Organizers have extended by one year the US particle physics community’s long-range planning process, originally scheduled for completion in fall 2021.
For the past about 40 years, US particle physicists have gathered periodically to draw up their roadmap for the decade to come. Through this “Snowmass process,” physicists work to build consensus around a refined set of major scientific questions and ways to address them. A subgroup of the High Energy Physics Advisory Panel, which is appointed by the US Department of Energy and National Science Foundation, takes the community’s input from this process and pares it down into what’s called the P5 report. The funding agencies use this report to help guide their decisions about how to allocate their budgets.
Leaders from the American Physical Society’s Division of Particles and Fields, who organize the Snowmass process, began preparing for its current iteration in fall 2019. They officially kicked things off at the society’s April 2020 meeting—the first major US physics meeting to move online due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Physicists adapted to pandemic-related restrictions, discussing Snowmass topics over online platforms such as Zoom and Slack. Despite new challenges, members of the physics community submitted an unexpectedly large number of letters of interest to the Snowmass topical groups: more than 1500. Participation in the first Snowmass community meeting of the process also exceeded expectations; around 3000 people participated in the virtual summit.
Now the physics community will adapt again, as they update the timeline for the Snowmass process.
“[B]ecause of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Snowmass Report will be delayed by one year and the overall schedule for the Snowmass process will be adjusted accordingly,” wrote DPF Past Chair Young-Kee Kim, who led the Snowmass process last year, in an email to Snowmass participants in December.
“We learned from DOE and NSF at the HEPAP meeting on December 3-4, 2020, that some important scientific milestones will arrive later than anticipated. For this reason, extending the timeline of the Snowmass and P5 process would enable our community’s scientific vision and the subsequent prioritization exercise, to be fully informed by the anticipated progress in our field as those milestones are met over the coming year.”
Organizers gathered input from members of the US particle physics community and advisors from other regions around the world before making the change.
“This delay will allow a broader community (especially those who have been struggling in engaging in the Snowmass process due to circumstances related to coping with COVID-19) to participate more meaningfully in the Snowmass process,” Kim wrote.
Snowmass organizers will share more details about the amended process by the end of the month.