CERN in discussions with its neighbours

CERN recently invited local partners, elected representatives, and representatives of local administrations and associations to an information and discussion evening, giving those invited an opportunity to raise various topics linked to CERN’s presence in the local area.

On Tuesday, 20 October the Globe of Science and Innovation took on a distinctly regional flavour when some 60 representatives of local administrations and public bodies in Switzerland and France as well as teachers, heads of local schools and chairs of local associations attended an information and discussion evening at the invitation of the Director-General.

In his opening address, the Director-General underlined CERN’s commitment to transparency and the desire to enhance its communication with the local community. This address was followed by four presentations. Philippe Bloch, head of the Physics Department, explained the scientific goals of the LHC and the LHC start-up. Enrico Cennini, deputy head of the Safety Commission, itemised in detail the safety and environmental protection measures that CERN is taking. Thomas Pettersson, head of the General Services Department, presented CERN’s future site development projects. Finally, Bernard Pellequer and Corinne Pralavorio, from the Education and Communication Groups respectively, presented the various communication and outreach actions for the local community.

"Our primary motivation was to inform our local partners about the new start-up of the LHC but also about subjects which particularly affect them," underlines Corinne Pralavorio, who is responsible for communications with CERN’s local community. "It is more logical and satisfactory for local elected representatives and partners to learn about the latest developments at CERN at first hand rather than via the media."

Those invited were highly appreciative of this open and transparent approach to subjects that are sensitive in certain quarters. "We appreciate having more information on environmental issues", explained Philippe Potdevin, Deputy Mayor of the Commune of Versonnex. Similar appreciation was expressed by the Mayor of Echevenex, to whom, as Vice-Chairman of the Community of Communes of the Pays de Gex with specific responsibility for the environment and agriculture, such issues are of particular concern.

The fact that many members of the CERN personnel, including heads of department, group leaders, the Director of Administration and the Director-General, attended the event to meet CERN’s neighbours, listened to what they had to say and entered into open discussion with them greatly enhanced the appreciative response to this communication and transparency initiative.

The second part of the evening, which was devoted to roundtable discussions, further promoted the willingness to enter into dialogue. Those invited were encouraged to comment on the subjects raised in the presentations and their questions were answered at each table by accompanying members of CERN staff. The roundtable session prompted many discussions. As one of the female participants put it: "The atmosphere was very friendly." Written records of the suggestions, comments and observations of the participants at each table during the roundtable session were duly drawn up. "We shall soon prepare a summary of all these reports, which will enable us to focus our local communication initiatives more effectively", explains Corinne Pralavorio.

Much positive feedback on the evening has been received. "The success of this event confirms that we must go out and meet our neighbours and repeat this type of exchange. We will organise similar events on other subjects of interest to our local partners," explains Friedemann Eder, head of CERN’s Relations with the Host States Service, which organised the event jointly with the Communications Group.

A new website for CERN’s neighbours

The evening for CERN’s local partners also marked the launching of a new website for the general public in the local area. The site is a portal with selected items of information relevant to the general public in the local area. There’s also an interactive map allowing local surfers to find out which of the Laboratory’s sites is hosted by their commune. An email address is included to allow them to provide feedback.

The site, available only in French, can be accessed at the following Web address:

or click on the link "Our neighbours" on CERN’s homepage