Particle physics goes public

January 30, 2014 by Angela Herring
From its inception, researchers at the Large Hadron Collider have made sure their results were publicly available. A new international collaboration will streamline that process. Credit: CERN.

Ever since CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research in Switzerland, began its operations at the Large Hadron Collider in 2008, its researchers have pushed for their results to be publicly accessible. The field of high-energy experimental physics is a bit of an anomaly in the scientific arena. It's a relatively small community—about 15,000 scientists globally—and one that is acutely dependent on collaboration and sharing (about half of those scientists are spread across just the four LHC experiments).

Thus, the notion of open-access publication is deeply ingrained in the nature of the field. But until recently, maintaining that ethic has not been all that straightforward. That's because each CERN paper's open-access publication had to be individually negotiated since most of the peer-reviewed journals in which the articles appear are not traditionally open. At a rate of about 7,000 articles per year, this is not a trivial task.

Northeastern University professor George Alverson serves as the head of the publications office for one of the four LHC experiments and knows the challenges of the piecemeal approach. "We have a very involved and rigorous internal review process," he said. "It'll take a year or two from data to submission to the journal."

So Alverson and his colleagues rejoiced on Jan. 1 when a six-year project to streamline the open-access publication of CERN results finally came to fruition. The new method is made possible by Sponsoring Consortium for Open Access Publishing in Particle Physics, or SCOAP3, an international syndicate of university libraries including Northeastern's Snell Library, funding agencies, and research institutions.

These organizations have essentially traded their subscription fees to 10 of the most widely represented journals in the field for membership in the consortium. SCOAP3 uses those funds to help the journals offset the cost of making all their high-energy physics papers open-access.

It's a new model that holds great promise in an era of increasing focus on open-access science. "Funding agencies want to see public monies spent where the public can see the results," Alverson said.

In 2009, the White House issued a trendsetting mandate that all research funded by the National Institutes of Health be made available to the public, followed in 2013 by similar instructions for all agencies with R&D budgets in excess of $100 million. This would include the National Science Foundation and the Department Of Energy, funders of the U.S. activity in high-energy physics.

If the model works for high-energy physics, it may be relevant for other fields as well, noted Hillary Corbett, the scholarly communication librarian and university copyright officer who helped usher forward Northeastern's participation in SCOAP3. "The hope is that this will become a successful model for funding publishing," she said.

Such a shift could have a profound impact on the way science and research is done.

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1 / 5 (1) Jan 31, 2014
Particle physics can be public, but this still do not remove fact that between Higgs field and discovery of Higgs boson there is no "epistemological relation". Higgs boson is not more than a momentary flux of energy of quantum vacuum created by the collisin of two protons.
Model if Higgs field is highly naive with its comparing it with an important man comming in a room with many peole. Model of Higgs field do not explain why photons and gluons donot interact with it. We do not know how Higgs field which should give mass to the elementary particles relate with gravitational field which gives gravitational mass to elementary particles. Higgs model does not explain why inertial mass (caused by Higgs field) and gravitational mass (caused by gravitational field) are equal. It is sad, because physics is the most beautiful creation of human mind, that such a flawed model as Higgs mechanism got so much attention from scientific society. This model will not last long.....
Feb 01, 2014
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not rated yet Feb 01, 2014
The particle research is the remnant of cold war era and it has zero practical usage (with exception of few medical applications, which work with particles revealed before eighty years anyway) - not to say about the potential risks of collider experiments. To be completely honest, for common people should be much more advantageous to support the cold fusion research (and similar alternative technologies) with public funding rather than the people, who ignored if not prohibited it for whole decades. These people aren't allies of publics and they never were.
not rated yet Feb 01, 2014
Model of Higgs field do not explain why photons and gluons donot interact with it
There are still huge misunderstandings at both sides. For example the gluons are considered massless, but they cannot exist outside of already extremely dense and massive atom nuclei. Therefore the gluons aren't massless with respect to vacuum, they're just massless inside of this dense environment. Even photons aren't completely massless, but it would be futile explanation for people, who don't understand the physics of photon formation from light wave inside of vacuum. You can ignore it, but after then you will just pay the physicists longer for their research from your taxes. Your ignorance just comes with its own price.

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