Budget in millions of dollars
All of US 1725
Brain Initiative Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment
Giant Magellan Telescope
Hubble Space Telescope
Human Genome Project
Human Microbiome Project
James Webb Space Telescope LIGO
National Ignition Facility
New Horizons Pluto Mission
Backed by huge resources, Big Science tackles the deepest questions: discovering the ultimate components of matter, observing the primordial light of the cosmos and unravelling the mystery of consciousness. Over the past five decades, some 40 projects have cost over $100 million. We immerse ourselves here in this world of excess.
Thirty Meter Telescope
Very Large Array
European Extremely Large Telescope
Human Brain Project
The era of big science was born with the Manhattan project and the development of the atomic bomb (cost: USD 20 billion, adjusted 2017). Since then, giant projects have ranged from fundamental knowledge (CERN) to energy (ITER), and are now opening up to other disciplines (ESS, XFEL).
The tools used to observe the cosmos are commensurate with its size, with often astronomical costs. The successor to the Hubble telescope is the James Webb Space Telescope, to be placed four times further from the Earth than the Moon. No repairs will be possible for this ten-billion-dollar jewel.
The main drivers of major space projects are power struggles and commercial and industrial development. But science is also part of it, and not only in astronomy. The ISS is the most expensive construction in history, but its scientific performance remains controversial.
International Space Station
Large Hadron Collider (Cern) Square Kilometre Array
Circular Electron Positron Collider
Five Hundred Meter Aperture Spherical Telescope Facility for Antiproton and Ion Research
Thirty years ago, the Human Genome Project opened up Big Science to biology, and laid the foundations for the concept of personalised medicine. Many countries are pursuing their own efforts, including the United States with the All of Us project, which plans to sequence the DNA of one million individuals.
The Earth, its oceans and its atmosphere are scanned by ambitious environmental observation programmes. With the Copernicus network of sentinel satellites, the European Union is the most active in this field. But is this sufficient, given the urgency and scope of current environmental problems?
The brain is probably the most complex object in the universe and, to study it, the Human Brain Project (EU) and the Brain Initiative (USA) want to create a global research movement. Their approaches are diametrically opposed, however: one is a computer simulation, the other is testing observation technologies.
DATA million. The amounts are not directly comparable: some include to third parties. Budgets for unfinished projects are inexact. National research budgets (2015) include industrial research. Sources: Research conducted by Horizons (October 2018).
The scientific projects with a cost or budget in excess of $100 the operating costs of infrastructure, others rent out its use
100 000 Genomes Project 1970
European Spallation Source
India-based Neutrino Observatory
Ocean Networks Canada
Extreme Light Infrastructure
Mars Science Laboratory
Journalist: Lionel Pousaz Infographics: CANA atelier graphique
Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer
The cost of Big Science
Annual national research budgets A single year’s worth of public and private research in Switzerland would make it possible to finance three giant particle accelerators. But while some CHF 800 million of Switzerland’s budget goes to major national and international research infrastructures, the remaining 95% of expenditure supports ‘small science’.
EU 346 960
Etats-Unis 456 903
Suisse 15 217
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