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Promoting respect at home and abroad

This week, CERN Director-General Rolf Heuer focusses on respect, whether at home, at work or on the international scene


This week, I’d like to focus on respect, whether at home, at work or on the international scene. Last week, I had the opportunity to visit the SESAME laboratory in Jordan along with the new European Commissioner for Research, Carlos Moedas. Since taking up his post, Mr Moedas has attached great importance to the role science can play in diplomacy, and the visit was on his initiative.

Through the EU-funded CESSAMag project, CERN is coordinating the provision of magnets and power supplies for the SESAME main ring. The first are currently being tested at CERN by a team involving accelerator scientists from the SESAME members, and all are due to be delivered to SESAME in time for commissioning in the second half of 2016.

SESAME, and CERN’s contribution to the project, are well documented in the pages of the Bulletin, but what really impresses when you visit the lab is the diversity of people working there and the degree of mutual respect they show to each other. SESAME will join the global community of light sources in 2016, the first such laboratory in the region, and a growing community of over 300 researchers is eager to get the experimental programme underway. These are people from Bahrain, Cyprus, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Pakistan, the Palestinian Authority and Turkey, reaching across troubled borders to set an important precedent for peace.

Closer to home, it is timely to remind you that CERN is a fully subscribed member of the campaign to promote respect in the workplace. You may have noticed a series of yellow posters appearing around the lab. These bear slogans provided by you, in response to the CERN Ombud’s recent article asking you to say what respect means to you. It should come as a surprise to no-one that a workspace where diversity in all its forms is respected is a happy and productive workplace. A workplace in which there is mutual respect is a healthy, committed and motivated workplace. Conversely, a workplace where respect is lacking is one that is prone to conflict. It is important for all of us to respect our colleagues, but it is equally important for us not to turn a blind eye to disrespect: we should react to it, in a respectful way, or course, but we should not let it pass unchecked.

On 5 May, we will be launching the 2015 respect campaign – Accelerating respect at CERN – with a discussion forum led by Alan Richter, a respected expert on the positive impact of respectful workplaces. This is intended to be a forum, so I encourage you to read the abstract and come along prepared for a lively discussion. Throughout the year, other events of this kind will follow and details of this campaign can be found here. Let’s all take the lead from our fellow scientists at SESAME, and make sure that CERN is a respectful workplace, and one that celebrates diversity in all its forms