News Bulletin: June 1997

IUPAP Web Site

Detailed reports on IUPAP matters are now being published on the IUPAP web site in order that they may be readily accessible to the international physics community. In particular, the full minutes of the General Assembly and the text of the various resolutions may be found there. As indicated at this site, suggestions regarding its improvement are welcome.

Synopsis of the IUPAP General Assembly

The 22nd General Assembly of IUPAP was held in Uppsala, Sweden, September 18-21, 1996 under the auspices of IUPAP and was organized by the Swedish National Committee for Physics. President Prof. Y. Yamaguchi was in the chair for all sessions of the General Assembly as well as the related Executive Council meeting, until the transfer of the presidency to Prof. Jan S. Nilsson. The General Assembly was attended by 103 delegates, observers, and IUPAP Officials, with 27 countries represented. Academic sessions on the themes of radiation and society (marking the centennial of Becquerel's discovery of natural radioactivity) and computational physics were held in conjunction with the Assembly.

The General Assembly approved changes in the statutes so that regional organizations might have observer status, while all national liaison bodies enjoy membership. Kenya and Thailand were admitted as members, the adhering body for Cuba was amended, and observer status was given to the Society of African Physicists and Mathematicians. On request, Korea's number of shares was increased from one to three.

The working group on the Future Role and Future Structure made its formal report and the recommendations were discussed by the Assembly. The actions taken by the Assembly (a) modified the number of votes in the General Assembly by providing one vote to the chair (or the secretary as an alternate) of each commission, (b) replaced the eight vice-presidents with five vice-presidents chosen from amongst the chairs at a meeting of the chairs and Executive Officers held within one year of the General Assembly, plus 3 vice-presidents elected at large, of whom at least one should be from a less scientifically developed country.

Commission Reports on their activities for 1993-96, along with the scientific developments in their fields, were received and have been published in IUPAP-32, and the Supplement to IUPAP-32,. The report on finance indicated that, on average, over half of the annual income of IUPAP goes to the direct support of international conferences. Annual fees remain at CHF (Swiss Francs) 2500 per share for the period 1997-99.

At the request of C7, the Commission on Acoustics, a resolution was approved that reconstituted it as an affiliated commission. C15 requested that its name be amended to Commission on Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics. The formation of a new Commission on Computational Physics was approved, but a proposal, made at the Nara General Assembly, to form a Commission on Mineral Physics was not supported.

The "IUPAP Recommendations for the Use of Major Physics User Facilities" received formal endorsement by the General Assembly. Richter (USA) commended that while this arose out of work of ICFA and was accepted in principle by every high energy facility in the world. They are applicable, however, much more broadly, e.g., in condensed matter physics, astronomy, etc.

Sens (Chair) presented the work of the Working Group in Communications in Physics and pointed out that the problem in publication in physics is that the number of papers being submitted is increasing rapidly and cost of journals is also increasing rapidly. Electronic means are emerging that provide the means to solve the crisis, but we have not yet dealt with the problems of cost and problems of networking. Full discussion is given in the booklet of Reports of International Commissions and Working Groups of IUPAP (IUPAP -32) for 1993-96.

23rd General Assembly in 1999

The General Assembly will be held in Atlanta GA, March 17-20, 1999, and will be hosted by the American Physical Society, The US National Academy of Sciences and the US Liaison Committee. The Council meetings will precede the General Assembly, which will be held without academic sessions. Celebratory sessions will be held on March 20-21, with the meeting of the APS March 20-26.

Meeting of Executive Council and Chairmen

As directed by the General Assembly, the Executive and the Chairs of the commissions met at CERN, Geneva, February 7-9, 1997 to review the program of IUPAP, to encourage dialogue between chairs and the executive officers and to elect five of the chairs to the Executive.

IUPAP Conferences

Barber reviewed the procedures for applications for IUPAP sponsorship of international conferences. These have been summarized in Memorandum 1997-02-04 and are available on the IUPAP web site.

It was emphasized that applications should be submitted to the commissions and that the commissions should make recommendations on their priorities for the conference applications when these are forwarded to the Executive through the Associate Secretary-General The criteria by which the conference applications are considered are:

  1. The conference must be truly international in character. It is indicated that at least 30% of the attendees must be from outside the host country, but the case for the international character is strengthened if international participation exceeds this level. Conferences should have advisory committees of an international character, move among different countries and continents, and have a broadly based list of international speakers and participants.
  2. The conference must not be a yearly conference.
  3. The recommendation of the commission regarding the value and importance of the conference is considered in assessing whether sponsorship should be granted.

It was noted that information regarding conference proceedings had not reached the Associate Secretary-General for many of the conferences in 1995. Information regarding the availability of recent conference proceedings has been circulated through the News Bulletin (NB 97-1) and posted on the IUPAP Web pages.

It was pointed out that, in addition to the Chairman, Vice-Chairman and Secretary and ten members, each commission could have associate members, as described under By-law 1, Section E. The purpose of having associate members is to allow other scientific unions to nominate experts in fields relevant to the IUPAP commissions and to allow the IUPAP commission to name these as associate members. In addition, it is advantageous for a commission to be able to name a liaison contact person with another IUPAP commission in order to coordinate activities.

Associate Members of Commissions

The term for associate members begins one year following the General Assembly. The term for present associate members ends in September 1997. The coming term runs from September 1997 to September 2000.

Organization of Commissions

The meeting was reminded that the Munich General Assembly instructed the Executive Council to reexamine the number of commissions and to consider the increase in the number of sub-fields. Nilsson described attempts that had been made in the past to consolidate these areas and observed that there had been little success in this endeavour. For example, commissions dealing with various aspects of condensed matter include the Commissions on Magnetism, Low Temperatures, Condensed Matter, and Semiconductors. Gaisser noted that in some cases, such as the Commission on Cosmic Rays, new areas of physics occasionally coincide with the interests and activities of very old commissions, but that the new studies may be quite different from the traditional studies. The current interest within the Commission on Cosmic Rays in high energy particle/neutrino physics, accelerator theory and gamma ray astronomy was cited as an example. There was general discussion on possible ways of organizing the subject matter covered by the commissions. For example, one possible organization would be to have a few major divisions and, in each division, have the existing commissions

Commissions should assess the structure that exists for the conferences within their discipline area and should consider how to promote conferences that represent the leading edge and best quality work in their field. It was agreed that the Executive should consider whether support should be emphasized for B- rather than A-type conferences, given this discussion.

Links to Regional Physics Associations

It was noted that there are strong regional physics organizations, notably EPS, APS, and AAPPS. These are based on individual membership rather than national memberships. In total, there are five or six large blocks of regional physics organizations. Yamaguchi described his contacts with the regional organizations.

In this discussion, it was observed that national liaison committees are usually academies or science councils that may or may not have close ties with the physical societies. It is within the latter that the working physicists tend to be organized. IUPAP has attempted to make contacts with the physical societies in addition to the formal contacts with the liaison committees.

Links to ICSU, UNESCO, OECD Megascience Forum

The interaction between national governments and the scientific community was discussed in the context of major scientific projects. The links between the ICSU committee on Capacity Building in Science and the activities of C13 were described, as well as the links between C2 and organizations such as CODATA, ISO and IUPAC. The actual effectiveness of the UNESCO PAC Working Groups was questioned. UNESCO represents 120 governments, whereas IUPAP represents 47 physics communities. The US and UK are not in UNESCO. It was suggested that the Working Groups may produce reports, but that concrete results may not be obtained.

ICFA has had a strong voice in the Megascience Forum but has had no authority. It has brokered workshops. C12 is attempting to have a similar role. Frois pointed out that it is primarily government activity in the Megascience Forum. However the physicists should be looking at what projects are emerging and how can the top scientists can be brought together in order to achieve the project. He also noted that while scientists have objected to science being discussed at a political level, the inverse problem for politicians is "Who can the governments talk to?" He pointed out that, if IUPAP comes to the discussion with the perspective that is beyond the immediate physics horizon, then it has established a role for IUPAP. It is necessary for IUPAP to be seen to be beyond the role of merely defending a particular immediate interest. Richter stated that scientists need to be less paranoid. When their projects reach a certain stage, it is necessary to talk to governments.

Free Conduct of Science

The role of IUPAP in the free conduct of science was reviewed. Significant features are that IUPAP is a non-governmental organization and it is non-political. This has been proved to be important when dealing with political issues and leads to the formal statement which is really an ICSU policy. The right to access to a scientific meeting is based on science.

General Discussion of Aims - What do we want IUPAP to do?

Nilsson described the primary asset of IUPAP to be a strong list of people, who are well connected, and who are in the commissions, in the liaison committees or are former members of both. IUPAP is the only organization that is worldwide and is therefore able to act in certain contexts. It has a long record of approximately 70 years. The principle weakness is that it does not have strong financial resources. Traditional tasks have included:

  1. sponsorship of international conferences - These were a primary vehicle through which IUPAP worked to reestablish the international scientific community following World War I.
  2. IUPAP has been active through C2 - SUNAMCO Commission, in working with other international organizations in establishing standard terminology. Recent examples are the joint IUPAP/IUPAC work with regard to the problem of establishing priorities and naming the transfermium elements, and the preparation (with others) of the booklets on metrology.
  3. IUPAP is the body that provides a physics voice on ICSU.
  4. IUPAP is the agent that has provided assistance to physicists in the developing countries, principally through ICTP and through conferences sponsored by C13, Commission on Development.
  5. IUPAP has attempted to deal with the problem of communication in physics. An early attempt to do this was undertaken through the Commission on Publications which attempted to bring some order to the journals. In light of the difficulty in dealing with commercial interests, the Committee on Publications was finally dissolved, but the problem remains. In recognition of the new dimensions of this through electronic publishing, the Working Group on Communication in Physics has been reestablished in order to provide a physics voice in the development of electronics of publishing.

The major problem is with funding, which comes largely through academies who are linked to the liaison committees. There are no industrial associates and no individual memberships. Approaches have been made to industry and large foundations but sources of this type of funding are not readily available. The annual budget is about CHF550,000. New ventures would require permanent staff. Currently, about half of the annual budget goes for conference grants.

Tasks that have been identified are the following:

  1. There are major projects and global problems. IUPAP is an appropriate body through which to interact with organizations such as the OECD Megascience Forum.
  2. Communication in physics. An era of electronic publication is developing and the particular interests of physics must be expressed.
  3. Education. The problem of interacting with the public in terms of raising the appreciation of physics was noted.
  4. Possibility of joint action between IUPAP and regional associations, particularly in the Third World, was considered. In particular, the possibility of activities such as joint conferences was considered.

Richter observed that IUPAP provides a neutral international environment. Physics has always been international. He summarized some of the history of large international activity, especially through C11 in which scientists have operated as a world community. The trend towards similar large scale co-operations in other fields is clearly becoming a widespread practice.

Frois urged that IUPAP should be looking toward the future and should be considering, within the different commissions, an analysis of the future trends, commissions should consider things that will stimulate the field and plans that will be coherent. While IUPAP cannot do things that are on too large a scale, nevertheless, it can provide a framework within which such planning can take place. The development of groups such as NuPECC and the various planning activities such as those by C12 were cited as examples of this approach. The impact of facilities such as neutron sources and light sources on the condensed matter community were cited as examples of large facilities. Not all condensed matter physicists are happy to see such large facilities. A possible role for IUPAP is in providing experts who can provide advice to science ministers as they attempt to work in the future. IUPAP should attempt to generate some degree of coherence in the development of large scale science projects. Major nations such as US, Europe, and Japan do not wish to duplicate such projects but rather are looking for major cooperation in order to optimize the scientific return for a given cost.

In the field of education, there has been a decline in input from professional scientists. Rather, the process has been taken over by educators and politicians. While IUPAP cannot run major projects, nevertheless, it can provide communication in this area and identify common issues. For this reason, international conferences in the subject are important. Further, it is possible for IUPAP to provide experts.

Zhou described similar trends in China, namely that physics is no longer the most popular choice for young people. He observed that physics is still a frontier area in science. Further, while most students will go into industry, we still need teachers and we need to make it attractive to them at all levels. This is an area in which IUPAP can have a role without significant expenditure.

Nilsson reviewed some of the attempts to improve the role of applied/industrial physics within IUPAP. Attempts have been made to include sessions of applied physics in meetings and a formal policy of appointing a vice-chairman or chairmen from industrial physics has been implemented. Some particular conferences were identified in which the industrial interface had been good but, as a general matter, the participation by industrial physicists in IUPAP sponsored conferences was relatively poor.

Petley described work through the SUNAMCO Commission with other international organizations in producing two guides in metrology: (1) The Guide to the Expression of the Uncertainties of Measurement, and (2) The International Vocabulary on Metrology. These have achieved wide acceptance and, through ISO, will likely have a wide impact on industrial physics. There are companies wishing to satisfy requirements of ISO 9000, which in turn will likely incorporate features of these guides.

Richter described the success that APS has had in establishing an industrial forum which now has some 5,000 members. The objectives were to form a constituency of those interested in applied physics, to provide information on job opportunities and to improve the connection between industrial and academic physics communities. It organizes symposia and attempts to focus basic research that has the potential to move into the industrial world quickly. The challenge for IUPAP is to establish meetings that are worthwhile for industry to attend. Several chairmen reported on the attempts to involve industrial physics with varying degrees of success. It was suggested that people from the academic communities should attempt to become more involved in existing industrially oriented conferences.

Science 2000

As a way of marking the turn of the millennium, it was suggested the commissions might produce books for the general public on their subject, eg. for school children or teachers. Commission C14 (Education) has produced such books in the past.

It was also suggested that this was an appropriate time to review some of the achievements in the past, the problems of the future, and the role of physics. Both C13 and C14 could consider such things. Richter described some success stories that have been summarized for the general public through the US National Academy of Sciences. Each commission is urged to consider the possibility of being involved in such projects.

Communications in Physics - What can IUPAP do?

Nilsson reviewed the status of the Working Group on Communication in Physics. Electronic publishing has become an item on the agenda of ICSU and of the national and regional physics societies. In the light of this, it had been decided at the General Assembly that the WGCP should be continued. Development in this area is occurring quite quickly; even books can now be printed from the Web.

Richter expressed the opinion that IUPAP should not be involved in electronic publishing in light of its limited resources. The APS, the EPS, and the IP are already involved in representing the interests of both physics and publishers. This provides plenty of pressure to support physics interests. Cowley suggested that this matter should not be left up to the physics societies only, but that IUPAP could well publish a guidelines on these matters.

The wide divergence in different aspects of the Internet globally was described. In some cases, electronic mail is good but graphic interfaces (eg. Netscape) were poor. In other cases, libraries were good but communication was poor. The possibilities for the positive impact of the Internet for developing countries was noted.

Election of Five Chairs to Executive Council

The election was held and the following chairmen were elected to the Council: Klein (C10), Gyulai (C13), Black (C14), Sluijter (C16), and Righini (C17).

Assessment of the Meeting and Future Plans

Reaction to the meeting between Chairs and Executive was strongly favourable with the recommendation that it be held annually. After some discussion, it was decided that the Council would meet with the Chairs in September. The meeting is to be held in Paris, September 26-28.


We were sorry to hear of the sudden passing away, on January 15, 1997, of Prof. Dr. A.M. (John) Hoogenboom, former Chair of the Working Group on Communication in Physics and Secretary and former President of the Dutch Physical Society.

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