefit of the user community.

As Director, I am accountable for the performance of the Laboratory and take personal responsibility for the shortfalls and criticisms identified in this report. I look forward to leading the actions needed to address the recommendations, and embracing the changes necessary, to enable world-leading science at MAX IV.

Ian McNulty
MAX IV Director