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Government Science News

Austria To Pull Out of CERN 168

andre.david notes an AFP report that Austria has announced its intention to withdraw from CERN, citing budget concerns, adding: "Austrian particle physicists are not happy with this. From HEPHY, the Austrian Institute for High Energy Physics: 'All of a surprise Johannes Hahn... announced that he wants to terminate the Austrian membership at CERN... This [would] affect spin-off projects like the planned cancer treatment center MedAustron... which is dependent on collaborating with CERN... Strangely enough this intention just arrives at a time where scientists are about to harvest the fruits of LHC...' Will other countries follow suit?" "Austria is pulling out of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), Science Minister Johannes Hahn announced Thursday, citing budget concerns. The €20M ($26.9M) yearly membership in CERN... makes up 70 percent of the money available in Austria for participation in international institutes and could be better used to fund other European projects, he said. Hahn said he hoped Austria could find 'a new kind of cooperation' with CERN and described Vienna's withdrawal from the project as a 'pause,' noting that some 30 states were already working together with the Geneva-based centre without being members. The newly-available funds will now allow Austria to take part in new European projects, boost its participation in old ones as well as help the Austrian Science Fund (FWF), the country's main organization funding research."
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Austria To Pull Out of CERN

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  • Re:*coff* (Score:2, Interesting)

    by *coughs loudly* ( 301749 ) on Friday May 08, 2009 @11:34AM (#27877853)

    "Why so short-sighted? Why is it so important that something pay off tangibly within 25 years? Some of the great strides in medication today are applications of HEP-ph of the 30s and 50s that we continue to refine. Who knows what the future holds?"

    Because the money in the here and now is finite, and decisions about allocating it need to be made with that in mind. E.g, not all states in the US fund deep brain stimulation [] treatment for Parkinson's disease; if the US federal money spent on nuclear research were distributed to the states for the sake of DBS, then thousands of people and their families would have a hugely-improved quality of life for months on end, something that is preferable, for most people, to years of research without any significant advance.

  • by SnarfQuest ( 469614 ) on Friday May 08, 2009 @12:05PM (#27878341)

    If I was supreme dictator I'd be canceling the CEO incentive bonuses.

    You mean like Someone, who has the capability of firing the CEOs of major corporations, and cancelling the contractual pay of their employees even after Congress had previously Ok'd it. You could also force investors to settle for pennies on the dollar or face severe sanctions from the government, while turning the company over to his union boss friends without any investment at all. And the press would adore you for it.

  • Re:That's ok... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 08, 2009 @12:26PM (#27878629)

    IMHO drawing a salary to conduct research I find interesting is a privilege that can't be extended to everybody, so it has to be earned and continually re-established by competing with others who want the money for their ideas.

    So some guy spends a decade or two of his life getting the specialized training necessary to be scientist and then he gets out-competed by someone else and ends up on food stamps working minimum wage at McDonalds?

    You don't just wake up one morning and decide you're going to quit your job as a mailman and go lead a research project at CERN - and then when the project gets canceled go back to your job as a mailman. To work at CERN (as a scientific researcher) you've got to plan years in advance and spend years and years studying all kinds of specialized topics.

    The idea that it's OK for politicians to capriciously reallocate funding from year to year ignores the very real human cost. And it discourages people from becoming scientists. Why spend years of your life preparing for a specialized career if some politician may arbitrarily cancel it at the last minute.

    What I would like to see is more of an open source model of scientific research - in that the government finds some motivated and educated people and pays them enough to live comfortably but simply. These people could then attach themselves to whatever projects seemed promising or drift away from whatever projects seemed to be stalled without all kinds of bureaucratic hassles from the politicians. If they thought CERN was promising they could work at CERN but, if not, they attach themselves to other projects.

    There would still be mechanisms for accountability but it would be more about good faith effort than about politicians micromanaging science (that they know little about). Basically, you'd create positions like Einstein had at Princeton Institute for Advanced Study but for average working scientists rather than just for the super stars.

  • Re:That's ok... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SleepingWaterBear ( 1152169 ) on Friday May 08, 2009 @12:58PM (#27879123)

    Austria isn't decreasing it's science budget, just reallocating it. Frankly, it seems very unlikely to me that CERN will produce as valuable scientific results as that same money spread over many smaller projects could, so i think Austria might have the right idea.

  • Re:That's ok... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Nathrael ( 1251426 ) <nathraelthe42nd@gmail . c om> on Friday May 08, 2009 @01:45PM (#27879955)
    If Austria needs money, there are a lot of things which they could fund less instead of science. The Bundesheer (our military doctrine - hold them off serving as cannon fodder until our "friends" from the EU arrive to help us), state-owned transport systems (which do not really work anyways), or our politicians (which receive a lot of cash without doing much for it) - just to name three examples. It's not like the state isn't earning a lot of money with their atrociously high taxes, they just don't know where to spend it.[/rantaboutacountrywhichI'llsoonleaveanyways]
  • by pwilli ( 1102893 ) on Saturday May 09, 2009 @10:02AM (#27888339)
    As a citizen of Austria I would like to state that particle physics and membership at CERN only was interesting for one university in Vienna (capitol city) and therefore I think it was the right thing to take the money elsewhere (why should ONE university get to spend 70% of the budget for this kind of memberships?). We have many good universities in many different fields of science.

    Austria is heavily involved in quantum physics (e. g. University of Innsbruck), and I think a good chunk of the saved Euros will likely flow in that direction in future, as it promises some nice inventions like quantum computers or cryptographics.

    It definetly had nothing to do with recent elections (right wing parties are not part of the government) or religious composition of the people - although mostly catholic christians, religion has imho no measurable impact on politics or science in Austria. We've seperated those things long time ago.

The next person to mention spaghetti stacks to me is going to have his head knocked off. -- Bill Conrad