News Bulletin: December 1998

Meeting of the Executive Council and Chairmen

The Executive Council and Chairs of the commissions met at TRIUMF, Vancouver BC, Canada September 25-26, 1998. In this News Bulletin we report highlights of that meeting. 

Commission Affairs

SUNAMCO Commission:

Petley (chair) reported that he had been designated as an IUPAP representative to sit on a joint committee which brings together several international organizations in order to produce two brochures, one the International Vocabulary on Metrology, and the second, A Guide to the Expression of Uncertainty in Measurement. Further he is an IUPAP representative on the Consultative Committee on Units, which is preparing a new edition of the definitive brochure on SI. In these roles, he has been involved in presenting the views of the physics community with respect to certain specific problems, namely: (a) the use of units of particular interest to the physics community, such as the barn and certain other units from the CGS system; (b) the use of the decimal point in documents in English and the corresponding use of the comma in non-English documents; (c) the improvement in the definition of the atomic mass unit, u, to include the stipulation that it refer to an isolated atom of 12C in the nuclear and atomic ground states, and the implication that this has for the related definition of the mole; (d) the status of named dimensionless units such as the radian, steradian, neper, etc. Documents on the latter have been circulated to the chairs of the commissions; comments were requested and those which were received will be communicated to the relevant bodies.

It was noted that IUPAC has raised the question of nomenclature of the names for elements 110-112. In the discussion, it was agreed that SUNAMCO interact with IUPAC on this question and report to the Executive.

Commission on Physics Education:

Black (chair) reported that the C14 medal had been awarded to Dieter Nachtigall.

Further, the commission's recent venture in the production of a book on the worldwide web, found at, has been very successful, with approximately 21,000 hits on the site.

To mark the new millenium C14 has asked each commission to promote the inclusion of general lectures and conferences which review the achievements of this century and look forward to the next. Commissions are encouraged to have someone prepare briefing materials on the history, etc. of the subject matter within the mandate of their commission.

International Commission on Acoustics:

L. Crum (chair) observed that C7 had been a member of IUPAP since 1951 and that acoustics was a part of physics. However, with the evolution of the discipline, and the emergence of regional national organizations, the need for an umbrella organization, with the structure of an affiliated commission, had become apparent. This had led to the approval by IUPAP, at the 1996 General Assembly, of the formation of the affiliated International Commission on Acoustics.

He reported on the recent ASA-ICA joint meeting, which was the inaugural meeting of the new affiliated commission, and to which every acoustics organization, both national and regional, had been invited. Although the ICA is now structured in a similar fashion to the IUPAP model and collects annual fee, it is committed to keeping a strong connection with IUPAP.

Term of Office for Commissions

President J.S. Nilsson reminded the meeting that the General Assembly in March of 1999 marks the end of the term of the present officers of IUPAP. The difficulty that this raises for the commissions was discussed with particular reference to the practice of commission meetings during the summer. It was proposed and agreed that, notwithstanding the formal end of term of the officers, informally the commissions agree that new officers would take over the decisions of the commission effective September 1, 1999.

International Conferences for 1999

The views of the commissions on conferences proposed for IUPAP sponsorship in 1999 were sought and referred to the Executive Council. The decisions by the Executive Council on sponsorship have been published in a recent News Bulletin (NB98-5) and on the IUPAP web site.

Formal notification to conference organizers of sponsorship and grants (if awarded) is made through the chair and secretary of the relevant commission.

Progress Reports on Inter-Commission Matters

1. Working Party on Communication of Physics

Nilsson reported that the old Working Group had been disbanded and that a new Working Party on Communication of Physics had been formed and will report to the General Assembly in Atlanta.

2. Neutron Sources

At the 1997 meeting of the Council and Chairs, the role that IUPAP could play in the planning for the future of neutron sources was discussed and referred to the chairs of the relevant commissions.

At this year's meeting B. Richter reported on the IUPAP Special Meeting on Neutron Sources which was arranged by Judy Franz and Rudolf Klein with the support of the US Liaison Committee. This was a broadly-based group involving representatives of five IUPAP commissions and the chairs of neutron scattering associations of Europe, US, and Japan, as well as a representative for the OECD Megascience Forum Working Group on Neutron Sources.

Richter raised the question about whether there was a place for an international committee on the future of neutron sources, developed following the model of ICFA. This was referred to the chairs of the commissions having an interest in condensed matter for a recommendation. Out of the ensuing discussion, agreement on the following formal IUPAP position and plan of action was reached and the following statement was approved by the Council.

The IUPAP Council notes the importance of neutron sources to many areas of science and technology and the usefulness of an ad-hoc meeting held earlier this year that brought together members of IUPAP Commissions, leaders of regional user groups and representatives of the involved organization.

"The Council desires that this kind of meeting continue on an experimental basis to discuss issues including the need for new sources, upgrades to existing sources, availability, access, instrumentation requirements, long range planning and international coordination.

We recommend that on a rotating basis an annual meeting be held at the major regional conferences on condensed matter physics in Asia, Europe and North America. The meeting should include if possible the chairs of IUPAP commissions C3, C5, C6, C8, C9, and C10, representatives of the regional neutron users groups, representatives of appropriate laboratories, and representatives of other involved organizations.

The IUPAP commission chairs should report to the IUPAP Council in writing after each such meeting on issues that have risen and on any necessary actions that IUPAP should take to further progress in neutron science. To facilitate such meetings the council will make available the sum of CHF (Swiss francs) 5000 per year to help defray travel expenses for those unable to obtain sources of funding. R. Klein will organize the 1999 meeting in Europe and H. Sato the year 2000 meeting in Asia.

The Council will evaluate the usefulness of such meetings after two years."


3. Steering Committee on Particle Astrophysics

It will be recalled that, at the 1997 meeting of the IUPAP Council with the Chairs of the Commissions, it was proposed that IUPAP should develop a forum that would bring together the diverse communities that have an interest in the future of particle astrophysics. A steering committee was struck and A. Bettini was named as the chair.

At the 1998 Vancouver meeting, Bettini presented a brief overview of particle astrophysics. In particular, he noted that researchers from different fields are joining in the study of particle and nuclear astrophysics from different histories and cultures. The scale of some experiments being contemplated is very large and calls for new models of organization and international cooperation. He then reported on behalf of the members of the steering committee as follows.


The steering committee recommended the formation of the "Particle and Nuclear Astrophysics and Gravitation International Committee" (PaNAGIC).

Its proposed mission is to support international exchange of ideas and help in the convergence of the international scientific community in the large-scale activity in the emerging field of particle and nuclear astrophysics, gravitation and cosmology.

The field of study includes

  • basic constituents of matter and their interactions by non-accelerator means
  • sources, acceleration mechanism and propagation of high energy particles in the universe
  • nuclear and particle properties and processes of astrophysical interest in the universe
  • gravity, including sources of gravitational waves
The composition of this committee would be 15 members and would
  • be selected primarily on the basis of intellectual leadership
  • represent the major components of the field
  • would have a fair geographical balance
  • include one member appointed by each of C4 (Cosmic Rays), C11(Particles and Fields), C12 (Nuclear Physics), and C19 (Astrophsyics)
The committee should have a three-year mandate. After two years, it should report to IUPAP on its activity and make a proposal for its constitution and membership formula. IUPAP should then decide whether to continue the mandate or to disband the committee.

PaNAGIC should report to C4, C11, C12, and C19, but should be formally established under C4.

PaNAGIC should sponsor significant conferences on a regular basis and promote schools covering outstanding topics of the complete field.

Sub-fields: A sub-panel will be appointed by PaNAGIC in a particular sub-field when this is considered to be useful in promoting convergence of large international projects. Two such sub-fields have already been identified: (a) gravitational waves and (b) very large neutrino observatories.

(a) Gravitational Waves

Members of all gravitational waves experiments met in Paris, November 1997, and created an international panel to coordinate the field, the Gravitational Waves International Committee (GWIC). GWIC has agreed to be a sub-panel of PaNAGIC. The first chair of GWIC is Barry Barish.

The goals of GWIC are

  • to promote international cooperation in all phases of construction and exploitation of gravitational waves detectors
  • to coordinate and support long-range planning for new instrument proposals or proposals for instrument upgrades
  • to promote the development of gravitational wave detection as an astronomical tool
  • to organize meetings and workshops
  • to represent the gravitational waves detection community
  • to provide a forum for laboratory directors.
The membership of GWIC is representative of all the projects:
  • Interferometers (ACIGA, GEO, LIGO, TAMA, VIRGO)
  • Resonant bars (ALLEGRO, AURIGE, Explorer, Nautilus, Niobe)
  • Space-based (LISA)

(b) Large Neutrino Observatories

An OECD Megascience Forum workshop concluded that

  • several collaborations are engaged in proto-experiments in the field.
  • each collaboration is international that is lead by one country.
  • no collaboration has the strength necessary to build a cubic kilometre observatory.
  • research and development is still needed.
  • an intermediate sized project seems to be a necessary step.
  • the choice of one site (or one site per hemisphere) will be necessary.
For this sub-field, the recommendation from the steering committee is that the PaNAGIC should immediately create a sub-committee subject to the following constraints:

1. While it is provided that there be a representative of this field, this position should be left open in the initial formation of PaNAGIC.

2. There should be a consensus amongst the collaborations on the person chosen as this representative. He/she would become the chair of the sub-panel of very large neutrino observatories.

3. The structure of the sub-panel and its mandate should be defined.

The detailed recommendation was approved by the Council.

Election of Officers at the 1999 General Assembly

Nilsson reminded the meeting of the general procedures for the elections and reiterated the desirability of having proposals for officers from the commissions. Nominations for both the Executive and for the commissions have already been received from both the liaison committees and the commissions.

Members of Council

He summarized the considerations regarding the elections of the Council. The President-designate automatically becomes President and the President automatically becomes Past-President at each regular General Assembly. In the general discussion regarding the selection of a President-Designate, it was noted that it was desirable to have some sort of regional rotation, with representation coming from Europe, North America, and elsewhere.

It was proposed that the incoming Associate Secretary General be Judy Franz. It was noted that the infrastructure support from the APS would be available to support this office.

Three Vice-Presidents are elected at large, with one coming from a developing country. The five remaining Vice-Presidents are elected from amongst the chairs of commissions. Rotation is desired in order that all fields eventually be represented. It was agreed that the following chairs would be nominated as Vice-Presidents on Council: H. Godfrin (C5- France), H. Yasuoka (C9 - Japan), P. Kalmus (C11 - UK), F. G. Parak (C6 - Germany), I. Martinson (C15 - Sweden).

Members of Commissions

Further, from the list of nominations coming from both liaison committees and from commissions, the Executive had to propose a list of recommended nominees that would be presented to the General Assembly for consideration. These slates for the commissions were to have balance as to official IUPAP membership and to appropriate representation of the various interests of each commission. Nilsson invited the commissions to make recommendations on nominations prior to the meeting of the Executive Council.

A discussion was held regarding the nomination to secretary and chair in the commissions. There was a general discussion on the experience that commissions have had in the way that the positions of secretary, vice-chair, and chair had been filled in the various commissions. It was proposed by Richter and agreed that, except for C2 (SUNAMCO), C13 (Development), and C14 (Education), either the secretary or vice-chair would normally become chair. Further, commissions should search for a vice-chair who represented industrial activity if at all possible.

The 1999 General Assembly in Atlanta


Richter advised the meeting that the estimate for attendance at the APS meeting immediately following the General Assembly is in the range 6,000-7,000.

Nilsson said that the liaison committees are being encouraged to include the chairs and secretaries of commissions in the delegations. Further, at this General Assembly, the chair of the commission has a vote which is not transferrable from the chair.

Yamaguchi reminded the meeting that the question of having the primary version of the statutes in French had been raised at the last General Assembly and that this should be revisited. Nilsson reported that the statutes were being examined for consistency. Further he had been exploring the question of a legal domicile for the union and had found that this was possible in Switzerland with no outstanding problems or expenses, although details were yet to be worked out. The status of the Swedish office and the position of Claery Persson were to continue only until the end of Nilsson's term as president.


Observers from regional societies and many non-members have been invited to the General Assembly. Some limited funds are available to help them attend both the General Assembly and the APS meetings but it remains to be determined how many can be supported. A decision on the names must made soon because applications for visas must be submitted soon. The decision on the choice of observers to be assisted was delegated to Nilsson and Richter.

Garcia- Moliner reminded the meeting that, in order to deal with a case of denial of a visa, it is important that all documents be kept carefully. Nilsson added that application should be made well in advance and a record kept of when and to whom the applications are made.

International Council for Science - ICSU

Turlay summarized the fact that ICSU grants had been received to support the ICTP newsletter, the acquisitions by third world libraries, and travel for scientists coming from developing countries. The total grants for these projects was US $11,000, reduced from an earlier figure of US $18,000. ICSU has been moving to funding large projects greater than US $50,000 and have preferred global problems rather than matters relating to the affairs of the unions. Black suggested that it requires serious work to put information and publications on the Internet and raised the prospect of receiving funding for this purpose from ICSU.

Nilsson described the changes in organization that have taken place in ICSU. There has been a change in the statutes with regard to (a) name - changed to the International Council for Science (but retaining the acronym ICSU); (b) abolish the general committee who assembled annually; (c) replace this with an executive board having four representatives from the unions and four representatives from the national members; (d) the sub-committees have changed their administrative structure; and (e) the officers now constitute a decision-making body. While the above changes have streamlined the administration, the orientation of ICSU has shifted from being an umbrella organization for the scientific unions to an organization promoting study of global problems.

Black commented that ICSU used to support education in science but has not done so since 1993. C14 (Education) has no link with them and the Committee on Capacity Building in Science (CCBS) appears to be moribund. Richter observed that the emphasis on capacity building seems to be wrong; the problem is more correctly identified as training citizens to function in society. The problem is the interface between professional scientists and citizens

Free Circulation of Scientists

No problems were reported or discussed.

Other Business

Inter-Union Representatives of IUPAP

Nilsson observed that some inter-union representatives were very active and provided a real contact with the other bodies while in other cases the connection was non-existent. The establishment of this representation is made by the General Assembly. The list of nominations for formal connections to other international bodies was reviewed and will be presented to the General Assembly.


The hospitality of TRIUMF, Erich Vogt and Elly Driessen for this meeting is gratefully acknowledged. 

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