CERN and the White House

Joe Lykken

It’s not every day that you get invited to a White House event in the historic Indian Treaty Room. At the back door of the old Executive Office Building, Nigel Lockyer, Patty McBride and I waited dutifully in a long security line composed of dignitaries from a host of Washington agencies and embassies, as well as familiar faces from the particle physics community such as Nobel laureate Sam Ting.

The occasion, of course, was the signing ceremony last Thursday formalizing the new agreement for cooperation between the United States and CERN. As succinctly summarized for The New York Times by Jim Siegrist of the DOE Office of High Energy Physics, this agreement is both “a big deal” and “a big change.” It’s a big deal because it strengthens the U.S. partnership with CERN on the Large Hadron Collider, just as 13-TeV running is about to commence. This will include major U.S. contributions to upgrades of the ATLAS and CMS detectors, as well as accelerator components that will enable higher-luminosity running of the LHC. It’s a big change because, as noted by CERN director-general Rolf Heuer, “it formalizes CERN’s participation in U.S.-based programs such as prospective future neutrino facilities for the first time.”

The ceremony was hosted by Jo Handelsman and Saul Gonzalez of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. As Dr. Handelsman noted in her welcoming remarks, U.S.-CERN cooperation is seen at the highest levels of government as a model for international science and technology partnerships. This gives the new agreement importance and visibility that transcends Higgs bosons and neutrinos.

All of this is great news for us at Fermilab, but it is also a reminder of our major responsibilities going forward. We are leading the LHC Accelerator Research Program to deliver contributions to the high-luminosity LHC accelerator upgrades. We are leading the U.S. efforts in CMS operations, data analysis, computing and detector upgrade projects. We are preparing to host the global neutrino community for both the new short-baseline neutrino program and the flagship of DUNE/LBNF. Hundreds of new international users will be pumping up the scientific energies of the laboratory. We will work hard to make these partners feel at home at Fermilab, just as we feel at home at CERN.

Last Tuesday morning I stumbled from the CERN hostel (somewhat jet-lagged) across to Restaurant 1 for a double espresso and a full-fat hazelnut yogurt. By the time I had paid for my coffee, I had run into 10 people I knew, most of them U.S. physicists there for the CMS week. I look forward to our European colleagues having the same experience when they grab an espresso in the Wilson Hall atrium. The new U.S.-CERN agreement means that our research programs will be even more deeply intertwined, and that is a very good thing.

From left: U.S. Office of Science and Technology Policy Assistant Director Saul Gonzalez, OSTP Associate Director Jo Handelsman, Department of Energy Secretary Ernie Moniz, CERN Director-General Rolf Heuer, National Science Foundation Director France Cordova. Photo: CERN