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Deepening and Broadening of Astroparticle Physics European Coordination

Final Report Summary - ASPERA-2 (Deepening and broadening of astroparticle physics European coordination)

Executive summary:

Astroparticle Physics has become a mature and well accepted science discipline. Demonstrated by many world class projects currently being developed and run by European Astroparticle physicists, Europe as a whole is the main promoter and leading the field. The astroparticle physics European Research Area network (ERA-NET) (see online), funded under the European Commission (EC)'s Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) of, led to a much more advanced organisation of the astroparticle physics community and the supporting funding agencies. The common action plan developed in ASPERA formed the basis of the work of ASPERA-2. Its goals are epigrammatically listed below:

1. to establish joint European activities as the preferred way of funding research and development (R&D) programmes and large projects;
2. to establish sustainable procedures of mutual coordination and benchmarking;
3. to create a sustainable structure for European coordination in astroparticle physics;
4. to extend the network to all European countries with interest in astroparticle physics;
5. to increase the efforts towards global inter-regional coordination;
6. to update the roadmap;
7. to increase synergy with environmental sciences;
8. to transfer knowledge and technology with small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs);
9. continue and extend outreach activities.

Project context and objectives:

Astroparticle physics is a modern field of research emerging from the convergence of physics at the smallest and the largest scales of the Universe. Particle physicists investigate the intimate structure of matter and the laws that govern it. Astrophysicists study the structure of the Universe and its evolution from the initial hot Big Bang. It is cosmology that links the theory of particle physics with that of the very early Universe. Any discovery in particle physics has an immediate consequence on the understanding of the Universe and, inversely, discoveries in cosmology have fundamental impact on theories of the infinitely small.

Until the early 1950s, cosmic rays - charged high-energy particles from outer space - were the main source of information for advances in knowledge about the nature of matter in the Universe. Then, particle accelerators opened the path to tremendous progress, providing high-energy particle beams to investigate the structure of matter. Today, the development of new kinds of detectors led to a renaissance in cosmic ray physics and observations can be made to detect cosmic rays with energies far beyond the limits of accelerators.

As the field of Astroparticle Physics has developed, it is opening up new observing windows in astronomy as is shown by the breakthroughs of high energy gamma ray telescopes (HESS, MAGIC but also the FERMI satellite launched in 2008) during the last years, the observations at very high energy cosmic rays (Pierre Auger Observatory), and the running of direct dark matter search experiments (XENON) substantially reducing the parameter space for potential dark matter particles. Furthermore, the completion and upgrade of neutrino telescopes (ANTARES and IceCube) and gravitational wave antennas (GEO600, LIGO, VIRGO) bear a high potential for discoveries in the coming years.

By comparing observations through different windows and at various energies, the aim is to learn more about high-energy cosmic phenomena in the Universe and the violent processes that give rise to them. A series of astrophysical objects demand an interdisciplinary, multi-wavelength and multi-messenger approach for their comprehension. Furthermore, astrophysical sites of violent phenomena can be used as a laboratory to test the structure of the fundamental laws of particle physics and gravitation. On the instrumentation and methodology side, particle physics detector techniques are used to detect astrophysical objects and conversely astrophysics methods are used to study topics of importance to particle physics (e.g. dark matter and dark energy).

Up to few years ago, many pioneering experiments in Astroparticle Physics have been on a scale whereby they could be implemented by small teams funded nationally. The roadmapping activities of ASPERA confirm that this has changed such that, except for some specific topics the most promising new projects need large multidisciplinary teams on a European scale or even world level. The rapid development of the field has led to the design and the construction of platforms whose size, complexity and cost now reach levels of several tens or hundreds M€ investments requiring the cooperation of several scientific teams from different countries. These are of three kinds:

(a) Underground laboratories (shielding the experiments from the cosmic muon background), where room and services are provided to receive experimental devices.
(b) 'Observatories' or 'telescopes' or 'antennas' on earth whose optimal size is generally large due to the weakness (for gravitational waves) or the scarcity (for very high energy gamma rays, neutrinos or very high energy cosmic rays) of the signals which are to be detected.
(c) Satellite observatories of high energy gamma rays, cosmic rays or gravitational waves.

Europe is already a leading player in the field of Astroparticle Physics and European teams have already made significant contributions in many key areas. The census carried out by ASPERA / ASPERA-2 for the years 2006 and 2009 confirmed about 2 500 European scientists involved in the field in some fifty laboratories. The annual budget to perform the current science programme in European Astroparticle Physics is close to EUR 200 000 000. The roadmap produced by ASPERA in 2009 has been updated during ASPERA-2 in 2011. The roadmapping reveals that the next generation of projects necessary to carry on with world class research in Astroparticle Physics will require a total investment of the order of 1.5 million euros over the next decade.

To continue the work of ASPERA / ASPERA-2, the network developed a plan for a sustainable coordination at the European level and created the new structure Astroparticle Physics European Consortium (APPEC).

Project results:


Since July 2006 ASPERA has been the EC-funded network of national government agencies responsible for coordinating and funding national research efforts in Astroparticle Physics. In July 2009 ASPERA-2 started to deepen and broaden the work of ASPERA. Over the six-and-a-half-year total lifetime of ASPERA and ASPERA-2 the network extended from 17 national agencies from 12 European countries to 24 agencies from 19 countries including the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) as a transnational organisation. ASPERA's work will be continued by the newly founded APPEC.

The work of ASPERA-2 was essentially organised around the implementation of the common action plan for the future of Astroparticle Physics in Europe that was developed and decided in ASPERA. In actual fact ASPERA-2

(a) continued the activities of ASPERA with a larger number of partners in Europe and continued the effort to link existing platforms and institutions;
(b) enlarged the base of interdisciplinary and industrial support to the action plan by deepening the links and increased the synergies to environmental sciences and small and medium enterprises;
(c) inscribed the European action plan in a global context, assessed possibilities of sharing of infrastructures and initiated procedures of formal and legal realisation of this sharing;
(d) deepened the joint actions with common calls, synchronisation on the project level, further common actions, monitoring of large projects, and the creation of a sustainable structure of the coordination covered by ASPERA beyond the period of European Union (EU) funding.

(1) European-wide procedures

Undertake common calls and other common actions

The European roadmap in Astroparticle Physics developed within ASPERA and updated in ASPERA-2 has identified the highest priority projects over the next ten years in Astroparticle Physics. ASPERA-2 has developed structures, processes and guidelines to jointly develop, peer review, set up and monitor these projects and the R&D projects undertaken to develop the techniques and technologies required for their construction and operation.

Further common actions to support the development and building of the next generation of Astroparticle Physics projects and cooperation in Europe have been undertaken. Beyond the pilot call in ASPERA, two further common calls have been launched during ASPERA-2, to commonly fund R&D work for technologies and techniques required for the future projects.

In addition to common funding activities, common actions related to Astroparticle Physics theory, training, and computing have been addressed:

- A plan for a common theory programme has been developed, which forms the basis of the work of one of the functional centres of APPEC, the sustainable structure continuing the work of ASPERA-2.
- A census of all existing schools and other training activities in Astroparticle Physics on the national and European level has been carried out with the goal to structure these activities under the roof of ISAPP, the International School of Astroparticle Physics.
- Similar to the definition of Astroparticle Physics as a science discipline emerging from astrophysics, particle physics, and cosmology, Astroparticle physicists make use of computing solutions developed in different disciplines. Driven by the science demand in Astroparticle Physics projects innovative computing solutions need to be developed.

Furthermore, computing has been identified as one of the dominant parts of the running costs for most of the large Astroparticle Physics projects. To understand the challenging problems of data collection, data storage, and data mining, to foster coordination of efforts in these fields, and to estimate future requirements three ASPERA computing workshops have been organised.

On the last workshop working groups consisting of Astroparticle Physics projects’ computing engineers, representatives of large scientific data centres, and funding agencies have been formed to prepare a white paper for Astroparticle Physics computing. This work shall again be continued within the frame of APPEC.

Develop common standards for project management

To establish best practice in project management and develop the rules and requirements for their managerial oversight, ASPERA-2 developed a project management guidebook. This guidebook is setting out best practice in terms of project scheduling, financial management, risk management etc. adapted to the needs of large projects in the field of Astroparticle Physics. Furthermore, a synchronisation plan for large projects has been worked out to define for the entire project lifecycle project phases and critical decision points, the project management plan, and the project breakdown structures, In an own task ASPERA-2 developed a scheme for a monitoring of the large projects to keep the funding agencies updated on the status of the projects.

Linking and networking between existing institutions

The aim of this activity was to investigate whether it is possible to maximise the use of existing institutions and create a minimum of new structures when building the next generation of projects in Astroparticle Physics.

ASPERA-2 guided a process to discuss with the directors of the four European underground laboratories future demands for underground laboratory space in Europe and ways of possible linking of the various existing deep underground laboratories. Resulting from this process an initiative has arisen to investigate whether the existing underground laboratories in Europe and its users may benefit from the foundation of a European roof organisation possibly under the legal frame of an ERIC.

Interviews have been made with managements of laboratories with major participation in running Astroparticle Physics projects and of laboratories that are interested to participate in future Astroparticle Physics projects to compile information concerning available resources, expertise, and tools (e.g. Enterprise resource planning software) for management, administration, and legal support. The assessment of this information confirmed that all required expertise is available and the networking between the existing institutions is essential for the large projects in Astroparticle Physics.

Furthermore, since Astroparticle Physics does not have a central institution taking care of the realisation of large projects, a structuring body such as ASPERA-2 was considered playing a valuable role with respect to the forthcoming large projects / infrastructures in Astroparticle Physics.

Ensure the long-term sustainability of ASPERA / ASPERA-2

ASPERA has been very successful in fostering closer collaboration between European funding agencies supporting research in Astroparticle Physics. To ensure the long-term sustainability of commonly defined processes and procedures developed in ASPERA, partners of ASPERA-2 prepared a plan for a future structure. The details for the foundation of the APPEC are described in a MoU, which has been initially signed by 11 founding members in June 2012. Figure 3 charts the organisation of APPEC.

The main tasks on the operational level are distributed to three functional centres in Germany (DESY), Italy (INFN), and France (APC). Other partners may provide additional resources. The coordination of the work shall be performed by the Joint Secretariat that is conducted by the General Secretary. The General Assembly with its chairperson forms the decision making level and for scientific advisory a scientific advisory committee shall be nominated.

Given the importance of large governmental organisations related to Astroparticle Physics such as the CERN, European Space Agency (ESA), European Southern Observatory (ESO), and Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (JINR), these organisations have the potential to provide support in the form of particle beams, telescopes, workshops (electronics, mechanics, information technology (IT)), computing resources as well as administrative and legal support, APPEC will take over the initiative to maintain and intensify the relationship to organisations.

(2) Knowledge and technology transfer

Increase synergy with environmental sciences, the use of Astroparticle observatories for the monitoring of the environment and risk prevention

A key feature of Astroparticle Physics projects is the deployment of research infrastructures in remote or hostile environments such as Polar regions, caves, deep seas, deserts, and space. Within and around these infrastructures, exciting opportunities can be envisaged for new synergies with environmental sciences and other associated sciences. Large areas or volumes are equipped with detectors located in special surroundings (deep underwater / ice, deep underground, in space) or operate in very low background environments with pure materials permitting to develop ultra-sensitive detectors tracing environmental evolution. This fact induces strong synergies with geosciences, climate research and risk monitoring. The Astroparticle Physicists were, for instance, the first to install a high bandwidth continuous link with the ocean bottom, to instrument a very large desert area with a dense sensor grid and to develop underground laboratories of unprecedented radiopurity. ASPERA-2 took the initiative to explore and promote the possibilities of applications of Astroparticle infrastructure, technology, and methods for environmental and climate studies.

A thorough discussion among the ASPERA-2 partners revealed three fields that may offer great opportunities of synergy:

(a) ground-based atmospheric and terrestrial monitoring;
(b) underwater monitoring;
(c) underground monitoring.

For each topic ASPERA-2 organised a workshop.

The initial workshop entitled 'From the Geosphere to the Cosmos - Synergies with Astroparticle Physics' (Paris, December 2010) was focused on atmospheric and environment facilities.

To address interdisciplinary opportunities offered by underwater facilities the workshop 'Deep Ocean Cabled Observatories' was organised at NIKHEF in Amsterdam in May 2012. The topic of a third interdisciplinary workshop arose from a workshop on deep underground laboratories’ projects (Saragossa, June 2011). Discussions towards relevant linking schemes showed the need of a follow-up event with scientists of other disciplines.

The workshop 'Underground Synergies with Astroparticle Physics: Multi-disciplinary studies in the world's deep underground science facilities' was organised in Durham on December 2012.

Knowledge and technology transfer

The emerging Astroparticle R&D activities for future projects have started to interest SMEs. For some applications the cost-effectiveness is the driving force of the common endeavours, since the new observatories will need tens and hundreds of thousands of sensors, in other applications Astroparticle Physics projects are driving the technology (e.g. cryodetectors or innovative photosensors) and the associated SMEs can profit from the spin-offs. In the case of environmental sciences and risk prevention as shown above the technologies developed for Astroparticle Physics could have a much wider use. There are already multiple national initiatives of public-private partnerships based on Astroparticle Physics projects. These relations with industrial partners have been extended, formalised and monitored.

The future large projects on the ASPERA roadmap have been assessed for R&D demand in key enabling technologies. R&D for photosensors, mirrors and lasers, and cryogenics and vacuum have been identified as the technical challenges of highest priority and a high potential for innovation and interest for industry. For instance, in the case of photosensors it is obvious that further improvements in the sensitivity of photosensors have a direct impact on radiation doses required to carry out medical imaging.

ASPERA welcomed about 300 participants belonging to 140 research centres / universities and companies and coming from 12 European countries as well as Japan and US. About one-third of participants were from industry representing 59 companies.

Representatives from companies as well as project scientists and engineers provided a consistently positive feedback after attending the ASPERA technology fora (ATF). The discussions during the meetings helped establishing new contacts or fostering existing contacts between representatives from industry and academia. In some cases the ATFs initiate that project representatives started thinking about common technology solutions for different Astroparticle Physics projects. Furthermore, representatives from companies reported that their participation in ATFs led to new cooperation between companies, e.g. suppliers of special parts came into business with companies building complete vacuum and cryogenic systems.

The three ATF have been followed up with several smaller expert meetings. With the creation of the new European consortium APPEC the knowledge and technology office was founded. The task of following up the R&D cooperation with industry is implemented within one of the functional centres of APPEC.

(3) Extension of the network and update of the status of Astroparticle Physics

Extend the network to all European countries

To strengthen the position of ASPERA-2 as the European voice of funding agencies in the domain of Astroparticle Physics, ASPERA-2 sought to enlarge its network to all European agencies and ministries funding this field of science. ASPERA-2 was able to establish or maintain at least information channels to essentially all other agencies involved in European Astroparticle Physics. It provides a map of the European countries forming the ASPERA-2 consortium in 2012 consisting of 24 agencies from 19 countries including CERN as a transnational organisation. A major step was made when the Russian Foundation of Basic Research (RFBR) joint ASPERA-2 and the relations to Russia as a one of the main global players in Astroparticle Physics and JINR in Dubna could be intensified.

The series of National Days successfully introduced within ASPERA was extended to new partners in the ASPERA-2 consortium. That increased the involvement of these countries into the European processes in the field of Astroparticle Physics.

Establish sustainable procedures of mutual coordination and benchmarking

A census for available funding and personnel in European Astroparticle Physics was carried out in 2009. The results could be compared to the census of 2006.

Altogether the information gathered during the national days and the census broadened the information base required to enable further common activities and joint funding of large projects.

(4) Positioning European Astroparticle Physics in the worldwide context

Increase world-wide coordination towards global sharing of forthcoming projects The European roadmap in Astroparticle Physics developed within ASPERA and updated in ASPERA-2 lists projects having the top priority in the seven subfields comprising Astroparticle Physics. In total, the investment for these projects will amount to roughly 1 000 million euros for the period of the next 10 years. Taking also into account the large demands in neighbouring disciplines (cf. the infrastructure projects on the ESFRI list), the funding agencies within ASPERA-2 alone may not be able to provide enough funding sufficient to realise all the projects on the European Astroparticle Physics roadmap. To initiate processes that would lead to the coordination and cooperation of the field world-wide, on its nineteenth meeting in October 2008 the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Global Science Forum set up an international working group on Astroparticle Physics. An ASPERA-2 representative was actively involved in the work of this working group. It is worthwhile to conclude that ASPERA effectively promoted global coordination. The main result is the creation of a new international body, the Astroparticle Physics International Forum (APIF), which will be continuing the global coordination in Astroparticle Physics as initiated by the OECD process. The role of ASPERA in this context will be taken further by the new consortium APPEC.

Update the European roadmap of Astroparticle Physics

In September 2008, the ASPERA European Roadmap has been published. Though it exhibited strong priorities proposing 7 major types of infrastructure in a depth of time of 10 years, the present generation of Astroparticle Physics projects is progressing very fast and new competing technologies have been developed (e.g. for dark matter and the mass of the neutrino). To take into account all these developments in Astroparticle Physics and new results from neighbouring fields such as results from the LHC accelerator programme, ASPERA-2 prepared an update of the European roadmap of Astroparticle Physics. The new roadmap was officially released to an international audience during a conference at the end of 2011.

Potential impact:

ASPERA-2 - Contribution to the co-ordination of high quality research

Coordination of Astroparticle Physics in Europe

The consortium ASPERA-2 comprises all major funding agencies and program managing organisations funding Astroparticle Physics in Europe. Historically ASPERA arose from the existence of APPEC. APPEC was an interest grouping of national funding agencies that came into being in 2001 when six European scientific agencies took the initiative to coordinate and encourage Astroparticle Physics in Europe, an emergent field not covered by adjacent disciplines. They signed an agreement aimed at promoting and facilitating cooperation within a growing European Astroparticle Physics community. Broadly the aims of APPEC were to:

(a) develop long-term strategies and offering advice to national funding agencies or other organisation as appropriate;
(b) express the views of European Astroparticle Physics in international forums;
(c) establish a system of peer review assessment.

Since then, APPEC has grown to fifteen agencies representing thirteen European countries. It comprises two bodies. Its executive body is the steering committee where each country participates with its leading scientific executive and also representatives of CERN, ESA end ESO with observer status. Its strategic advisory body was the peer review committee (PRC) composed of scientific experts in Astroparticle Physics nominated 'ad personam'.

Up to 2005, APPEC has coordinated the submission of the successful I3 FP6 proposal ILIAS, endorsed a successful design study for the construction of a 'cubic kilometre' neutrino telescope (KM3NeT) while the PRC has reviewed all the sub-fields of Astroparticle Physics with topical workshops in a period of three years. By 2005, APPEC realised the identity of its goals with those of the EU ERA-NET scheme and therefore initiated and coordinated the successful submission of the proposal for ASPERA.

ASPERA started in July 2006 and was funded by the EU with a budget of 2.5 million euros for a 3-year period. It comprised more agencies than APPEC and has as one of its central tasks the extension to more national agencies (four new agencies - two as full partners and two as associates - joined since the beginning). The bodies of ASPERA were the governing board consisting of high-level representatives of the agencies involved, the coordinator (at that time S. Katsanevas IN2P3/CNRS) and co-coordinator (T. Berghöfer PT-DESY/BMBF), the joint secretariat consisting of all officers involved in the actual work of ASPERA and its Peer Review Committee. The solution chosen for this last was to keep part of the APPEC PRC members and add new members taking into account the new partnership, renovating to more than 50 %. Essentially three work packages (WPs) formed the core of the ASPERA work programme:

1. chart the status of Astroparticle Physics funding schemes in Europe;
2. establish a roadmap and action plan;
3. link the existing platforms of observation, establish the best legal schemes for future infrastructures and find ways to commonly fund and manage the new large programs.

A transversal work-program developed a high-level electronic infrastructure for the consortium and an extensive outreach activity. It was recognised, that the EU funded ASPERA program was a tremendous boost to the European convergence of the domain, since it raised the level of coordination from twice a year meetings of busy chief executives to monthly meetings of senior officials at the strategic deputy level and it employed a series of dedicated young officers on a series of coordination and managerial tasks. This intensification of the activity permitted a census of the field, the establishment with the help of the PRC of a prioritised roadmap and the preparation, for the near future, of common calls for joint funding of R&D and coordinated joint programming of multimillion euros programs. Furthermore, the process became visible internationally and elicited demands from other continents for global coordination, as it was seen in the process of the work of the OECD Global Science Forum international working group for Astroparticle Physics.

Although a large part of its activities was passing through the ASPERA WPs, APPEC decided to not dissolve into the ERA-NET but continue its operation at a higher decisional level. The main reason for this decision was the obvious wish that the European coordination of Astroparticle Physics should be a long-term sustainable activity, much beyond the duration of an ERA-NET programme. This decision although it may seem at first sight as an ambiguity, it is in fact a chance, since if ASPERA went so fast in the coordination process it is because it was preceded by the actions of APPEC and also because it sees in a new APPEC its sustainable future.

The new sustainable structure APPEC
5L To create a sustainable structure for coordinating European Astroparticle Physics, ASPERA-2 had to work out a completely new plan. Based on the intensions of the partners interested to continue with the work of ASPERA-2 a sharing of work duties and financing of activities was designed and described in a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).

The organisational structure of APPEC consists of the following three bodies:

(a) the General Assembly, which is the strategic, decision making and supervisory body;
(b) the Joint Secretariat as the executive body chaired by the general secretary; and
(c) the scientific advisory committee, the advisory body.

The APPEC executive functions are distributed in three functional centres hosted in 3 different countries. These centres have the following names:
- International Contact, Computing and Industrial Relations,
- Networking, Theory and Education centre,
- Strategic actions, interdisciplinarity and outreach.

The functions of each centre were clustered according to two main criteria: how closely related are the tasks and how intensive is the required effort in personnel for their completion. Other partners not belonging to the host countries may contribute to the activities of APPEC by providing personnel and/or budget.

The APPEC MoU also describes a common fund. All partners shall provide an annual participation fee to allow APPEC to commonly fund activities, e.g. workshops and outreach material.

During the signing ceremony in Berlin in June 2012 the MoU has been signed by the following 11 organisations:

- Commissariat à l'Energie Atomique et aux Energies Alternatives (CEA), France
- Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), France
- Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron (DESY), Germany
- Stichting voor Fundamenteel Onderzoek der Materie (FOM), The Netherlands
- Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek - Vlaanderen (FWO), Belgium
- Croatian Science Foundation (HRZZ), Croatia
- Horia Hulubei National Institute of Research and Development for Physics and Nuclear Engineering (IFIN-HH), Romania
- Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare (INFN), Italy
- Narodowe Centrum Nauki (NCN), Poland
- The Royal Irish Academy (RIA), Ireland
- Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), UK.

Essentially all ASPERA-2 partners have expressed interest to join APPEC. Until the end of 2013 organisations from Spain and Switzerland signed the accession document:

- Laboratorio Subterráneo de Canfranc (LSC), Spain
- Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), Switzerland.

With this MoU the original ApPEC was completely replaced by the new APPEC, the APPEC, which took over the EC-funded activities of the ERA-NET ASPERA-2.

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