GENEVA (Reuters) - Europe’s particle research center CERN unveiled budget cuts Friday that will force it to temporarily close its accelerators for a year in 2012, but said its flagship “Big Bang” machine will mainly be unaffected.
Announcing the trimmed-down budget, in which governments will provide 135 million Swiss francs ($133.4 million) less over a five-year period to 2015, CERN said its high-profile drive to study the origins of the cosmos would continue as planned.
It said it would delay upgrades to the Large Hadron Collider’s beam intensity by one year, achieving this in 2016 instead of 2015, meaning scientists will have to wait longer for experiments to gather data at a faster rate.
A particle accelerator is a machine that propels a beam of sub-atomic particles at high speed. Physicists use the machines to create high-energy collisions so they can study the properties of the fundamental building-blocks of matter.
CERN operates a network of accelerators, including the world’s biggest, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), which opened two years ago to test predictions of high-energy physics.
CERN had previously announced that the LHC would not run in 2012 “for purely technical reasons.” It said it would now also shut down all of its other accelerators in 2012 as it focuses its resources on the most critical research.
“The whole CERN accelerator complex will now join the LHC in a year-long shutdown,” the institute said in a statement. “CERN management considers this a good result for the laboratory given the current financial environment.”
Scientists and technical staff staged a protest outside CERN’s main building on the French-Swiss border near Geneva last month over the possibility of budget cuts.
The reduced government contributions come as European governments seek to slash non-essential spending in the wake of a global financial crisis. Scientists say cuts to research budgets will reduce innovation and job creation, thus damaging economic recovery in the long-term.
Reporting by Laura MacInnis; Editing by Stephanie Nebehay