Issues and Activities

By Boris Kayser, Fermilab, 2009 DPF Chair

(Originally published in January 2010 DPF newsletter)

This DPF Newsletter conveys the results of the most recent DPF Executive Committee (EC) election, sends you
news from the LHC and Fermilab, describes the activities of HEPAP, and tells you about the “DPF 2009” meeting in Detroit and about particle physics at the upcoming APS “April Meeting” to be held February 13-16, 2010 in Washington, DC. I would like to add a report on some of the issues that the EC has been considering in ongoing discussions, and on some of the EC activities during 2009.

Probably the most substantive issue we have been considering is the question of how the DPF can most constructively and effectively contribute to the planning of the future high-energy physics program, and how it can best promote the support of our field. It is recognized that the DPF has a unique role to play — it is the voice of the U.S. particle physics community, and is independent of any direct ties to the federal funding agencies. The EC has discussed a number of possible steps that the DPF could take, and I am sure you will be hearing more about this from the 2010 DPF Chair, Chip Brock.

A related issue is how the American, Asian, and European particle physics communities can help one another, and how the DPF can best make common cause with its European and Asian counterparts, promoting common purposes, issuing joint endorsements, and occasionally having joint conferences. When, late in 2009, a science-funding crisis developed in Japan, the DPF EC helped the APS create a letter to Japan expressing appreciation and admiration of Japanese scientific achievements. The EC also sent its own letter to Japan, written by 2009 Past-Chair Bob Cahn on behalf of the DPF, and encouraged DPF members to send any
comments they may have. Since then, the outlook in Japan has brightened. On another front, contact has recently been established between the High Energy Particle Physics Board of the European Physical Society and the DPF EC.

To keep informed on the status of American particle physics funding, and on the political climate for this funding, the DPF EC periodically invites funding-agency officials and observers of the political scene to speak at its meetings.

When a DPF input regarding a matter before Congress appears called for, the DPF EC should act. When the “stimulus Issues and Activities Boris Kayser, Fermilab, 2009 DPF Chair package” was wending its way through Congress, and it appeared that the principal challenge to the inclusion of healthy support for science in this legislation would be in the Senate, the four DPF Chairs (vice chair, chair-elect, chair, and past chair) sent a letter to selected Senators. On behalf of the DPF, this letter argued that a strong investment in scientific research and education would stimulate the U.S. economy now, while empowering the scientific engine that will drive American innovation, technological leadership, competitiveness, and economic strength in the future. We would like to believe that letters such as this one helped to secure the very favorable treatment of science in the stimulus package.

“DPF 2009” was a very successful conference, due in no small part to the dedicated and thoughtful efforts of its organizers, Alexey Petrov and Paul Karchin. In the past, DPF conferences have been held at irregular times. The DPF EC believes that the usefulness and impact of these conferences would be increased by holding them every other year on a regular basis. A subcommittee chaired by Chip Brock is being formed to address this issue.

During a very interesting town-hall-style business meeting at “DPF 2009,” Ben Grinstein noted that APS prizes and awards provide valuable recognition of outstanding accomplishment, and suggested that there be more prizes. In response, the DPF EC has been wondering how outstanding work at the postdoctoral or junior faculty level, presently unrecognized by any special award, might be recognized. A subcommittee chaired by yours truly is being formed to contemplate this issue.

While a newsletter such as this one provides one means of distributing news to DPF members, other means of communication such as a website on which news items would appear whenever they are timely might be very useful. A subcommittee chaired by David Saltzberg has been created to consider the possibilities and recommend the steps to be taken.

As described in Patty McBride’s news item on conferences, there will be a DPF “Business Meeting” at the Washington APS meeting on Monday, February 15 at 5:30 pm. This will indeed be a good place to raise your concerns, voice your opinions, and make suggestions. Please do come to the meeting. Quite apart from this meeting, the DPF EC always welcomes your ideas and any comments you may wish to make.