During its 197th session, which took place for the first time by videoconference on 19-20 March, the CERN Council addressed the impact of the current COVID-19 situation on the update of the European strategy for particle physics (ESPPU).
The ESPPU got under way in September 2017, when the CERN Council appointed a European Strategy Group (ESG) – headed by Halina Abramowicz of Tel Aviv University and comprising a scientific delegate from each of CERN’s member and associate-member states, plus directors and representatives of major European laboratories and organisations and invitees from outside Europe – to organise the process. Following two years of discussions and consultation with the high-energy physics and related communities, the ESPPU entered its final stages in January with a week-long drafting session in Bad Honnef, Germany. Afterwards, the ESG released a statement reporting convergence on recommendations to guide the future of high-energy physics in Europe. These were due to be submitted for final approval at an extraordinary session of the CERN Council on 25 May in Budapest, Hungary, before being publicly released.
Discussing with various stakeholders in the Member States will take more timeUrsula Bassler
Acknowledging that the COVID-19 outbreak threatens the lives and health of hundreds of thousands of people, and affects the everyday lives of millions, the CERN Council has now agreed that it would not be appropriate to release the ESG update (and an accompanying deliberation document) to a wider audience, nor for the Council to make any further comment on the contents of the documents for the time being. The Budapest event has been cancelled and replaced by a new extraordinary session, to be held by videoconference on the same date, at which the Council will further discuss how to proceed.
“In these exceptional circumstances it is not the right time to release the strategy, and discussing with various stakeholders in the Member States will take more time,” says Ursula Bassler, president of the CERN Council. “Even though this will come as a disappointment to many physicists after all the effort put into the ESPPU, everyone can understand, that in this situation, the process will last longer.”