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Council looks forward to new members and new physics

25 January 2011

The opening of CERN to new members was top of the agenda when delegates met in December for the 157th session of the CERN Council. Formal discussions can now begin with Cyprus, Israel, Serbia, Slovenia and Turkey for accession to membership, while Brazil’s candidature for associate membership was also warmly received.

“It is very pleasing to see the increasing global support for basic science that these applications for CERN membership indicate,” said CERN’s director-general, Rolf Heuer. “Basic science responds to our quest to understand nature and provides the very foundations of future innovation.”

Established in 1954 by 12 European states, CERN had grown to have 20 member states by the end of the 1990s, with many countries from beyond the European region also playing an active role. Discussions on opening CERN to membership from outside Europe – while at the same time allowing CERN to participate in future projects beyond Europe – reached a conclusion at the Council’s session in June 2010.

Under the scheme agreed on in June, associate membership is an essential prerequisite for membership. Countries may therefore apply for associate membership alone, or associate membership as a route to membership. At the recent meeting in December, Council formally endorsed model agreements for both cases. These will serve as the basis for negotiations with candidates, which could lead to CERN welcoming its first associate members as early as later this year. Currently, any country may apply for membership or associate membership of CERN, and if CERN wishes to participate in projects outside Europe, mechanisms are also now in place to make that possible.

The other highlight of the December Council meeting was the success of the LHC in 2010. The LHC experiments have already published dozens of scientific papers on the basis of the data collected during the year. The results not only re-establish the physics of the Standard Model, but also take the first steps into new territory.

“The performance of the LHC this year has by far exceeded our expectations,” said Michel Spiro, president of the CERN Council. “This bodes extremely well for the coming years.”

The LHC switched off for 2010 on 6 December. Details of the 2011 LHC run and plans for 2012 will be set following a special workshop to be held in Chamonix on 24–28 January, while the first beams of 2011 are scheduled for mid-February.

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