In a press release, the Russian Ministry of Science and Higher Education has announced that the Russian government and the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) signed an S&T cooperation agreement at a meeting of the CERN-Russia Committee on April 16 in Geneva. The agreement, which covers collaboration in high-energy physics and other areas of mutual interest, supersedes an earlier one that has become partly obsolete. It is designed to accommodate new formats of cooperation between Russia and CERN.
The agreement was signed by First Deputy Minister of Science and Higher Education Grigory Trubnikov who led the Russian delegation, and CERN Director General Fabiola Gianotti who headed the hosting party of top-ranking CERN officials.
Grigory Trubnikov hailed the signing of the document as a ‘historic moment’ for Russian and international science and a breakthrough in relations between Russia and CERN that opens the door to new modes of cooperation. He described it as a custom-made agreement that would act as a ‘space tug’ for collaboration between the two parties.
According to Anatoli Romaniouk who leads the team of National Research Nuclear University MEPhI scientists involved in CERN’s ATLAS experiment, all Russian physicists affiliated with CERN have been looking forward to the conclusion of the new agreement, which will serve as a milestone for furthering collaboration in physics research between Russia and CERN, to the advantage of both parties.
CERN’s partner of 40 years’ standing, MEPhI is actively involved in constructing facilities and conducting research at the center. Its scientists now face the triple challenge of ensuring seamless operation of detectors for further data acquisition, performing a physics analysis on the new datasets and assisting in facility upgrades. Anatoli Romaniouk stresses that these concurrent endeavors will require massive resource mobilization. The new agreement should allow Russian physicists to complete the tasks successfully and make a significant contribution to discoveries concerning the fundamental properties of matter.
Pavel Brunkov, Professor in Laser Photonics and Optical Electronics at ITMO University, adds that the agreement expands Russian scientists’ opportunities for participating in the study of high-energy elementary particles. Within the context of the agreement, Russia is to be represented by its leading research institutions, such as the Budker Institute of Nuclear Physics (BINP), the B. P. Konstantinov Petersburg Nuclear Physics Institute, which forms part of the Kurchatov Institute, and the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (JINR) in Dubna. While ITMO University does not specialize in nuclear research, it can participate in the development of data collection and processing systems (including those for big data management), an area where it possesses extensive expertise.
Fabiola Gianotti called enhancing strategic cooperation between CERN and Russia a matter of priority. She praised the unique contribution to cutting-edge science made by Russian researchers over the past decades.
The Ministry of Science and Higher Education further notes that the agreement will provide Russia and CERN with an up-to-date basis for engaging in new modes of cooperation and pave the way for a large-scale implementation of innovative collaborations, which, by a joint effort, should lead to new fundamental scientific discoveries.
This issue is taken up by Andrey Golutvin, Chair in Physics at Imperial College London and Professor at Russia’s National University for Science and Technology MISIS where he heads the MegaScience Center for Infrastructure Collaboration and Partnership. He points out that the emergence of new technologies generally enables research into new types of fundamental physical phenomena, while fundamental discoveries, in their turn, serve as triggers for the development of new technologies. Currently, innovative particle detection and data processing technologies are needed to make measurements of unprecedented precision at CERN and other major research centers where particle flows reach extremely high energies and intensities.
MISIS aims to become CERN’s leading Russia’s partner in the development of special materials and cutting-edge technologies that would be used primarily in the search for new physical phenomena at CERN but could also find application outside high-energy physics. The university is carrying out research in radiation-resistant scintillation materials, silicon tracking detectors, superhigh-resolution nuclear emulsions, large-scale magnet protection and spectrometer systems and big data analysis. Its innovative solutions have been welcomed at CERN. For instance, a prototype tungsten-alloy target for the SHiP experiment that MISIS had designed, constructed and delivered to CERN was successfully tested in July 2018 in an SPS proton beam to validate muon flux data.
A scientific powerhouse, CERN is physically a cluster of highly sophisticated engineering facilities. With the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) requiring top-quality engineering support, specialists from Tomsk Polytechnic University are actively involved in three of the LHC experiments, namely LHCb, CMS and COMPASS.
Leveraging National Project for Science to Expand Cooperation with CERN
The Russian delegation drew particular attention to the National Project for Science under which Russia and CERN could engage in new types of mutually beneficial cooperation. Grigory Trubnikov called on CERN to make use of these opportunities, while Russian delegates gave an update on the status of the flagship megascience facilities being constructed in this country as part of the project. They include the High Flux Neutron Source PIK (Kurchatov Institute), Nuclotron-Based Ion Collider NICA (JINR), synchrotron radiation generators (Kurchatov Institute, BINP) and others.
CERN expressed an interest in joining these projects and spoke about their own plans, focusing mainly on the Future Circular Collider (FCC) and the Compact Linear Collider (CLIC).
The committee also discussed the HL-LHC project, a high-luminosity upgrade to the LHC. Its aim is to boost the number of particle collisions, which should increase the potential for new discoveries in physics.
Anatoli Romaniouk emphasizes that the LHC upgrade must now take absolute precedence. When its phase-in has been completed in 2026, the data volume produced by the experiments will increase tenfold. This should lead to substantial progress in the study of the Higgs boson, which was detected at the LHC in 2013, and in the search for new particles and interactions.
The CERN-Russia committee will next meet in October 2019 in Russia.
The National Project for Science is being implemented in accordance with the so-called May Decrees, a set of executive orders signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin on May 7, 2012. Some of the project goals, to be attained by the end of 2024, are: making Russia a top-five country in high-priority S&T fields; lifting it from eleventh to fifth position in terms of the number of research publications in sources indexed by leading international abstract and citation databases; increasing the proportion of young researchers (aged up to 39 years) to 50%; and creating at least 15 world-class science and education clusters.