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Recommendation #1: Expand the currently existing “Friends of APS” program to include members outside of the United States. The “Friends of APS” program, started in 2000, includes 159 participating US institutions. “Friends” are APS members who have agreed to help facilitate communication with other members at their institution and/or in their local community. Throughout the year, information is sent regarding membership, programs, and benefits for sharing with colleagues and students. While the Friends program has proven itself as a useful tool in communicating with APS members, it currently involves only APS members based in the United States. CISA believes that expanding this program internationally will be help strengthen linkages with members and key institutions beyond US borders.
Recommendation #2: Provide modest funds to support local events proposed by “International Friends.” As previously mentioned, most APS members outside the United States do not attend APS meetings, and many feel cut-off from US-centric activities. To augment the linkages from the International Friends program, APS could invite these non-US “Friends” to submit proposals for a small amount of funds to hold an event at their institution, in their local community, or in conjunction with another local/regional physics meeting. Providing such funds would enable international members to participate in APS events without traveling to the United States, and foster networking among members and collaborative events with other physics organizations. More importantly, providing resources for International Friends events encourages “pro-active” involvement in APS by international members.
Recommendation # 3: Allot 3 additional International Councilor positions for the APS Council, as one International Councilor cannot sufficiently represent the 10,000 international members, nor the breadth and regional diversity of international issues that impact the Society. One of the International Councilors should be elected to serve on the Executive Board.
When making this recommendation, CISA fully recognized that in 1999, the APS Council voted to amend the Society’s Constitution to reduce the number of voting members from 51 to 39, and the number of representatives at the Council table from approximately 65 to 42. At that time, one International Councilor with a two-year term was added, as foreign members had no direct representation on Council, and were thought to be at a disadvantage when running against US physicists for other elected Council positions.
The role and function of this international Councilor seems undefined, however, as: 1) one Councilor cannot give perspectives on the breadth of international issues relevant to APS; and 2) there is little or no requirement as to the geographic region of the International Councilor’s election, thus the Society cannot rely upon strategic considerations of the international community represented. In addition to these challenges, CISA also noted that the international membership (at approx. 10,000) is over 4 times larger than the average size of any APS Division, more than twice as large as the average Forum, 5 times larger than the average Section, and almost 10 times larger than any Topical Group. As international issues cut across all aspects of the Society (research, policy, industry and education), CISA suggests that just one International Councilor cannot adequately represent the breadth, regional diversity and impact of international issues that have implications for the Society.
Granted, other international representatives on the Council include a Councilor from the Forum on International Physics (FIP)–but this is typically a US-based physicist who represents a “program oriented” unit, rather than issues of the international community. Likewise, while the presidents of both the Canadian and Mexican physical societies are invited to Council meetings, they are “non-voting advisors” who did not seek Council membership. As they are from the same North American continent as the United States, they cannot be reasonably expected to provide the full breadth of international perspective for Council deliberations.
To achieve the necessary representation of the geographic diversity of international members, the four international Councilors might represent four distinct regions where APS international members are concentrated. These Councilors should have a clear and unambiguous function–bringing issues from their region to the Society’s governance. Here, they can leverage the “International Friends” network in their respective regions, thus enabling two-way communication between the “Friends” and APS, and providing a defined mechanism for bringing issues from the international membership to the US-based Board and Council. From these four international Councilors, one can be elected to serve on the Executive Board. Likewise, if the APS leadership did not wish to increase the size of the Council, one proposal suggested that some of the new International Councilors positions could be re-allocated from the current 8 “General Councilor” slots.
CISA believes these recommendations will achieve several important goals–providing clearly defined channels to bring international issues to the Society’s Board and Council and strengthening two-way communication between APS Governance and international members via linkage between “International Friends.” Perhaps most importantly, this approach will ensure more effective representation of the large and diverse international membership and define a clear process to serve international members.
The recommendations were well-received by the APS leadership. At its November 2009 meeting, the APS Executive Board unanimously passed the following motion:
That the Executive Board requests the Constitution and Bylaws Committee draw up a plan to enable the election of 4 Regional International Councilors as recommended by the CISA report. It also recommends that the Constitution & Bylaws Committee consider expanding the Executive Board by one member to include an international representative. If a constitutional amendment to add international Councilors is approved, an effort should be made to connect the international Councilors with the international friends network.
Any suggestion from the Constitution and Bylaws Committee must be reviewed and voted upon by Council, at least once (maybe twice) over the next year or two. Consequently, any of these changes to the Council would likely be implemented in late 2011, in time for the next round of International Councilor elections. While many of the details of these recommendations still remain to be fleshed out, CISA stands ready to assist the APS leadership in its endeavor to ensure international members are served. The International Office, CISA, and other APS Departments look forward to presenting new programs and opportunities for our international members over the upcoming years.
Amy Flatten is the Director of International Affairs of the American Physical Society (APS). Prior to joining APS, she served with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. She also worked in private industry along with holding a part-time faculty position with Johns Hopkins University’s Part-Time Engineering and Applied Sciences Program. She received her Ph.D. degree in Engineering Science and Mechanics from Georgia Tech.
1 1998 APS Non-US Resident Membership Survey
2 2008 Membership Survey; Verbatim Comments from Non-US members
3 American Physical Society; 2008 Annual Report; p. 9
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