Particle Physics : CSR 2010 Material

This page is intended for members of the Particle Physics Community. It attempts to highlight a few key arguments for maintaining our investment in Particle Physics which is predominantly through the CERN subscription and gives links to the longer documents and background material. Some of the arguments are more general but where possible we've tried to highlight where Particle Physics is distinctive.

It is not intended to provide a full narrative but key quotes, statistics, factoids that can be used in letters, arguments and outlines some of the consequences of reducing particle physics funding e.g. by withdrawing from CERN. Apologies for repetition and lack of coherence - many of the points/arguments are inter-related !

Please send any other material / brief arguments to Mark Lancaster (markl AT

We've distilled much of the detailed below into a one-page case in .doc and .pdf and a graphic version here .

For all the latest news, press and articles pertaining to STFC, RCUK and BIS, we whole heartedly recommend Paul Crowther's excellent site. An excellent overview of the general issues and solutions can be found in the recent Royal Society publication: "The Scientific Century - securing our future prosperity" and more general articles on Science Policy, at the CASE (formerly Save British Science) site. The IoP has also recently urged all its members to engage in the campaign to ensure that the voice of physics is heard in the CSR input. All links are in green.

Scientific Prestige

Reverse Brain Drain

Attracting Students to study Physics

Public vs Private Investment

Physics and Industry

Our International Competitors

Cultural Impact of PP/Basic Science

STFC Funding and its affect on Physics Departments' Finances

The research income (not to mention overseas PhD recruitment) of Physics departments depends heavily on STFC. We have studied the finances of all departments with > 30 FTE in the 2006 RAE which account for approximately 80% of the physics RAE money.

Industrial Return from PP Investment

The return from economic PP comes in two forms. (1) Contracts placed directly with UK companies; (2) The enhanced capability and exposure to new markets/networks as a result of PP contracts. (2) is difficult to estimate but the work of Salter et al suggests it is likely the largest component.

This 2003 study of CERN's procurement activity based on input from 154 companies actively involved in technology development with CERN with contracts totalling 400M€ has the following highlights:

Two less quantitative studies: Knowledge creation and management in the five LHC experiments at CERN: implications for technology innovation and transfer and Entrepreneurial Behaviour Of Researchers in a Basic Research Center: the example of CERN have also recently been published.

In addition to the web, one excellent example of a technology innovation produced at CERN to solve an accelerator information problem (like the web) was touch-screen devices now at the heart of most smart-phones. See here for more information.

The only quantitative study of economic return from CERN was performed in the 1980s: Economic Utility resulting from CERN Contracts (1984) : Bianchi-Streit et al and Quantification of CERN's economic spin-offL Bianci-Streit et al (1986).
The CERN conclusion is very similar to that reached by studies done by the MRC and ESA ie that every £1 invested in a company returns approximately £3 to the company in terms of new contracts and enhanced capabilities. The companies engaged with ESA mostly enhanced their market share in the space industry whilst companies engaged with CERN predominantly enhanced their market share in sectors outside of Particle Physics. In terms of a pure profit to UK PLC one then needs to start factoring in the additional funds beyond the £1 going to industry that are utilised in running and maintaining CERN. I believe the return is still then 20% per annum.

In terms of contracts in the UK from the LHC. We have the following information:

List of UK companies engaged in PP Work

The technological advances made by Particle Physics are only possible through the close interaction between physicists and engineers at universities and national centres with industry. Listed here are the UK companies or companies that have a UK base that have or are engaged in active collaboration with Particle Physics researchers. Companies directly spun-out of Particle Physics Research are marked with "s". Companies utilising technology pioneered in Particle Physics are marked with "p".

In terms of quotes from companies we only have a few at present which are in the quotes section. It would be very useful to get more via personal contacts from the listed companies and to encourage them to write personal letters.

Defining Economic Impact

For those wishing to better understand the limitations of defining an economic impact then the following sources (mostly written by academic economists) are recommended. In particular:

Particle Physics Applications

Modern particle physics has its origins in discoveries and theoretical developments that shaped the modern world and now underpin much of modern science. Many advances in chemistry, molecular biology, genetics and materials science were predicated on the discovery of the electron and quantum theory, and by analytical probes such as X-rays and nuclear-based techniques. Addressing questions at the microscopic scale and beyond has always required innovation. Particle-physics experiments are extremely demanding in terms of equipment design, and they generate novel technical approaches which ultimately benefit society:

Technological innovations from particle physics benefit many disciplines. The innovation is driven by the desire to understand Nature at a basic level.

Many details are in the following sources:

Most of these sources and much of the above is brought together in these talks:

Statements from Key Politicians


"A new economy will be built on the basic research being funded today, and the UK is in a position to lead."
Norman Apsley, Institute of Physics vice president (business and innovation)

"The know how and technical expertise acquired meeting the demanding particle physics orders led to an enhanced capability for delivering in other sectors such as X-ray imaging and homeland security applications."
J. R. Telfer; Managing Director, Hilger Crystals Ltd.

"Our work with the Grid has let us demonstrate that our software can handle millions of images, at a time when we were a small company and couldn't supply the computing power needed ourselves. This in turn impressed the investors we spoke to, and led to funding for our company."
David Sinclair, Imense Ltd.

"A place like CERN, where enthusiastic experts congregate from all over the world, creates a unique, innovative atmosphere in which the boundaries of technology are pushed as a matter of course. CERN's existence was critical to the start of the Web."
Sir Tim Berners-Lee : debunking the myth that the Web would have been invented without CERN.

"CERN is an excellent ‘reference customer’ for attracting new business."
Fabien Collin, Technology Director, Elonex

"The quest for fundamental knowledge as embodied by particle physics is the hallmark of a civilised nation. Difficult questions in basic science require innovative technical solutions and a wide range of science disciplines have benefited from the technological advances generated by studies in particle physics."
Sir Paul Nurse: Nobel Laureate (2001) in Physiology or Medicine

"Medical advances may seem like wizardry. But pull back the curtain, and sitting at the lever is a high-energy physicist, a combinational chemist or an engineer. Magnetic resonance imaging is an excellent example. Perhaps the last century's greatest advance in diagnosis, MRI is the product of atomic, nuclear and high-energy physics, quantum chemistry, computer science, cryogenics, solid state physics and applied medicine."
Harold Varmus, Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine Medicine (Washington Post 2000)

"Every program in super-conductivity that there is today owes itself in some measure to the fact that Fermilab built the Tevatron and it worked"
Robert Marsh US Nb-Ti manufacturer.
Superconducting magnets are now a $5B per annum industry.

"We remain concerned, however, that the correct balance be maintained between the current emphasis on the industrial relevance of research and the pursuit of new knowledge which is not perceived to be of immediate application. World class excellence in Science and Engineering has been a central feature in our national culture for more than two centuries and we urge that fundamental research should continue to be accorded the highest priority as we move towards the new Millennium.”
Memorandum submitted by Oxford Instruments plc to Parliament's Select Committee on Science and Technology(1999).

The help of Anna Barth and Theo Hobson from Camden Girls School Sixth Form in preparing statistics etc is much appreciated. They certainly believe particle physics should be funded ! .

Last Updated : 24 Oct 2010 at 11:32:43