A team of physicists representing APS traveled to China in September to enhance the Society’s engagement with the Asian nation.
The delegation visited six cities in nine days, and met with dozens of physicists, professors and other leading members of the physics community in China. A second delegation representing the APS publishing offices also traveled through China shortly afterwards, overlapping briefly.
“The reason to go was to explore ways that APS can foster more international engagement with the Chinese physics community,” said Kate Kirby, Executive Officer of APS. “There are already a lot of good collaborations that are taking place on an individual level.”
In addition to Kirby, representatives from APS included Director of International Affairs Amy Flatten; Karsten Heeger, Chair of the APS Committee on International Scientific Affairs; and Gang Cao, a member of CISA. The editorial delegation included Manolis Antonoyiannakis, the Senior Assistant Editor of Physical Review Letters
, and Ling Miao, Associate Editor of Physical Review X
“The goal was to explore, to listen, [and] to learn what are the needs of researchers in China, and what are the opportunities for APS members,” Heeger said. He added that the delegation hoped to “build connections and relations, get to know some of the researchers and universities, and explore what some of the opportunities for a scientific partnership might be.”
The highlight of the trip was a joint session at the annual meeting of the Chinese Physical Society in Guangzhou. At this first-ever joint APS/CPS session, Kirby gave a talk about the APS, its mission and its activities. APS vice-President Malcolm Beasley also spoke at the meeting, delivering a talk about the importance of science as an international endeavor.
“I think the fact that we had the first joint scientific session was very important,” Heeger said. “I think this is a starting point for further engagement of APS with China and physics in China.”
The delegation scheduled the trip to coincide with three major physics meetings in China. They attended the Shanghai International Summer School of Neutrinos and Dark Matter, the annual meeting of the CPS and the International Symposium of Neutrino Physics and Beyond at Daya Bay in Shenzhen province.
“These three happening concurrently provided a nice package of events to build a program around,” Flatten said. “That created the opportunity to put together a larger trip and visit some universities as well.”
The delegation visited five universities during the trip, including Nanjing University, Fudan University and Jiao Tong University in Shanghai, the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
“At each of the universities, we had productive discussions with the department chair, and often the dean,” Kirby said. “We found, for instance, that there was a tremendous interest at one university in hearing more about physics education.”
She added that many of the people they met had studied in the United States in some capacity and that many of them were already members of APS or even APS Fellows.
APS currently has 324 members living in China, 84 in Hong Kong and 259 in Taiwan. Heeger himself has been working in China on detecting neutrinos at Daya Bay. As China’s international stature in science continues to grow, leaders in the physics community see lots of opportunity for more collaboration and cooperation between US physicists and those based in China.
“Publishing in APS journals is a really high priority for them,” Kirby said, adding that there are many physicists in China interested in getting involved with refereeing papers. “They also value greatly the possibility of Fellowship … Those honors carry a lot of weight.”
Part of the recently announced APS strategic plan is to foster more international collaboration. Within the next year, the Society is planning to set up a task force on international engagement to define more specifically how to institute such connections. Heeger said that he hopes that APS could set up an exchange program with China, akin to the ones already established with Brazil and India.
“I think it is a starting point for the development of a program with China,” Heeger said. “And hopefully a starting point for APS to build a program with other countries in Asia.”