A lot to look forward to

CERN moves from momentous year to momentous year, and although 2013 will be very different for us than 2012, there is still a lot to look forward to. As I write, the proton-lead run is just getting under way, giving the LHC experiments a new kind of data to investigate. But the run will be short, and our main activity this year will be the start of the LHC’s first long shutdown.


This is the first year I can remember in which all of CERN’s accelerators will be off. The reason is that there is much to be done: the older machines need maintenance, and the LHC has to be prepared for higher energy running. That involves opening up the interconnections between each of the machine’s 1,695 main magnet cryostats, consolidating all of the 10,170 splices carrying current to the main dipole and quadrupole windings, and a range of other work to improve the machine. The CERN accelerator complex will start to come back to life in 2014, and it’s fair to say that when the LHC resumes running in 2015, it will be more than a simple restart. We will effectively be starting up a brand new machine.

No LHC running does not equate to no physics in 2013. The experiments have large amounts of data to analyse, so we can expect the steady flow of results to continue unabated. I was asked at the December Council meeting when I expected to drop the ‘like’ from ‘Higgs-like’, and my answer was that we’ll do that when we have strong evidence for the spin of the new particle. I’m hopeful that will come later this year.

Another important activity for 2013 is the update of the European Strategy for Particle Physics. Much of the hard work has already been done by the various working groups, and next week, the overall strategy group convenes in Erice (Italy) to write the first draft of the strategy update. This will be presented to the Council in March for consideration and will then go to a special meeting of the Council in Brussels in May for approval. The CERN Council meeting in Brussels aligns with a meeting of the European Competitiveness Council, giving us a chance to present the strategy to key science and technology decision makers.

Last, but by no means least, the long shutdown gives us an opportunity to show the world more of our laboratory. Last year, some 80,000 public visitors came to CERN, we welcomed 169 VIP visits, and 504 media visits. This year promises to be even busier, and our visits service, protocol and press offices are putting special arrangements in place to welcome as many people as we can. We are also organising a series of events, starting with TEDxCERN on 3 May, moving on to the inauguration of the Passeport Big Bang tourist itinerary on 2 June, and culminating with a series of open days, kicking off with the European Researchers’ Night in September. All in all, it’s going to be a full and fascinating year.

Rolf Heuer