British Minister over the moon after visit to CERN

The UK Minister for Science and Innovation, Ian Pearson MP, recently visited CERN.

Ian Pearson, UK Minister for Science and Innovation (back row, third left), in the LHC tunnel with Peter Jenni, ATLAS Spokesperson (back row, centre), John Ellis (back row, third right), Simon Featherstone, UK Ambassador to Switzerland (back row, far left), Keith Mason, Chief Executive of STFC (the UK funding agency) (back row, second from right), and British scientists working at ATLAS.

On the 15 April UK Minister for Science and Innovation, Ian Pearson, made his first trip to CERN. The UK is one of the founding Member States of CERN, and the British contingent is one of the largest of any country with around 650 British scientists and a further 250 staff members working here.

After an introduction to the facilities by Director-General Robert Aymar, who expressed CERN’s gratitude for UK government support through its Science and Technology Facilities Council, Dr Pearson travelled underground to visit CMS and ATLAS. He was accompanied by the respective spokesmen, Jim Virdee and Peter Jenni, as well as a selection of the British scientists who work for the collaborations.

During the tours, CERN physicist John Ellis commented to the Minister that each of the detectors has many more components than a Saturn V moon rocket. Mr Pearson responded that: "[the LHC] certainly has the potential to bring science to the public’s attention in a way that hasn’t been possible since the 1969 Moon landing."

After lunch at Restaurant 1, Ian Pearson signed the Guest Book and attended a presentation about the project by Ian Bird, head of Grid development at CERN. The minister also had an opportunity to meet British staff members at CERN.

Ian Pearson told them: "I have been tremendously impressed by all the work and enthusiasm displayed by everyone at CERN", adding, "The Government continues to support fundamental science; the UK science budget has doubled since 1997 and will have trebled by 2010/11. Fundamental science provides the basis for all other sciences, carrying them along with it."