The High Energy Physics Advisory Panel met early last week, and several important topics were on the agenda, notably the FY13 budget request, planning for the future of our field and comparative reviews for DOE grants.
HEPAP gives advice to both DOE and NSF on the national particle physics program, and last week’s meeting included reports from Office of Science Director Bill Brinkman, Jim Siegrist from the DOE Office of High Energy Physics and NSF. The DOE reports acknowledged that the three lower-priority programs in the Office of Science – nuclear physics, particle physics and fusion – are under a lot of budgetary stress. In particle physics, the stress is concentrated at Fermilab since the President’s budget request limits our large international projects. DOE will report its plans to Congress on one such project, the Long-Baseline Neutrino Experiment, by the beginning of April.
There were also reports on the successful Intensity Frontier Workshop, DOE’s progress toward a 10-year Intensity Frontier strategy and on the work of the Task Force on Accelerator R&D, all of which are extremely important to Fermilab and to the US program. DOE and NSF both also described plans for selecting the next generation of dark-matter experiments. Fermilab has several technologies in contention and we have a lot of work ahead of us to prepare for the competition.
The chair of the APS Division of Particles and Fields reported on plans for a Snowmass meeting in June of 2013, which will be preceded this October 11-13 by a preparatory Community Planning Meeting at Fermilab. These meetings bring the community together to take stock of where we are and analyze the most promising directions for our field. New LHC results, recent neutrino-physics results, and the advances in dark-energy, dark-matter and intensity-frontier experiments will all have a major influence at the meeting.
Another subject of much interest at this HEPAP was the new methodology of DOE reviews for university groups. Instead of each group being reviewed separately for its entire program, as had been done in the past, university groups who perform research in the same area were reviewed comparatively to select the strongest principal investigators. Some 25 percent of existing PIs were not funded after this review, while the overall number of PIs stayed roughly constant, allowing more new PIs to be funded. The lesson for Fermilab in this era of much tougher reviews is that we must manage our programs in a very rigorous way, with no weaknesses whatsoever. We often have the largest effort of any laboratory in any given program or project, and each part of the program and each researcher will need to be equally strong or risk being trimmed to divert resources to efforts elsewhere.