Interview with coordinators on European and Japanese side of the newly awarded MSCA RISE project 'INTENSE'

Interview of Andrea Giammanco, work package coordinator; and Hiroyuki Tanaka, coordinator on Japanese side of the ‘INTENSE’ project


Andrea Giammanco obtained his PhD in particle physics in 2003 at Scuola Normale Superiore, in Pisa (Italy). He is now a Senior Researcher at UCLouvain, where he works since 2005 at the Centre for Cosmology, Particle Physics and Phenomenology. After his PhD he became a member of the CMS experiment at the CERN's Large Hadron Collider, where he held several coordination roles along the years. Since 2016, he is active in "muography" (imaging with cosmic rays).

Hiroyuki Tanaka is a Professor at the Center for High Energy Geophysics Research of the Earthquake Research Institute of the University of Tokyo, and is the leading expert on muography.

- First of all, congratulations for the success in getting your project, INTENSE, funded under this year's MSCA RISE call. Can you describe to us what will be the actions foreseen under this project from the European and Japanese side?

AG: In the INTENSE project will make use of the RISE funding to allow both inter-sectoral or inter-continental mobility. The infrastructure for the fundamental-physics experiments proposed is mostly located in the US, and we will give the opportunity to many European particle physicists to spend extended periods there, to participate to the construction, data taking and analysis work, as well as visiting their collaborators in Japan. The work package that I will coordinate is a bit special, devoted to spin-offs in the so called "muography", therefore the private sector has a very important role to play. Through mutual visits, we will facilitate the bi-directional transfer of knowledge between academic and non-academic partners, and between European and Japanese researchers.

HT: Volcanoes, cultural heritage, and social infrastructures all present important problems to both Europe and Japan. Resources that can be used to address these problems with muographic observations can be globally shared by sending researchers in Japan to Europe and inviting European scientists to Japan. This is the purpose for the cooperation between Japanese and European muography networks.   


- How did the idea come to put up with a proposal for this year's RISE call? What would you say is the advantage of the RISE programme, from the European and from the Japanese side?

AG: I was contacted by Simone Donati (University of Pisa, Italy), who had the original idea for this RISE network and is going to be its overarching coordinator, as he was thinking about muography as a way to complement fundamental research with an immediate societal return of the project. I am not an expert in neutrino experiments, I spent most of my career in one of the LHC experiments at CERN, but since a couple of years I am active in muography and I have some experience with H2020-MSCA networks, although of a different kind (Innovative Training Networks, ITN), so a colleague suggested to Simone that I could be a good match. And indeed, it was a real pleasure to work with him in setting this proposal up, and I think that we both learned a lot.

Being very enthusiastic about my recent activity in muography, I decided to propose a new ITN network entirely devoted to that. The decision was taken in Tokyo, in the occasion of the Muographers General Assembly of 2016, which featured a discussion about international funding sources. The timing was very fortunate, as we still had a couple of months before the deadline of the call of 2017, and many representatives of the most active teams in Europe and Japan were attending that meeting in Tokyo. We didn't succeed, but we were very close to the threshold for funding. And although we didn't get funded, the effort invested was not in vain: it turned out that this failed attempt acted a catalyser, created a channel of communication between disconnected groups that discovered to have a potential for working together, and when Simone invited me to think about a "muography" work package for INTENSE it was extremely easy to recruit enthusiastic participants among those who had already joined the ITN bid. Japanese researchers in particular have been among the pioneers of this novel imaging technique, so there is an obvious interest for European researchers to learn from them and start new collaborations

HT: The University of Tokyo has already signed the agreements with multiple institutions in Europe to promote cooperation in muography. Therefore forming a muography network between Europe and Japan seemed a natural next step.


- Finally, in view of potential candidate projects to next year's upcoming call (deadline in April 2019), could you give us a quick feedback on the preparations that were necessary to setup the project, and the hurdles to write the proposal; as well as, from the Japanese side, if you have any plans for matching funds?

AG: Before even starting writing the first line of text, a lot of time had to be invested in distance-chats and e-mails among the potentially interested people. Hiroyuki Tanaka (University of Tokyo) and Giulio Saracino (University of Napoli, Italy) put me in contact with their most relevant collaborators, and I have no doubts that without them it would have been simply impossible to set a reasonable work package in place. It is important to have motivated partners: if someone is not reacting fast during this exploratory phase, or is dubious of the interest of participating to such a network, it's definitely better to give up immediately, no matter how well that partner would fit in the activities of the network "on paper".

HT: The JSPS core to core program accelerates our networking speed by supporting the costs for travelling from Japan to Europe that the RISE cannot cover. Enabling better EU-JP intercontinental mobility, the community will become more diversified and activated.


Andrea, Hiroyuki, thank you for your time!