It’s up to us to make it happen

It’s up to us to make it happen
October 26, 2015

In June 2014, we wrote about the kickoff to the process known to U.S. nuclear physics as “the long range plan”. On October 15, the new plan was presented to Nuclear Science Advisory Committee, which voted unanimously to approve the report. The report goes now to the Office of Science of the Department of Energy and to the National Science Foundation, for implementation.

As we have come to expect, the whole enterprise was an impressive achievement. The working group included all of the members of NSAC but was augmented to more than fifty members with the intent to exploit a broad representation and a broad competence from within the field. Representatives of the European and Asian programs attended, so we can take it that the report is conscious of the global context in which we work. From Jefferson Lab, Rolf Ent, Andrew Hutton, and Patrizia Rossi were members of the working group, but many others from the laboratory participated in a variety of ways. Attendance at the discussions in the town meetings organized by the Division of Nuclear Physics of the American Physical Society was one way in which many scientists contributed.

The Chair of NSAC is traditionally the Chair of the working group, so this time around Don Geesaman of Argonne National Laboratory and a rather prominent member of our own user group carried the burden. He gave a presentation here at Jefferson Lab on October 19 and emphasized how the eventual recommendations were rooted. On the one hand, they derived support from the previous long range plan. The field, in the years since 2007, has achieved a substantial fraction of the aspirations articulated in that plan. However, those achievements continue to point to the future. For example, the nearly completed 12 GeV CEBAF Upgrade must now be operated. On the other hand, the new recommendations closely track those that came out of the town meetings, which addressed each of the subfields. This is important; it is a manifestation that the plan has roots in the desires of the user communities.

The first recommendation concerned the capitalization on the previous investments, in the CEBAF Upgrade here at Jefferson Lab, completing the major construction of the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams(FRIB) at Michigan State University, continuing the target work in fundamental symmetries and neutrinos, and exploiting the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider(RHIC) at Brookhaven National Lab.

The second and third recommendations concerned future investments. One thrust concerned the search for neutrino-less double beta decay. The existence, or not, of such a process would tell us about one of the fundamental characteristics of the neutrino. The scale of the experiment is a tonne in mass, and a hundred plus in millions of dollars of cost. This would be a major undertaking though, by comparison, substantially less in cost than the FRIB project. An Electron-Ion Collider was then called out as the next major, billion dollar-scale construction project to follow the FRIB construction at the end of the decade. This is a project in which Jefferson Lab and its community has been particularly active. We shared with RHIC and its users the successful development of the physics case, which is now endorsed by the nuclear physics community; this is a major contribution of which we should be proud. We also offered our own design for the machine, and again, the reaction of the NSAC subcommittee which looked at that design was very positive. So, the field has established a platform, the next steps to take the project to the next level and eventual implementation at one or other of the labs will require effort and application. I think it is an excellent outcome.

The recommendations were rounded out by addressing smaller scale investments. The fourth recommendation spoke to the need for the supplementary and complementary equipment to fully exploit, in the universities and in the laboratories, the opportunities in the field.

Using the term “Initiative” to denote activities less costly than the major recommendations, the report also endorsed support for theory, and in particular its computational arm; so again, we see gains for lattice QCD and related efforts by our theory group as a significant piece of this action. Finally, another initiative spoke to the need for adequate detector and accelerator research and development to support the development of the electron ion collider.

So, in seven brief pages, the essentials of the plan were laid out, and I am sure that these will get most of the attention. There are, however, two other important components to the report.

Prominent among the readers of this report are our fellow scientists in fields other than nuclear physics. For them the report contains an eloquent and extensive description of the achievements, excitements, and expectations of the field. It explains the importance of our work and its relationship to other fields.  Life is always a balance and no matter how exciting something might be, it needs to be affordable. The report shows that the recommendations, as laid out, can be achieved within a modest growth budget, one with 1.6% over the federal 2.2% anticipated inflation. It turns out that this was achieved by the field over the past decade.

This is a good report; it is good for Jefferson Lab; it is good for the field; we intend to support it. Bob McKeown made that statement on our behalf at the NSAC meeting when the report was accepted. We heard that the presentation of the plan to the staff of the House and Senate Energy and Water Committee by the head of the Office of Nuclear Physics was extremely well received. There is a teleconference for the lab directors and a senior member of our field to discuss how best to bring our support forward.

We appreciate the efforts of Don Geesaman and his team, and indeed all those who participated; it is now up to us to make it happen.