Particle Physics Goes Public

January 29, 2014

Ever since CERN, the Euro­pean Orga­ni­za­tion for Nuclear Research in Switzer­land, opened its doors in 2008, researchers at its Large Hadron Col­lider have pushed for their results to be pub­licly acces­sible. The field of high-​​energy exper­i­mental physics is a bit of an anomaly in the sci­en­tific arena. It’s a rel­a­tively small community—about 15,000 sci­en­tists globally—and one that is acutely depen­dent on col­lab­o­ra­tion and sharing (about half of those sci­en­tists are spread across just the four LHC experiments).

Thus, the notion of open-​​access pub­li­ca­tion is deeply ingrained in the nature of the field. But until recently, main­taining that ethic has not been all that straight­for­ward. That’s because each CERN paper’s open-​​access pub­li­ca­tion had to be indi­vid­u­ally nego­ti­ated since most of the peer-​​reviewed jour­nals in which the arti­cles appear are not tra­di­tion­ally open. At a rate of about 7,000 arti­cles per year, this is not a trivial task.

North­eastern Uni­ver­sity physics pro­fessor George Alverson serves as the head of the pub­li­ca­tions office for one of the four LHC exper­i­ments and knows the chal­lenges of the piece­meal approach. “We have a very involved and rig­orous internal review process,” he said. “It’ll take a year or two from data to sub­mis­sion to the journal.”

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