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The future of particle physics in Europe

LIP-ECO/CERN | 17 Junho, 2020

"In an open session held in virtual mode, the CERN Council unanimously adopted the update of the strategy that will guide the future of particle physics in Europe. The recommendations highlight the scientific, technological, economic and human capital potential of particle physics"

A session dedicated to the impact of the Strategy in Portugal will be held on July 2 at 14:30, with the presence of the Minister of Science, Technology and Higher Education, Manuel Heitor, and the remote intervention of CERN Director-General, Fabiola Gianotti (session web page).

The 2020 update of the European Strategy for Particle Physics proposes a vision for both the near- and the long-term future of the field, which maintains Europe's leading role in particle physics and in the innovative technologies that the field develops. The scientific priorities are the study of the Higgs boson and the exploration of the high-energy frontier, as two crucial and complementary ways to address the open questions in particle physics.

“The strategy is above all driven by science and presents the scientific priorities for the field,” said Ursula Bassler, president of the CERN Council. “The European Strategy Group (ESG) – a special body set up by the Council – successfully led the strategic reflection to which several hundred European physicists contributed.” The scientific vision outlined in the strategy should serve as a guideline to CERN and allow for a coherent science policy in Europe.

For now, the successful completion of the High-Luminosity LHC (HL-LHC) in the coming years, for which upgrade work is currently in progress at CERN, should remain the focal point of European particle physics. The Strategy emphasises the importance of ramping up research and development (R&D) for advanced accelerator, detector and computing technologies as a necessary prerequisite for all future projects. Delivering the near and long-term future research programme envisaged in this Strategy update requires both focused and transformational R&D, which also has many potential benefits to society.

The document highlights as the highest-priority facility after the LHC the construction of a "Higgs factory”. This future electron-positron collider would measure with extremely high precision the properties of the Higgs boson, discovered in 2012 at the LHC. It would be implemented within a timescale of less than 10 years after the full exploitation of the HL-LHC, expected to complete operations in 2038.

The other priority of the Strategy is that Europe, in collaboration with the worldwide community, should undertake a feasibility study for a next-generation hadron collider at the highest achievable energy, in preparation for the longer-term scientific goals of exploring the high-energy frontier, with an electron-positron collider as a possible first stage.

 It is also recommended that Europe continue to support neutrino projects in Japan and the US. Cooperation with neighbouring fields is also important, such as in astroparticle and nuclear physics, as well as continued collaboration with non-European countries.

“This is a very ambitious strategy, which outlines a bright future for Europe and for CERN with a prudent, step-wise approach. We will continue to invest in strong cooperative programmes between CERN and other research institutes in CERN’s Member States and beyond,” declared CERN Director-General Fabiola Gianotti. “These collaborations are key to sustained scientific and technological progress and bring many societal benefits.”

Mário Pimenta, Portuguese Delegate to the CERN Council and President of LIP - Laboratory of Instrumentation and Particles, considers that this Strategy “opens the way to the exploration of new frontiers of knowledge and will keep Europe at the forefront of science and technology,” which, he adds, “will translate, as in the past, into huge direct impacts on society and development. The web was invented at CERN and proton cancer therapies use the accelerator technologies developed at CERN.”

CERN was the first international scientific organization Portugal became a member of, in 1985, by the hand of José Mariano Gago. Today the Country  has a solid participation in CERN's program, particularly in the LHC, as LIP is a member of the ATLAS and CMS experiments since day one. The Portuguese groups in ATLAS and CMS are currently engaged in upgrading the detectors in view of the HL-LHC, in which the Portuguese industry also plays a fundamental role. We have gone a long way in the transfer of knowledge and technology to society, in particular with the involvement of Portuguese industry at CERN and with the training programs for young engineers and teachers, pushed forward by Gaspar Barreira, former Portuguese Delegate to the CERN Council, who also played a key role in the creation the first European Strategy in this area, approved in Lisbon in 2006.

Beyond the immediate scientific return, major research infrastructures such as CERN provide vast societal impact, related to technological, economic, and human capital. Advances in accelerators, detectors, and computing can have a significant impact on areas like medical and biomedical technologies, aerospace applications, cultural heritage, artificial intelligence, energy, big data, and robotics. Partnerships with large research infrastructures help drive innovation for industry. In terms of human capital, the training of early-career scientists, engineers, technicians, and professionals from diverse backgrounds is an essential part of high-energy physics programmes, which provides a talent pool for industry and other fields of society.

Finally, the strategy highlights as important aspects environmental considerations and the importance of open science. “The environmental impact of particle physics activities should continue to be carefully studied and minimised. A detailed plan for the minimisation of environmental impact and for the saving and re-use of energy should be part of the approval process for any major project,” says the report. The technologies developed in particle physics to minimise the environmental impact of future facilities may also find more general applications in environmental protection.

The update of the European Strategy for Particle Physics announced today got under way in September 2018 when the CERN Council established the ESG to coordinate the process. The ESG worked in close consultation with the scientific community. Nearly two hundred inputs were discussed during an Open Symposium in Granada in May 2019 and distilled into the Physics Briefing Book, a scientific summary of the community’s input, prepared by the Physics Preparatory Group. The ESG converged on the final recommendations during a week-long drafting session held in Germany in January 2020. The group’s findings, which were presented to the CERN Council in March and were scheduled to be announced on 25 May but delayed due to the global Covid-19 situation, have now been made publicly available.

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