The CERN management has established a task force to collect and coordinate ideas from the global CERN community to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Drawing on the scientific and technical expertise of some 18,000 people worldwide who have links with CERN, these initiatives range from the production of sanitiser gel to novel proposals for ventilators to help meet rising clinical demand.
CERN-against-COVID-19 was established on 27 March, followed by the launch of a dedicated website on 4 April. The group aims to draw on CERN’s many competencies and to work closely with experts in healthcare, drug development, epidemiology and emergency response to help ensure effective and well-coordinated action. The CERN management has also written directly to the director general of the World Health Organization, with which CERN has an existing collaboration agreement, to offer CERN’s support.
It’s not about going out there and doing things because we think we know best, but about offering our services and waiting to hear from the experts as to how we may be able to helpBeniamino Di Girolamo
The initiative has already attracted a large number of suggestions at various stages of development. These include three proposals by particle physicists for stripped-down ventilator designs, one of which is led by members of the LHCb collaboration. Other early suggestions range from the use of CERN’s fleet of vehicles to make deliveries in the surrounding region, to offers of computing resources and 3D printing of components for medical equipment. From 3-5 April, CERN supported a 48-hour online hackathon organised by the Swiss government to develop “functional digital or analogue prototypes” to counter the virus. Other ways in which computing resources are being deployed include the deployment of distance-learning tools such as Open Up2U, coordinated by the GÉANT partnership. CERN is also producing sanitiser gel and Perspex shields which will be distributed to gendarmeries in the Pays de Gex region.
Another platform, Science Responds, has been established by “big science” researchers in the US to facilitate interactions between COVID-19 researchers and the broader science community.
“It has been amazing to see so many varied and quality ideas,” says Beniamino Di Girolamo of CERN, who is chair of CERN-against-COVID-19 task force. “It’s not about going out there and doing things because we think we know best, but about offering our services and waiting to hear from the experts as to how we may be able to help. This is also much wider than CERN – these initiatives are coming from everywhere.”