On Friday 29 July, the ATLAS experiment at CERN released the data from 100 trillion proton-proton collisions to the public. This includes the world’s first open release of 8 TeV data, gathered from the Large Hadron Collider in 2012, making it the most current high-energy physics open data.
The ATLAS Open Data release embraces the spirit of open access established by the CERN Open Data portal. “The ATLAS collaboration exemplifies the culture of open science, with thousands of physicists working around the world to further our understanding of the universe,” says Kate Shaw, ATLAS Outreach Co-coordinator. “Making our data publicly available is a natural development of this open culture.”
Learn by doing
Unique to the ATLAS Open Data release is its strong emphasis on learning. In parallel with the data release, ATLAS has launched a comprehensive educational platform to guide students and teachers at university level through how to use the data and the corresponding analysis tools.
“This platform is a key part of the ATLAS Open Data release,” explains Felix Socher, ATLAS physicist with TU Dresden who lead the development of the release. “It bridges the gap between physicists and the public, with extensive documentation to demystify the data analysis process. Users can follow worked examples using the ATLAS open dataset, and then carry out analyses on their own.”
From theory to reality
ATLAS has made seven physics analyses available to help users get started with their research. By providing theoretical predictions of certain interactions, these analyses give necessary context to the real ATLAS data. Users can compare real data to theory, carrying out measurements of Standard Model particles, hunting for the Higgs boson and even searching for physics beyond the Standard Model.
As the Open Data platform grows, users can look forward to new content. “We are planning to release further analyses, additional documentation and, eventually, more data,” says Socher. “We especially want to hear from our community of users. Our next releases will address their feedback.”
The ATLAS Open Data platform also addresses a common problem faced by open data releases: storage space. Without downloading a single file, users will be able to access and analyse ATLAS data. “By removing this technical hurdle, students and teachers will be able to focus on what’s important: understanding the physics processes and making appropriate cuts and selections to lead to a discovery,” says Arturo Sánchez Pineda, ATLAS researcher with University of Naples Federico II and INFN who developed the Open Data platform. “If they then decide to carry out a more complex analysis, all of the necessary software, tools and datasets are available for download on the platform.”
The ATLAS data and tools currently weigh in at just under 11 GB – making them easy to store on personal computers. This flexibility opens new doors for educators in developing countries who may have limited computing resources. Moreover, for those who have little-to-no internet connection, the ATLAS Data and Tools team will be making the entire platform available on USB sticks.*
*Contact email@example.com to request the full ATLAS Open Data platform on a USB stick.