Almost two years after Pakistan, India too joined CERN as an associate member of the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN), which houses the world’s largest nuclear and particle physics laboratory in the world and known for operating the Large Hadron Collider, that has claimed to have found the elusive Higgs Boson in 2012 and won the Nobel the next year.
India became an ‘Observer’ at CERN in 2004 but the huge payment fee as an associate held it back until the last year’s visit of CERN chief to India. The associate membership, which had cost Rs.78 crore, will help Indian scientists to apply for jobs at CERN and also bid for some of its contracts. However, unless India becomes the full member, it would not be in a position to exercise voting rights in decision-making body, which is the council. To become a full-fledged member, it may cost up to Rs.780 crore.
“Most decisions of the Council proceed by consensus but the most significant outcome is that our industry can bid for developing sophisticated equipment, software and instruments,” said Arun Srivastava, Secretary of India’s Atomic Energy Commission.
Sekhar Basu, chairman of Atomic Energy Commission and Secretary, Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), and CERN Director General Fabiola Gianotti signed the agreement in Mumbai on Monday, Nov. 22, 2016.“For over 50 years, India has been a strong partner in CERN’s scientific activities,” said Fabiola Gianotti. “For instance, Indian physicists, engineers and technicians have made substantial contributions to the construction of the LHC accelerator and to the ALICE and CMS experiments, as well as to accelerator R&D projects."
India and CERN signed a Cooperation Agreement in 1991, setting priorities for scientific and technical cooperation, followed by the signature of several Protocols.
In fact, India’s relationship with CERN dates back to the days when the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, whose high-energy physicists have been actively participating in experiments at CERN since the 1960s. They were later joined by scientists from the Raja Ramanna Centre for Advanced Technology, Indore, in the 1990s.
These and other institutes built components for the LEP accelerator and the L3, WA93 and WA89 detectors. Their scientists participated in important physics analyses and publications throughout the years.
All these developments paved the way, in 1996, for the Indian AEC (Atomic Energy Commission) to agree to take part in the construction of the LHC, and to contribute to the CMS and ALICE experiments and to the LHC Computing Grid with Tier-2 centres in Mumbai and Kolkata. In recognition of these substantial contributions, India was granted Observer status to the CERN Council in 2002.
The success of the DAE-CERN partnership regarding the LHC has also led to cooperation on Novel Accelerator Technologies through DAE’s participation in CERN’s Linac4, SPL and CTF3 projects, and CERN’s contribution to DAE’s programmes. India also participates in the COMPASS, ISOLDE and nTOF experiments.
India’s Associate Membership will strengthen the long-term partnership between CERN and the Indian scientific community. Associate Membership will allow India to take part in meetings of the CERN Council and its committees (Finance Committee and Scientific Policy Committee). It will also make Indian scientists eligible for staff appointments.
CERN has 22 member states and four associate member states and other associate members transitioning to full member status. Pakistan became an associate member of the body in 2014, while India deferred the decision until now. Indian scientists have contributed in a significant way to develop the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experiment, which in turn led to the discovery of the Higgs Boson.