CERN’s experiment database gets a facelift

Since 1975, the CERN Grey Book database has stored data on the Organization’s research programme, including all the experiments and projects, their collaborating institutes and their participants. Fifteen years after the last release of its web interface, the Grey Book recently underwent a complete revamp. Visit the new site at the usual URL:


The new Grey Book interface was launched last week, providing a more modern and dynamic tool for the many users of the CERN research programme database.

All approved and recognised experiments are entered in the CERN Grey Book database following decisions taken by the Research Board (see boxes). “In recent years, CERN's research programme has evolved to include more and more projects that are run like experiment collaborations,” explains Doris Chromek-Burckhart, Head of the Users Office, which is in charge of maintaining the database. “Following this evolution, and together with the Secretary of the Research Board, Roger Forty, one year ago we decided to go for a structural change to the database.”

The new website uses modern web technologies, as the previous version had used outdated and inadequate technology for presenting the new facilities and new types of projects that had emerged. “The 15-year-old application was static, with no option to search or filter the information,” explains Benedicto Fernandez Garcia, the fellow in charge of the technical development of the new site. “We wanted to provide a more modern and dynamic tool that behaves coherently and intuitively. All this keeping in mind that it had to fulfill the needs of all the users, both internal and external. In addition to the technical aspects, we had to overcome the issue of the look and feel. In a multicultural environment like CERN's, this is a matter of taste. With the help of the CERN Communication Group we ended up with a design with which we were all satisfied.”

The Grey Book facelift project involved six people from the PH and GS departments. The result is a dynamic website that presents CERN’s research programme with a new look. “I am really happy with the way you can navigate dynamically and in multiple ways between the views of the different domain items. It is powerful and elegant!” comments Chromek-Burckhart. 

“The new site offers global as well as context-specific search options that make it really easy, for example, to find all the scientific collaborators of an experiment in just one click,” says Gaëlle Duperrier, supervisor of the Users Office service and secretary of the Grey Book Database. “In addition, when signed in, all those lists can be exported to Excel or as PDF files.”

To date, the CERN Grey Book contains over 70,000 entries, of which 25,000 are active. Its website is accessed every day by a large range of users, including physicists as well as decision-makers from all over the world, people involved in international relations, administrators and reviewers. It is hoped that the new tool will make all of them very happy! If you have any feedback, feel free to contact

The history of the “Grey Book”

From 1975 to 1999, the list of experiments at CERN was published annually in the so-called Grey Book, a printed publication which did indeed have a grey cover. Since 2000, CERN's experimental programme and projects have been summarised electronically in the Grey Book database, which is accessible to the public through a web interface.


 How are experiments approved at CERN?

The general conditions applicable to collaborations wishing to propose experiments to be performed at CERN are described in detail in this document. Collaborations submit their proposal to the Experiments Committees, which submit their recommendations to the CERN Research Board, which then takes the decision. Once approved, the proposals become part of the CERN experimental programme and are entered in the Grey Book database.

As a complement to the Scientific Programme, the CERN Recognised Experiments are given, on a case-by-case basis, recognised status by the Research Board because they are considered to be relevant to CERN’s mission. The collaborations concerned can benefit, to a limited extent, from CERN's infrastructure and services.


by CERN Bulletin