Instilling a sense of awe in fundamental research

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 C. Marcelloni    31-08-2020
Students during a masterclass at CERN. © CERN.

Each year, since its founding in 1997, the International Particle Physics Outreach Group (IPPOG) has reported its goals and accomplishments through formal presentations to the European Committee for Future Accelerators (ECFA) and, since 2013, to the CERN Council. This year, we have chosen to complement and expand upon these actions with a written report highlighting its main activities in 2019.

IPPOG is a network of scientists, science educators and communication specialists working across the globe in science education and public engagement for particle physics. There are currently 33 IPPOG members from 26 countries, 6 experiments and CERN as an international laboratory. The International Particle Physics Outreach Group holds regular meetings to share ideas and best practices, with the primary goal of raising the standards of science education and public engagement. In addition to presentations from the members, topical panel discussions, and other networking opportunities, the meetings feature reports from established working groups, steering groups and committees. Its globally coordinated outreach programmes contribute to strengthening cultural awareness, understanding and support of particle physics and related sciences, and developing the next generation of researchers.

Well-established IPPOG activities, including International Particle Physics Masterclasses and International Cosmic Days, reach thousands of students in dozens of countries around the world, every year. IPPOG also maintains strong visibility at major particle physics conferences, participating in and convening dedicated sessions in education and outreach, and organising associated public events and exhibitions. More recent programmes bringing particle physics to music and other cultural festivals get to new audiences, including members of the public already interested in science, as well as those who have yet to realise they are. Additionally, in 2019 IPPOG organized a social media campaign and competition entitled “Girls, do physics!” with the aim of empowering, inspiring and motivating girls in primary and secondary school to pursue studies in physics and related STEM subjects.

The document also features a one-page report from each of our member countries. In reading these reports, one senses an independence in the style that reflects the rich diversity of the collaboration, the members of which each employ methodologies optimal for the cultural, social, historical and pedagogical nature of their regions. However, the common threads of continual development and improvement of worldwide educational standards, the drive to expand the reach of our programmes to new global audiences, and the tireless dedication of all members to instil a sense of awe in fundamental research and a deep appreciation for science and evidence-based decision-making in our youth, are evident throughout.

Through these activities, IPPOG not only communicates the excitement of our research, but it instills young minds with a better understanding of the scientific method and a deeper appreciation of evidence-based decision making. Thus, the repercussions of IPPOG activities go far beyond that of simply supporting and popularising our field, but help to create a key strategic basis for the future.

IPPOG maintains a mailing list and facebook group open to teachers, students and anyone interested in the activity of the group. If you are interested, you can contact us at this e-mail address.