A word from the DG: A decisive year

This has been a particularly eventful Council week. Not only has Council selected CERN’s next Director-General, but we have also had the first meeting of the European Strategy Session of Council, and I have had the opportunity to report a good year of progress towards physics at the LHC in 2008.

CERN’s next Director-General will be Professor Rolf Dieter Heuer, currently research director for particle and astroparticle physics at DESY. Having been a member of the CERN staff from 1984 to 1998, including a period as spokesman of the OPAL experiment, Professor Heuer is no stranger to CERN.

Another important decision taken by the council was the approval of the 2008 budget with additional funds of 60 million Swiss francs. The extra funds will finance a programme of additional activities, approved at last June’s Council session, to consolidate CERN’s future. These include the renovation of the LHC’s injector complex, the upgrade of the LHC luminosity and a minimum R&D programme on future detectors and accelerators.

When we began 2007, there was a chance that we would have beam in the LHC before the year came to an end. As we all know, that did not happen, but we are still on course to begin physics on schedule in summer 2008. Any project as complex as the LHC has teething troubles, and the LHC is no exception. We have had to overcome hurdles with the inner triplets, with the plug-in modules and with numerous vacuum leaks. The consequences of these incidents have been far less dramatic than some of the reporting. In all cases, we have simply fixed the problem and moved on. As things stand today, we are looking at a start-up in early summer, but we must remain cautious. Until the entire LHC has been cooled down and the electrical circuits tested, there is still the risk of a two to three month delay if any sector has to be warmed up.

Finally, to bring my last message of 2007 to a close, all that remains for me to do is to wish you and your families all the very best for the coming year.

Robert Aymar