Picking up the SLAC

By Mark Skoultchi

August 11, 2008

The Stanford Linear Accelerator Center is in the market for a new name after being affectionately and famously known as SLAC for 46 years. The Energy Department, which funds SLAC, wants a name that can be trademarked (and which will better reflect its new emphasis on particle astrophysics and photon science) — but Stanford University won’t allow the use of its name in the trademark.

Some critics of the change compare it to a “major mid-life crisis,” and even wonder if SLAC will soon be referred to as the “center formerly known as SLAC.” Researchers are worried that a new name will be less attractive to prospective scientific talent and confuse the general public that has grown accustomed to the name for the huge facility. Others say there hasn’t been any accelerator activity there for years, and it’s about time for a name change.

What to do? SLAC’s staff members have been asked to contribute suggestions for the new name, which must be approved by Stanford’s president and the Department of Energy. One of the most obvious solutions is to replace the word “Stanford” with another word that starts with an “S” (such as nearby “Sand” Hill Road), thereby retaining the acronym SLAC. Or, simply eliminate the expanded form of the acronym altogether, as in the case of SRI International (the former Stanford Research Institute).

Getting a professional naming firm in on the action probably wouldn’t be such a bad idea. But you can also submit your name change suggestions to the SLAC community here.

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