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Revealing the Hidden Nature of Space and Time: Charting the Course for Elementary Particle Physics
given the excitement of the scientific opportunities in particle physics, and in keeping with the nation’s broader commitment to research in the physical sciences, the committee believes that the United States should continue to support a competitive program in this key scientific field.
However, despite the sense of excitement and anticipation within particle physics, the U.S. tradition of leadership in the field is not secure. The major U.S. particle physics experimental facilities are entering an era of change, with some facilities being closed and others transitioning to new purposes, and support for particle physics in the United States has stagnated. As a result, the intellectual center of gravity within the field is moving abroad. Within a few years, a majority of U.S. experimental particle physicists will be involved in experiments being conducted in other countries.
The U.S. program in particle physics is at a crossroads. The continuing vitality of the program requires new, decisive, and forward-looking actions. In addition, sustained leadership requires a willingness to take the risks that always accompany leadership on the scientific frontier. Thus, the committee recommends the thoughtful pursuit of a high-risk, high-reward strategy.
The most important components of such a strategy are the establishment of a set of important new experiments in the United States (including a large accelerator facility), a determination to work together with colleagues abroad in mutually beneficial joint ventures, adoption of a compelling set of priorities within a broad strategic framework, and the provision of reasonable levels of resources. The committee particularly emphasizes the increasing benefits of establishing cooperative ventures with programs in other countries, whether the experimental facilities are located in the United States or abroad. These joint ventures will provide U.S. students and scientists with a full range of exciting scientific opportunities and meet the obligation to deploy public funds responsibly.
The committee arrived at three strong conclusions regarding both particle physics and the U.S. role in this global scientific and technological enterprise:
Particle physics plays an essential role in the broader enterprise of the physical sciences. It inspires U.S. students, attracts talent from around the world, and drives critical intellectual and technological advances in other fields.
Although setting priorities is essential, it also is critical to maintain a diverse portfolio of activities in particle physics, from theory to accelerator R&D to the construction and support of new experimental facilities. The committee believes that accelerators will remain an essential component of the program, since some critical scientific questions cannot be explored in any other manner.