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Universities Research Association (URA) is a consortium of 86 leading research oriented universities with members primarily in the United States, and also in Canada, Japan, Italy, and the United Kingdom.
At the behest of President Lyndon Johnson’s Science Advisory Committee and the National Academy of Sciences, the not-for-profit URA corporation was founded in 1965 for management and operation of research facilities in the national interest. URA’s charter is “...to acquire, plan, construct, and operate machines, laboratories, and other facilities, under contract with the Government of the United States or otherwise, for research, development and education in the physical and biological sciences... and to educate and train technical, research and student personnel in said sciences.”
The corporation acts under the authority of its governing body, the Council of Presidents of its 85 member universities. A Board of Trustees appoints governing boards for each major research activity. The Washington headquarters office of URA coordinates the activities of the Council and boards. It is responsible for oversight and governance of URA’s enterprises and for corporate relations with the Federal government, industry, academe, and the general public.
From 1967 to 2006, URA was the prime contractor to the Department of Energy for the creation and operation of Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory near Batavia, Illinois. In 2007, URA partnered with the University of Chicago to form Fermi Research Alliance, LLC, which now holds the Fermilab contract.
Fermilab is home to the Tevatron, which, until the recent initiation of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, was for many years the world’s highest-energy accelerator for elementary particle physics research. Experiments using particle beams produced in Fermilab’s accelerators explore the fundamental nature of matter, energy, space and time, and their relationships in the physical universe. These experiments have led to the discovery and elucidation of the elementary components of matter.
Continuing accelerator upgrades and new experiments enable Fermilab to remain a global center for research at the frontiers of physics in such areas as the search for the Higgs boson, evidence for a new family of supersymmetric particles, the search for extra dimensions in the universe, and the exploration of neutrino properties. Fermilab is also a major center for research in particle astrophysics and related astronomical sciences, through participation in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, the Pierre Auger Cosmic Ray Observatory Project, the Cryogenic Dark Matter Search at the Soudan Underground Laboratory in Minnesota, and the new Dark Energy Survey.
On behalf of the U.S. participants in a collaboration of scientists from some 17 countries, URA received funding from the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation for the U.S. share of the $50 million Southern Hemisphere Array of the Pierre Auger Cosmic Ray Observatory. Under the leadership in the U.S. of Nobel Laureate James Cronin, the Auger Observatory is designed to probe the mysterious origins and nature of cosmic rays in an energy regime some 100 million times greater than any accelerator has produced. This major undertaking involved the construction of a Rhode Island-size detector array. The Southern Array, located in Mendoza Province in Argentina, was completed in 2008. It is proposed to be followed by a larger, 8,000 square-mile Northern Hemisphere Array to be located in Colorado.
The Pierre Auger collaboration published its first physics results in the fall of 2007, which revealed that the arrival directions of the highest-energy cosmic rays appear to correlate with nearby galaxies that contain active black holes at their centers. Several science organizations selected this remarkable result as one of the most important scientific breakthroughs of the year.
For Fiscal Year 2010, DOE funding for URA and FRA contracts is approximately $400 million. NSF and NASA grant funding is about $1.0 million. Fermilab also received an additional one-time allocation of $114 million over FY 2009 and FY 2010 under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).
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