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Home > News > ORNL pulls contract of top scientist, outspoken critic

June 5th, 2008

ORNL pulls contract of top scientist, outspoken critic

Ward Plummer, a distinguished scientist with joint appointments at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the University of Tennessee, said today that ORNL had eliminated his lab position — effective June 30.

"ORNL terminated me," Plummer said. "I got terminated without a review."

The experimental physicist said he was informed of the situation by Jim Roberto, ORNL's deputy lab director for science and technology, but was not given a specific reason. Plummer said he's convinced that the action was taken because of his outspoken criticism of the lab's leadership — or, as he stated, "the lack of it."

Michelle Buchanan, the associate lab director for physical sciences, confirmed that ORNL had decided not to renew the scientist's contract, but she said the decision was not driven by Plummer's criticism of lab management.

"I think it was just primarily because his interest in the science was going in a different direction than ours and our sponsor," Buchanan said. She said the Department of Energy's Office of Basic Energy Sciences is increasingly interested in "use-inspired" research that supports energy missions, whereas Plummer wanted to do "discovery-based" research with broader potential.

Plummer will become a full-time faculty member in UT's Physics Department, where he holds tenure as a professor. UT and ORNL previously shared the costs of the Plummer's salary — listed at $289,090 — and a discretionary fund roughly equal to that amount. He split time between the institutions.


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