What, Why, and Who is ICFA?

Relevant articles:
P.C. Bhat and R. Rubinstein, Reviews of Accelerator Science & Technology, Vol. 10 (2019) p. 303-309; arXiv:1809.09718

March 2016
Roy Rubinstein: ICFA Secretary (1993-2016)

Article from the International Journal of Modern Physics


1. Introduction

In 1993, as the newly installed Secretary of the International Committee for Future Accelerators (ICFA), this writer published an attempt to explain to the particle physics community what ICFA is and does. Since that time, there have been significant changes in the field of particle physics, and in ICFA. This article, while containing parts of the earlier article, has been periodically updated over the intervening years.

2. What is ICFA?

ICFA has a connection to other international scientific bodies through the following hierarchy:

  • ICSU (formerly International Council of Scientific Unions, now International Council for Science)
  • IUPAP (International Union of Pure and Applied Physics)
  • IUPAP Commission 11 (particles and fields)
  • ICFA

Each entity in the above list in some way reports to the preceding one. There is also some linkage between these organizations and UNESCO.

ICFA is an international organization in which discussions can take place on international aspects of particle physics, in particular the large accelerators that are at the heart of this field. It has no means of ensuring that any of its resolutions are carried out, but because of its broad international representation it can act as the “conscience” of the field and its recommendations can also influence national or regional activities. One might describe ICFA as a facilitator for the particle physics community. More formally its aims, as redefined in 1985, are as follows:

  • To promote international collaboration in all phases of the construction and exploitation of very high energy accelerators.
  • To organize regularly world-inclusive meetings for the exchange of information on future plans for regional facilities and for the formulation of advice on joint studies and uses.
  • To organize workshops for the study of problems related to super high-energy accelerator complexes and their international exploitation and to foster research and development of necessary technology.

ICFA has no funds of its own; its meetings are organized by a host institution and members’ travel expenses are borne by their own institutions. Occasionally ICFA Panels have requested funds from agencies around the world for special activities such as workshops.

ICFA has connections to two regional organizations with related activities: ECFA (European Committee for Future Accelerators) and ACFA (Asian Committee for Future Accelerators).

3. Where did ICFA come from?

The origins of ICFA go back to the late 1960s; a series of East-West meetings was held during 1967-1976 to review future perspectives in particle physics. By the end of that period, there was a belief that the next large accelerator, after the Fermilab and CERN 400 GeV synchrotrons, would of necessity, because of its complexity and cost, be an international machine. A key meeting in ICFA’s formation took place in New Orleans in 1975. Some 50 world leaders in the particle physics field passed a resolution recommending the formation of a group to study the scientific, technical and organizational problems connected with world-wide collaboration in the construction of a very large accelerator. This recommendation led IUPAP’s Commission 11 to create ICFA in 1976. As might be expected, the subsequent initial decision by the U.S. to build SSC as a national machine was the subject of considerable discussion in ICFA’s early days.

4. Who is a member of ICFA?

There is a formula for ICFA membership, which is approximately representative of particle physics activity in the different regions of the world. Since 1995, this has been (member numbers in parenthesis): CERN member states (3), USA (3), Japan (2), Russia (2), Canada (1), China (1), Other Countries (3). Member terms are three years, and can be renewed, generally once; term starting dates vary, in order to give continuity. Members of ICFA are nominated by designated authorities in their regions, followed by confirmation by IUPAP Commission 11. The Chair of IUPAP Commission 11 is an ex-officio ICFA member. The ICFA Chair (a three-year term) is chosen by the ICFA membership; presently the Chair is J. Mnich. The current ICFA membership is given here.

It is not coincidental that many directors of the world’s large accelerator laboratories are members, or have been members, of ICFA. For example, the current membership includes the directors of CERN, Fermilab, IHEP (Beijing) and KEK, and the DESY and SLAC Particle Physics Directors. Most of the recommendations about future accelerator facilities will involve existing laboratories, and any additional research for which ICFA foresees a need will almost of necessity have to be carried out at a large existing laboratory.

5. What does ICFA do?

Over the past several years, the three major activities undertaken by ICFA, which correspond to the three aims of ICFA mentioned in Section 2, are as follows:

ICFA Meetings

ICFA meets at a frequency (presently about twice a year) determined by its members, to consider any topic concerning future accelerators, and often related subjects such as instrumentation, accelerator technology, and also particle physics research and technology. Meetings often take place during major particle physics conferences, since many members would naturally be attending those conferences. At alternate meetings, invitations are extended to the directors of major particle physics labs who are not ICFA members; this allows for broader discussions. The Committee can make recommendations, although without any formal power to cause any resulting action. Nevertheless, the recommendations generally are at least seriously considered by laboratories and national funding agencies. Most recommendations are the result of a consensus among Committee members. A report of the most recent ICFA meeting, ICFA statements, current membership, and links to ICFA Panel pages, are on the ICFA web site.

ICFA Seminars

Every three years, ICFA organizes a Seminar on Future Perspectives in High-Energy Physics, generally at one of the major laboratories; review talks are given on the state of accelerators and particle physics around the world. The Seminars typically run for several days, and have an invited attendance of ~150-200, chosen from the regions of the world using a similar formula to that used for ICFA membership; science officials from governments are also invited. The tenth ICFA Seminar was held at CERN, on 3-6 October 2011, and the eleventh will be at IHEP/Beijing in October 2014.

ICFA is sometimes asked to sponsor conferences or workshops on accelerator or particle physics. Although ICFA has no funds, its sponsorship can sometimes assist the conference/workshop organizers in obtaining funds from appropriate agencies.

ICFA Panels

Several years ago it was realized that there are accelerator and particle physics topics of a technical nature where international discussion is valuable, and where expertise beyond that of the ICFA members is needed.  Because of this, ICFA panels on specific technical topics were set up; each has about 16 members, allocated by world regions similarly to ICFA membership.  Panel members are appointed by the ICFA Chair following a recommendation by the Panel Chair.  Panels meet as frequently as the members decide, and reports on their activities are given at ICFA meetings.  They organize schools and workshops on their specific topics and often put out bulletins, newsletters and other records of their activities.  The following are the current panels, with their missions and current Chairs:

  • Instrumentation, Innovation and Development
    (Chair — Ariella Cattai, CERN)Mission:   To stimulate world inclusive involvement in the innovation and development of new instrumentation for experiments at future accelerators.
    This Panel runs instrumentation schools about every two years in and for developing countries, (for example, Mexico 1997, Istanbul 1999, South Africa 2001, Rio de Janeiro 2003).  Instrumentation Centers have been formed in Istanbul and Morelia (Mexico).
  • Beam Dynamics
    (Chair — Weiren Chou, Fermilab)Mission:   To encourage and promote international collaboration on beam dynamics studies for present and future accelerators.
    This Panel produces the Beam Dynamics Newsletter, and organizes workshops on advanced beam dynamics topics.  It has three working groups, on future light sources, high-luminosity e+e­– colliders, and high-brightness hadron beams.
  • Advanced and Novel Accelerators
    (Chair — Brigitte Cros, Paris)Mission:   To extend and support the international collaboration and communication in the field of new acceleration techniques.
  •  ICFA Standing Committee on International Connectivity
    (Chair — Harvey Newman, Caltech)Mission:   To monitor and review interregional connectivity, high energy physics requirements, and make recommendations for network improvements.
    This Committee’s monitoring of communications performance now extends to over 100 countries.
  • ICFA Study Group on Data Preservation in High Energy Physics
    (Chair — Cristinel Diaconu, Marseille)Mission:   To study and recommend activities allowing the preservation and future use of data from particle physics experiments
  • ICFA Neutrino Panel
    (Chair — Kenneth Long, Imperial College London)Mission:   To promote international cooperation in the development of the accelerator-based neutrino-oscillation program and to promote international collaboration in the development of a neutrino factory as a future source of neutrinos for particle physics experiments.
  • Linear Collider Board
    (Chair – Sachio Komamiya, Tokyo)Mission: To promote the construction of an electron-positron linear collider and its detectors as a world-wide collaborative project.The Linear Collider Board (LCB) will oversee the activities of ILC, CLIC, and the linear collider detector collaborations. In the oversight of the ILC, it has taken over the role that was previously carried out by the International Linear Collider Steering Committee (ILCSC) during the period 2002-2013.

6. What has ICFA done lately?

Much of ICFA’s attention over the past few years has been given to consideration of a future e+e- linear collider, and the Committee has expressed support for such a facility.  In 2001, ICFA set up the International Linear Collider Technical Review Committee (which produced a report) and in 2002 it set up the International Linear Collider Steering Committee (see above), which has coordinated much activity towards an international linear collider (ILC). In 2013, as noted above, the Linear Collider Board was set up to promote the construction of a linear collider, and will oversee the activities of ILC, CLIC and the detector collaborations.

A group of funding agencies from countries active in particle physics has been formed to periodically discuss linear collider activities informally; it is known as FALC (Funding Agencies for Large Colliders). It has on several occasions solicited input from ICFA, ILCSC, and LCB; the Chairs of ICFA and LCB are invited to FALC meetings, and the FALC Chair is invited to ICFA meetings.

The concept of a committee like ICFA, with international membership representing the activity world-wide in a particular field of physics, has been recognized as a valuable model for other fields. The International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP) has formed similar committees for other branches of physics over the past several years.

Some years ago, ICFA produced the “ICFA Guidelines for the Interregional Utilization of Major Regional Experimental Facilities for High Energy Particle Physics Research“.  In recent years, IUPAP has adapted these guidelines for use in other large-science fields.

ICFA has followed developments for possible future large accelerator facilities, at its meetings and at the triennial ICFA Seminars; these facilities include muon colliders and neutrino factories. In addition, it regularly receives reports on the state of major particle physics facilities. In early 1994, immediately following the termination of the SSC project, ICFA held additional meetings, and was active in urging that the world particle physics community unite in support of the LHC.

7. Summary

ICFA plays an important role as a forum for discussions transcending national or regional boundaries on the future of high-energy accelerators and their associated particle physics, detectors and technology. It is probably true that, to paraphrase an old expression, if ICFA didn’t exist, something very similar would have to be invented. As appeared to be true in the 1970s, projects in our field are becoming so large and costly that no single country or group of countries can carry them out alone; more and more international discussion and cooperation is needed. This will be especially relevant if the next major accelerator is a linear e+e collider in the hundreds of GeV or TeV energy range.