for Particle Physics and
Section 7: A Technologically Advanced Workforce for Particle Physics and the Nation
Addressing the profound scientific inquiries within particle physics, from understanding the fundamental building blocks of nature to mapping out the evolution of the universe, requires a creative and technologically advanced workforce operating within an environment of mutual trust. The inherent curiosity driving our exploration of the natural world is a universal aspect of human nature. This shared curiosity serves as the driving force behind our commitment to strengthening and expanding this workforce, prompting us to actively seek talent from all corners of society, regions of the country, and on a global scale.
The stewardship of our field demands active engagement with diverse perspectives, which provide innovative strategies and solutions to complex problems. Achieving increased participation and diversity of perspective entails implementing practices supporting ethical conduct of research, dismantling existing barriers, recruiting broadly, and forging new pathways of opportunity to ensure that particle physics thrives as an inclusive and dynamic discipline.
Moreover, the design, construction, operation, and analysis work of high energy physics not only advances our scientific endeavors but also trains the researchers, engineers, and technicians urgently needed in mission-critical areas for the US. This includes hardware and chip development, large-scale computing, quantum information science, and AI/ML. It is imperative that we provide exciting career pathways within our field to retain this talent. Simultaneously, we must continue to educate the many technologically adept researchers and technical personnel who robustly contribute to society outside of particle physics. Additionally, engaging with the public by sharing our scientific discoveries and underscoring how our work contributes to industries beyond particle physics further enhances the impact and relevance of our pursuit.
7.1Ethical Research in Particle Physics
Science is built on trust. When we work ethically, we maintain confidence in our scientific results within our community and with the public. Trust within our community is developed through transparency and the constructive exchange of views. The two key principles for ethical behavior are telling the truth and treating others with respect. Telling the truth means our science is robust and transparent: our data is presented accurately, we present original work, we make our data publicly available whenever possible, and we fairly allocate credit. Treating others with respect requires maintaining a professional work environment, free from harassment and abuse. Discrimination, harassment, or bullying within a scientific collaboration harms individuals, disrupts scientific progress, and is therefore scientific misconduct.
We must collaborate to do our science, which by necessity brings together people at various career stages and from a diverse set of backgrounds. Within these collaborations, ethical standards must be stated clearly and upheld in order for our community members, and our science, to thrive. Establishing and maintaining these standards includes setting professional expectations, reporting violations, and having a process to rectify violations. Such infrastructure should include ombudspersons, independent investigators in cases of egregious alleged violations, training for those in leadership positions, and training to encourage collaborators to create an environment in which people can thrive and scientific output can reach its potential. Laboratories and funding agencies are charged to support such infrastructure (Recommendation 5a).
7.2Recruiting, Training, and Retaining
Particle accelerators and detectors are among the most complex instruments ever created by human ingenuity. Electronics, cryogenics, magnets, vacuum systems, and a complex array of other hardware must work together to deliver signals that probe the fundamental nature of the universe. These instruments, boasting billions of electronic channels and systems sensitive to rare processes that operate at the quantum noise threshold, create intricate datasets. Harnessing this wealth of data requires advanced computing techniques and mathematics, sophisticated statistical tools, and the transformative power of AI/ML. At the core of this endeavor lies a critical component: an exceptionally talented workforce.
To nurture this workforce, it is imperative to recruit individuals with a broad range of backgrounds and provide them with the skills and resources needed to advance the field. To retain this workforce we must provide career pathways and an environment that encourages and rewards exemplary work.
Some particle physics-trained researchers will chart career paths in other areas of academia, as well as in government and industry. Their multidimensional and technical expertise in areas such as accelerators, quantum sensors, and AI/ML, will make them sought after for jobs in quantum computing, medical physics, and other data-rich environments. Their particle physics training will equip them to drive innovation and have a profound impact on the nation’s scientific and technology landscape, as well as society at large.
Recruiting: We should draw research and technical personnel from both a national and international talent pool. Recruitment should address historic and ongoing patterns of underrepresentation in particle physics by engaging broadly in educational efforts and dissemination of scientific findings to the public. Pathways to cutting-edge research at the frontiers of our field should be expanded to reach a broader cross section of students. Strategic academic partnerships connecting different types of academic and research institutions play an important role and continued support is recommended (Recommendation 5b). There should be a concerted effort on including institutions which reach historically underrepresented groups such as minority-serving and rural institutions.
Training: Given the technologically advanced skill sets needed to ensure a robust future for particle physics, we must have strong programs that pass knowledge from experts to new participants in the field. Imparting knowledge to the next generation is crucial to keeping our field at the forefront of AI/ML, quantum sensors, accelerators, and a host of other technologies needed for current and future research. Programs like the US Particle Accelerator School and the Theoretical Advanced Study Institute in Elementary Particle Physics (TASI) are essential ingredients in equipping the next generation with key skills and require sustained support (Recommendation 5b).
Retaining: People are our most precious resource. Scientific advances rely upon the coordinated efforts of experimental and theoretical physicists, technicians, engineers, and administrative support staff. An infrastructure that facilitates individual participation in these efforts will allow us to meet the community’s ethical standards, ensure good stewardship of human resources, and help retain talent. This infrastructure must ensure accessibility, including living wages and sufficient support for those with family and caregiver responsibilities (Recommendation 5b). Studies of the work climate of the field, informed by experts in sociology and organizational psychology, can allow us to identify barriers to participation and gauge our progress (Recommendation 5c).
In addition to creating an environment conducive to good science, we must maintain a critical mass of technical expertise. Researchers applying for funding should be required to have mentoring plans in place for all group members, with an emphasis on early career researchers and those without permanent positions. Strategic support for research scientists, engineers, and other technical experts at universities as well as national labs also plays a key role by providing alternative pathways to retain key expertise (Recommendation 5d).
Requirements from funding agencies via proposal guidelines, project evaluations, and reviews of operating experiments, play a critical role in ensuring that the particle physics community will successfully recruit, train, and retain a technologically advanced workforce with the diverse talents required to meet our scientific needs. NSF and DOE have provided significant leadership, accelerated in recent years, that includes funding opportunities that expand the number of institutions and individuals engaging in particle physics. The agencies have also strengthened the requirements surrounding mentoring plans for grant-funded personnel, increased the focus on dissemination of results, and paid closer attention to improving workplace climate within the national laboratories and experimental collaborations. Efforts on these topics are rapidly evolving and a systematic review of the existing framework, with an eye toward additional opportunities, would advance the development of needed expertise within particle physics.
7.3Engaging with the Public
The dissemination of results to the public is a crucial ingredient of successful scientific projects. The big questions—uncovering the dynamics of the early universe and investigating the nature of matter, space, and time—can inspire the public and contribute to long-term workforce development by nurturing interest and attracting future STEM talent. In addition to physics results, there are exciting stories to tell about how large international teams work together to invent new technologies, solve hard problems, and achieve common goals.
In many cases, technological advances in particle physics lead to progress in industries beyond scientific research. The public, who fund the science, deserves to learn about the discoveries of particle physics and understand the broader impact the field has on society. This in turn is critical in engaging the workforce needed and enabling future science discoveries and societal benefits.
It is the duty of the particle physics community to recognize the value of public engagement. Opportunities to learn scientific communication skills are available through the funding agencies and professional societies, but they should be more broadly advertised. Additional recognition of the value of public engagement is essential to building the necessary culture. A plan for dissemination of scientific results to the public should be included in the proposed operations and research budgets of projects and experiments, and such a plan should be supported by the agencies (Recommendation 5e).