This Week’s Rumor

A commenter on the previous posting has helpfully given us the abstract of an internal ATLAS note claiming observation of a resonance at 115 GeV. It’s the sort of thing you would expect to see if there were a Higgs at that mass, but the number of events seen is about 30 times more than the standard model would predict. Best guess seems to be that this is either a hoax, or something that will disappear on further analysis. But, since spreading well-sourced rumors is more or less in the mission statement of this blog, I think I’ll promote this to its own posting. Here it is:

Internal Note
Report number ATL-COM-PHYS-2011-415
Title Observation of a γγ resonance at a mass in the vicinity of 115 GeV/c2 at ATLAS and its Higgs interpretation
Author(s) Fang, Y (-) ; Flores Castillo, L R (-) ; Wang, H (-) ; Wu, S L (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
Imprint 21 Apr 2011. – mult. p.
Subject category Detectors and Experimental Techniques
Accelerator/Facility, Experiment CERN LHC ; ATLAS
Free keywords Diphoton ; Resonance ; EWEAK ; HIGGS ; SUSY ; EXOTICS ; EGAMMA
Abstract Motivated by the result of the Higgs boson candidates at LEP with a mass of about 115~GeV/c2, the observation given in ATLAS note ATL-COM-PHYS-2010-935 (November 18, 2010) and the publication “Production of isolated Higgs particle at the Large Hadron Collider Physics” (Letters B 683 2010 354-357), we studied the γγ invariant mass distribution over the range of 80 to 150 GeV/c2. With 37.5~pb−1 data from 2010 and 26.0~pb−1 from 2011, we observe a γγ resonance around 115~GeV/c2 with a significance of 4σ. The event rate for this resonance is about thirty times larger than the expectation from Higgs to γγ in the standard model. This channel H→γγ is of great importance because the presence of new heavy particles can enhance strongly both the Higgs production cross section and the decay branching ratio. This large enhancement over the standard model rate implies that the present result is the first definitive observation of physics beyond the standard model. Exciting new physics, including new particles, may be expected to be found in the very near future.

See: http://cdsweb.cern.ch/record/1346326?

Update: Jester is up late with some comments here.

Update: Tommaso is skeptical here.

Update: It should be made clear that, while members of ATLAS work here at Columbia, I have no connection at all to them, and they had nothing to do with this. The source of the abstract posted here anonymously as a comment is completely unknown to me. The question has been raised of whether I should allow this kind of material to be posted to this blog and I think it’s a serious one that I have mixed feelings about. On the one hand, ATLAS has legitimate reasons for keeping this kind of information private, on the other, it’s the kind of information that traditionally has sooner or later circulated outside a collaboration in one form or another. As an example, in my graduate student days back in the early 80s, I remember Carlo Rubbia telling a large group of people at the departmental tea about how his experiment had the top quark “in the bag” (actually, they didn’t…).

I’ve generally taken the point of view that it’s not my job to stop rumors, but rather to put out accurate information about them when available to me. But blogs do raise all sorts of issues, and they’re likely to keep coming up. I’m curious to hear if my readers have any wisdom to share about them.

Update: Via Slashdot, some more comment about this, including disclosure of another vector of information transfer out of ATLAS:

Someone left a copy of the note on the printer in my office building. (I work on CDF at Fermilab, but there are others in the building who work on ATLAS at CERN.) The gist of the article is that they found a bump in the diphoton mass spectrum at a mass of ~115 GeV. If the Higgs exists, it is expected to produce a bump in that spectrum, and 115 GeV is a very probable value for the mass of the Higgs. (Experiments at LEP ruled out masses up to 114 GeV, but a mass as low as possible above that fits best with other measurements.)

Now, the inconsistencies: The bump that they found is ~30 times as large as the Higgs mass peak is expected to be. However, due to field theory that I don’t want to get into here, the Higgs peak in this spectrum could be larger than expected if there exist new, heavy particles that we haven’t discovered yet. The latest published result from CDF sets a limit of about 30 times the expected rate at 115 GeV in the diphoton channel. (Yes, this means that, if you’re optimistic enough, there’s just enough wiggle room to fit a Higgs in there while accommodating both measurements.)

The internal note is very preliminary and uses a crude background estimate; I’ll have to see a more thorough analysis before I make any judgment on it. We shouldn’t have to wait very long; I expect that after this leak, they’ll be working overtime to push out a full published result as soon as possible.

Update: Since I don’t traffic in rumors of dubious source, you’ll have to go here to get the latest rumors from someone younger who knows about this whole Twitter kind of thingy…

This entry was posted in Experimental HEP News. Bookmark the permalink.

88 Responses to This Week’s Rumor

  1. Steven says:

    As was mentioned earlier, anyone can write a com note and send it to the collaboration. A com note is unreviewed and is a very good way to quickly transmit ideas and techniques within the collaboration. A com note is not a result by any stretch of the imagination. Any ATLAS member can write a com note claiming anything.

    I agree with “real scientist”, whoever passed this on should be ashamed of themselves. Collaborations have internal peer review procedures for a reason.

  2. Nathalie says:

    A historical note: Sau Lan Wu and her collaborators had V-V events in their data while working in the ALEPH Collaboration at LEP (Large Electron Positron) Accelerator. In those days, the events were not considered to be significant. That was indeed ages ago as LEP was closed in the year 2000.

  3. Low Math, Meekly Interacting says:

    There’s going to be a lot of this for the next few years, isn’t there.

  4. AS says:

    keeping secret the work of 2000 persons in the age of internet is just impossible.

  5. Paul Wells says:

    I don’t want to start a flame war so I will summarize my position then shut up.

    I paid for this work so I think I should have free access to-

    1. All Raw Data
    2. Programs required to interpret raw data.
    3. Project documentation to interpret 1. and 2.
    4. Final publications WITHOUT having to pay for journal.

    Agreed though that IF this was leaked without the author’s permission it was wrong.

    Thanks
    Paul

  6. Peter Woit says:

    Paul,

    What you’re bringing up are issues not really related to the question at hand, that of information getting to the public about incomplete results that have not yet been fully checked. The people who designed and built this experiment have a legitimate interest in seeing that the data from it is responsibly analyzed and interpreted.

  7. Also a real scientist @ ATLAS says:

    The first commenter is correct. This cannot be considered an official result of the ATLAS experiment. It has not been reviewed by even a single internal reviewer. COM notes are, as noted by others, used to communicate information to the whole collaboration. The subject of such notes is information all collaboration members have access to already, but usually written in such a way that it is well-explained for members that don’t necessarily participate in a given analysis. It’s a 3000 person collaboration; without something like COM notes, it would be difficult to follow everything that goes on. You certainly can’t go to all the meetings.

    Here is a link (publicly available) explaining the categories of ATLAS documentation that can be found on the CERN document server (CDS): https://twiki.cern.ch/twiki/bin/viewauth/Atlas/CdsCategories

    “ATLAS Communications (ATLAS-COM-*): ATLAS communications – no approval or vetting by ATLAS; also used as “discussion category” for documents to be approved (Proceedings, Slides, INT and PUB notes)”

  8. Peter Woit says:

    Thanks for the information about ATLAS documents, although the link you provide requires a CERN login when I try it.

    I don’t know if anyone from ATLAS or CMS is willing to discuss this, but I for one would be interested in hearing an outline of how things are supposed to work for searches like this one. This case seems anomalous. Surely the standard procedure can’t be to have everyone off looking for whatever they think might be interesting, then when they think they see something writing a draft of a paper about how physics has just been revolutionized and putting it up for 3000 people to look at and discuss.

  9. OhDear says:

    yes yes, we all appreciate that this is not an official statement from the Atlas collaboration, and has in no way been vetted by anyone apart from those who produced it.

    The question is, how often do sensational com notes like this one get circulated internally? How likely is it that the authors of this note have done something silly in the analysis? They are professional experimental physicists, and are members of Atlas, so they know what they are doing. Of course we all make mistakes, but I assume they would have checked this analysis quite thoroughly, to avoid looking silly in front of the rest of the collaboration.

    I also wonder if/how the Atlas heirarchy are going to try to discover the source of the leak. I guess only a limited number of people would have clicked on the link to this document, and their identities may be available. (note that to access the document you need to login using your CERN login.)

  10. mark says:

    Paul,

    All LHC publications are available from CERN CDS or arxiv free of charge (unlike most other scientific fields which require you to pay for expensive journals).

    I suggest you read the talks and papers on the topic of (1)-(3) (google it) – its far from trivial to do due to various technical software reasons (what happens when the computers the computer code ran on cease to exist – think of a program on a 5 inch floppy disk from 30 years ago – what on earth would you do with it now if you wanted to use the programs and data on it….computer hardware does not last forever, and noone builds any device that could read it anymore), though I believe e.g. ALEPH has attempted this in recent years and lots of people spend lots of time thinking about how best to do this to preserve the data for future generations (obviously given the expense you cannot rerun these experiments easily if you lose the data).

  11. Anonymous says:

    Paul,

    If everyone has access to all raw data immediately, what makes you think anyone would actually build these experiments? Just let someone else do the hard work and wait around to do an analysis.

    As a former member of ATLAS I can tell you that the only reason most physicists work on these experiments is to have access to the data.

    If anyone could do any analysis on any experiment’s data then no experiment would actually get built.

  12. Also a real scientist @ ATLAS says:

    Sorry, I thought the link should be publicly available as I got to it from the public page. The important part is the definition of a COM note, which I anyway listed.

    >yes yes, we all appreciate that this is not an official statement from the Atlas collaboration, and has in no way been vetted by anyone apart from those who produced it.

    Good! :-)

    >The question is, how often do sensational com notes like this one get circulated internally?

    I don’t want to say “never”; the thing is, we have not been taking data that long…and how can you have a note making truly sensational claims with Monte Carlo simulation? I will say that I have seen some worthless COM notes, documenting studies that are not well done and are clearly not going anywhere. Sometimes a student is going to graduate, or a person is going to need to search for jobs, and they need to just document their work, put an internal number on it, and it looks like they accomplished something. Funding agencies also seem to like it when you can show that you have produced many of these notes. I’m not saying that’s the motivation with this incident. But I have seen several throw-away COM notes that fit that bill.

    >How likely is it that the authors of this note have done something silly in the analysis? They are professional experimental physicists, and are members of Atlas, so they know what they are doing. Of course we all make mistakes, but I assume they would have checked this analysis quite thoroughly, to avoid looking silly in front of the rest of the collaboration.

    Here’s the thing: most of the time when an important analysis–let’s use a less controversial example, like the measurement of the Z cross section–is documented by a COM note, it is not a situation like this one. These analyses are very complicated and have many pieces. There is an entire working group, of usually around 30 people, behind the note. Each aspect of the analysis is carefully studied. In the case of the Z cross section, there were probably 2-3 people working on the electron identification criteria for that analysis. They presented their results to the working group, and those were discussed. After several iterations of this the group agreed on the criteria that seems to work the best. We went through this for other parts of the analysis…QCD background determination, electron efficiency measurements, etc. When the group has a complete analysis, it is written as a COM note. This is to document and communicate the work that has been done so far. The collaboration offers comments etc., which is helpful but does not count as review. An internal review board is assigned to the note, and only after this board signs off, and all comments from the collaboration have been addressed, can the document be made public.

    In this path, the original, un-approved COM note, although not an “official” result, was stringently validated due to the work of many people in the working group and is probably not far off from the final approved version. The authors of the note behind the leaked abstract did not take this path, so while it is not guaranteed that their results or their approach are wrong, but a mistake somewhere is also much more likely.

    As far as wanting to avoid looking silly in front of one’s colleagues…Even when you are considering people who are professionals, wanting very badly for something to be true, really BELIEVING that something is true, can cloud one’s judgement. Also consider: what does Sau Lan Wu have to lose? She has a position with tenure at a nice university. She has a proven track record of success and will continue to be able to get funding for the immediate future. If she makes sensational claims to the collaboration, people will roll their eyes, scrutinize the work, but if it’s wrong it doesn’t really cost her anything in the end. As for the graduate student and post-docs, I don’t know if they have much of a choice whether to be listed as authors or not. I guess they could refuse, but that’s tricky since they certainly are the ones who did the work.

    >I also wonder if/how the Atlas heirarchy are going to try to discover the source of the leak. I guess only a limited number of people would have clicked on the link to this document, and their identities may be available. (note that to access the document you need to login using your CERN login.)

    I am sure that almost everyone in ATLAS has read this document. Seeing who clicked on the link would not be a viable way of finding the leak. I’ve heard (completely unfounded) rumors that email tracing may be done, but my understanding is that the leak happened via a comment on a blog (this one?). In this case, I guess that the only way to find out would be if the blog owner could be persuaded to give the information. Even in that case, if I were going to leak it that way (and I didn’t), I would use a fake email address. So probably we’re not going to find out who did it.

  13. OhDear says:

    Hi “Also a real scientist @ ATLAS ” – thanks for your detailed reply! Very interesting to see how large collaborations like this work. Us theorists are of course only working in small groups.

    Regarding finding the leak, I had in mind that the timestamps of the requests for the document might be available. The culprit would likely be one of the first few to access it. Of course, by now everyone else will have accessed it, but these will all be at later times.

  14. asymptotea says:

    Peter, Here is some press for you.

    http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2011/04/higgs-rumor/

  15. Emile says:

    The tax payer argument does not work. That public funding pays for these experiments does not entitle everyone to listen in to private conversations, read private emails exchanged by colleagues, or get
    to go inside the control and start to play with buttons. You don’t get access to all internal documents produced by civil servants either (think of lawyers working on behalf of governments or internal documents written by public officials). Similarly, publicly funded artists should not be required to provide you with all their private recordings or sketches or everything that’s unfinished or perhaps not yet good enough.
    What you pay for is for good science to be performed. This involves necessary internal discussions and studies where scientists, who are experts on different aspects of the detector, trigger, and software, come to a consensus and are willing to stand behind the result. You pay for science to get done properly and releasing results that have not been checked and approved is not good for anybody. It’s bad science. Results should be released when the experimentalists are satisfied that the results are scientifically sound. I’m disappointed that internal documentation of a scientific collaboration was posted on this site.
    This is tabloid science. Hyping theories gets you into print and similarly, jumping on every bump will get you some attention too. But, given the trials factor associated with these large experiments, you’ll
    cry wolf often enough that people will not take you seriously. All
    this also leads to armchair guessing about a result. This is speculation. It’s not serious science. Taxpayers deserve better value for their tax money.

  16. barry taylor says:

    It is difficult to keep a secret in today’s World. Some of us simple folks think this is all pretty exciting given the news from the Chicago area collider a few weeks back. A large public excitement over the GOD particle might generate enough interest to get more $$$ for the science bunch. The U.S. is in desperate need of some good news. Let the rumor run, and let’s all have a good time and pay up if they don’t gots it yet. More $, more research. More interest, more money.

  17. Jay says:

    The taxpayer argument works. There exists freedom of information legislation in over 85 countries. Additionally there are open meeting laws enacted in many countries. It would be interesting to be a fly on the wall in your HEP experiment meetings. The taxpayers who sponsor these experiments have a legal right to see the process that leads up to the good science that is produced.

    In astronomy, there are many instrument builders who take great pride in their work. They are especially celebrated when astronomers use the data produced by their instruments to gain profound insights into nature.

  18. Steven says:

    @Jay
    I’m sure that one could attempt to use FOI information to get hold of all sort of internal information. However, I have a suspicion that, since the LHC experiments are CERN-based and since CERN is an international organisation in a country which offers such organisations privileged status, I’m not altogether sure such information would eventually become available.

    Also, I’m at a loss to see how science would improve even if the cupboard doors were flung open and every internal document was made available. If all techniques and all numbers (eg calorimeter scale uncertainties) were available as soon as they were calculated and documented then why should a country bother to take part in the experiment and do the messy bits i.e. build and maintain the detector. All the information anyway becomes available for free. Great news for science until the science stops happening. Its also not so great news for the PhD student who is measuring, eg, jet production but who also has spend much of their time making sure their bit of the detector works while another PhD student enjoys the fruit of the first student’s labour by reading all the documentation on jets and publishing first.

    Also, we should at the same time be making available theorists’ early numbers. That theorist who has spent a year updating his/her Monte Carlo program in collaboration with a couple of others should be prepared to give it up to others to use before they have the chance to write their own publications with it.

    Particle physics has been at the forefront of efforts to make freely available research findings through an open access model. Similarly, a lot of work is going on in making sure that experiments are able to document their data and techniques such that future analyses will be possible (and open to all). One can throw a spanner in the works with FOI requests (knocking down things is easy, building them up is hard) but I’m far from convinced that this would lead to better science being performed.

  19. Ryan says:

    I don’t see what the big deal is with leaking this?

    This is similar to a conference paper! A bit of info pre-publication. If it turns out to untrue, who cares! Some more publicity for the scientists. If it’s true we get a sneak peak before it’s on the cover of Nature.

  20. physicsrob says:

    @Steven
    Exactly — But I think you should take it a step further. The analogy would be that theorists should open up their notebooks and share any incomplete idea they are working on.

    @Jay
    The analogy with telescopes doesn’t completely work. ATLAS has roughly 3000 physicists. Every single one of them is required to complete “service work” to be a member of collaboration. If completing this work was not a requirement for analyzing the data then literally half of the physicists (more, actually) wouldn’t bother being members of the collaboration or doing any of the necessary work.

  21. Also a real scientist @ ATLAS says:

    @Ryan:

    >This is similar to a conference paper!

    No it is *not*. That is precisely what all the fuss is about. This paper has not gone anywhere NEAR the level of internal checks that we do before putting something out as a conference paper.

    >A bit of info pre-publication.

    It is not necessarily info, it is quite possibly trash. The result has not been checked by the collaboration as is necessary to ensure that the analysis was properly done. As far as publication, this is not anywhere near being pre-publication. Others have indicated they understand this, but I feel I must emphasize it again for your benefit: this is *not* an official result of the ATLAS experiment, and you should not expect to see this any time soon as a publication.

    >If it turns out to untrue, who cares! Some more publicity for the scientists. If it’s true we get a sneak peak before it’s on the cover of Nature.

    You don’t care I guess, but as a member of the collaboration I do. I feel that it reflects badly on me and my colleagues that this has been leaked. A large fraction of the general public seems to believe that this is a result that has been reached and approved after our usual rigorous checks…that it’s just almost a result we can all stand behind, but not quite. You very much imply that you think that’s exactly the case, but it couldn’t be further from the truth.

    As far as the authors, they may gain publicity, but I don’t think I’d want it in 3 of their cases. Wu won’t suffer, I think. She’s too well established. The other 3 are a grad student and 2 post-docs. It’s a small field. How are their job prospects, as you say, “if this turns out to be untrue?”

  22. Ryan says:

    @ Also a real scientist:

    Hang on – you peer review your conference papers? Get real.

    Not one organization of respect is claiming this as fact. Everyone has claimed this as just what it is – a rumor. If your worried about the morons in the general public taking this the wrong way you have bigger issues to worry about. And don’t flatter yourself – the vast majority of the worlds population don’t understand nor care what you are doing. I care – and understand some – but I’m in a minority.

    As for the phd students – again, get real. As a recent phd graduate, if they drop the name of where they did their thesis studies the whole field will open their doors to them.

    For a scientist, you are awfully melodramatic.

  23. Giotis says:

    Real scientists, I think you are exaggerating. An internal note about the Higgs hunt was leaked. So what? This kind of research does not have any impacts on society (like a prognosis of an upcoming earthquake or the cure of a disease would have for example) so I don’t see any harm done. On the contrary such results often trigger public discussions which are always good and informative for many people. Also I don’t see why you should worry about the reputation of the people involved and of ATLAS collaboration. Don’t you think people are smart enough to understand that this (as stressed by Peter and others) is just an unvetted internal note?

  24. Steven says:

    @Ryan
    Yes, referees are appointed for all conference contributions and they are rigorously reviewed. This is the true for all of the major collaborations.

    Neither I nor “real scientist” are being particularly melodramatic.
    The fact is that the LHC was built primarily to find the Standard Model Higgs or to disprove its existence. A lot of people have spent a lot of time making sure that the ATLAS detector works and that results are sound and definitive. Circumventing a well structured review chain to spread rumours about unchecked results on a Higgs search is annoying and unscientific.

  25. Steven says:

    @Giotis

    Over the past few years there have been a few “discoveries”, eg hints for WIMP dark matter and various new particles. Unfortunately, these discoveries have tended to vanish upon receipt of more data.

    It does the field little credit to continuously have rumours washing around but no actual verified discoveries.

  26. Also a real scientist @ ATLAS says:

    Thanks Steven, for articulating very well exactly what I also think about this.

    @Ryan: As Steven said, yes we do internally peer review our conference notes. So do CMS and CDF and D0. Furthermore, we internally review a class of internal notes as well, known as INT notes. COM notes really are the furthest thing down on the ladder of peer review, a ladder that we take very seriously…they are the ONLY class of ATLAS documents on CDS that is not reviewed. This includes the actual slides shown at conferences, which must also be signed off on.

    I don’t think that people outside of my field are morons. I do realize that they provide my funding via taxes. That funding is for research that I’m convinced has a noble purpose, even if there is no immediately practical application. That noble purpose is the pursuit of further knowledge, just for the sake of it, conducted in a scientific manner. Leaks like this severely undermine that, and that is especially the case if the work is not rigorous enough to stand up to scrutiny. With that said, I actually do not have more important things to worry about. If this is what the general public grows to expect of us, we are going to be out of business.

    As for my “melodrama” regarding the future job searches of the post-docs and grad student, I would venture to guess that you are not a part of this field. It really is a valid concern, especially for the post-docs. It may be of interest of you to see where Sau Lan’s grad students end up: http://www-wisconsin.cern.ch/~wus/achievements.html Notice the trend towards grad students staying at Wisconsin for post-doc positions, something considered unusual and not particularly desirable in this field, or going onto less prestigious positions than earlier in her career. She paints a very rosy picture to the outside world, but is not as highly thought of within HEP as her website and interviews with the press would have you believe.

    @Giotis: I guess you see no harm done because it probably doesn’t impact your life as much as it does mine. Quite frankly, it is just *annoying* on one level. From what I’ve seen on message boards and blog comments, many people don’t understand that this is not on behalf of the whole collaboration. It’s annoying to have my name attached to that note in any way. It’s annoying that if we do really discover the Higgs later, the result will be viewed by the public with sort of a contempt…many would question the discovery even if that result would be scrutinized to the highest level possible, just because we “cried wolf” earlier. Aside from the annoyance, I do also see it as harmful for the reason I told Ryan. There is already a large sort of mistrust towards scientist, and a reluctance to give us funding. Things like this just make that worse.

  27. Non-HEP PhD says:

    Not even wrong is my all time favorite phrase of condescension ;). Go Peter! …. I disagree with the writer who asserts rights to early access to data. … I hope for all concerned that this is a hoax

  28. David says:

    3 questions come to mind:
    1- who has interest in leaking this info?
    2- why did the leaker prefer the Columbia Uni site?
    3-what will be gained or destroyed with this leak?

    No matter what the answers are, this leak shows that there are some internal problems within the Atlas collaboration.

    [personal attack deleted]

    New people, but well connected to the management, can be appointed to key positions in ATLAS even before doing any service work for the collaboration. This has certainly got many people angry, and some of them have simply left ATLAS.

    All the physics leaders are appointed by the management and the collaboration has no say. Yes, powerful people with a lot of $ certainly get involved in the process, but everything is done behind the scenes. Is this right in HEP? no idea? will this model work in a collaboration with 3,000 people? I don’t know….

    I Think CERN has to take this leak seriously and should try to understand why people are unhappy. Perhaps the solution will be to fire this management and appoint a new management which will encourage the creativity of people instead of shooting up everybody who does not belong to the close circle of the Queen. This may explain why ATLAS is always behind CMS. I think this leak is a wake-up call for CERN and will expose all the dirty-political games going on in ATLAS. Unhappy people do unpopular things.

    Now coming back to the leak, my view is that the leaker is an enemy of Dr. Wu? atlas physicists should have some names…..but as I said, this is not the real issue. The real problem is the atlas management.

  29. Peter Woit says:

    David,

    Please do not use this blog for anonymous attacks on people, that’s really problematic.

    I have no idea at all who posted the abstract, have seen suggestions both that it was an ally of Dr. Wu or that it was an enemy of hers. It seems even more likely to me that it was just some random ATLAS member who thought this was exciting news that deserved wide discussion, enough so that they were willing to break ATLAS policy on this. The choice of my blog was probably just due to the fact that it has quite a few readers interested in the topic.

  30. BBBShrewHarpy says:

    @giottis:
    In addition to the problems of credibility for science in general and ATLAS in particular referred to by the real scientist@ATLAS, this leaking has serious implications for the continued effectiveness of the collaboration. I am not part of ATLAS, but I am part of a large collaboration, with rules that aim to ensure effective work practices and equitable rewards for those who perform the work and follow the rules. There is a lot of background slogging that goes on in large experiments, and as much close work that goes into evaluating results. Not all of this work receives press, or results in presentations at conferences, but all of it is vital for the running of the experiment. The tension between those who perform the hard work without recognition and those who receive the flashy rewards exists even when the rules are followed, but when the system breaks down, all the grievances and frustrations can cause severe problems for the working of the collaboration. Much of this is a matter of personalities and human nature, and conflict is inevitable, though we would all love to believe that our love for science is pure and our expectation of worldly rewards nonexistent. This facade can hold only if those of us who are mostly drudges and worker bees are not pushed beyond a certain limit by the queen bee and her attendants. In my view the rights of the people who are attempting to live within the strictures of the collaboration trump the vicarious thrill the rest of us are experiencing from the breakdown of the system.

  31. scientistOnCMS says:

    I’m a collaborator on CMS. I can tell you that notes that are unreviewed by the collaboration never see the light of day, and for good reason, on every major HEP collaboration. Thousands of scientists have reputations that rely on the results that come out of the experiment. So there’s a peer review process for even single plots to be shown at APS section meetings. Nothing particularly prestigious about those meetings, but the results must be approved nonetheless.

    As for people claiming rights to the data because they paid taxes? Give me a break. First, CERN is an international collaboration, and the bulk of funding comes from European countries. But even ignoring that, I could give you the raw data, and you wouldnt’ be able to do a thing with it. You certainly don’t have rights to our software. And even if you did, what would you do with it? Do you understand the physics you’d be looking for? If not, it’s useless to you. Regardless, keeping the data confidential (even from scientists on rival experiments) is a very good idea from a science point of view. It keeps everybody honest. If one experiment finds something, the other can then look in their own dataset to find a confirmation of the effect. Independent collaborations are a good thing.

  32. physicsrob says:

    @scientistOnCMS
    Very well put. I think many non-experimentalist underestimate just how much effort goes into taking the raw data and generating for example a diphoton mass plot.

  33. sciing says:

    What are you talking about? There are some rumors about the a discovery. Nice to know. No one takes it as real. But its nice for all the fans of HEP. And no one else is really interessted.
    I have more concerns about the way CDF is working right now.
    I think a note like this is not destroying the reputation of the particle scientiest but all the stuff that comes out right now from CDF (per reviewed from the whole collaboration). I get they feeling they make 1000 analysis and claim everything a hit thats probability to be nothing is less than a thousands. Is this science? CDF does not only claiming the results but also begins to speculate about new forces and so on. What is the motivation? At the end of the year LHC will get enough data to answer al this question. So why they can’t wait?
    On the other hand is it science if the carrier of young graduate is detroyed just for starting a disscussion of a new “result”, observation?
    That these note is leaked is a problem of ATLAS not the graduates.

  34. Peter Chase says:

    Much uncertainty. Can we say ATLAS shrugged?

    (Gad, that was cheap.)

  35. Berger says:

    @ “David” :

    > No matter what the answers are, this leak shows that there are some internal problems within the Atlas collaboration.

    > All the physics leaders are appointed by the management and the collaboration has no say.

    This statement is factually wrong. “Physics Leaders” (by which I assume you mean physics group conveners) are elected by the collaboration.

    The rest of the post probably qualifies as “Not even wrong”.

  36. NoNaMe says:

    To Paul Wells, who wrote
    “I paid for this work so I think I should have free access to- 1. All Raw Data
    2. Programs required to interpret raw data.
    3. Project documentation to interpret 1. and 2.
    4. Final publications WITHOUT having to pay for journal.”
    Wow. I guess with the amount of money *you* paid, you should be given access to a couple of events, five lines of code and a commemorative ball-pen.

  37. Georges says:

    @David: well written.

    @Berger:

    Your statement about physics conveners is wrong and David is right. The collaboration has no say. There is a call for nomination by the collaboration. The management makes the selection. There is no shortlist that is communicated to the collaboration, there is no discussion within the collaboration and the voices of the collaboration have always been ignored. People without (or not enough) service work and/or inactive people became physics leaders from nowhere. However they are good servant of the Queen!

  38. woit says:

    I’m shutting off comments for now. The fraction of informed comments relevant to the posting has gone to almost zero, and dealing with the large number of other ones is wasting too much of my time.