In June, the APS Executive Board approved the establishment of an ad hoc Committee on Informing the Public, intended to provide oversight of the Society’s public outreach and media relations activities. Committee members will also suggest possible future activities, approaches, and outreach opportunities, as well as possible external funding sources.
For the last decade, the APS has been involved in physics outreach activities designed to bring the excitement of physics to the general public, such as the Physics Central website. However, with last year’s World Year of Physics celebration, the Society’s efforts in this arena have increased substantially. For example, a new ongoing project targeting middle schools, called Physics Quest, has continued beyond the official World Year of Physics.
“A public well-informed about physics and related science is essential for the well-being both of the physics profession and society at large,” said APS Associate Officer Alan Chodos of the rationale for having such a committee. “A scientifically well-informed and appreciative public reflects itself in policy choices in Washington, and in a clear understanding of what should and should not be taught in the science classroom. Better motivated and better educated students will also go on to contribute significantly to the economic health and security of the nation.”
Chaired by Philip “Bo” Hammer, Vice President of The Franklin Institute Science Museum, the Committee on Informing the Public will review and assess the current portfolio of APS outreach activities and recommend which to expand or contract, and suggest new directions as appropriate. Since it is a new committee, the members will also draft a mission statement summing up the Society’s goals in its efforts to inform the public.
“The future of physics depends on two things: our ability to inspire the next generation of researchers, and on the generous support of tax-paying public who enable our great work,” said Hammer. “APS has a wide array of successful activities that inform children and adults about the great physics we do, but in a world of YouTube, MySpace, and i-this and i-that, we need to be much more savvy about how we compete for people's time, interest, and good favor. We hope our committee will help APS do an even better job.”
The other members of the committee include Sean Carroll (California Institute of Technology); Paul Chaikin (Princeton University); Dan Dahlberg (University of Minnesota); Lawrence Gladney (University of Pennsylvania); Laura Greene (University of Illinois); Ivan Schuller (University of California, San Diego), and Gian Franco Vidali (Syracuse University).