Updating Europe’s strategy for particle physics

These have been an important two weeks for particle physics in Europe and at CERN. From 10-12 September, some 500 physicists went to Krakow to discuss their wishes for the future of the field as input to the CERN Council’s strategy group.


The strategy group is tasked with updating the European Strategy for Particle Physics adopted by Council in 2006, taking into account developments in the field over the last six years. Discussions were wide ranging, and included input from the Americas and Asia. These were particularly important, since it’s vital for the field that Europe’s strategy is in synch with what’s happening elsewhere in the world.

I hardly need to tell you that the years since 2006 have seen monumental changes in particle physics, notably the discovery by ATLAS and CMS of a particle consistent with the Higgs boson. But it’s not only the high-energy frontier of the LHC that has provided new results. There have been important advances in other areas too, neutrino science, for example, where new players such as China’s Daya Bay experiment and Korea’s RENO have made their mark.

In the US, the Tevatron collided its final beams after 25 years at the pinnacle of its field, and Fermilab turned its attention to the intensity frontier. Japanese physics showed remarkable resilience in recovering from the earthquake and tsunami of 2011, with facilities embarking on new programmes. All of this means that Europe’s strategy is much in need of refreshment, and I wish the strategy group well as they distil the input of an intense three days into a strategy for the future.

This week at Council, it was my pleasure to inform delegates that CERN’s opening to the world continues to bear fruit. An agreement with Cyprus for the granting of the status of Associate Membership as the pre-stage to Membership at CERN is ready for signature later this year. Following a fact-finding mission to Ukraine, Council has authorised CERN to begin negotiations for Ukrainian Associate Membership. And an application for Associate Membership has been received from Brazil. A fact-finding task force will visit Brazil next month with a view to reporting back to Council by the end of the year. These developments also feed into the strategy update, which will be presented to Council in Brussels next May.

Rolf Heuer

On Thursday, 20 September 2012, the CERN Council elected its new President, Agnieszka Zalewska. Click here to read the Bulletin’s interview with the President on the day after her election.