An international future for nuclear-physics research

28 September 2010

An IUPAP working group takes a forward look.


The International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP) was established nearly 90 years ago to foster international co-operation in physics. It does this in part through the activities of a number of commissions for different areas of research, including the Commission on Nuclear Physics (C12), set up in 1960. In the mid-1990s, under Erich Vogt as chair, C12 identified the need for a coherent effort to stimulate international co-operation in nuclear physics. While it took some time for this new thrust to gain momentum, by 2003, under Shoji Nagamiya as chair, C12 established a subcommittee on International Co-operation in Nuclear Physics. This body, chaired by Anthony Thomas, then became IUPAP’s ninth official working group, WG.9, at the IUPAP General Assembly in Cape Town in October 2005. As many will be aware the first working group, IUPAP WG.1, is the International Committee of Future Accelerators (ICFA), which was formed more than 40 years ago and plays such an important role in particle physics.

The membership of IUPAP WG.9 was chosen to constitute a broad representation of geographical regions and nations, as one would expect for a working group of IUPAP. Its members consist of the working group’s chair, past-chair and secretary; the chairs and past-chairs of the Nuclear Physics European Collaboration Committee (NuPECC ), the Nuclear Science Advisory Committee (NSAC), the Asia Nuclear Physics Association (ANPhA) and the Latin-American Association for Nuclear Physics (ALAFNA); the chair of IUPAP C12; the directors of the large nuclear-physics facilities (up to four each from Asia, Europe and North America); and one further representative from Latin America. The working group meets every year at the same location as, and on the day prior to, the AGM of IUPAP C12 – whose members are encouraged to attend all meetings of IUPAP WG.9 as observers. Other meetings, such as the two-day Symposium on Nuclear Physics and Nuclear Physics Facilities, are held as required.

The first task of IUPAP WG.9 was to answer three specific questions:

• What constitutes nuclear physics from an international perspective?

• Which are the facilities that are used to investigate nuclear physics phenomena?

• Which are the scientific questions that these facilities are addressing?

The answers to these questions are given in IUPAP Report 41, which was published in 2007 and is posted on the IUPAP WG.9 website (IUPAP 2007). It contains entries for all nuclear-physics user facilities that agreed to submit data. The 90 entries range from smaller facilities with more restricted regional users to large nuclear-physics accelerator laboratories with a global user group. The report also has a brief review, prepared by the IUPAP WG.9 members, of the major scientific questions facing nuclear physics today, together with a summary of how these questions are being addressed by the current facilities or how they will be addressed by future and planned facilities. There is also a short account of the benefits that society has received, or is receiving, as a result of the discoveries made in nuclear physics.

In late 2005 the Office of Nuclear Physics in the US Department of Energy’s Office of Science requested the OECD Global Science Forum (GSF) that it establish a GSF Working Group on Nuclear Physics. The purpose of this working group was to prepare an international “landscape” for nuclear physics for the next 10 to 15 years. In particular, it was clear that for policy makers in many countries it is essential to understand how proposals for future facilities fit within an international context. IUPAP WG.9 agreed to provide expert advice to the GSF Working Group, and the chair and secretary of WG.9 as well as the chair of IUPAP C12 served as members of the GSF Working Group.


The work of the GSF Working Group was completed in March 2008, with the final version of the report being accepted by the OECD GSF. IUPAP Report 41 provided a great deal of valuable input, with the data and analysis contained within it helping to guide the deliberations of the GSF Working Group. Copies of the final OECD GSF report, which provides a global roadmap for nuclear physics for the next decade, in a format suitable for science administrators, are available from the OECD Secretariat; it also downloadable from the GSF website (OECD GSF 2008).

Central themes

In response to the mandate given to IUPAP WG.9 by the OECD GSF in a missive from its chair, Hermann-Friedrich Wagner, a two-day Symposium on Nuclear Physics and Nuclear Physics Facilities took place at TRIUMF on 2–3 July. The purpose of the symposium was to provide a forum where the international proponents of nuclear science could be appraised of, and discuss, the present and future plans for nuclear physics research, as well as the upgraded and new research facilities that will be required to realize these plans. This symposium was the first time that proponents of nuclear science, laboratory directors of the large nuclear physics facilities and governmental science administrators have met in an international context. The symposium is expected to be held every three years.

At the 2009 AGM of IUPAP WG.9, which was held at the Forschungszentrum Jülich in August 2009, the decision was taken to update the 90 descriptions of the nuclear-physics facilities and institutions. Following the requests for updated information, 35 replies with updated descriptions were received. These were entered into the online version of IUPAP Report 41 in January 2010. Following the International Symposium on Nuclear Physics and Nuclear Physics Facilities it became apparent that the introduction to the IUPAP Report 41 also needed updating. IUPAP WG.9 is currently reformulating the six main themes of nuclear physics today:

• Can the structure and interactions of hadrons be understood in terms of QCD?

• What is the structure of nuclear matter?

• What are the phases of nuclear matter?

• What is the role of nuclei in shaping the evolution of the universe, with the known forms of matter comprising only a meagre 5%?

• What physics is there beyond the Standard Model?

• What are the chief nuclear-physics applications serving society worldwide?

It is anticipated that these new descriptions for the roadmap for nuclear science will be entered in the online version of IUPAP Report 41 in January 2011.

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