It never rains but it pours. So the saying goes, and it was literally true in Brussels this week as well as figuratively, seen from a CERN perspective. I am in Brussels for the special meeting of the European Strategy Session of Council, which yesterday approved the updated European Strategy for Particle Physics. This is the first time that the Council has met in Brussels, and we used the opportunity to meet people whose opinions matter on science in Europe.
From a working lunch with MEPs in the European Parliament on Wednesday, we moved across town to the European Commission, our host for the Council meeting. The day was rounded off with a very stimulating panel discussion on the value of basic research, attended by many Brussels-based opinion leaders, as well as a number of European science research ministers, which brings me to the main reason for our being in Brussels this week.
The timing of the CERN Council meeting was fixed to coincide with that of the European Competitiveness Council, which is composed of all of the European Union’s research ministers, and after our meeting on Thursday morning, a delegation from CERN Council and management had a meeting with them. It was an opportunity for us to pass on the message that international research in Europe pays dividends. In those fields of science where Europe has established intergovernmental oganizations - like CERN - that provide world-class infrastructure and stable governance, Europe leads. That’s a message that’s important to get across in political circles, both at the national level and the European level, and there’s no better place to do that in Europe than Brussels during a Competitiveness Council meeting.
So that was our main reason for being in Brussels, but this week also saw the announcement of a new collaboration between the EU, SESAME and CERN. With EU finance, CERN engineers will work with SESAME staff to design the magnets for the SESAME main ring, allowing this wonderful new lab in the Middle East to start commissioning in 2015. It’s a very important project, and one that I am proud for CERN to be involved with.
Finally, we learned on Wednesday that the Prince of Asturias Foundation had decided to award Spain’s most prestigious prize to Francois Englert, Peter Higgs and CERN. CERN, and scientists related to our research, have been on the receiving end of many prizes this year, and this is a sign both of the importance of our work and the increasing visibility it is getting in the wider world. What makes the Prince of Asturias prize special is that it recognises the intimate link between experiment and theory. Neither could exist without the other, so it is fitting that the award should be shared this way. And, as I said to many of the journalists from Spain who I spoke to on Wednesday, it is an award that Spain can justly be proud of, as it is one of CERN's member states.
It never rains, but it pours. And this has certainly been a busy week in Brussels. But it does no harm to get a little wet from time to time.