Some 500 particle physicists meeting in Krakow this week have been debating the long-term future of their field at the CERN Council Open Symposium on the European Strategy for Particle Physics. This symposium comes at a turning point for the field, following hot on the heels of the announcement in July by CERN1 experiments ATLAS and CMS of the discovery of a new particle consistent with the long-sought Higgs boson: a discovery that sets the direction for future particle physics research. Although the LHC results have dominated the headlines, other areas, such as neutrino physics, have also seen important advances over recent years.
The symposium marks the first update of a strategy initially put in place in 2006 with a view to coordinating particle physics research in Europe, as well as Europe's participation in projects hosted in other regions. A CERN Council nominated strategy group will distil input from the symposium into a draft strategy update to be discussed by the CERN Council in March 2013. The final version will then be presented to the Council in Brussels in May 2013, at a meeting timed to coincide with a ministerial-level meeting of the European Competitiveness Council.
"Particle physics has always been a long-term, internationally coordinated endeavour," said chair of the strategy group, Tatsuya Nakada, a professor at the Swiss institute EPFL in Lausanne. "With the increasing size and complexity of our experimental facilities, this is more true now than ever, and a clear European strategy, integrated into the broader global picture, is essential."
"The timing of the May 2013 meeting is important," added president of the CERN Council, Michel Spiro. "Europe's competitiveness depends critically on the strength of its science base, and particle physics not only forms part of that base, but also nourishes other areas of scientific endeavour."
Topics under discussion at Krakow ranged from considerations of potential facilities to succeed the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), which is scheduled to run well beyond 2020, to the complementarity between accelerator-based research and cosmic ray studies, and future facilities for neutrino science. Although the LHC is at the beginning of its research programme, the long lead-times for the development of high-energy frontier research facilities, as well for some precision experiments, requires preliminary work to begin early in order to maintain continuity.
"The European strategy for particle physics is a sign of the global nature of particle physics," said CERN Director-General Rolf Heuer. "It ensures that Europe's resources are deployed in an optimal and responsible way, and integrated into a global vision for our field."
A regular exchange of information among the three regions, the Americas, Asia and Europe takes place through the global body ICFA, the International Committee for Future Accelerators. ICFA recently produced a document describing global opportunities for particle physics, Beacons of Discovery. The updated European strategy to be presented in Brussels in May 2013 will embody Europe's contribution to this global approach to the exploration of the fundamental nature of matter.
1.CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, is the world's leading laboratory for particle physics. It has its headquarters in Geneva. At present, its member states are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Romania is a candidate for accession. Israel and Serbia are associate members in the pre-stage to membership. India, Japan, the Russian Federation, the United States of America, Turkey, the European Commission and UNESCO have observer status.
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