Towards a new shared vision for particle physics in Europe

During its hundred-and-ninetieth session, the CERN Council formally launched the update of the European Strategy for Particle Physics, a two-year process involving the whole community and aiming at developing a common vision for the future of particle physics in Europe. The process is expected to be concluded in May 2020, with the approval of the updated strategy by CERN’s Council.

“The Standard Model, our theory that best describes the known forces and particles, is unbelievably successful and was crowned by the discovery of the Higgs boson in 2012. But there is much evidence that it is not complete,” said the President of the CERN Council, Sijbrand de Jong. “There must be something beyond the Higgs and beyond the Standard Model, and it is a good time to reflect on where we are and where we should go next.”

The discovery of the Higgs boson at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) has opened a completely new path of investigation. Increased understanding of the properties of this new, very special particle remains a key focus of analysis at the LHC and future colliders, as do precision measurements of other Standard Model parameters and searches for new physics phenomena. Why is there far more matter than antimatter in the universe? What is the dark matter making up most of the universe? Such mysteries remain among the most important outstanding questions of modern physics.

“The Strategy process is about reviewing the state of particle physics by bringing together the whole community to discuss what Europe’s long-term vision should be. It is about shaping the field for the next decade and beyond. We have to start discussing what we would like the landscape of particle physics research to look like in the post-LHC era,” said the Chair of the European Strategy Group, Professor Halina Abramowicz.

A Physics Beyond Colliders programme has also been established by CERN to explore projects complementary to high-energy colliders, thereby expanding the scientific diversity of CERN’s projects.

“With the High-Luminosity LHC now being under way, CERN will be able to exploit the Large Hadron Collider to its full potential until the end of the 2030s, profoundly improving our understanding of fundamental physics and keeping Europe at the forefront of physics and technology. This was the most important recommendation of the previous Strategy update in 2013. We now have to pave the way for the future. A diverse scientific programme will be crucial in order to answer the outstanding questions,” said CERN Director-General Fabiola Gianotti.

To inform this vital process, the particle-physics community across universities, laboratories and national institutes have been invited to submit written input by 18 December 2018. This exercise will be followed by a Scientific Open Symposium to be held in Granada, Spain, from 13 to 16 May 2019, where the community is invited to debate the future orientation of European particle physics. This event will lead to the writing of a “briefing book” and to a Strategy Drafting Session that will take place in Bad Honnef, Germany, from 20 to 24 January 2020.

In Bad Honnef, the European Strategy Group, which brings together representatives of CERN's Member States and of the major European laboratories active in the field, as well as representatives of particle physics communities from outside Europe, will draft the final Strategy update, which will be submitted for adoption by the CERN Council in a special session in May 2020.

“The European Strategy process is essential to maintain Europe’s unique leading position in the worldwide advancement of high-energy physics throughout the century,” added the President of the CERN Council, Sijbrand de Jong.

Strategic planning in European particle physics is an open, inclusive and evidence-driven process and takes into account the worldwide particle physics landscape and developments in related fields. It was initiated by the CERN Council to coordinate activities across a large, international and fast-moving community, with the aim of maximising scientific returns. The European Strategy process was first initiated by the CERN Council in 2005, resulting in a document being adopted by the Council in 2006 and updated in 2013.