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CERN Has a Deal for Those Who Want Big Physics Data

Large Hadron Collider at CERN.Large Hadron Collider at CERN.
Large Hadron Collider at CERN.CERN

When it comes to big data, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, a.k.a. CERN, has a ton of it. Now the renowned research group just made a trove of it freely available to physicists or would-be physicists around the world.

CERN, home of the Large Hadron Collider, the world’s biggest and most powerful particle accelerator, is a hotbed of physics research with scientists concentrating on not-so-easy questions such as what the universe is made of and how it works.

Read More: Who owns the data?

Now CERN has made what has got to be one of the world’s biggest data dumps, releasing 300 terabytes of its research data to its Open Data portal for outsiders to download and parse.

In the press release outlining the move, Kati Lassila-Perni, the physicist in charge of data preservation efforts, said part of the goal is to get fresh eyes on the data once CERN physicists have spent “thousands of person-hours” on it.

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“Once we’ve exhausted our exploration of the data, we see no reason not to make them available publicly,” explained Lassila-Perni. “The benefits are numerous, from inspiring high-school students to the training of the particle physicists of tomorrow. And personally, as CMS’s data-preservation co-ordinator, this is a crucial part of ensuring the long-term availability of our research data.”

CMS stands for Compact Muon Solenoid, which is one of two particle accelerators at the Large Hadron Collider, encompassing a 16.7-mile ring of superconducting magnets and accelerators that boost the energy of particles traveling around the circle. The study of these particles is what leads to discoveries about the natural world, like that of the Higgs Bosun particle.

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Opening up data to the masses is one way to preserve that critical information. It’s also a way for outside researchers to confirm or challenge CERN’s own findings. Perhaps most important, it enables researchers in academia or think tanks to come up with other problems that the data could help solve, according to Phys.org.

Before 2014, CERN provided only select “curated” sets of data to the public. Moves like this latest data dump, which includes both raw and simulated data, means scientists can get more bang from CERN’s buck.