PT: What was the most surprising or challenging thing about working in a large collaboration like CDF?
DORIGO: Back in those years, CDF looked like a large collaboration, yet now CMS and ATLAS have an order of magnitude more collaborators. This makes a tremendous difference, as there is no chance that decisions can be made by sitting in the same room and arguing until exhaustion. In CDF that was still possible, and it was challenging, surprising, and exciting. You could feel that your opinion counted—if it had scientific merit—and was considered with care by your colleagues, regardless of your academic title. It was an amazingly open environment where an undergraduate could take a seat around a table and sit elbow to elbow with the biggest shots in the field and still feel at ease. I learned things at the speed of light there. I am especially grateful to some of the old masters in CDF for the knowledge I absorbed there, most of all Giorgio Bellettini, who at more than 80 years of age is still the spokesperson for that glorious experiment.
Later I also make the following point:
[...] large collaborations support the invaluable merits of peer review in the production of scientific results. Yet the peer review that large physics collaborations get when they submit a result for publication is irrelevant—a pair of external reviewers will never be able to scrutinize those analyses as deeply as needed. Instead, collaborations employ an internal review process to verify the quality of the work. That process is correctly unforgiving but unfortunately also sometimes brutal. In exceptional cases, it gets to the point of hampering the open sharing of information among scientists.
The fact that this internal scrutiny is never explained to the public, and its proceedings are not made accessible in any way after an article is published, should be a concern for the field.
I am grateful to Physics Today for this chance of speaking about the glorious CDF experiment, the top discovery, and my views on a couple of related subjects...
Tommaso Dorigo is an experimental particle physicist, who works for the INFN at the University of Padova, and collaborates with the CMS experiment at the CERN LHC. He coordinates the European network AMVA4NewPhysics as well as research in accelerator-based physics for INFN-Padova, and is an editor of the journal Reviews in Physics. In 2016 Dorigo published the book “Anomaly! Collider physics and the quest for new phenomena at Fermilab”. You can get a copy of the book on Amazon.