This was the hot topic at a panel discussion last week at SUSY06. There were two evening panel sessions at the conference, the first was on the Anthropic Principle and was reported on by Clifford. The seond was entitled, “Getting Ready for the LHC” and was infinitely more rancorous than the Anthropic session which was tame by comparison! Who would have guessed that?
The LHC panel members were: Gordy Kane (Michigan), Giacomo Polesello (CERN/Pisa), Maria Spiropulu (CERN), Konstantin Matchev (Florida), Howie Baer (Florida State), Tao Han (Wisconsin), Tilman Plehn (Edinburgh) and Joe Lykken (Fermilab) served as moderator. Each panel member spoke for a few minutes, then the floor was turned over for general discussion. However, Tao Han brought up a push-your-buttons topic during his presentation: he proposed that the LHC data should be made available to the community as maximal openess would only benefit the physics. He admitted that while us non-LHC experimenters could not comprehend the raw data, he proposed that LHC- experimenters store their data in ASCII and make it available to the public. First a gasp and then audible silence swept the audience as this has been a controversial topic for years.
(Off-topic, but I have to mention another statement of Tao Han’s that I really liked. He asked: How are we prepared for the LHC? And then noted that he himself has been working on this physics since 1987 and that after these long yrs, he declared that “I am ready for the LHC!” I could not have empathized more.)
Han’s public data proposal completely dominated the lively and sometimes heated discussion afterwards. Joe Lykken called Maria Spiropulu up to the podium to defend the bastion of the secret data experimental world, noting that the astrophysics community does make its data public (although I could not find a site while looking tonight – anybody know a URL?). Maria stood silent for a minute, then turned directly towards Tao and said a single word: “ASCII?” It brought the house down. Then she started on the usual diatribe on how their data would be useless as us theorists don’t understand the detectors, their data format, blah blah blah. Frankly, I think she (and experimenters in general) misunderstand the point and underestimate us. Tao Han did not ask for raw data – nobody without the proper background or code can comprehend that – he asked for the 4-vectors (the energy and momentum read-outs) in ASCII. In other words, he asked for the data after it had been processed and sifted, and churned into a useable format. It is the form of data that us particle theorists deal with in our Monte Carlo codes and is what the experimenter works with in the end. It is a reasonable request, but not likely to happen.
So, just who “owns” this data anyway? The experimenters feel that they worked hard and suffered to build the detector (and they have indeed), so the data and any discoveries are theirs. But, who came up with the theories that are being tested? Who did the calculations to see what type of machine should be built? Who convinced the politicians to build the machine? And last, but by no means least, who footed the bill to pay for the machine? So who really owns this data and why is it kept under lock and key?
(Photos courtesy of Bob Yen.)