APS News

Task Force To Weigh Pros And Cons Of Topical Groups

Assessing potential impact and weighing the pros and cons of welcoming new topical groups to the Society's infrastructure will be the focus of a newly appointed APS Task Force on Topical Groups. The task force will hold its first meeting in mid-May, and is expected to present its findings at the November 2002 Council meeting.

At its November 2001 meeting, the APS Council passed a "sense of the Council" resolution asking the APS president to appoint a task force to review the status of existing topical groups, and consider the criteria for the approval of new ones. The APS currently has nine topical groups, varying widely in size and activity level, and the number continues to rise. Some work closely with related divisions, while others have considerably less interaction with other parts of the Society.

The official charge to the task force points out that "as new topical groups form, there has been growing concern that they may cause fragmentation in the physics community by isolating physicists in certain areas from the larger community, and by depleting the membership and thus the strength of APS divisions." In addition, adding more units can complicate already squeezed program planning at general meetings, thus lowering the quality of the talks, and require more administrative staff time. "On the other hand, new topical groups can bring new energy and new members to the APS. It allows the APS to welcome and foster new fields of physics," the charge concluded.

Chaired by W. Carl Lineberger (JILA/University of Colorado), the task force is charged with addressing these concerns by considering such specific questions as whether the hurdle for forming a new topical group should be raised, and whether there should be a maximum number of topical groups within the Society at any one time. Members will also consider whether existing topical groups should undergo a periodic review to determine if they are still viable, and if so, what might be appropriate criteria for such a determination. Finally, the task force will consider what rights topical groups should have for invited sessions at APS meetings, and how much administrative support they should be entitled to.

The other members of the task force are drawn equally from divisions and topical groups to ensure balanced representation. They are Beverly Berger (National Science Foundation), John Clarke (University of California, Berkeley), Jeff Lynn (National Institute of Standards and Technology), James McGuire (Tulane University), Peter Meyers (Princeton). and Stuart Wolf (Naval Research Laboratory).

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Editor: Alan Chodos
Associate Editor: Jennifer Ouellette