An annual performance appraisal for CERN

The March Council session is the occasion for CERN’s annual performance appraisal, but instead of the MARS form familiar to CERN staff, the lab’s working document is an Annual Progress Report, linked to the Medium-Term Plan, matching achievements to objectives. This year, I think it’s fair to say, we were firmly able to tick the ‘achieved’ box.


Top of the list of objectives was the LHC, which exceeded expectations in 2011 by delivering over five times the anticipated luminosity for protons while improving the lead-ion integrated luminosity by an order of magnitude compared to 2010.  As a result, the experiments published over 190 papers and made a staggering 1900 conference presentations. Underpinning this was the Worldwide LHC Computing Grid, which routinely performs so well that we hardly notice it's there.

Non-LHC physics also had its day in the sun in 2011, with experiments at the PS, SPS, AD, n_TOF and ISOLDE, as well as the non-accelerator searches for the dark matter candidate Axion particles, all making solid progress. Looking further ahead, the High-Luminosity LHC project formally got under way, and the CLIC test facility successfully demonstrated the feasibility of key issues for this novel accelerator technique. With all this activity to work with, the Theory group had a busy year, producing some 324 preprints.

2011 saw the first tangible results of CERN’s policy of opening up to the world, with Israel becoming an Associate Member in the pre-stage to Membership. Serbia has since joined Israel, and negotiations with Cyprus, Slovenia and Turkey all got underway.

In training and outreach, 2011 also saw new highs, with close to 450 FTE CERN Fellows, 1,100 high school teachers, a record 77,000 public visitors, 195 VIP visits and 394 media visits.  Interest in our science has never been higher, and at the risk of sounding like a stuck record, I never miss the opportunity to remind the Council that this is good for science as a whole.

Our general infrastructure and support for staff and users improved considerably in 2011, with better shuttle services, car and bicycle sharing services and a single point of entry for the help desk. We also made advances in HSE issues, notably with a tri-partite agreement with our host states that streamlines the way we deal with radioactive waste.

As Annual performance appraisals go, it was a long one, but largely positive. And as part of CERN’s medium term planning process, the Annual Performance Appraisal is embedded in a formal planning process that currently takes us to 2017. Much can happen in that time: planning requires an open mind and long-term strategic vision. Fortunately for CERN, these are factors that have always characterised our governing body.

Rolf Heuer