Dmitry Medvedev’s meeting with Russian scientists working at CERN

The Prime Minister visited the European Organisation for Nuclear Research.

Dmitry Medvedev’s meeting with Russian scientists working at CERN

Dmitry Medvedev’s meeting with Director-General of the European Organisation for Nuclear Research Fabiola Gianotti

Touring the ATLAS experiment detector at the Large Hadron Collider at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN)

Before the meeting, Dmitry Medvedev toured the Large Hadron Collider and the ATLAS detector at CERN (European Organisation for Nuclear Research). 

Dmitry Medvedev’s meeting with Russian scientists working at CERN

Excerpts from the transcript:

Dmitry Medvedev’s meeting with Russian scientists working at CERN

Dmitry Medvedev: Our meeting today is being held in a unique place. It is the world’s largest high energy physics research centre. Our partnership with CERN and our participation in the development of the Large Hadron Collider and the research conducted here are quite impressive. The results achieved here are known to the entire world. The scientists have been awarded the Nobel Prize and several other awards.

Russia has its own facilities of decent quality. Still, it is impossible for modern science to make progress without projects like CERN, especially considering the prospects of the Large Hadron Collider’s second development stage and the opportunities it may bring. 

I am certain that the prospects of our work in this area are quite inspiring. 

Tatiana Kharlamova (employee of the Budker Institute of Nuclear Physics in Novosibirsk and a member of the ATLAS Collaboration at CERN): Russia now has observer status at CERN. Therefore, Russian citizens involved in the experiment lack all the opportunities that citizens of CERN member countries have. Does Russia plan to become a full-time CERN member?  

Dmitry Medvedev: We collaborate very closely with CERN, and we have special traditions. The Soviet Union and CERN signed the first cooperation agreement in 1967. Each year, this cooperation is becoming closer, more productive and more important for Russia and, I hope, for all CERN participants.

Russia now has so-called privileged observer status. There are associate participants, including a number of countries, and there are full-fledged members of the relevant CERN projects. As I see it, only the status of a full-fledged member would be appropriate to the scale of development of Russia’s physics.

Any participation costs money. Naturally, full-time membership is the most expensive option and is calculated according to the economic power of any specific country. But, we will have to pay, if we want to play a full-fledged role in everything.

Viktor Savrin (coordinator of a working group for cooperation with CERN at the Ministry of Education and Science): CERN is now working very actively to upgrade the Large Hadron Collider’s particle accelerator, detectors, etc. This modernisation project aims at expanding the potential of the world’s largest facility in order to obtain new knowledge and make various discoveries. The first modernisation phase that involves all CERN countries, including the Russian Federation, is now ending. The Ministry of Education and Science and the Government provided support, making it possible to allocate subsidies, so that we, Russian physicists, would be able to take part in this work. CERN admits that we have effectively accomplished our task, and the Russian public also knows this. The second modernisation period, called phase two, is to begin soon. In addition, the Large Hadron Collider’s particle accelerator will be upgraded in order to increase its luminosity.

Here is my question: Will the Government continue to finance our further participation in this programme in which all countries are interested, including Russia which ranks among the most advanced countries in this field?

Dmitry Medvedev: It goes without saying that we will support the Large Hadron Collider’s second modernisation phase and efforts to increase its luminosity. Our budget now stipulates all funding for the second phase. This funding was allocated last year, and it will also be provided this year. We need to sign the final agreement, but I have no doubt that we will sign it. Consequently, we have calculated all financial terms for taking part in the LHC’s second modernisation phase well in advance, and we have included them in the budget. There will be no problems here.

Of course, we are rightfully proud of our achievements and the work of this country’s main centres. On the other hand, fundamental and absolute landmark discoveries, as well as engineering solutions such as the collider (when it essentially becomes necessary to set up an underground town), are possible only if we pool our efforts. We don’t have to do something on our own when the world is setting a certain trajectory of movement. We need to make our own contribution, and this is much more important. We will proceed from this assumption.

Sergei Gninenko (Institute for Nuclear Research, Moscow; Head of Experiment NA64 at CERN): Breakthrough solutions, ideas and discoveries are expected and not only at the Large Hadron Collider. For example, a number of initiatives, new ideas and experiments were launched at the proton super synchrotron last year. Most of the ideas are based on the possibility of detecting signals from dark matter using a super synchrotron. Such an experiment was developed by Russian scientists and is currently being carried out, mainly at Russian institutes.  The Russian experiment has yielded excellent results over the past several years, attracting international attention and highly appreciated by CERN, and I can say for sure that NA64 is one of the crucial elements of CERN’s research programme.

We are now facing the problem of insufficient funds for this kind of experiment, for upgrading them in order to carry out new measurements. This experiment has already been approved by CERN’s research council. We plan to start our measurements in 2021. Before that, the facility must be upgraded. Besides supporting Russian specialists at CERN, does the Russian Government plan to pay fees to the joint funds which are needed to upgrade the facility and to cover running costs? This relates not only to experiments at the Large Hadron Collider but also to smaller experiments where the Russian institutes’ participation and contribution are noticeable.

Dmitry Medvedev: I take it there are several funds, one of them is called Upgrade Common Fund. We have money earmarked in the budget for this fund.

Grigory Trubnikov (first Deputy Minister of Science and Higher Education of the Russian Federation): Besides the Large Hadron Collider and the physics linked with it there are also many interesting areas which are definitely breakthrough and promising – something they call non-acceleration physics at CERN, which is outside of the Large Hadron Collider. We have the Russia-CERN coordinating committee which considers the list of projects and prioritises the projects with respective funding from their budget.

If the Government supports Russia’s participation in the second phase and in the upgrade of the accelerator itself, we will discuss it in our working group so as to identify the most crucial, priority projects and support them within the amounts allocated for joint funds.

Dmitry Medvedev: Then will you please make calculations and submit all the necessary information? If they ask for additional decisions, additional funds, let’s consider them. We can do that.  

Alexei Dzyuba (Kurchatov Institute Research Centre - PNPI): One would want, on returning to Russia, to continue working with cutting-edge instruments in Russian research centres in order to make use of the potential we have acquired at CERN.  

I know that at present two mega projects are underway in Russia – the NIKA Collider and the PIK reactor for neutron research. Are there plans to open new research centres with modern equipment under the national projects so that Russian scientists can work in their own country? If so, what are the approximate opening dates?

Dmitry Medvedev: Indeed, under the Science national project we have funding reserved for establishing the unparalleled facilities of the so called mega science class: the NIKA facilities that you mentioned in Dubna. By the way, just a few days ago I met with Chinese President Xi Jinping, and he also mentioned this issue during negotiations. I am actually saying this only to show that there is interest in it throughout the world. The facilities are the PIK reactor in Gatchina, an X-Ray source of synchrotronic radiation to be built in Protvino, and the Skif source in Novosibirsk. There are also plans to set up a respective photon source on Russky Island in the Far East. All those are parts of the national project concerning science. In accordance with the decisions we made, we will have to set up 16 world-class centres and 15 research and education centres. This is a very important challenge for our country. We are approaching it for the first time, with a clear vision of the tasks regarding research and with the necessary funding.

For the first time, at least in our contemporary history, all of this has a very good foundation with significant financing. We have already taken five decisions on these centres this year. They will emerge in several regions of the country. And we will make decisions on the remaining centres on the basis of competitive bidding. 

Ilya Gorbunov (Joint Institute for Nuclear Research, Dubna): I feel that the progress of acceleration equipment is heading towards a technological limit. There is a lot of interest globally in alternative methods of accelerating particles like collective acceleration methods in plasma and laser acceleration. For instance, the JINR worked a lot on this theme back in Soviet times. Novosibirsk also has considerable experience. Novosibirsk generally is the world leader in acceleration issues. In view of this I have a question - can we design a programme for the development of acceleration equipment considering that new ideas emerge that are being realised around the world – in the States, at CERN, in Sweden?

Dmitry Medvedev: I will give you a short answer – of course. But will you please tell us about yourself, about how things are going with you.

Ilya Gorbunov: Of course, international collaboration is always very interesting; it is a cultural exchange with people from all over the world.

Dmitry Medvedev: It should expand your outlook, enrich a person. It is not even about sharing particular ideas, although this might also happen. But even the way of thinking is important; who thinks what about the problems you are dealing with.

Let us be honest, we are undergoing an uneasy period with our partners, including, by the way, in Europe. I think the projects like those at CERN prove that there are higher values which must not be sacrificed to political disagreement or even just to political approaches.

It is very good that scientific contacts, joint research are not liable to political trends. This is what I think we should preserve. Because a lot of decisions may be taken in a particular political situation that will affect science.

Ilya Gorbunov: But it is important to realise that each country is trying to get an advantage for its national economy and development.

Dmitry Medvedev: You are right, we represent different countries one way or another, and must care about the progress of our countries, to have more opportunities in this field which will ultimately contribute to the development of our country in the broad sense of the word. Especially since the discoveries done and research ongoing at CERN often have an applied aspect even though they are, at heart, fundamental physics.

Obviously, alternative methods should also be on the radar of our science in the broad sense of the word and be part of programmes lest we are left behind. There is CERN – it is wonderful. But human thought does not stop here, there are other approaches. Let us include all that in a relevant programme. We have to have money ready for this so we can have a wider perception of this research.

Danila Tlisov (Institute for Nuclear Research, Russian Academy of Sciences): You talked about research centres to be set up in Russia, and some centres are already operating. The question is, can we invite working specialists in our country to also work for CERN, for example, the upgrade phase two project?

Here is an illustration. We assemble the so called reader modules on silicon photoelectron multipliers. So what’s happening?  Different components are used at CERN from around the world, then scientists come, they test them, assemble and work with them. In principle, some work could be done at home, in Russia. Unfortunately, such ideology stumbles across a simple problem – purchasing components. They are taxed, levied, and everything becomes at least 30 percent more expensive. The question is, can science be somewhat relieved of the tax burden?

Dmitry Medvedev: I totally agree with you that in this kind of work you have to run faster because if you don’t run, someone else will render these services.  It is bad for us – bad for scientists, and bad for our whole country as a nation. I also totally agree that it is desirable to assemble at home some elements of a large system that is operating here. This is what happened with regard to some elements. I have just been shown where and what is being done – it is impressive.

Perhaps, this can be adjusted in general, but at least we have special tax and customs regulations in special places. These are different zones where results of scientific research are being produced and where applied production also exists. For example, Skolkovo is set up like this. Skolkovo operates under a special law, they have a special, separate tax and customs regulations. Some production can be arranged there if we need to start producing something immediately. We can take a wider perspective and look at a complete tax load relief for this kind of work. But this is always a delicate approach, since my colleagues at the Finance Ministry and Customs Service will say, this is good, we love scientists, but cheaters will creep into the system and sneak very different products into the tax exemption system and so on. So the answer has two parts. It can already be done now at special zones but we will look into what can be done in general.

Tagir Aushev (Head of the Laboratory of High Energy Physics, MIPT): There is a certain degree of openness here, which is peculiar for international organisations, that allows both exchanging ideas and rotating people. In this context I have a proposal. It is a good moment for Russia to attract fairly professional personnel from around the world, young promising people. Russia generally has favourable conditions in terms of investing in science, in mega projects. But there are some problems. For example, the system of hiring and the overall system of working in Russia differs somewhat from other accepted systems in the world. I’m talking about the postdoctoral system. If we could adapt our system and align it with the international system, we could attract pretty good personnel.

Dmitry Medvedev: This should probably be applied more comprehensively. I won’t say that we don’t have it but it is not wide spread, and by the way, it does not run counter to any legislation. I think we can deal with that within the framework of our national projects and training systems. It is not just a matter of the postdoctoral system but about improving higher education in general.

Dmitry Medvedev’s meeting with Director-General of the European Organisation for Nuclear Research Fabiola Gianotti

Excerpts from the transcript:

Meeting with Director-General of the European Organisation for Nuclear Research Fabiola Gianotti

Fabiola Gianotti (retranslated): Mr Medvedev, we are happy to welcome you here.

As we saw today during a tour around CERN, our organisation is the world’s largest fundamental physics laboratory. Naturally, we are the driving force of innovations; we develop many new technologies that are widely used in daily life. Part of our mission is to promote science, train and educate the younger generation, among others.

For a decade, Russia has been our reliable partner.

And you have seen today how many good things Russian scientists, physicists, engineers and technicians have been doing with us. And we really hope that this very strong partnership can continue, as we have very important ambitions for the future. We have to upgrade the Large Hadron Collider, and in the future we want to also, we are thinking also of building a bigger accelerator, a bigger tunnel, a hundred kilometres instead of 27 kilometres, and we need the support, the help and collaboration of our strongest partners across the world, and Russia is one of our strongest partners. We need your technology, we need your know how, we need your scientists, and we hope that we can continue to work together. Of course, we are very happy also to participate with our technological contributions to your mega science projects in Russia. So I hope that in particular thanks to your visit here today we can continue our collaboration in the future with even more intensity. Thank you very much, Mr Prime Minister. 

Dmitry MedvedevMs Gianotti, colleagues,

To be honest, I find it fascinating to visit the European Organisation for Nuclear Research and to gain an insight into its operational infrastructure.

Indeed, we have been cooperating very productively for a long time, and we need to think of how to continue this cooperation in the future. I have just met with Russian scientists here, and, of course, they are inspired by our joint work and the research collaboration that, in effect, has been at the heart of CERN since its inception because it is impossible to achieve current results without research cooperation involving scientists from around the world.

These results are outstanding. You have just told me about this. Thank you very much for this fascinating guided tour and for outlining the history of CERN projects for me.

Speaking of the future, I believe that various traditions that asserted themselves in the past give the Russian Federation every reason to view future cooperation with great optimism.

The Russian scientists here have just asked me why Russia does not have the status of a full member. I asked them whether we needed this status. They said it was necessary due to a high level of Russia-CERN cooperation and the high relevance of such research … Therefore we will certainly review everything, and we will continue to communicate with you on this issue while discussing the future of such work.

Thank you very much once again for showing all this to us today. My colleagues from the Government and I find this very interesting, all the more so as some of us have never been here before. Thank you for your hospitality.