Kolkata: A five-member team from CERN, the world’s largest research facility that stradles the Franco-Swiss border, visited the Variable Energy Cyclotron Centre (VECC) last week to assess an application from the department of atomic energy (DAE) for associate membership.

At present, India is an observer at CERN that allows scientists from various facilities, including VECC, Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics and Bose Institute, entry into the facility as visiting scientists but does not permit employment.

“A CERN team led by Charlotte Warakualla, director (international relations) and convenor of the task force on India’s application for associate membership, visited VECC on February 24 and interacted with our officials as well as those of SINP and Bose Institute. The team also visited the Inter-University Accelerator Centre in Delhi, the Raja Ramanna Centre for Advanced Technology at Indore and Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. The officials met the Union minister of for science & technology and minister of state for space research as well to know the government’s commitment,” VECC director DK Srivastava said.

Other members of the CERN team were Olivier Martin, member CERN council (French delegation); Rudiger Voss, former head of international relations and advisor for India; Maurizio Vretenar, senior physicist Linac-4 project; and Sue Foffano, senior computer engineer and secretary of the task force.

The report prepared by the team that has returned to CERN will be sent back to the various institutes in India, including VECC, for verifying facts. It will then be placed before the CERN council that is scheduled to meet sometime in June.

Once India becomes an associate member, it can participate in all programmes of CERN. “All facilities of CERN, including jobs, will be open to Indians. At present, our people go there as visiting scientists. Henceforth, there will be post-doctoral positions and five-year fellowships available at the facility. The access to all facilities will enhance our capability. Indian companies can also bid for all CERN contracts,” said Srivastava. Officials of Infosys and TCS met the CERN team during the visit to Bengaluru.

The membership will cost India nearly Rs 60-70 crore annually, 10% of a full-member fee. Incidentally, Paksitan became an associate member last year, pipping India. Sources said though the previous Manmohan Singh government had cleared the proposal, DAE had to hardsell the proposal all over again when the Narendra Modi government, leading to the delay.

India had played a significant role in the discovery of the god particle by providing superconducting magnet components worth 100 million Swiss Francs for the Large Hadron Collider that helped detect the Higgs Boson particle.
Source: TOI-Kol