Society benefits from investing in particle physics

The socioeconomic and cultural benefits from upgrading the Large Hadron Collider exceed the project’s costs

Large-scale scientific facilities, such as those for conducting particle-physics research, are financed by society. A team of economists recently performed a cost–benefit analysis of upgrading the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). They concluded that the socioeconomic and cultural benefits gained from the project – not including potential scientific discoveries – exceed the total pecuniary investment.

In 2025, the LHC will receive a huge boost in its performance. The “high-luminosity” upgrade of the machine will deliver up to ten times more collisions every time protons cross within its gigantic detectors. It will extend the life and potential of the accelerator to 2038 at a total cost of 2.9 billion Swiss francs for materials and personnel.

The economists concluded that, purely in financial terms, every Swiss franc invested in the HL-LHC upgrade would pay back approximately 1.8 Swiss francs in societal benefits. These include the training of young scientists, collaboration with industry on developing and rolling out new technology, cultural benefits mainly through on-site visits and exhibitions, scientific output measured in total papers published and the value of the project as a public good.

Massimo Florio from the University of Milan, who performed the analysis with his colleagues, will present the findings at a book launch at CERN, today at 5 p.m. (Geneva time). You can watch the event live on the CERN Webcast service (camera and slides) or below (camera only):

You can read more about the study in “LHC upgrade brings benefits beyond physics”, published last year in the CERN Courier.