Astronomy and Particle Physics - Science and Technology Committee Contents



Written evidence submitted by Professor Phil Allport, Head of Particle Physics, Director of the Liverpool Semiconductor Detector Centre, Chair, Institute of Physics High Energy Particle Physics Group, University of Liverpool (APP 41)

Dear Andrew

Thank you very much for the opportunity to present evidence yesterday. You asked for details about the survey I referred to. This developed from the widespread concern about job prospects for current UK post-docs in particle physics, leading a Liverpool post-doc at CERN (Paul Laycock, who is also ATLAS Deputy Calibration Manager) to somehow find the time to put together a web based survey (with summary to be found at http://hep.ph.liv.ac.uk/~laycock/PhysicsCareersSurvey/Results.html) which was circulated among the UK community mostly working on CERN based experiments. The respondents were mainly either employed by UK institutions or from other collaborating institutions in the 83 countries with formal links to CERN. The survey is biased in that it mainly addresses those who are still employed in the field, predominantly has responses from those working at CERN, and of course reflects the view of those willing to take the time to complete the survey. Nevertheless, as I said in my evidence, I do think some clear patterns emerge that help give weight to the strong concerns about prospects for UK employment being expressed by those who are just starting out on careers in this area.

I wonder if I could also raise another issue. In the evidence of Professor Mason, he clearly believed I had not understood the proposal concerning concentration of detector construction activities "in-house" at the national laboratories. I had within the previous month sat with both the Director Programmes STFC (Professor Womersely) and the Chief Operating Officer STFC (Professor Wade) and I believe I fully understand what is being proposed. My concern was not where R&D is to be carried out (as I believe Professor Mason assumed) but the actual construction work. The very largest university particle physics groups have major construction capabilities and unique expertise. The largest arrays of silicon detectors ever constructed in the UK (the ATLAS semiconductor tracker barrels and the 9 disc EndCap-C (amounting to roughly 500,000 square centimetres of silicon sensors) were assembled and tested at Liverpool and Oxford, with modules sent from 30 institutes in 12 countries for assembly at these sites. In the Liverpool Semiconductor Detector Centre (LSDC), of which I am Director, we have built modules and assembled the full array for the ATLAS EndCap-C, all the LHCb Vertex Locator modules, the vertex detector of the ALPHA (anti-hydrogen) experiment, a third of the T2K ECAL, and many smaller projects. We also lead (like Oxford, Imperial College and other large groups) significant aspects of the LHC General Purpose Detector (ATLAS and CMS) upgrade prototyping internationally, with the ATLAS and CMS Upgrade Coordinators at Liverpool at Imperial respectively. The UK is also poised to take major leadership in the LHCb upgrade activities (were these to be supported by STFC).

The point I want to make is that future construction effort will also have to be at institutions which are fully engaged in the physics exploitation and this is the model that applies to those aspects carried out both in the universities and in the national laboratories. The model being proposed by STFC is to separate construction from those who understand the project intimately and who are involved at the highest level in the international collaborations and lead much of the planning. This goes against accepted practice everywhere else in the world and, I and many others believe, can only lead to a huge loss of UK capability and leadership if implemented. Their current plans also threaten the continuation of the large scale investment in capabilities and expertise to be found in the largest UK university groups, which are also so essential to providing an excellent training-ground for the technologists of tomorrow. Given where the largest recent construction activities have been concentrated, I do find their proposal perverse and potentially highly damaging. I must of course fully declare my interest as Director of the LSDC and as the coordinator, internationally, of the ATLAS Upgrade programme.

With thanks again for all the time the Science and Technology Committee has devoted to this business.

Professor Phil Allport
Head of Particle Physics
Director of the Liverpool Semiconductor Detector Centre
Chair Institute of Physics High Energy Particle Physics Group
University of Liverpool

17 March 2011


 
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