Big science is hard but worth it

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Science  24 Apr 2015:
Vol. 348, Issue 6233, pp. 375
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa3581


Big science is hard. It is the throw-deep approach that pushes technology to the edge to achieve stunning breakthroughs that dramatically extend the frontiers of science, while inspiring the next generation of scientists and capturing the imagination of the public. The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) produced the Higgs boson, a particle that explains why all other particles have mass and whose name is now known around the world; the Atacama Large Millimeter and Submillimeter Array (ALMA) revealed some of the earliest galaxies, as well as a nearby planetary system that has a striking resemblance to our own; and for 25 years, the Hubble Space Telescope has dazzled us with its discoveries and iconic astronomical images. But before they became famous for discoveries, these and other big projects were infamous for their problems. What are the challenges for big science, and what does it take to succeed?