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Scholarly Communication in High Energy Physics (HEP)

Networks of Collaboration

Collaboration in HEP takes place in a variety of ways.

In experimental HEP, collaboration occurs between laboratories and research institutions internationally on an incredibly large scale.

In theoretical HEP, collaboration is often developed through informal networks which can range from departmental contacts or between senior schiolars and their younger counterparts, to meeting scholars at conferences or through societies.

The discipline is highly collaborative because knowledge progresses rapidly within the field, instruments are expensive, and data is expansive, and thus requires scientists to cooperate, often on very large scales.

Amateur Science

The Sloan Digital Sky Survey “is the most ambitious astronomical survey ever undertaken." It is an international effort to map portions of the sky, releasing the data to the scientific and general public. Not only has it resulted in hundreds of scholarly papers, the SDSS is widely used by amateur astronomers, teachers, and learners around the world.(Borgman 2007)

Similarly, HEP preserves and shares incredible amounts of data and supports a large amateur audience interested in the experiments, such as the LHC, conducted in international laboratories.


The phenomenon of “hyperauthorship” has surfaced in recent years in fields such as high energy physics and biomedicine, where large distributed research projects are common and can produce, in extreme cases, papers assigning over one hundred authors (Biagioli, 2003; Cronin, 2001).

As shown in the image of a recent article uploaded to arXiv above, the number of authors listed on certain papers (especially experimental HEP in which a vast amount of data is generated, stored, and analyzed) can be close to 700. However, many of the researchers listed as “authors” on these articles have played a role in the research but not participate in the actual writing of the paper (Cronin, 2001). Preparing a manuscript for publication has been shown to require effective collaboration, and as such, actual writing tends to be handled by a small group (Kim & Eklundh, 2001).

-(Palmer 2009, 25)


Funding also drives collaboration within HEP.

Grants are frequently awarded across multiple institutions, as evidenced through various Fermilab experiments such as LBNE collaborations and Neutrino Experiments. Grant proposal writing in HEP is highly nuanced as scholars tailor their collaborations to secure funding and to negotiate the ‘politics of international collaboration.’ An element of competition and collaboration between countries and continents is prevalent. (Harley et al. 2010)

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Employment Landscape

According to the NSF survey (2013), approximately 46% of all physicists work for private industry employers while 54% work for universities, government, or other sectors.

The number of HEP physicists that work for private industry is lower than governmental and educational institutions due to the highly theoretical nature of the research.

This leaves a majority of the work in the public realm (Universities and Government), which has an important impact on information access.

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