ARSC restructured, most employees to be laid off

By Heather Bryant
Sun Star Reporter

Bob Shefchik, UAF Executive Officer, and representatives from human resources met Tuesday, Dec. 14 with employees of the Arctic Region Supercomputing Center (ARSC) about the impending layoffs. With the prospects of a renewed Department of Defense (DOD) contract all but dead, employees are being notified of plans for the future of ARSC.

Human resources will be meeting with ARSC employees throughout the week to let them know what their options are.

“The primary goal here is to give current employees as much notice as possible,” said Marmian Grimes, UAF’s Senior Public Information Officer. According to Grimes, Chancellor Rogers was not at the meeting because of previous travel commitments but had worked with the statewide university system to extend the 6-month notice to as many employees as possible. The current employees will go into a layoff pool, which means they get preferential hiring consideration for future positions.

Despite the expectation that DOD funding will disappear, ARSC may not.

“We’re going ahead with plans to restructure ARSC,” said Grimes. “Because the organization is smaller, the positions are going to be radically different.”

“The good news is that we had already been working to build out a non-DOD capacity,” said Greg Newby, current chief scientist at ARSC. Newby will remain in his position at the restructured ARSC.

Regarding replacing DOD research with campus research projects, Newby said, “There had been a separate emphasis in providing for [the] campus side that had previously taken a backseat. It might now be the only seat.”

Newby referenced several areas that are dependent on the supercomputer resources including engineering studies on fluid dynamics, ocean, climate and atmospheric studies, as well as tundra and permafrost research.

“The supercomputer on campus has been an enabler for these programs to develop so successfully,” said Newby.

ARSC restructure notes from Tuesday’s meeting, provided by Grimes, said that UAF will “establish a baseline staff at ARSC of a chief scientist, nine continuing positions and several term-funded research positions.”

Aside from a fiscal technician, the center will be made up of three positions with systems and programming expertise, two positions specializing in user services, two positions with storage expertise, and one position with network expertise.

The positions are listed on UAKjobs and are only open to current ARSC employees.

Term-funded positions receive at least half their funding from outside of the DOD, which includes funds from the university itself. According to the notes it has not been determined who falls into the category, as well as the expectation that the positions will eventually receive all funding from non-DOD sources.

According to an ARSC information pamphlet from February of 2010, ARSC “supports more than 280 scientists by helping them find, write or improve the software they need to do their research and conduct computationally intensive investigations in areas of high-priority to the state, including climate modeling, atmospheric science and ocean science.”

PDFs of the pamphlet and meeting notes are available to view below.

ARSC Meeting Notes

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ARSC Pamphlet

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