Open Data: pushing back the frontiers together

As well as making data from particle physics research public, the CMS experiment has developed additional tools in github to be used in schools


S'Cool LAB Summer CAMP 2017
Every year, students and teachers who participate in CERN’s summer programmes, get the chance to explore different learning resources in particle physics. (Image: CERN)

These days we are drowning in data. However, making public the huge amounts being produced every second by governmental institutions, scientific experiments and other endeavours, can provide interesting resources for educators from all over the globe. The experiments at CERN are prime examples of this, and for some years, CERN has pioneered Open Data in High-Energy Physics. The cutting-edge particle physics research data is publicly available and just a few clicks away from any teacher, student or curious aficionado.

With computers and increasingly intricate algorithms needed to probe deeper into nature's secrets, programming skills are more important than ever. So the CMS experiment has gone a step further.  In addition to sharing the original data from the experiment, the collaboration has also created simplified sets and tools that can be used in schools. Everything is available for free on github and requires no previous expertise.

The main material bank can be found in the English folder, but it's constantly expanding as the project continues. Some other ready-to-use exercises also exist in Spanish, German, Finnish and Greek. CMS uses Jupyter notebooks (interactive website-like programming environment tools), try one out.

An example of code from a Jupyter notebook exercise that introduces CMS and calculates the invariant mass histogram using event data (Image: CMS/CERN)


These materials have been tested and developed with many science teachers and enthusiastic students. The results and reactions have been almost universally positive, with many saying how easy the materials are to use. Students have enjoyed learning about scientific methodology as well as the subjects themselves, such as particle physics or statistics.

”It's exciting to use actual coding with real data from scientific experiments. I wish there was more of it in school.” – High-school student, who had a taste of Open Data in their classroom.

Find out more about CMS’s resources and about the Open Data project in general: