APS News

Task Force Suggests Enhancements for the APS April Meeting

Members of the Task Force:

James A. Isenberg
(GGR; University of Oregon)

Benjamin F. Gibson           
(DNP; Los Alamos)

Bradley M. Sherrill
(DNP; Michigan State)

John F. Beacom
(DAP; Ohio State)

Joan Centrella
(DAP; Laboratory for Gravitational Astrophysics, NSAS/GSFC)

Andrew G. Cohen
(DPF; Boston University)

Chris Quigg, Chair
(DPF; Fermilab)

Vincent S. Chan
(DPP; General Atomics)

Lawrence M. Krauss
(FPS; Case Western Reserve)
The Task Force on the Future of the April Meeting reported to the Council at its November meeting. It had been constituted a year earlier to “examine the goals and outcomes of the April meeting from the point of view of its various constituencies.” The charge to the task force allowed it to “suggest enhancements, changes in the structure of the meeting, or even termination of the meeting.” In its report, the task force recommended that the April Meeting should continue, but could be enhanced with a new name and some highlighted themes.

The April Meeting, which covers particle physics, nuclear physics, astrophysics and related fields, plays a “unifying role for the physics community, and provides a valuable forum for the interplay between physics and society,” says the task force report. Nonetheless, the task force members believe the meeting could benefit from greater coherence and could “serve more effectively as a celebration of our science and as an occasion to explore common interests with other scientific organizations.”

The April Meeting serves several different purposes, said task force chair Chris Quigg of Fermilab. “For many physicists, it’s the excellent scientific program that attracts them. People also appreciate the broader plenary talks, physics and society talks, education and outreach activities, and a sense of coherence that couldn’t be had any other way.”

The task force made several recommendations intended to raise the profile of the meeting and increase participation. While recommending that APS continue to sponsor a yearly meeting organized by the units traditionally associated with the April meeting, they propose giving the meeting a new title that evokes the main scientific motifs, such as “A Universe of Physics.”

In addition, the task force recommends that each year, the program should identify a small number of themes. The themes will describe topics to be treated in depth, though the meeting as a whole would continue to cover the same diversity of topics. The task force believes that defining some key topics in advance would give potential participants an additional incentive to attend. They also note the success of the nine plenary lectures, and recommend giving them more emphasis in pre-meeting publicity.

The task force also recommends exploring opportunities for joint meetings with other societies, such as AAS, AAPT, AAPM, public policy organizations, divisional meetings, and IEEE divisions, and the occasional participation of APS units other than those traditionally represented at the April meeting.

They also want to encourage unit program organizers to experiment with different types of sessions. For instance, some units may want to try holding poster sessions instead of ten minute talks or creating themed mini-conferences within the meeting. “The hope is that by encouraging people to look at different ways of using this meeting we can make it better and more coherent,” said Quigg.

As for location and scheduling of the meeting, the task force members did not agree on the location and date, but encourage experimentation. They recommend a four year trial of holding the meeting alternately in Washington and then elsewhere at dates between January and May. This trial would begin with the February 2010 meeting, to be held in collaboration with AAPT. 

Some examples of possible themes would be:  “first light” from the Large Hadron Collider, neutrinos, the chemical history of the universe, the high-energy gamma-ray sky, physics and homeland security, global warming and physics of energy, nuclear weapons and proliferation, implications of the string-theory landscape, observation of gravitational waves, physics in medicine, computational physics, symmetry and symmetry violations, and the National Ignition Facility

APS encourages the redistribution of the materials included in this newspaper provided that attribution to the source is noted and the materials are not truncated or changed.

Editor: Alan Chodos
Contributing Editor: Jennifer Ouellette
Staff Writer: Ernie Tretkoff