From the Jura to Japan...
Fifty years ago, a week-long school for physicists took place in Saint Cergue, in the Jura mountains not far from CERN. Its focus was on using emulsion techniques, but its legacy was much more far reaching. Last week I was in Fukuoka, Japan, on the last day of a direct descendent – the first Asia–Europe–Pacific School of High-Energy Physics (AEPSHEP).
That first small school in 1962 was the precursor to the annual European Schools of High-Energy Physics, which are organised jointly by CERN and the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (JINR) in countries that are a member state of either (or both) of the organisations. They led in turn to the CERN–Latin-American School of High-Energy Physics, first held in Brazil in 2001.
The aim of these schools is not only to give young particle physicists the opportunity to learn from leading experts in the field, but also to nurture from the start communication among researchers from different regions. CERN and JINR began collaborating on joint schools as long ago as 1970, helping to break down barriers at a time when the “iron curtain” still divided Europe. The first CERN–Latin-American School marked the beginning of renewed contact and collaboration between Europe and Latin America.
Now, a similar initiative is linking Europe, Asia and the Pacific-region, building on the successful France–Asia Particle-Physics School. Having seen the first AEPSHEP school in action, I can vouch for its excellent atmosphere and success in bridging cultures and in providing a valuable opportunity for networking. With the usual emphasis at CERN schools on exercises, the students were able leave with a much greater proficiency in their chosen field of particle physics.
These schools are also equally important for the countries that hold them. From Armenia to Argentina, Portugal to Peru (in 2013), and now Japan, the events highlight the role of a country in the global scientific endeavour. For AEPSHEP, the next port of call is India in 2014, and I, for one, am greatly looking forward to it.