The importance of solidarity

Fermilab Director
Nigel Lockyer

This summer will mark a very important time for the field of U.S. particle physics. At the end of May, the Particle Physics Project Prioritization Panel will present our community’s next long-term plan to the High-Energy Physics Advisory Panel, which advises DOE and NSF. This will culminate almost two years of very hard work on behalf of our community — beginning back in October 2012 with the kickoff of the Snowmass process.

While many eyes will be on P5’s May presentation, the truly critical time will come in the weeks and months following HEPAP’s acceptance of the plan and formal submission to the two funding agencies. It’s during that time that our community must demonstrate unity of purpose as we communicate the plan to our field’s many stakeholders. We must show solidarity both in describing the scientific excitement of our field and — perhaps most importantly at the current time — our willingness to set priorities and stick by them, no matter our personal research interests.

Why is this consensus so critical? It will make the difference between a U.S. community that receives the future funding it needs to thrive as a world leader in particle physics research and a community whose fortunes decline as other more unified fields flourish.

This need for consensus was brought into focus last week with the release of the President’s Budget Request for the 2015 fiscal year, which starts October 1. While the budget for the DOE Office of Science is proposed for an overall 0.9 percent increase, the budget for the DOE Office of High Energy Physics is proposed for a 6.6 percent decrease. A strong long-term plan supported by a unified community is the only way to eliminate these instabilities in the federal budget for high-energy physics.

Key officials have been very clear in their statements about the need for unification. In a letter to the community delivered at the Snowmass on the Mississippi meeting in August, Secretary Moniz said it is “vital that the HEP community comes together to support the plan that results from the HEPAP deliberations.” Acting Office of Science Director Patricia Dehmer reinforced this message last week, stating at HEPAP that a robust community-driven, community-backed plan is necessary to move our field forward.

We have an excellent P5 committee that has been working very hard and reaching out to as many members of the community as possible to gather input and perspectives. I look forward to aligning Fermilab with the P5 report and working with all of you this summer to make the best possible case to our stakeholders for a bright future for our community and for the international field of particle physics.