OR on Large Scientific Infrastructure RED undertakes Operational Research into efficient use of Infrastructure.


Rutherford Appleton’s ISIS laboratory tasked RED with reviewing their operating model with the aim of compressing research times on their neutron and muon sources. The work is intended to provide evidence to enable ISIS to increase the number of experiments conducted by reducing the time taken to complete individual experiments.

Following initial scoping discussions with ISIS we was agreed that an appropriate first step to evaluating the operating model and examining changes would be to develop appropriate measures of effectiveness and performance (MOEs and MOPs). The complexity and variety of experiments conducted at ISIS means that any MOE cannot simply be limited to the number of experiments conducted or the volume of data collected, but must take into account the scientific value created by each experiment. Accordingly, RED was asked to conduct a short study to investigate suitable MOEs and MOPs for large science projects.


Initially, we conducted a number of on-site interviews with ISIS’s directors and reviewed their recent annual reports & operational data to determine what performance data was currently produced and to understand the accuracy of the information.

Based on these interviews and the information review, a number of suitable MOEs and MOPs were identified for further study. In particular, we developed a measure of scientific value for ISIS research papers published in peer-reviewed journals. This was based on the journal impact factor, the number of citations for the paper in other journal articles and the read history of the paper. Other performance measures looked at auditing investment decisions and efficiency improvements.

RED then identified some suitable scientific facilities that could be used for near-peer bench marking and produced a comparison of ISIS performance measures with those of its peer organisations.

We then summarised the performance measures study in a report for the ISIS management board.


Our report for the ISIS board of directors set out a schematic, high-level model of the existing ISIS operational process. It also identified how ISIS contributes to the strategy of their top-level budget holder (the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC)), highlighting any areas where measures of performance did not exist.

We then presented a summary of the proposed MOEs and MOPs, along with a qualitative analysis of their relative strengths and weaknesses. We then used the report to scope further work to develop a quantitative operating model for ISIS facilities.

This approach to analysis of facilities operation has attracted interest from similar research facilities.  You can make contact with the team here.


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