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Particle Physicists' New Extreme Teams

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Science  16 Sep 2011:
Vol. 333, Issue 6049, pp. 1564-1567
DOI: 10.1126/science.333.6049.1564

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For decades, collaborations of hundreds of researchers have been the norm in particle physics. But by pushing into the thousands, two large collaborations at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), ATLAS and CMS, confront physicists with new issues and pressures. That's especially true because the LHC will soon be the world's sole great atom smasher, leaving ATLAS and CMS with only each other for competition. With fewer rival teams and many more teammates, researchers working on ATLAS and CMS face as much competition from within the collaboration as from without. Particle physics relies on an extreme division of labor, but scientists now face the reality that, even as they work on their specialized tasks, other team members are doing the same thing. In the past, one collaboration worried mostly about getting scooped by another; now members of a collaboration seem to worry as much about getting scooped by their own teammates.