Putting science on the agenda

The job of CERN Director-General comes with a lot of responsibility, and that’s particularly true today. We’re living through a period of unique circumstances for science. Positive indicators, such as a renewal of interest in physical sciences at the University level and unprecedented public interest in the LHC, are aligning with storm clouds in the form of a prolonged economic crisis that will put downward pressure on everyone’s budgets.


That means that science has to make its voice heard if it’s to preserve support, and if it wants to be in a position to play the role it must in navigating the major societal challenges of our time.

For that reason, I have been a fairly rare sight at CERN of late. Last week, I was in Davos for the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum. It was my second time at Davos, and I used the opportunity to argue that science should be more closely linked to the political thread of the meeting. I think my argument was heard, and I will be taking it up again with the WEF before next year’s meeting.

This week began in Brussels, with discussions on the European Research Area: CERN is a prime example of what Europe can achieve when it pools its scientific talent and resources in a common project. If it’s Wednesday, it must be Copenhagen, for an informal meeting of EU Ministers for Competitiveness, organized as part of the Danish EU Presidency. The meeting discussed the next framework programme, Horizon 2020. CERN contributed to the planning stages of Horizon 2020, and our science is set to benefit. Finally, I’m ending the week in Oxford for a meeting of the International Linear Collider Steering Committee and the International Committee for Future Accelerators where the long-term future of global particle physics is on the agenda.

This has not been a typical week, but it’s been an important one. The world’s economy may be in the doldrums, but the rise in interest in science by young people is part of the solution. It remains for us to ensure that those who make decisions on the future role of science and technology are fully aware of what’s at stake.

Rolf Heuer

Watch a video interview with Rolf Dieter Heuer, made by Edie Lush for Hub Culture at the meeting in Davos.