The work of InComEx
The International Commission of Experts (InComEx) met in Yerevan, Armenia on July 22-25, 2009. InComEx listened to reports, presentations, and the future plans of all the divisions of the Yerevan Physics Institute. The agenda of the presentations is attached.
InComEx discussions revolved around the five major issues:
- 1. General description of Yerevan Physics Institute
- 2. Scientific research in the field of experimental physics on accelerators
- 3. Cosmic rays investigations
- 4. Accelerator facilities and accelerator physics
- 5. Theoretical physics research
A general discussion and two closed sessions of InComEx on issues, connected with the present-day status and future development of YerPhI, were held.
The members of InComEx visited the YerPhI accelerator complex and the Cosmic ray stations on Mount Aragats.
At the instance of the InComEx Chairman, its members on July 23 met with the President of the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia acad. R.M. Martirosyan and academician-secretary of the Physics Division of NAS acad. Yu.S. Chilingaryan.
Another meeting was organized with the Minister of Economy of Armenia Dr. N. Yeritsyanon July 25, under the supervision of which YerPhI is at present.
Consequently, from the analysis of the presented reports and the discussions, InComEx got rather detailed information concerning the present activities in the field of fundamental and applied researches, as well as the status of YerPhI and its role in the development of science, education and innovation technologies in Armenia. These conclusions are of strategic character and we do not attempt to comment on each individual programme.
InComEx can thus refer to the Current status of YerPhI as follows:
- • The Institute has undergone a difficult period following the collapse of the USSR
- • But managed to recover to some extent by seeking external collaborations and funding
- • It is a Centre of excellence for physics in Armenia - YerPhI is a unique Institution in its domain in Armenian
- • It has research infrastructures unique in Armenia (in the region): accelerator facility, detector capability, scientific expertise
- • The Cosmic Ray Division of YerPhI owns two unique, extended facilities on Mt. Aragats located nearby at altitudes 2000 m and 3250 m, which provide sites for experimental activities with relevant instrumentation and analysis techniques
- • High scientific productivity - most Armenian papers/citations in SPIRES database show that YerPhI is a leader in the field of physics in the region
- • There obviously exist efforts dispersal
- • Researches in the nuclear physics are insufficient
- • The age structure is poor
- • The governance structure is confused and complicated
- • The funding from the Government is inadequate for working in the field of experimental physics.
Once again InComEx underlines the fact that with its 66-year history, active scientific activities in different fields of modern physics, with the investigation of fields for applying the achievements of physics in interdisciplinary sciences and technologies, YerPhI with its infrastructure offers a unique basis for further development of science and science intensive technologies in Armenia.
The participation of the physicists of YerPhI in large scientific projects, in investigations carried out by large collaborations at the accelerator complexes in Europe and in the USA, the designing and manufacturing of modern experimental facilities are the direct and most efficient way to transfer the achievements of world leading science and of advanced technologies in many projects of national scale. Such connections should be realized via YerPhI, which is located in the capital of the country and is closely connected with its scientific, educational and technical structure.
That's why there is left no room for doubt that the functioning and the development of this center should be continued.
However, because of the long, almost 18-year decline of activities in the field of experimental physics, YerPhI in its present-day condition is not able to perform this mission in full scale. There are questions concern:
- • The main experimental base of the Institute and its infrastructure are very old, while the strongly limited funding does not allow overcoming this lag;
- • There is no clear concept of development of the Institute; the perspectives of its development and the priorities are not clearly determined;
- • There is no inflow of young specialists – the question stands: How to recruit and retain them? There is a gap in the age distribution; so – some should be attracted back from the Diaspora!
- • Is the staffing level appropriate? (At the moment the staff is retained beyond normal retirement age because of social reasons – is it possible to find an alternative to employment by YerPhI?)
InComEx accepts the following Vision for YerPhI as appropriate and proposes it to the Armenian authorities for consideration:
- • YerPhI should be transformed into a National Laboratory of Armenia (NLA)
- • NLA should primarily ensure scientific excellence at an international level
- • NLA’s role: to develop and maintain research infrastructures for fundamental physics (particle, nuclear, astroparticle), accelerator science and their applications
- • NLA’s role: as node that connects Armenia to the international physics community - enabling participation in the world leading projects
- • NLA should be a channel for bringing new developments to Armenia – e.g., nuclear medicine, GRID with the National Academy of Sciences, and opportunities for developing a technology base for Armenia, etc…
- • NLA should be a node for training students in fundamental physics, related technologies, informatics
- • NLA’s activities would be essential for the knowledge economy of Armenia.
Concluding from all the-above-mentioned, InComEx has drawn up recommendations, which are given below by specific area along with recommendations on the structure of NLA:
- A. Particle Physics abroad
Front-line particle physics research in every country around the globe requires access to international facilities and participation in experiments there.
Therefore in the future, it is necessary:
- 1. Continue putting strong emphasis on international collaborations at facilities abroad, such as at TJNAF (USA), DESY (Germany), CERN (Switzerland), JINR (Dubna), HESS (Namibia), etc.
- - In doing so, successful models of collaboration will follow, such as developed e.g. for the HERMES experiment (persons rotating between experiment and YerPhI, combined with strong analysis effort at the Institute);
- - Focus efforts to obtain greater visibility and impact (choice to be made by YerPhI and depends on people, involvement of students and local conditions).
- 2. Now it is the time to ramp up LHC physics analysis and involve students, since in the near future, experiments at the CERN LHC will be key to the future of particle physics.
- 3. Governmental support to the teams is essential.
- B. Particle Physics at home
Since in-house particle experiments with ARUS are considered by InComEx as not competitive at the international level, it is recommended:
- 4. To develop and focus the scientific and technical base of YerPhI further in order to make the participation in the above-mentioned collaborative experiments more effective (e.g., detector construction, data analysis, etc.).
- 5. To create a center with high-speed communication lines and develop a GRID infrastructure (in collaboration with the Academy)in YerPhI for the purpose of proceeding experimental data and their theoretical analysis. The YerPhI center can be engaged in significantly activities in the informational space and can introduce high productivity computing and modern systems of communication in Armenia. Such a center will be also useful for other sciences and e-health.
The Cosmic Ray Department at YerPhI has a strong track record in Astroparticle Physics with expertise in cosmic ray physics, gamma ray astronomy and space weather research, including the relevant instrumentation and analysis techniques.
InComEx finds the following:
- 1. Recently a new activity has been initiated in the Cosmic Ray Division in the field of Solar and Space weather studies. Given the importance of expected results from the new “Space Environment Viewing and Analysis Network” (SEVAN) for studies of Solar and Geomagnetic effects, together with the facilities of the Aragats Space Environmental Center (ASEC), there exist certain prospects for YerPhI, provided that the group will focus its activity on the acquisition and exploitation of the neutron and particle monitors and transmission of data to the network centers, and will reorient its members towards professional studies in a new research area.
- 2. Membership in the HESS (and the upcoming HESS-2) collaboration in Namibia and the next-generation Observatory CTA offer very good opportunities for the institute: cosmic ray and air shower physics has scientific potential for the next 15 years. Whether this activity can be developed further at a modern international level is a key issue, and requires significant increase of the financial support. Scope for industrial involvement and hardware activities at YerPhI in the construction of the future instruments.
- 3. The GAMMA experiment can be continued. But we recommend extensive studies and separate consideration concerning the perspectives of this research area on Mt. Aragats in the institute with participation of international experts.
- 4. Because of the unique opportunities given by Mount Aragats (large infrastructure, accessible high mountain close to Yerevan, sites at different altitudes), the scope in light of likely future scientific needs should be re-assessed. It is advisable to encourage other (scientific) users of the facilities.
Nuclear Physics at YerPhI is not at an internationally competitive level although collaboration with JINR (Dubna) and LUND exists and the scientists of YerPhI in some experiments at TJNAF (USA) play leadership roles. On the other hand, Nuclear Physics is important for the future of Armenia for its crucial dependence on nuclear energy and new economic/scientific bases of nuclear medicine, environmental and radiation monitoring.
We recommend the following: <
1. Although the proposed experiments on the basis of the electron linear accelerator with an energy range E = 15-75 MeV are not competitive internationally, they are at present the only basis for the education and training of students in nuclear physics in Yerevan. This might also have implications to training of experts in Armenia for radiological and environmental monitoring.
2. One exciting option for a bright scientific / technological / economic future of Armenia would be the creation of a dedicated facility (cyclotron for protons and heavy ions) to be used for investigations in fundamental nuclear physics – investigations of e.g., neutron-rich isotopes, nuclear structure, nuclear reactions.
3. At the R&D stage of such a project, and after putting it into operation, Armenia could simultaneously develop skills in applications of nuclear physics’ methods in interdisciplinary fields of science and technology, for example, hadron therapy and research in nuclear medicine.
4. Collaboration with international laboratories is necessary (e.g., JINR-Dubna, GSI, GANIL, RIKEN, FRIB@MSU, …). Funding is necessary for groups in Yerevan from the government to participate in these collaborations. That way, Armenia can also take part in construction projects and bring some revenue to the laboratory.
5. Sufficient support from the government is absolutely necessary.
YerPhI has made, and continues to make, important contributions to accelerators abroad. We propose:
- 1. To work out a conceptual project for the development of a strong group in accelerator science by the creation/construction/purchase of an accelerator for ions with mass number А = 10-150 and energies up to 10-20 MeV/nucleon, with the aim of simultaneously performing research in basic and applied sciences. The choice for the type and parameters of such an accelerator should be determined by the scientific staff of NLA as a focused and concrete research programme is developed along with a plan by the ministry for securing the financial resources necessary for such a project.
- 2. To keep up the know-how in accelerator physics, which is of strategic value for a country like Armenia, as there are perspectives for applications to medicine, industry, etc. Training of students on some facilities at home is crucial for the future of securing a skilled workforce in Armenia.
- 3. YerPhI should participate actively in international accelerator collaborations with industry as well as scientific laboratories.
- 4. In perspective, to consider the possibility of creating, on the basis of the existing infrastructure of the accelerator (the synchrotron), of heavy ion beams with an energy up to 1GeV/n with the aim to perform:
- a) Investigations in the field of hadron physics with beams of stable and radioactive nuclei.
- b) Radiotherapy of vitally important parts of the human body and large-scale radiobiological investigations.
- c) Investigations of radiation damage effects of electronic components for long-term use (in cosmic flights) and the creation of precise micro- and nano-structures in new materials, etc.
Although strong research in certain areas, including QCD and more formal field theory, as well as a large number of citations, has been registered, we find that:
- 1. In the activity of the theoretical department it is desirable to single out as of highest priority those physical investigations in which the Institute carries out and intends to perform in the future experimental research.
- 2. Encourage interaction with LHC and astro-particle experimental programmes. Also – support a plan to set up regular theory-experiment seminar on LHC physics.
- 3. Activity in nuclear theory is highly desirable, given the importance of experimental nuclear physics to the future of Armenia.
- 4. The participation of researchers from the Institute in the development of the computer infrastructure of YerPhI should be defined.
- 5. The proposed educational programmes for graduate students and young researchers should be enlarged and run both for theorists and experimentalists (see the “experimental programme”).
Educational and recruiting of young scientists programme
The most valuable resource in any country is its people, particularly those trained with the skills and education to enhance the economic standing of a country. It is therefore absolutely necessary to undertake cardinal measures for the yearly employment of the staff at YerPhI, on permanent positions, the education/employment of students, and those who have graduated from institutes of higher education in Armenia and young specialists.
For this purpose, we propose:
- 1. YerPhI together with the Ministry of science and education to draw up a programme for the training and work of students / young physicists and engineers in YerPhI. For this purpose to foresee separate financing of salaries.
- 2. It is advisable to increase the number of Armenian graduate students continuing with PhD studies. It is advisable to provide in YerPhI conditions for the performance of original research and for participation in collaborations at large-scale facilities.
A plan for recruiting young people should be drawn (open new positions for young people and define their status). Efforts should be applied, as it has been done in other countries, by attracting back from abroad their very brightest people and providing them with the conditions in which they can succeed.
In every country around the globe, economic success is built around the applications of basic research. We therefore propose:
- 1. To develop a programme in applied research (a separate division, department, or center) in parallel with the research activities at YerPhI in the fields of fundamental physics.
- 2. For this purpose, it might be advisable to invite an International group of competent and independent experts.
- 3. Introduce a contract-based system for investing and financing of activities in the field of applied physics with the involvement of resources from international funding agencies, international laboratories, Armenian govt. resources, and private investors (national and international). As far as possible, to attract (on the basis of contracts) for the accomplishment of applied physics problems the researchers and engineers from the scientific departments of the Institute.
Status and structure of YerPhI
- 1. The aim of YerPhI is to carry out both scientific research in order to obtain new information on the structure and the fundamental properties of matter and applied research by means of nuclear methods and technologies.
- 2. The main directions of activities of the Institute are:
- physics of elementary particles and cosmic rays,
- nuclear physics and nuclear reactions,
- space weather and atmospheric phenomena,
- accelerator physics and techniques,
- information technologies and automation of scientific research,
- use of nuclear physics techniques in interdisciplinary sciences and also for
applications, such as medicine and others,
- investigations in the field of biophysics and genetics.
- 3. In connection with the multi-plan scientific work of YerPhI in and outside Armenia, as well as with the development of activities in applied directions, it is preferable to give to the Institute the status of a National Laboratory of Armenia (NLA) (according to the American classification: National Laboratory), or National Center for Nuclear Physics by changing its staff structure and funding system.
- 1. The Government of Armenia might consider the possibility of funding the Institute (the National Laboratory) from two sources:
- fundamental research: from the federal budget (science and education) to the extent necessary for fulfilling the scientific topical plans,
- applied research and developments: from sources (economy and innovations) on the basis of contracts, with the possibility to involve private capital.
- 2. YerPhI should continue to explore external funding sources – e.g., EU, ISTC, etc.
- 3. Need to budget adequate funding for participation in international collaborations: e.g., LHC, HESS, Auger, etc.
- 4. Adequate salaries for staff members should be ensured.
- 5. To increase during the coming two years the budgetary part of funding YerPhI. To use the system of priority funding of activities connected with the renovation of the experimental base of the Institute, including the experimental base for investigations in nuclear physics, its infrastructure and the implementation of top-priority experiments of the scientific topical plan.
- 6. To ensure funding for increasing the number of grants, additionally coming to YerPhI from external organizations. To ensure that there are positions for young students to enter Ph.D. level studies at NLA.
- 7. To determine the priority fields and investment programme of applied activities performed directly in the Institute or with the participation of researchers from YerPhI in other programmes. To work out a funding system so as to carry out applied research and be able to implement them taking into account the possibility of employing the Institute staff, of using its equipment, infrastructure, etc.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR GOVERNANCE
There is large uncertainty in the governance of YerPhI now. Uncertainties in budgets, in scientific planning, and the number of student positions does not allow for planning particularly since they come from varied sources. Therefore, it is recommended to have clear and transparent governance where the director of YerPhI presents annually the plans of YerPhI and receives the budget. The plans of YerPhI have to be focused and ready to implement.
In order to ensure that the scientific programme is world leading and competitive, it is recommended to establish a standing international advisory committee to advise the director and to evaluate the scientific programme of the Laboratory before it is presented to the ministry for funding.
Thus, it is recommended:
- • To improve the governance. To bring it in accordance with the scientific plans and the structure of a National Laboratory,
- • To have transparent and unified governmental responsibility,
- • To create a Standing International Advisory Committee IAC (with some members from Armenia).
- • Focus scientific efforts at YerPhI, define priorities,
- • Government to support priorities proposed by director and scientists of YerPhi and IAC,
- • Not to be afraid to close old facilities in order to make the construction of new facilities possible,
- • Strengthen nuclear physics,
- • Create and exploit a centre for accelerator science in Armenia.
The members of InComEx expresses thanks to:
- • Minister N. Yeritsyan for his personal involvement and substantial discussions
- • Director A. Chilingaryan and department leaders for their efforts
- • The staff of YerPhI for their energetic and open participation in the discussions
The members of InComEx were impressed by the enthusiasm and engagement of all people involved in the work of the Commission.
On behalf of InComEx
acad. Yury Oganesyan
Dubna, September 14, 2009.