APS News

APS Creates Task Force on Research Collaboration with Africa

In order to strengthen ties between US and African physicists, the APS has established a Task Force on Research Collaboration with Africa. Chaired by David Ernst (Vanderbilt University), the task force's principal goal is to explore the feasibility of creating an exchange program and secure funding for it. To that end, task force members will first research existing programs that promote interactions with Africa. They will also establish a list of interested APS members and corresponding interested physicists in Africa for possible future exchanges.

Latin America has been a major focus of APS international outreach for several years, but Ernst says the time is right to expand that scope to Africa. "There's a sense that at least some areas of Africa are moving forward at a more rapid rate than in the past," he says, citing plans to construct telescopes and laser centers as evidence of a region ripe for the development of a strong scientific enterprise. "There's also interest in Africa from US funding agencies and foundations, and more resources are becoming available."

The idea for the task force grew out of discussions APS President Myriam Sarachik had with colleagues regarding how African colleagues suffered from feelings of isolation once they returned from training, research, or schooling abroad, and had difficulty keeping current with scientific developments and maintaining contacts with US research programs. Getting equipment to centers in Africa in dire need of it is another challenge, both because of high transport costs and the need to train African colleagues in the use of new equipment.

Sarachik believes the APS can play a role in establishing better communications between the two communities and in developing and implementing exchange programs, but the Society lacks the major resources such a project would require-hence the focus on identifying existing collaborative programs to which the APS could contribute. Europe, for example, has many active programs already in place, including those supported by the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP), the Swedish International Development Agency, the National Science Foundation, and the Department of Energy among others.

The other task force members are S. James Gates, University of Maryland, College Park; Katharine Gebbie, National Institute of Standards and Technology; Kennedy Reed, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory; and Bruce Barrett, University of Arizona.

APS members interested in participating in an African exchange program should send their name, address, phone, FAX and e-mail to Michele Irwin, APS Office of International Affairs, mirwin@aps.org. Thoughts or suggestions for the task force itself should be sent directly to the task force members.

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Editor: Alan Chodos
Associate Editor: Jennifer Ouellette