Symposium: keeping former experiments’ data viable

Keeping troves of data from large experiments accessible long after they complete data taking presents one of the latest challenges facing particle and astroparticle physicists.

A study group of international scientists and computing professionals are working to tackle this challenge to extend the discovery lifetime of experiments such as H1, ZEUS, BaBar and soon, CDF and DZero.

“We are trying to be proactive,” said Steve Wolbers, associate division head in the Fermilab Computing Division. “In the past, the idea was to just start a new experiment and focus on the new data, ignoring the old data and saying it is outdated anyway.”

Wolbers is the local organizer of the fifth workshop on Data Preservation and Long Term Analysis in HEP, which is being held at Fermilab for the first time May 16-18.

Fermilab employees and users are invited to the opening symposium from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Monday, May 16, in One West. Talks will give an overview of the group and some current efforts to preserve data from astrophysics, JADE and the LHC.

The importance of preserving data and overcoming the hurdles of lost expertise was recognized when LEP closed in 2000, and interest in these topics picked up steam three to four years ago with the shutdowns of BaBar, H1 and Zeus.

As people who built the detectors move onto other research or retire, it becomes more difficult to maintain expertise and to adapt old analysis techniques and software to ever-advancing software systems.

“It is very hard to understand the detailed design and capabilities of these detectors even if you are a member of the collaboration, so the discussion is how can we overcome that barrier? What would it take to do that?”

Finding ways to continue accessing these systems by experimenters and possibly even citizen scientists will enable physicists to create new searches of old databases to complement new experiments or discoveries of new physics.

“Everyone’s using this as a focus to come together and discuss it and see what’s next,” Wolbers said. “The more people that know about this, the better off we’ll be scientifically and as a field.”

See the conference agenda.

View the conference website.

Visit the study group website.