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STFC warned over ‘narrow focus’ by particle physics panel

The Science and Technology Facilities Council has been criticised for having too narrow a focus by its Particle Physics Advisory Panel.

In a roadmap published on 7 November the advisory panel says that the STFC’s previous programmatic review provided adequate support for what it describes as “only a small sub-set of high priority projects”.

The roadmap, which looks at the future of particle physics to 2032, says that there has been a failure to make even modest investments in areas where the UK is world-leading. It also says that in some cases support was halted for R&D projects that could have been “the future life-blood of the field”. “This narrowing of physics opportunity is a matter of great concern.”

The panel recommends that the UK needs to maintain a leading role in exploiting the ATLAS and CMS detectors at Cern. It also advises that the UK invests in further upgrades to these facilities as well as in computing capability to maximise the science output during the Large Hadron Collider’s lifetime.

The panel also says that the UK should continue to lead the development of systems required for demonstrating the feasibility of the Compact Linear Collider. It further recommends playing a leading role in both the Large Hadron electron Collider and the Higgs Factory initiative if plans for both go ahead.

The roadmap describes the LHC experiment known as ‘LHCb’ as the world’s flagship ‘flavour physics’ experiment, and says that the UK must invest in the facility’s upgrade. The panel recommends considering participating in the high-luminosity e+ e- flavour factory if significant interest emerges.

The panel also recommends supporting kaon and muon experiments, and suggests the UK neutrino community develops a programme for participation in a limited number of future neutrino experiments. The roadmap says it is essential that the UK be involved in a next-generation long baseline neutrino oscillation experiment, and recommends pursuing long-term R&D towards a future neutrino factory. The panel says any involvement in sterile neutrino projects should be considered in the context of a coherent UK neutrino physics programme.

The UK should also provide the modest support needed to allow continuing participation in the MINOS+ experiment, say the panel.

The roadmap also suggests pursuing a world-leading programme of research in neutrino-less double beta-decay; participating in an R&D programme on liquid argon detectors, and investing in upgrades for electron and neutron dipole moment search experiments.

The report recommends that the UK should be prepared to provide capital-phase support for the construction of a tonne-scale dark matter experiment.

In reference to theoretical physics, the panel states that the UK must “continue to support a world-leading long-term programme in theoretical particle physics, particularly in fundamental theory, phenomenology, lattice theory and particle cosmology”.

“The UK must continue to pursue a world-leading particle physics programme, focussed on addressing the internationally-acknowledged high priority science questions,” says the roadmap.

“CERN is the world’s leading particle physics laboratory and the focus of most particle physics experimentation of Europe,” the report says. “UK membership of, and support for, CERN is crucial for the UK science programme.”