journal contributionposted on 19.07.2018 by david eggleton
Any type of content formally published in an academic journal, usually following a peer-review process.
Background - A development within the last century in scientific research has been the need for very large apparatus to explore new experimental fields, notably within high-energy physics. These ‘megascience projects’, which have a minimum budget of one billion US dollars are generally undertaken as cooperative ventures by countries seeking to pursue scientific experimental opportunities. Such projects are characterised by high levels of technological uncertainty, because success will likely depend on the development of new, highly-advanced technologies. However, there is a notable lack of research into the leadership of megascience projects.
Objectives and Methods - The projects investigated were the Tevatron at Fermilab, near Chicago in the United States, and the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN on the Franco-Swiss border near to Geneva. This research used a combination of archival and interview-based research to answer three research questions: (1) What are the characteristics of those who lead megascience projects? (2) Where were their leadership skills developed? (3) How were their leadership skills developed?
Results - The most important finding was the tailoring of senior leadership selection according to the needs of specific phases of the project. Four phases were identified: initiation, approval, construction, and exploitation. During the project there was a transition in senior leader characteristics from a transformational autocracy to an increasingly laissez-faire style. The characteristics of successful leaders of megascience projects at all organisational levels include 1) the primacy of technical competence, 2) strong management ability, 3) trustworthiness, and 4) team empowerment. This is somewhat unusual compared to other projects on this scale. The experiential nature of leadership training within megascience projects is also critical for success, with formal leadership training programmes acting in a support role at most. This work also has implications for the next generation of megascience projects which is addressed as a conclusion.