Carlo Rubbia is one of three winners of the 2020 Global Energy Prize. The 39 million rouble (470 000 Swiss francs) award, announced on 8 September in Kaluga, Russia, by the Global Energy Association, cites the former CERN Director-General for the promotion of sustainable nuclear energy use and natural-gas pyrolysis.
A renowned particle physicist, Carlo Rubbia is widely known as the winner, alongside Simon van der Meer, of the 1984 Nobel Prize in Physics, for turning the Super Proton Synchrotron into a particle collider and using it to discover the W and Z bosons. He was appointed Director-General of CERN in 1989 in the crucial period leading up to the presentation of the Large Hadron Collider project proposal to the CERN Council in 1993.
The same year, Rubbia proposed the “energy amplifier”, which employs a particle accelerator to generate the neutrons needed to drive a nuclear reactor. Such technology promises the production of energy under sub-critical reactor conditions using thorium, with minimal if any long-lived nuclear waste compared to uranium fuels. In more recent years, he has been an advocate for using natural gas as the main source of energy worldwide, based on new CO2-free technologies.
“You have either energy from atoms or energy from nuclei,” said Rubbia on accepting the award via videoconference. “Energy from atoms is certainly the easiest thing to do … and natural gas is clean and can be used in such a way that the CO2 emissions are under control or eliminated. And you can go on until such a time as you will develop an appropriate form of nuclear, which eventually will come, but will not be the nuclear of today.”
Rubbia won in the “conventional energy” category of the 2020 prize. Peidong Yang (University of California, Berkeley) topped the “non-conventional energy” category for his pioneering work in nanoparticle-based solar cell and artificial photosynthesis, and Nikolaos Hatziargyriou (University of Athens) won in the “new ways of energy application” category for using artificial intelligence to improve the stability of power grids.
There have been 42 winners of the annual prize, with 78 scientists from 20 countries put forward this year. Previous winners include another former CERN Director-General, Robert Aymar, who was recognised in 2006 for work to develop the scientific and engineering foundation of the ITER project, which seeks to demonstrate the feasibility of nuclear fusion as an energy source.
When the Large Electron-Positron Collider (LEP), the LHC’s predecessor, began running in 1989 the central computing facilities were almost entirely based on mainframes and supercomputers. These computers offered reliable services but were very expensive so that the installed capacity was rather limited.
Due to the high costs, the CERN IT department (then “CN”) and the LEP physicists started turning to RISC (reduced instruction set computer) workstations and servers running UNIX. These computers were mainly targeting interactive users, but when used for batch processing they offered a much more attractive price/performance.
Having observed this advantageous move to RISC, CERN decided to investigate if the same “trick” could be done with PCs and started a batch porting and benchmarking project inside the RD47 collaboration.
PCs had become prevalent as office and home computers but were not really targeting “serious” batch computing.
Fortunately, for CERN, the Intel Pentium processors which were announced in 1993, had much better floating-point support than the previous generations and High-Energy Physics (HEP) programs need good floating-point performance.
But even with improved hardware, the porting and benchmarking turned out to be rather difficult. CERN had to choose from multiple operating systems and a large number of compilers and each environment offered challenges.
By the summer of 1995, we had finally obtained encouraging results and decided to present at CHEP-95, the 8th International Conference on Computing in High Energy and Nuclear Physics, held in Rio de Janeiro in the week of September 18-22. Our paper was entitled “The PC as Physics Computer for LHC?” and was well received. The decisive argument was, as it had been for RISC servers, that the price/performance was drastically improved.
After CHEP, we presented the results in several HEP institutes, such as FNAL, SLAC and DESY. One thing, however, needed to be corrected. We had chosen Windows/NT as the operating system because it supported dual-processor PCs, allowing the best price/performance, but the physicists greatly preferred UNIX/Linux. This was solved a year later when Linux 2.0 added SMP support. With this combination of hardware and software the PCs quickly conquered all the HEP computing centres and quite amazingly, PCs have remained practically unchallenged ever since. HEP has, of course, not driven this evolution, but has piggybacked on the fact that “everybody” decided to move to PCs over the years.
It is hard to predict what the next 25 years will bring but PC technology is, by no means, ready to leave the scene.
How the CERN Data Centre has evolved over the years
Place a charged particle in an electromagnetic field and the particle will accelerate and give off radiation. Typically, the emitted radiation has little effect on the particle’s motion. However, if the acceleration is extremely large, as is the case for high-energy electrons or positrons in strong electromagnetic fields, the emitted radiation will drastically slow down the particle. The effect, known as radiation reaction, has been recognised since the beginning of the twentieth century, and is relevant in several branches of physics, from accelerator physics to astrophysics. But until now it has been difficult to pin down the maths that best describes the phenomenon. In a paper recently published in Physical Review D, the NA63 collaboration reports a high-precision study of the phenomenon that shows that an equation proposed long ago does the job remarkably well.
The NA63 team has previously investigated radiation reaction by firing a beam of high-energy positrons from the Super Proton Synchrotron at a silicon crystal. The phenomenon has also been studied by colliding a high-intensity laser beam with a high-energy electron beam. However, these two types of study were conducted in a regime in which quantum effects were dominant, and the laser-based experiments also used relatively small data samples with large data fluctuations, all of which prevented a high-precision study of the effect.
Enter the latest NA63 study. By directing a beam of high-energy charged particles (electrons or positrons) from the Super Proton Synchrotron at several (silicon or diamond) crystals of different thickness, one crystal at a time and with different angles at which the beam strikes the crystal, the NA63 team succeeded in studying with high precision the radiation reaction for the charged particles in the crystal’s strong electromagnetic field. In all cases, the researchers measured the energy spectrum of the photons emitted by the charged particles, that is, they measured how the number of photons emitted by the charged particles varied with the photon energy.
They found that all of the measured energy spectra are in remarkable agreement with predictions based on the Landau–Lifshitz equation describing the dynamics of charged particles in a strong electromagnetic field if these predictions also include small changes from quantum effects.
“This classical equation was proposed in the 1950s to account for the effect of radiation reaction,” said NA63 spokesperson Ulrik Uggerhøj. “Our new study has investigated for the first time the experimental regime in which the effect is dominant, and it showed that the equation does seem to describe this regime well.”
500 years ago, the Italian painter Raphael passed away, leaving behind him many works of art, paintings, frescoes and engravings. Like his contemporaries Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael's work made the joy of imitators and the greed of counterfeiters, who bequeathed us many copies, pastiches and forgeries of the great master of the Renaissance.
For a long time, it was thought that The Madonna and Child, a painting on canvas from a private collection, was not created directly by the master himself. Property of Popes and later part of Napoleon's war treasure, the painting changed hands several times before arriving in Prague during the 1930’s. Due to its history and numerous inconclusive examinations, its authenticity was questioned for a long time. It has now been attributed to Raphael by a group of independent experts. One of the technologies that provided them with key information, was a robotic x-ray scanner using CERN-designed chips.
Behind this feat lies InsightART, a Czech start-up, and RToo, its state-of-the-art X-ray scanner. The scanner is composed of an X-ray source, Timepix photon detectors capable of taking spectroscopic X-ray images and a robotic platform. For three days, InsightART scanned the painting to obtain 11 very high-resolution images taken at different X-ray wavelengths. New high-resolution maps of the elemental composition of the paint were derived and these enabled the experts to get more precise information about the painting.
Much more flexible and modular than the standard, flat panel systems, RToo is capable of analysing large objects – the painting is 2m2 – as well as atypically shaped objects such as statues. According to physicist Josef Uher and CTO of InsightART, this type of imaging technology, specialised in artistic technological research, is set to become widespread in the future.The Timepix3 chip is a multipurpose hybrid pixel detector developed within the Medipix3 Collaborations, having applications within medical imaging, education, space dosimetry and material analysis. (Image: CERN)
CERN's Knowledge Transfer group has long experience in transferring the technology from which the Timepix photon detectors, based on the Medipix2 technology. These detectors are supplied under a licensing agreement between CERN (on behalf of Medipix2 Collaboration) and the Czech company ADVACAM s.r.o., InsightART's parent company. In this respect, Aurélie Pezous, Knowledge Transfer Officer at CERN, stresses that: "High resolution spectroscopic radiography allows us to make great advances in the history of art. It is one more proof that CERN technologies have a wide range of applications."
This joint achievement of physicists, restorers and art historians has taught us so much about the painting and widened horizons bringing a more thorough understanding of the master´s practice. For this reason, the team hopes to further deepen its knowledge by analysing the sibling painting of The Madonna and Child, called The Holy Family of Francis I, exhibited at the Louvre in Paris.The Madonna and Child. (Image: © Jiří Lauterkranc, 2019)
by Antoine Le Gall
Luca Malgeri became spokesperson of the CMS experiment on 1 September. Malgeri and his deputies, Gautier Hamel de Monchenault and Jim Olsen, form the collaboration’s new leadership team. They take over from Roberto Carlin (ex-spokesperson), Patricia McBride and Luca Malgeri (deputies), who have passed the torch on to them after two years in charge of the experiment which numbers 5000 collaborators.
During their upcoming mandate, the new team will have to supervise the completion of the second Long Shutdown of the experiment’s detector as well as the start of Run 3.
To learn more about their career history, visit the CMS website.
The DISMAC project (Diode Insulation and Superconducting MAgnets Consolidation), one of the main ongoing activities in the LHC since February 2019, is coming to an end, which also marks the end of LS2 in the accelerator. 22 of the main superconducting magnets (19 dipole magnets and three quadrupole magnets) have been replaced, and the electric insulation of the diodes of the 1232 dipole magnets in the accelerator has been consolidated. The final interconnection was closed on 3 August. This is the first time since February 2019 that all the interconnections have been simultaneously closed, the first one having been opened on 1 March 2019 in sector 7-8.
The final validation tests are currently underway: “Over 95% of the leak tests in the vacuum and helium circuits have taken place. Pressure tests have been carried out in five sectors, and the last tests will be completed in sector 6-7 at the end of October. Electric quality assurance tests (ELQA) at room temperature are also underway - these will be carried out again at once the machine has been cooled down, after the cooling of the machine”, says Jean-Philippe, leader of the DISMAC project.
The first LHC sector will begin cooling in October. One by one, the eight sectors of the LHC will be cooled from room temperature to the operating temperature of the LHC magnets: 1.9 K (-271.3°C). Between now and the end of the year, six out of the eight machine sectors will begin cooling.
Since the start of LS2, many activities have taken place in the LHC in parallel. Leaks and instrumentation faults that were detected during the second run and in tests carried out in LS2 have been fixed. “We’ve also made the most of the technical stop to install flowmeters, with the HL-LHC project in mind, in order to study the beam-induced heat loads”, Jean-Philippe Tock adds.
As far as the schedule is concerned, the COVID-19 pandemic will certainly have had an impact on the progress of activities in the LHC. “We are looking at a delay of around three months, which corresponds roughly to the amount of time spent in safe mode,” Jean-Philippe Tock explains. “We work in close collaboration with institutes in Pakistan, Poland, Greece and Spain on the DISMAC project, and the closure of the borders was not without its challenges.” It goes without saying that working procedures have also been adapted to comply with the health and safety rules laid down by the HSE unit: wearing masks, physical distancing, cleaning instruments and individual equipment... “Nothing has been left to chance in order to guarantee the safety of the teams,” Jean-Philippe Tock emphasises. “The teams remain motivated, enthusiastic and are especially determined following the restart of activites in the LHC tunnel.”
Stefan Lueders and Eric Montesinos have been elected to the Senior Staff Advisory Board (“The Nine”). This committee was created in 1981 to serve as a channel of communication between the Senior Staff and the Director-General. It is made up of nine members elected by the Senior Staff for a period of three years. Its composition is representative of the full Senior Staff body, drawn from all areas of the Organization, and its spokesperson is usually chosen for one year from amongst the members who are in the third year of their term.
The Nine inform the Director-General of the ideas and experiences of the Senior Staff and advise her on questions concerning scientific activities, organisational matters and the use of resources. Recurrent topics in 2020 included sustainability and environmental protection, the support structure for conflicts in the workplace, national diversity, the non-staff workforce, the perception of CERN and development opportunities for leadership.
The Nine seeks input for topics to be investigated throughout the year, so please feel free to get in touch, either by sending an e-mail to email@example.com or by contacting one of its members. In addition, starting from 1 October, representatives of The Nine will be available for informal discussions in Restaurant 1 on the first Thursday of each month from 12.30 to 13.30 and on the third Tuesday of the month from 17.30 to 18.30.
Elections for the Nine are held every year, ensuring an annual rotation of members. The electronic voting process for 2020 closed at midnight on Friday 28 August 2020.
Results of the election
Of the 577 Senior Staff members eligible to vote, 289 – or roughly half - voted. Seven candidates for Electoral Group 2 (Applied Physics, Engineering, Computer Science) stood for election: Hans Danielsson, Marc Dobson, Massimiliano Ferro-Luzzi, Frank Glege, Stefan Lueders, Eric Montesinos and Eva Sanchez-Corral Mena.
In parallel with the election of Stefan Lueders and Eric Montesinos, Isabel Bejar Alonso replaces me as the new spokesperson for one year. The committee will now consist of these newly elected members together with [end of mandate in brackets]:
Tony Cass 
Marine Gourber-Pace 
Pascale Goy 
Luca Malgeri 
Isabel Bejar Alonso 
Richard Jacobson 
Christoph Schaefer .
I wish to congratulate the newly elected members and warmly thank all the other candidates for having stood for election. A special thanks goes to our polling officer, Alberto Pace.
Edda Gschwendtner, outgoing spokesperson of the Nine
On 9 September, CERN’s first public Environment Report was published, outlining the Organization’s commitment to becoming a role model for environmentally responsible research. Previous reports had been submitted to local environmental protection authorities in France and Switzerland.
The report, led and coordinated by members of the CERN Environmental Protection Steering board (CEPS), analyses the Organization’s environmental footprint and details the actions that are being taken in order to reduce it, including through the development of technologies that are being adapted for environmental protection.
Geneva and Lausanne. CERN and the Lausanne University Hospital (CHUV), in Switzerland, are collaborating to develop the conceptual design of an innovative radiotherapy facility, used for cancer treatment. The facility will capitalise on CERN breakthrough accelerator technology applied to a technique called FLASH radiotherapy, which delivers high-energy electrons to treat tumours. The result is a cutting-edge form of cancer treatment, highly targeted and capable of reaching deep into the patient’s body, with less side-effects. The first phase of the study reaches conclusion this September.
In radiotherapy, the FLASH effect appears when a high dose of radiation is administered almost instantaneously - in milliseconds instead of minutes. In this case, the tumour tissue is damaged in the same manner as with conventional radiotherapy, whereas the healthy tissue appears to be less affected, meaning that less side effects are expected.
This advantage of FLASH therapy was recognised at CHUV, which pioneered development of the field. “In 2018, CHUV showed complete disappearance of a tumour in a resistant superficial skin cancer, with nearly no side effects. This first for FLASH treatment on humans accelerated the clinical translation of FLASH therapy,” explains Prof. Bourhis, Head of Radiation Oncology at CHUV.
CERN and CHUV, co-owners of the technology, aim to conclude a partnership to translate the conceptual design into building plans for the new proposed FLASH facility.
FLASH radiotherapy has other potential advantages: it administers the therapeutically required dose of radiation in a handful of sessions each lasting less than a second, rather than in the conventional multiple sessions of a few minutes.
The main challenge is obtaining high-energy electrons using compact linear accelerators, a challenge now overcome by the collaboration between CERN and CHUV. The solution comes from the conceptual design of a unique apparatus based on the CLIC (Compact Linear Collider) accelerator technology, which will accelerate electrons to treat tumours up to 15 to 20 cm in depth.
“Using the CLIC high-performance linear electron accelerator technology, we designed a facility which is capable of treating large and deep-seated tumours in the very short timescales needed for FLASH therapy,” explains Walter Wuensch, project leader at CERN.
The new facility will be compact enough to be installed in existing hospitals.
“Particle physics sits at the interface between fundamental science and key technological breakthroughs. The collaboration between CERN and CHUV demonstrates again how CERN technologies, unique facilities, and expertise can benefit society beyond their use for our fundamental research,” says Frédérick Bordry, CERN’s Director for Accelerators and Technology and Chair of the CERN Medical Applications Steering Committee.
“CHUV is centred on clinical excellence and patient-centric care. These values, together with the unique opportunities for development and innovation that the region offers, allow us to achieve great breakthroughs. We are particularly proud of our collaboration with CERN and strongly believe in the advancement of FLASH radiotherapy into a clinical setting,” commented Prof. Philippe Eckert, CHUV Director General.
Have you ever had your purse or wallet stolen? Or your laptop? Your smartphone? Did someone break into your apartment or house and leave it in a mess? Or smash a window of your car and remove your valuables? Or did your bike just disappear? Have your credit cards ever been abused? Maybe you just don’t know yet – so wouldn’t you be interested to find out?
The same applies in the digital world. Passwords are getting phished or stolen from unprotected storage and regularly exposed (“The easy way to lose passwords”). Credit card numbers, expiry dates and CVVs (the three-digit security code on the back) are getting stolen. Computers are getting compromised and all their local data lost (“Malware, ransomware, doxware and the like”). Wouldn’t you be interested to learn if your passwords for CERN or any other external web service have been stolen and exposed by thieves? Wouldn’t you be keen to know whether details of your credit card have been secretly shared among fraudsters? Wouldn’t you like to find out whether your computer has ever been compromised and whether your personal data has been sold among criminals? And wouldn’t you love to acquire information as to whether you or your family have ever been, are or will be the target of cyber-criminals? While, of course, this is your private business*, it is best practice – in industry and as part of CERN’s due diligence responsibilities – to figure out what information the evil-doers have already gathered about the Organization, its operations, its staff and its users.
So, just as many other organisations and companies do for themselves, the Computer Security team has contracted an external company specialising in intelligence about the underground markets for stolen digital goods (sometimes labelled as the underground economy or the so-called “Deep & Dark Web” (DDW)). This company, like many of its competitors, has expert staff who have gained access to the hidden forums and vetted circles used by cyber-criminals to share, discuss and execute attack vectors and plans, and to sell or buy stolen digital goods, or even vulnerabilities and weaknesses. Consequently, this company collects any interesting data about many different stakeholders, similar to the way that the Google or Shodan search engines index and cache “normal” visible webpages. Our subscription with this external company permits us to query their vulnerability, password and attack vector database using a maximum of 500 keywords related to CERN, e.g. “cern.ch”, “INDICO”, “Large Hadron Collider”, “Medipix”, “Geant4”, “openlab”, “PasseportBigBang”. Based on our past experience, past incidents, past reports from our peers in the security community and past password dumps, such queries are intended to give more insight about the vulnerabilities and weaknesses that evil-doers have already gathered regarding CERN, its computing services and webpages; to discover any weak or disclosed CERN passwords or credit card information; and to find out the aims attackers have when targeting CERN, and which attack vector they plan to use (or, if already too late, have chosen in the past).
After one month of continuous queries, the company came back to us. Fortunately, their report has not revealed any critical or direct threats to the Organization, but provided only a series of minor findings which have been acted upon by the CERN Computer Security Team following its standard procedures and practices. A big thank you to those who swiftly repaired the affected computing resources and services! You can find some details in our Monthly Report once those issues have been fixed.
*If you want to figure out whether one of your passwords has been exposed, we suggest this fine and trustworthy site here: https://haveibeenpwned.com/.
Do you want to learn more about computer security incidents and issues at CERN? Follow our Monthly Report. For further information, questions or help, check our website or contact us at Computer.Security@cern.ch.
On 9 September, CERN’s first public Environment Report was published, outlining the Organization’s commitment to becoming a role model for environmentally responsible research and setting out concrete objectives for environmental stewardship over the coming years. The report details CERN’s environmental record over the years 2017-2018 and was prepared following the internationally-recognised Global Reporting Initiative Standards. The report contains environmental topics identified as high significance by internal and external stakeholders, their status and associated action plans and objectives. They include both Global Reporting Initiative disclosures, as well as specific topics important to CERN and its stakeholders.
Production of the report was led and coordinated by members of the CERN Environmental Protection Steering board (CEPS) whose mandate is to identify and prioritise environmental areas to be addressed, propose programmes of action, and follow-up their implementation. For instance, the CERN management accepted and financed an ambitious objective to reduce CERN’s direct greenhouse gas emissions by 28% by the end of 2024. Among the actions being taken to achieve this, CERN has for several years been developing environmentally-friendly cooling systems that have potential for applications in other domains.
As well as managing its environmental footprint responsibly, CERN also wishes to make a positive impact on environmental issues through the technologies it develops. The report covers some of the innovations made at CERN that are being adapted for environmental protection.
The next Environment Report will cover the years 2019 and 2020 and will be published in the second half of 2021.
Geneva. CERN released its first public Environment Report today. Presented to the CERN Council at its June meeting, the report covers the years 2017 and 2018 and has been prepared according to the Global Reporting Initiative Sustainability Reporting Standards. It details the current status of CERN’s environmental footprint, along with objectives for the coming years.
“CERN aspires to be a model for environmentally responsible research,” said the Laboratory’s Director-General, Fabiola Gianotti. “This report underlines our strong commitment to environmental protection, both in terms of minimising our impact and applying CERN technologies for environmental protection.”
CERN has a robust framework in place for environmental protection, at the heart of which is the CERN Environmental Protection Steering board, CEPS, which is made up of representatives of all sectors of the Laboratory. CEPS has a mandate to identify and prioritise environmental issues to be addressed, propose programmes of action, and follow-up their implementation. For example, the CERN management accepted and financed an objective to reduce CERN’s direct greenhouse gas emissions by 28% by the end of 2024. Among the actions being taken to achieve this, CERN has for several years been developing environmentally-friendly cooling systems that have potential for applications in other domains.
As well as managing its environmental footprint responsibly, CERN also wishes to make a positive impact on environmental issues through the technologies it develops. The report covers some of the innovations made at CERN that are being adapted for environmental protection.
“We want to be part of the solution,” said Frédérick Bordry, CERN’s Director for Accelerators and Technology, “contributing to best practice and finding solutions for the future. Several of our technologies have considerable potential in many areas including the environment. For example, we are implementing energy recovery systems at the LHC, and pioneering the use of superconductivity on a large scale, which could improve the efficiency of electricity distribution networks.”
For many years, CERN has been reporting quarterly to relevant Host State authorities on the results of its environmental monitoring. “CERN works closely with Host State authorities in matters of environmental protection,” said Doris Forkel-Wirth, Head of the Occupational Health, Safety and Environmental Protection Unit. “With this new report, we are adding to our transparency and accountability.”
This report is based on an extensive analysis of dialogues with key internal and external stakeholders in accordance with the materiality process required by the Global Reporting Initiative standards. The materiality process identifies the areas considered to be of greatest material importance both to the Organization and key stakeholders, as described in the report. The environmental domains covered result from this process and include topics covered by the Global Reporting Initiative standards, as well as specific topics important to CERN and its stakeholders.
CERN will publish an environment report every two years. The next will cover the period 2019-2020, and be published in the second half of 2021.
Photos of one of CERN’s 146 state-of-the-art environmental monitoring stations: http://cds.cern.ch/record/2013184/files/_DSC4746.jpg?version=1
The Passport to the Big Bang is a 54-km scientific discovery trail for cyclists to ride around the LHC ring on the surface through the French/Swiss countryside. Ten interactive thematic platforms are freely accessible to the public, close to ten CERN sites along the route.
In Meyrin, the “Precision” platform highlights the extremely meticulous work of CERN’s surveyors. The platform was taken down in 2018 due to work at the site, and has been completely renovated and reinstalled at the heart of the new Vergers district, on a terrace overlooking the Lac des Vernes, which is directly above the LHC. This means that visitors and residents in the area can discover where the accelerator passes, 100 m below their feet!
While most CERN activities available to the public have gone virtual this summer because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Passport to the Big Bang is still freely accessible. So why not make the most of the good weather and take a ride around the accelerator!
Covid-19 safety guide posters to circulate around the Organization (Image: CERN) Covid-19 safety guide posters, to spread around the organization as much as possible (Image: CERN)
Further to the Director-General’s message, in this recorded interview, James Purvis, Head of CERN’s Human Resources department, answers questions on dedicated, evolving telework arrangements and other support measures for a safe return to onsite work.
You will find all necessary information regarding COVID-19 on various topics in the HSE webpages and FAQ, and the admin eguide COVID-19 pages will notably guide you in terms of absence management and vulnerability guidelines. For a consolidated “ quick find ” , the quick reference guide will lead you to all the resources you need to safely navigate the return to work.(Video: CERN)
Transcript of the video:
Q: Hello James. Summer has flown by and here we are at “la rentrée” as the French call it, with everyone resuming a ‘new normal’ in our progressive return to full-time work on-site. In this interview, we hope to address as many as possible of the questions that are arising around the plans for this gradual return to work and the changes to the telework framework, given the ever-evolving coronavirus situation. Can you tell us more and explain why these decisions have been taken?
A: Hello everyone, it’s a pleasure to be here to shed light on the current situation. Since the start of the pandemic, CERN’s highest priority has always been and remains the health and safety of its people. That is why the ramp-up has been gradual, spanning so many months.
As the Director-General explained in her video message, since mid-May, CERN has been following a carefully-planned, staged return with due care, monitoring and vigilance with respect to what continues to be an uncertain and evolving context. Given the situation, the return has been more gradual than initially foreseen and this has allowed us to take the steps we’re taking now with confidence that we are doing so safely.
Collaboration among many partners, including the Host States, the HSE unit, the Staff Association, and many services across the site, has been key for us to reach a sufficient level of confidence that the health and safety of everyone can be effectively safeguarded. In this context, I would like to mention that nobody has yet been infected during work on-site.
Following this period, which has been unprecedented and challenging for us all, it is important for everyone across the Organization to start reconnecting with our place of work and with each other, in a context of fairness across the teams in their return to on-site activities while preserving our health and safety.
Q: You speak of confidence that it is safe for us all to return to the site. The situation throughout Europe is, as we speak, a concern. In the light of the past months’ experience, it could be argued that teleworking has been just as productive - if not more so - in many parts of the Organization, so we should continue teleworking until indicators are more positive, so as to preserve the safety of those who have to be on-site: can you respond to this?
A: No decision is taken lightly. The decision takes into account all possible parameters: the evolution of the pandemic, the situation in the Host States and beyond, the enhanced health and safety measures on-site, which are very well followed by everyone, the space organisation, the services and their safe operation, what other organisations in the local area are doing, and so much more.
That is why today we can say we are ready to welcome everyone back on-site, safely, to resume full operations with a minimum of 50% presence where possible, and with a sense of normality.
Full-time teleworking is not an option in the long term. The virus looks like it’s here to stay for the foreseeable future. We are all learning to live with it, and we have all resumed a social life, meeting with our families where possible, with friends, going to the restaurant, etc…, even schools have restarted in both Switzerland and France.
The Organization’s duty of care is to ensure a safe working environment for all, and we are achieving this collaboratively and effectively. CERN continuously reviews and applies the strictest of the measures applied by its Host States to date and will continue to do so. Furthermore, we meet weekly with other organisations in the Geneva area: many of them have already resumed at more than 50% since early July and, like CERN, are ramping up gradually.
Q: In pragmatic terms, in the context of telework, flexible working and work organisation in general, the pulse survey showed how well people adjusted to telework, and the subsequent survey among supervisors confirmed the desire to expand the existing framework. Why not continue where it is possible to do so?
A: So you may recall a little over five months ago, CERN entered “safe mode”. That required the majority of us to stay at home and begin a regime of telework. Looking back, I am very impressed at the agility and flexibility that everyone showed in this process which went very quickly. In collaboration with Management, the Staff Association, HSE and all services around CERN, the HR department implemented the necessary framework and exceptional measures to ensure flexible working as far as possible for those activities that allowed it, enabling those people whose functions were essential for the safety and security of the site and equipment to work on-site with as little risk as possible as the pandemic evolved.
CERN adapted its framework to each and every one on the payroll, allowing them to adjust in their respective work and personal contexts while ensuring operations could continue in the best possible way.
Our presence on-site is essential to the collaborative nature of the work we do, and reconnecting is important for our well-being too. We have all enjoyed resuming our social lives outside work in a more normal setting since lockdown; coming back to the work place is no different.
We also have to acknowledge that telework does not suit everyone. Many people thrived on it, others didn’t; others could not telework at all owing to the nature of their activities. Many teleworked from further afield during safe mode: it is now time for everyone to come back to the local area.
Today, we are reviewing this framework to adapt it to the situation as it is now. With a gradual return to full-time, on-site presence for all, we have to be agile again, and work together, and this is why the decision has been taken for a minimum of 50% on-site presence for everyone, based on the specific context that applies to each individual, each service and operational needs.
Q: How is this minimum 50% on-site presence going to be implemented in concrete terms?
A: The very different nature of activities throughout the Organization means that needs vary and there is no “one-size-fits-all”:
Those who are working 100% on-site (or more than 50%) due to the nature of their work should continue to do so.
Those who can telework and are already working on-site for more than 50% of their time because their on-site presence is needed for the effective operation of the Organization should also continue to do so.
Those who can telework and are not strictly needed on-site for operational reasons should work on-site for at least 50% of their working time.
And then there are key exceptions: Some are vulnerable or living with someone classed as such, some may be in quarantine, some living with people who are observing quarantin. So we have taken all necessary measures to accommodate every circumstance.
Agility is key, in the form of an adaptable approach to find optimal solutions for each and every person and situation, with dedicated telework arrangements, support structures and absence management frameworks that the administrative services will support, monitor and implement.
All departments are equipped and prepared to ensure safe work-space arrangements, as are the hostels, cafeterias, and all common areas where we can at last look forward to informal exchanges at the end of a corridor or at the foot of the stairs, after so many months of Zoom and Vidyo meetings. These will of course continue, where safe physical distancing can’t be ensured but nothing beats the collaborative spirit that we have at CERN: for me, an in-person ‘hello, how are you?’ works wonders.
When I’m at CERN, I see people diligently mask-wearing, physical distancing: it has become our new normal, just as it is in our daily lives, shopping, in restaurants and public transport.
Q: It’s true that we-re adjusting to all this in our daily lives, but there’s still a question around the 50% maximum telework: where teleworking is confirmed as a necessity, for example when the office space does not allow for office sharing, how can we modulate it and are the provisions applicable to everybody?
A: You’ve hit on a real challenge. You know if we had said “everybody’s off-site” it would be very clear, and if we had said “everybody’s on-site” it would also be very clear. But 50% is neither black nor white, a bit like the glass being half-full or half-empty, and some people are going to see the glass as half-empty and some as half-full. The framework aims to be flexible and has to be implemented in line with the needs of the service. And as I said there is no “one-size-fits-all”.
It can be modulated on a weekly basis, on a fortnightly basis. Again looking at the flexibility, the space situation, the office situation we need to find whatever is most suitable, whatever meets the needs of the service.
Q: OK, so it’s context-based, it’s person-based, it’s flexible, it really is modulated for everybody. Can you confirm to whom it applies and for how long it will apply?
A: That’s a good question. So certainly, it applies to everyone who’s remunerated on CERN’s payroll, i.e. the employed members of personnel: staff members and fellows, plus our MPAs for training, i.e. students and project associates. In terms of how long, it’s difficult to set an end-date because it’s an ever-evolving context. We will monitor the situation at CERN and in the local area and keep adapting as necessary and inform everyone in a timely manner.
Q: So James, in the light of all this, there are still people who feel anxious. What message would you give them in their return to the site?
A: I would tell them that we are here to support then, to listen and find solutions together. If you do have concerns, please discuss them with your hierarchy, services, support structures of which there are many. As I just said, no single size fits all and our HR framework for telework, flexible work and absence management is as comprehensive as can be in order to accommodate every possible need. All services are really operating with health and safety as their utmost priority.
The measures we have in place have proven to be effective so far, with no on-site infections for the time being. I trust that everyone on-site will do what is needed to keep it that way.
Q: So given everything we have covered what would you say are the next steps?
A: I think we are all looking forward to seeing people coming back, to those rich informal exchanges and unforeseen interactions that characterise our workplace, but of course while keeping our eyes wide open, watching the evolution of the pandemic and taking the necessary corrective actions should the situation change suddenly.
There are many people and services working behind the scenes in what is a well-orchestrated and diligent approach.
At the end of September, our Director-General and her Directors will host a “Town-Hall” meeting where all questions based on the experience of the first weeks of gradual return can be raised and we will be there to answer, reassure and work together to maintain CERN as a safe place to work.
Thank you James, so that’s a key milestone at the end of September and we can look forward to that occasion to answer or ask any further questions. Thank you very much for taking the time to talk to us today.
As the gradual return to working on-site continues, all those on the CERN payroll should be present at CERN for at least 50% of their working time as of 7 September. The exact percentage and modalities of on site presence will be agreed with the supervisors. The Director-General has recorded a video message explaining the rationale behind this approach, which you can watch here. The recording is in English, with English and French subtitles. You can also read the transcript of the Director-General's message below.(Video: CERN)
Transcript of the video:
Dear colleagues and friends,
It is a pleasure for me to talk to you again as the summer period now ends, and we resume our routines with masks, physical distancing and other health and safety measures.
The past six months have shaken our world. At CERN, we are used to overcoming the unexpected and dealing with complexity. The COVID-19 pandemic has put us to the test in an unprecedented way, but we have risen to the challenge, thanks to the contribution, dedication, and flexibility of each and every one of you.
And now I'm pleased to see that the special atmosphere and feeling of community that characterise the Laboratory are returning. Throughout the different stages, since we moved into safe mode in March, we have all had to adapt our way of working. For most of us, it entailed a quick move to teleworking. For others, whose functions are essential for the continued operations of equipment and facilities, it meant being onsite full time, protected by additional safety measures.
It has not been easy. Everybody has been affected in different ways, but everyone has adapted and everyone has been working as effectively as possible. Thank you for that.
As you know, we started the gradual restart of onsite work on 18 May, based on a total commitment to the safety and wellbeing of everyone. By mid-June, we started gradually bringing back to onsite work, the colleagues who had been teleworking at a 100%, increasing the maximum number of colleagues on site by 10% every week. According to this initial plan, we will all be back on site, full time by now.
However, we face the worrying situation of increasing infection rates in the neighboring areas. It affects us all. This is why we are being more gradual in the return than what was foreseen in May. We will, therefore, now have an updated framework of telework for people on CERN's payroll that will help us continue the transition begun in June, when those teleworking could start a return to the site, albeit at a slower pace. We will continue to take particular care, of those who are vulnerable or living with somebody classed as vulnerable.
Human resources are working to find optimal solutions with dedicated telework arrangements and support structure. So that everyone of us can return to work safely, a dedicated working group has reviewed the use of office space, hostels, cafeterias, and all common areas. All departments and experiments are therefore prepared to ensure safe workplaces for everyone.
When I look at the very low number of COVID-19 confirmed cases in the CERN community, I'm reassured that we have taken and are taking the best measures possible. Of course, all of this is possible only because CERN personnel have embraced the measures put in place with high sense of responsibility, despite the challenges to the everyday work they create. I thank you very much for that.
I very much look forward to a smooth and full return to the vibrant atmosphere that is so unique to CERN and to the in-person interactions that underpin the special sense of community of our lab.
From fundraising to civil engineering to developing exhibitions and educational content, several teams across CERN are working in full swing to bring Science Gateway to life. The project has encountered many challenges over the past year since its launch, but the commencement of building work is now in sight.
The overall cost of the Science Gateway project will be funded entirely through donations. A leading contribution of 45 million Swiss francs from the FCA Foundation has made it possible to request a building permit for the project.
“On 28 October last year, the request to obtain the building permit for the project was submitted,” said Frédéric Magnin, who has been a civil engineer at CERN for ten years and is in charge of the construction part of the project.
He adds, “One major challenge was the requalification of the agricultural land into constructible land and building close to the Route de Meyrin, which is classed as a transport infrastructure for dangerous materials.”
With such hurdles overcome, the construction phase of the project is not far off.
“Construction will start after the building permit has been delivered; this is expected to happen this autumn,” says Patrick Geeraert, Science Gateway project leader.
But Science Gateway is not just another addition to CERN’s list of 711 buildings.
CERN receives over 300 000 visit requests every year but is able to accommodate fewer than half of them. The fact that all of the Organization’s training and educational activities have always been over-subscribed gave rise to the idea that it should expand and diversify its portfolio of education, communication and outreach activities for experts and non-experts alike on a much grander level.
Science Gateway is the materialisation of a vision to, in CERN Director-General Fabiola Gianotti’s words, “share with everybody the fascination of exploring and learning how matter and the universe work, the advanced technologies we need to develop in order to build our ambitious instruments and their impact on society, and how science can influence our daily life.”
It will build and expand on the previous plans to integrate the Globe of Science and Innovation into a more functional environment, well suited to receiving visitors – both experts and non-experts alike. The 900-seat, modular auditorium of the new building will, for example, be a well-suited venue for scientific meetings and conferences.
But the search for an architect who matched the vision of Science Gateway was not an easy one.
As luck would have it, when the world-renowned Italian architect Renzo Piano visited Switzerland, he instantly fell in love with the core values of CERN.
“If there is anything I can ever do for CERN, please let me know,” he said after his visit.
It was not long after that that the baton to design the Science Gateway was given to Renzo Piano Building Workshop (RPBW). But what architectural wonder could outdo a place where lies the biggest science marvel of the world itself, the Large Hadron Collider?
The elements of Science Gateway are inspired by the most advanced research that furthers our understanding of the origins of the universe. With the use of geothermal energy for heating and cooling, nearly 2000 square metres of solar panels, and more than 400 trees being planted, Science Gateway wants to truly stand for sustainability – aiming to have a carbon footprint of net-zero. The large, airy glass walls of the buildings signify openness and transparency, one of Science Gateway’s main goals, and the bridge over the Route de Meyrin will dominate the brand-new Esplanade des Particules, symbolising an inseparable link between science and society.
“It is a bridge, in the metaphorical and real sense, and a building fed by the energy of the sun, nestling in the midst of a newly grown forest,” said Piano.
But the road to bringing CERN closer to people is a two-way street. At present, the potential to make Science Gateway come true lies mostly with scientists, engineers, architects, communicators and donors; however, once the project is established, it will need more and more active participation from the public. People from all backgrounds will be encouraged to contribute as volunteers, visitors or even citizen scientists, to create a truly diverse learning atmosphere at CERN’s dream emblem of science communication.
To make this possible, the communication teams at CERN will continue to give insights into the planned exhibitions and educational content of the project as we embark further on the journey towards its completion.
Science Gateway is scheduled to be inaugurated at the end of 2022.
CERN is the hub of vast global computing resources and collaborations, representing a considerable potential in the fight against COVID-19, with applications ranging from the support of therapy and vaccine research to the deployment of the data-sharing platform Zenodo, and from online educational platform tools to epidemic modelling.
As a first response to the pandemic, the particle physics community mobilised its number-crunching capabilities, allocating processors from the data centres of CERN, the LHC experiments and the Worldwide LHC Computing Grid to support volunteer computing initiatives such as Rosetta@home and Folding@home, which simulate protein dynamics to help understand the SARS-CoV-2 virus. With the pandemic worsening, the number of voluntary contributions to the distributed computing project rapidly increased and the joint processing capacity of the initiatives grew to exceed several exaFLOPS: a world first. In such a supportive environment, CERN and the particle physics community realised that the time had come to make a gradual transition from dedicating computer cores to such initiatives to contributing to them in more specific ways, through data management and data analytics expertise, as well as through software resources.
Read more on the CERN against COVID-19 website: againstcovid19.cern/articles/cern-and-lhc-experiments-computing-resources-global-research-effort-against-covid-19
“One more centimetre,” said the chief technician, while operating the hydraulic jack system on 14 August. The 5-m-diameter, 5-m-long cylindrical detector gently slid into the parking position, 56 metres below the ground in the ALICE cavern at LHC Point 2, where it will stand for some time. This operation culminates the many-years-long upgrade of ALICE’s Time Projection Chamber (TPC), the large tracking device of the LHC’s heavy-ion specialist.
The ALICE TPC is a big, gas-filled cylinder with a hole in the centre – to accommodate the silicon tracker as well as the beam pipe – where the charge produced by ionising radiation is projected onto detectors arranged in the two endplates. These detectors used to be multi-wire proportional chambers, 72 in total, which have now been replaced by detectors based on Gas Electron Multipliers (GEM), a micro-pattern structure developed at CERN. These new devices, together with new readout electronics that feature a continuous readout mode, will allow ALICE to record the information of all tracks produced in lead–lead collisions at rates of 50 kHz, producing data at a staggering rate of 3.5 TB/s. The average load on the chambers under these conditions is expected to be as high as 10 nA/cm², and the GEM detectors are able to cope with this. But will these new devices perform as nicely as their predecessors?
In order to answer this question, several years of intensive R&D were necessary, since the large number of positive ions produced at the detectors would lead to excessive track distortions. This, combined with the necessity of keeping excellent energy-loss (dE/dx) resolution for particle identification, and the imperative robustness against discharges, posed an exciting challenge that led to a novel configuration of GEM-based detectors.
As the fabrication of over 800 GEM foils was taking place at the CERN PCB workshop, the new chambers and electronics were being constructed and thoroughly tested around the world – quite a logistic exercise. The ALICE team proceeded with the final steps of the upgrade process during the ongoing second long shutdown of CERN’s accelerator complex (LS2). First, the TPC was extracted from the underground cavern and brought, inside its blue frame, to a large clean room at the surface. Cranes, jacks and a huge truck were used for careful transportation. The chamber replacement, electronics installation and tests with a laser system, cosmic rays and X-rays took over a year. In July 2020, the TPC was declared ready for being re-installed in the cavern. Cranes, truck and jacks once again.
ALICE achieved a major milestone with the completion of the TPC upgrade, after many years of intense R&D, construction and assembly. At the end of 2020, all the services will be connected and the full, upgraded TPC will be operated and commissioned together with all other detectors in the experiment. The real excitement will be when the first post-LS2 collisions from the LHC are delivered.The TPC being lowered down the shaft to the experimental cavern (Images: CERN)
With the new Single Sign-On portal (“New CERN Single Sign-On (SSO) Portal”) and the upcoming deployment of a multi-factor authentication solution for CERN (“A second factor to the rescue”), the Identity Management and Computer Security teams have also started reviewing the use of passwords at CERN. Expect some small revolutions ahead.
Your CERN account password is the primary token for accessing CERN computing resources: CERN e-mail, INDICO, EDH, EDMS, LXPLUS, etc. One password to rule them all. And one password, if you were to lose it, that would put your work, your data and CERN at serious risk (“Protect your family”). On the underground market, similar passwords are traded with a value of $50 each, as malicious actors can misuse a CERN account, e.g. for sending SPAM, running unauthorised computing tasks on our computing clusters (like crypto-currency mining; “Computing power for professionals… only!”), or downloading CERN-licensed software or publications from our digital libraries for “free”. Worse, a stolen password might allow a targeted attacker to take over computing services or even try to manipulate the operations of accelerators or experiments. Hence our push towards a central multi-factor authentication solution for critical services (“A second factor to the rescue”).
But how are passwords lost today? The main vector is lack of user diligence, where a user is convinced to send his or her password to an attacker (so-called “Phishing”) or where the user is lulled into clicking a link, leading to the full infection of his or her computer and thus allowing an attacker to extract passwords and do more harm (“Click me – NOT!”). Brute-forcing, i.e. trying to sign in with any kind of potential password and hoping for a successful match, is a second vector. And stealing CERN’s central database of hashed and salted passwords is a remote third possibility. The IT department is following standard IT practices to protect all secrets from unauthorised access, and to protect CERN users from falling victim to phishing or their computer being infected (“Protect your click”). Dedicated security campaigns (”I love you”) are supposed to train users to STOP – THINK – DON’T CLICK in order to protect their digital assets. But we can do better.
This is where the small revolution enters. With the new authentication and authorisation system, we will drop the requirement for annual password changes. Instead, you will select a strong and unique password once and for all. This better password can be either very complex, as today consisting of capital and small letters, symbols and numbers, or a very long passphrase (i.e. more than 24 characters) without such a sophisticated mixture of letters/numbers/symbols. It is your choice: compact & complex or long & light. Of course, your password must not contain just words that can be found in dictionaries or variations of such words (like “C3RN”). In addition, it is important that you do not reuse your CERN password for computing services external to CERN. The Instagrams, Amazons and Facebooks of this world deserve their own, dedicated passwords. Automatic checks at CERN will regularly verify whether a password similar to your CERN one has been exposed and disclosed , using the “HaveIBeenPwned” database (“The easy way to lose passwords”) and similar databases of exposed passwords. If there’s a hit, you will be asked to change your password to something better. And finally, remember that your password is like a toothbrush: you don’t share it. Not with your colleagues. Not with your supervisor. Not with us or the Service Desk.
Last but not least, we will ramp up our brute-force protection: if logging into your account fails 30 times within a minute, your account will be blocked for another minute. And if the failed attempts continue we will add more minutes (up to blocking any login attempt for 15 minutes). More holistically, if a particular IP address is trying to sign into CERN on one or more accounts and fails 20 or more times within an hour, we will block that particular IP address from any further attempt for another hour (using open source software named “Fail2Ban”).
To recap: with the new authentication system, we will relieve you of the burden of inventing a new password every 12 months. However, in order to keep a high level of protection of your digital assets, we will review the quality of your current password on a regular basis and block your account when we see a risk to it (due to the fact that such a password has been publicly exposed or that someone has failed too many times to sign in to your account). Does this sound like an acceptable deal?
Do you want to learn more about computer security incidents and issues at CERN? Follow our Monthly Report. For further information, questions or help, check our website or contact us at Computer.Security@cern.ch.