When Israel became the 21st member of CERN in 2014, that country’s officials assessed it as one of the most significant events in the country’s history. Serbia is the first country of the region to succeed in achieving this, while – along with hosts Switzerland, Israel and Norway – it is one of the few non-members of the EU. Cyprus and Slovenia are the candidates to be considered for membership over the next few years.
This success of Serbia has been made possible thanks to the dedication and many decades of successful work of Serbian research teams, but also thanks to the support of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development, and the decisive efforts of the Serbian Prime Minister.
What does CERN offer to its members and what is the significance of its membership? In addition to leading roles in High Energy Physics research (as well as in some other disciplines of physics), CERN represents one of the best institutions for the development of the cutting-edge technologies and their direct application (or knowledge transfer) in the fields of microelectronics, materials, engineering, superconducting, acceleration technologies, computer technology (software and hardware) and informatics. A significant part of basic and applied research is conducted in the fields of chemistry, medicine and pharmaceuticals.
This world’s leading laboratory combines basic and applied research in the most ideal way: new and high research requirements and challenges initiate innovation, development and the application of the latest technologies. The greatest part of CERN’s research and financial potential is focused on exploiting the existing accelerator chain, whose last stage represents the largest accelerator, the most complex scientific instrument ever conceived, the Large Hadron Collider – LHC, along with its four largest and most complex experiments in science up to date.
Alongside advancing and raising the quality of basic research that has the largest impact on the formation of the scientific profile within one society, the following can be singled out as the most important advantages of Serbia’s membership in CERN:
The chance to get involved of a large number of users of various research and technical profiles, thus reducing or at least slowing down of hardly avoidable departures (leaving) of the highly educated people, particularly recent graduates from the country. For example, postgraduates remain connected to our universities and scientific institutions where they are employed, while the opportunity is simultaneously created for them to continue their studies or research at CERN, which represents the top research place in the world, and within the environment that they can consider as their own where high-level conditions exist, and where, accordingly, they can plan their research future over a longer period;
The most advanced experimental equipment available at CERN, state-of-the-art technology and applied methods, as well as the experience gained while working with top-level experts, will be transferred faster to our region. There is no better and more efficient investment than one, which quickly returns to our own environment. The research work or engineering involvement within the scope of any international project at CERN implies its return and knowledge transfer or at least it’s main parts of activities to home institutions of a member state. This is one of CERN’s main missions and which we physicists, for example, have been using in physics for a long time;
By the end of 2018, there were between 75 and 80 users registered at CERN from Serbia. Besides smaller groups of researchers scattered within different projects, currently there are four main and rather homogeneous Serbian research teams (the total of about 40 users) actively involved in CERN international projects
Our citizens have the right to apply equally with colleagues from other member states for funds from the CERN budget. The well-known CERN Summer School for undergraduate and graduate students, the prestigious CERN scholarships for one or more years, then-doctoral and postdoctoral fellowships, as well as various forms of financial support for specialisation at CERN, represent perhaps the greatest benefits for our researchers. It is important to note that not only scientists and engineers have the privileges to apply for five year (Limited Duration-LD) or permanent jobs at CERN, but this right also extends to specialists of various professional profiles. As a full member, Serbia participates in all decision-making processes and thus having an impact on the CERN policy. Taking all these accounts, and in that sense, membership at CERN is reminiscent of some kind of EU membership;
Our industrial companies can now compete equally with companies from other member states and participate in the application for tenders of all calls for contracts within CERN projects, thereby taking an opportunity, besides gaining the experience and knowledge, to try to return a significant part or perhaps all of the costs of membership back to Serbia;
An important part of activities at CERN comprises an exceptional education programme intended for schoolchildren, students and teachers in physics, engineering and scientific administration. Serbia already utilised this programme on several occasions during the period when it was not a member state and during its associate status;
It is well-known that the internet, or the World Wide Web, was invented at CERN. For similar reasons that led to the emergence of the idea of the WWW, the EU entrusted CERN with the leading role in the LHC-GRID project with the main goal to build advanced computer networks that would enable data flows with tremendous speeds, large processor power, and a large capacity for the transfer and storing of data collected in the Large Hadron Collider experiments. This enabled researchers from the most distant institutions, living on different continents around the world, to participate actively in the analysis of experimental data from the LHC at their home institutions. The GRID technology is now embedded in almost every country around the world where advanced computer networks have been built, as well as in the most up-to-date computer centres with giant capacities and the processor power capable to handle huge amounts of data. Serbia also represents part of this global computer GRID network (example: supercomputer installation at the Institute of Physics). All these are particularly important for countries, whose researchers and users are involved in CERN projects.
By the end of 2018, there were between 75 and 80 users registered at CERN from Serbia. Besides smaller groups of researchers scattered within different projects, currently, there are four main and rather homogeneous Serbian research teams (the total of about 40 users) actively involved in CERN international projects. Physicists and specialists from the Faculty of Physics of University of Belgrade and the “Vinča” Institute of Nuclear Sciences are active within the CMS and SHINE-NA61 experiments, the other research group of the Institute of Physics is working on the ATLAS experiment, while another one is involved in the LHC-GRID project; physicists from the Department of Physics of Faculty of Sciences of the University of Novi Sad are actively engaged in the ISOLDE experiment. With their activities in the field of basic research in High Energy Physics, then in the development of detector technologies (R&D), as well as in permanent engineering activities, all of them are trying to provide a recognisable contribution to specific CERN projects.
It is also important to note that individual Serbian companies have proven successful over the past few years in competing for tenders equally with companies from other countries for various types of contracts within CERN projects. We expect that our country would feel more benefits of the CERN membership even with the somewhat better and more organised approach of our business sector.
To conclude, and taking into account some cases of other countries, and on the basis of some of the personal experiences to date, I would dare to say that the CERN membership could help Serbia advance in many segments.