Guide to Archives of International Organizations. Printable version

 Mandate and Objectives

CERN’s goals were set out in Article II of The Convention Establishing the European Organization for Nuclear Research: "The Organization shall provide for collaboration among European States in nuclear research of a pure scientific and fundamental character, and in research essentially related thereto. The Organization shall have no concern with work for military requirements and the results of its experimental and theoretical work shall be published or otherwise made generally available". The Convention also states that CERN shall organize and sponsor international co-operation in research, promoting contacts between scientists and interchange with other laboratories and institutes. This includes dissemination of information, and the provision of advanced training for research workers, which continue to be reflected in the current programmes for technology transfer and education and training at many levels. The revised edition of the Convention and the Financial Protocol annexed thereto, dated 18 January 1971, embodies amendments which have subsequently been adopted by the Council of the Organization. See:
Brief Overview of Main Activities

CERN, the world’s leading particle physics research centre, was one of Europe’s first joint ventures and has become a shining example of international collaboration. From the original 12 signatories of the CERN Convention, membership has grown to the present 20 Member States. The Laboratory straddles the Franco-Swiss border west of Geneva at the foot of the Jura mountains. CERN’s largest accelerator, the Large Electron-Positron collider (LEP), began operating in 1989 and has a circumference of almost 27 kilometers. It was closed in 2000 to make way for the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), which became operational in 2010 and will bring protons into head-on collision at higher energies (14 TeV) than ever achieved before to allow scientists to penetrate still further into the structure of matter and recreate the conditions prevailing in the Universe just 10-12 seconds after the "Big Bang".
Geographical Scope

Some 8,000 scientists, over half the world’s active particle physicists, use CERN facilities. They represent 580 universities and over 85 nationalities.
Working Languages: English and French

 Origins and Process of Creation

The first ideas for international laboratories were put forward as early as 1946 within the United Nations Organization. It was not until December 1949 that this focused on achieving European collaboration in nuclear physics: a commission of the European Cultural Conference held in Lausanne from the 8th to 12th of that month proposed the creation of a European Institute for nuclear science. The next major step in this direction was the voting of a resolution proposed at the fifth General Conference of UNESCO, in Florence on 7 June 1950. This was followed by a more explicit resolution made at a meeting in Geneva on 12 December 1950 at the Centre Européen de la Culture. The resolution recommended that a laboratory be established based on the construction of a large machine for accelerating elementary particles. Signature, by eleven States, of the Agreement constituting a "Council of Representatives of European States for Planning an International Laboratory and Organizing Other Forms of Co-operation in Nuclear Physics" was performed on 15 February 1952 at the second session of the intergovernmental conference, held in Geneva. The task of the Council and its executive was to draw up plans for the new laboratory and its equipment, and to draft an intergovernmental convention to place the organization on a permanent footing. By February 1952 two strong candidates had emerged for the location of the organization: Geneva and Copenhagen. By the end of July the French and Dutch governments had also offered sites in Paris and Arnhem respectively. The Council met for the first time in May 1952 and the Geneva location was finally agreed upon at the third Council session. Great Britain did not sign the 1952 Agreement establishing the provisional CERN but joined, on 1 July 1953, the eleven States who were party to the Agreement in Paris to approve the text of the Convention and the Financial Protocol annexed thereto. The Convention establishing the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) and the protocol were open for signature until the 31 December 1953. The Convention came into force on 29 September 1954 when the instruments of ratification of seven of the Member States were deposited at UNESCO House in Paris.
Creation date and Birthplace:

The Convention establishing the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) was approved by 12 Member States at the 6th session of the Provisional CERN Council in Paris, 29 June - 1 July 1953, and entered into force on 29 September 1954, when sufficient ratifications of the Convention were obtained from the Member States. Hence, 29 September 1954 is the date when CERN came officially into being.
Chronology of Highligts in the History of the Organization

1954: creation of CERN 1957: the first accelerator begins operation 1959: the PS (Proton Synchrotron) starts up 1968: Georges Charpak revolutionizes detection 1971: the world's first proton-proton collider 1973: neutral currents are revealed 1976: the SPS (Super Proton Synchrotron) is commissioned 1983: discovery of the W and Z particles 1986: heavy-ion collisions begin 1989: LEP (the Large Electron-Positron collider) is commissioned 1990: Tim Berners-Lee invents the World Wide Web 1993: precise results on matter–antimatter asymmetry 1995: first observation of antihydrogen 2002: capturing antihydrogen atoms 2004: CERN celebrates its 50th anniversary 2008: the LHC (Large Hadron Collider) starts up, but suffers teething troubles 2010: the LHC (Large Hadron Collider) successfully starts up again

 Governing Bodies

The Organization consists of a Council and a Director-General, assisted by staff. The Council of the Organization is composed of not more than two delegates from each Member State who may be accompanied at meetings of the Council by advisers. The Council meets at least once a year; each Member State has one vote in Council. The Council determines the Organization’s policy in scientific, technical and administrative matters. The Committee of Council, the Scientific Policy Committee and the Finance Committee are subordinate bodies of Council. The Committee of Council is responsible, on behalf of the Council, for the policy of the Organization in accordance with general or specific decisions of Council. The Scientific Policy Committee is charged with making recommendations to the Council on the priorities of research programmes and the allocation of research effort. The Finance Committee is charged with the general responsibility of advising Council on all matters of financial administration. The Director-General is appointed by the Council for a defined period (usually five years). The Director-General is the chief executive officer of the Organization and its legal representative.
Organizational Chart

Current structure: Chart showing changes to CERN's internal organization since 1954:
Field Offices


There are 20 Member States (originally 12): Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and The United Kingdom. Observers are India, Israel, Japan, the Russian Federation, Turkey, the United States of America, the European Commission and UNESCO.