August 25, 2010

CERN Staff Says Major Budget Cuts Coming

The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) staff warned Wednesday that major budget cuts at the world's biggest atom smasher over the next five years are set to slow down its quest to unlock the deepest secrets of the universe.

Spokesman James Gillies told AFP that Rolf Heuer, the director-general of CERN, presented a proposal for $433 million in savings in 2011-2015 to its 20 member states at a meeting in Geneva, France.

"It will have an impact on the speed to which we get results, but not a dramatic one," said Gillies.

Gillies and staff representatives said that in June, member states turned down CERN's original proposal for a budget of about $4.8 billion over the period, asking Heuer to make "more of an effort" at the extraordinary meeting of the organization's finance committee on Wednesday.

Gillies said CERN was trying to avoid harming the huge Large Hadron Collider (LHC) experiment, which expands 16.8-miles under the French-Swiss border.

"Management felt it could slow things down without compromising the future," he told AFP.

The organization's staff association warned that some countries warranted more savings than those tabled, including job cuts.

"Budgetary cuts are going to slow down our accelerators," said Gianni Deroma, head of the staff association.

"Additional budget restrictions could ruin all the efforts made so far and the marvelous first results given by the LHC," he told the rally, where physicists rubbed shoulders with translators and support staff.

The $5.2 million atom smasher is attempting to recreate powerful but microscopic bursts of energy that mimic conditions close to the Big Bang that created the universe.

Experiments at the LHC have replicated discoveries that took decades to complete at the rival Tevatron accelerator in the U.S.

The LHC set records for smashing protons fired in beams approaching the speed of light in March.

Recommendations are expected to be stated to CERN's council on the meeting September 16.


On the Net: