Last week both SLAC and Fermilab hosted “Users Meetings”, providing a forum to discuss the current status and future plans of the two laboratories. The SLAC agenda is here, and talks from previous years are available here, with this year’s perhaps available later.
The Fermilab meeting was also celebrating the 40th anniversary of its first Users Meeting, which was held back in 1967 at a time when Fermilab was under construction, with plans for a 200 GeV fixed-target machine underway, led by director Robert Wilson. This year’s talks are available here. The status of the Tevatron is described in Roger Dixon’s talk. Already the machine has delivered nearly 3 fb-1 of luminosity to the two experiments there, half of this over the last year. They are projecting to have 6-7 fb-1 by the end of FY 2009 (a bit more than two years from now). The current plan calls for operation of the Tevatron only until the end of FY 2009, and a year or so ago there was even some discussion of shutting it down before then. With the machine operating well, a healthy US HEP budget, the LHC startup now not until 2008, and some cautious optimism that that the Tevatron might be able to accumulate enough data to see the Higgs under some scenarios, it looks like no one is about to shut the Tevatron down early, rather the question will be how much extra time to give it. There seems little point to shutting it down as long as the LHC is not producing results that make it obsolete, and no one knows yet how long that is going to take. While those running Fermilab would like to know what they will be doing several years in advance so that they can plan and budget, it may be difficult to do this since no one knows what will happen with the LHC.
Fermilab is in the middle of a long-range planning exercise, with a Steering Group meeting trying to put together a plan by August 1. They have many of their materials available on-line. Some of the discussion revolves around the question of the ILC, with talks showing that in principle it would be possible to start construction of the ILC in 2012 and have it built by 2019, but few people believe that things will happen this fast. Whether building the machine makes sense will depend on what is seen at the LHC. Other scenarios are under discussion, for example see here. Other than the LHC, the main things one could conceive of building at Fermilab would be a more intense proton beam (proton driver), or accelerating muons to provide a “neutrino factory” and perhaps ultimately a muon collider.
While US HEP has a difficult task ahead to figure out what to do after the Tevatron shuts down and the energy frontier moves to CERN, at least the budget situation is looking a lot better than it was a few years ago. At the Users Meeting, there was a presentation by the DOE’s Robin Staffin showing budget figures that included a 6.8% increase planned for FY2008, after a 5.9% increase from FY2006 to FY2007. For some reason the federal government seems to have decided to put significantly more money into fundamental physics research, and HEP is benefiting from this. For more about the general situation with the Federal science research budget, see this recent talk by John Marburger, the director of Office of Science and Technology Policy.
For the budget situation in mathematics, see this report in the latest Notices of the AMS about the NSF budget numbers. After flat budget numbers for the past couple years, there was a 3.3% increase for mathematics research in FY2007, and the proposal for FY2008 has a 8.5% increase. Math is cheap compared to HEP, with the NSF spending on math (which is the bulk of federal math research funding) only about a quarter the size of the HEP budget. The AMS Notices article also computes numbers for what fraction of the NSF budget goes to different fields, noting that in FY2004 18.3% was for math, 20.9% for physics, while the FY2008 proposal goes 17.8% to math, 23.6% to physics.
Update: Also at SLAC, this week the DOE is there to review the lab. Presentations prepared for the DOE are on-line. Michael Peskin gave a presentation about the work of the theory group. He highlighted (besides hopes about the LHC) the work of SLAC’s Lance Dixon on computing perturbative QCD amplitudes, including its relation to N=4 supersymmetric Yang-Mills and to the conjectural finiteness of N=8 supergravity.