Using open access to collaborate on the largest experiment in the world – and inspire the next generation of particle physicists
“When you are working with 3,000 collaborators from across the world, open access certainly does make life an awful lot easier. In fact, I don’t think we could do the work we do without it,” says Professor Tony Doyle.
Professor Doyle is the designated chair for the publication committee of one of the largest scientific collaboration in the world – ATLAS – a particle physics experiment at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, which is working on analysis methods to search, amongst many things, for the Higgs boson.
CERN’s ATLAS experiment is committed to making its research open access and issued a formal statement in February 2007 setting out its position:
“We…strongly encourage the usage of electronic publishing methods for [this experiment’s] publications and support the principles of Open Access Publishing, which includes granting free access of our publications to all. Furthermore, we encourage all [our] members to publish papers in easily accessible journals, following the principles of the Open Access Paradigm.”
But what difference does the policy really make to the researchers on the ground?
“I think the main thing that has happened with open access is that references to the papers are quicker,” says Professor Doyle. “From an Atlas perspective it really helps when there are thousands of authors all over the world who wish to discuss their paper with theorists and others.”
“Here at Atlas, given that it’s the first years of full-on data-taking where we’re really probing the Higgs signatures, within a collaboration of 3,000 we might have more than 60 papers going through the system at one time in some form or other. All of those have to be reviewed and then there are formal meetings and discussions via the CERN Document Server system. We give comments and feedback to ensure there are no mistakes in the final versions and the message is conveyed as well as possible.”
The ATLAS experiment currently uses about 10 journals to publish its papers, including European Physics Journal C (EPJC), Journal of High Energy Physics (JHEP) and Nature Communications, and all articles, results and conference notes are made freely available via the public wiki.
The accessibility of this cutting edge research not only facilitates collaboration between the physicists working on the experiment but also makes a difference to Professor Doyle’s work at the University of Glasgow where he is the research group leader of the particle physics experiment group. He teaches undergraduates and supervises PhD students. He incorporates references relating to his work at the ATLAS experiment into the lectures he gives to the students, knowing that they can easily access the very latest research.
“In teaching terms, open access means we can refer to the latest developments on the Higgs searches in our forthcoming lectures: this access to real-time results really helps to enthuse the next generation of physicists,” says Professor Doyle.