With an unexpected move, the Austrian Minister of Research and Science, Johannes Hahn, announced last Friday that he intends to put an end to the 50-year-long participation of Austria to CERN.

Such a move is hard to understand, in light of the great prospects of physics that the start-up of LHC will bring at the end of this year. Losing membership to CERN would mean a downgrade of Austrian scientists in all the projects they are involved, and it would be detrimental to the experiments, to the lab, and to particle physics in general, but most of all it would be a catastrophe for Austrian research.

According to HEPHY, the site of the Austrian Institute for High Energy Physics, the termination
would also affect spin-off projects like the planned cancer treatment center MedAustron located in Wiener Neustadt, which is dependent on collaborating with CERN, as well as partnerships with Austrian industries.

The site also points out that

If the Minister's plans will be supported by the austrian parliament, the position of Austria in the World of international science and research will become questionable in the coming years...

Not to mention the fact that a withdrawal of Austria might create the conditions for more such actions by other countries. If you are against such a turn of events, please visit this site, which hosts a petition to prevent the Austrian withdrawal.

Meanwhile, at a meeting held today in Vienna, Minister Hahn discussed the matter with CERN director-general Rolf Heuer, adn with CERN external relations coordinator Felicitas Pauss. The case was made by the CERN staff members that it is in Austria's interests to remain a member of the organization. The matter will be discussed with experts in more detail in the near future, but it is clear that the situation is serious, especially for my Austrian colleagues, whose future is suddenly uncertain. Good luck to them.