American Physical Society Office of International Affairs

Amy Flatten


Amy Flatten

2010 was a dynamic year for the Society’s international programs. While a new year naturally brings enthusiasm for new opportunities ahead, I would like to take a moment to reflect on the important developments from 2010, as many of these simply wouldn’t have been possible without the support of the Forum on International Physics (FIP).

Most APS members would agree that physics is “international” in nature, but many may not have realized the large number of APS members that are based outside the United States—nearly 25% of our members (excluding students). During 2010, the Society undertook several new efforts to better serve APS members living beyond U.S. borders. By establishing the International Friends network, key contacts across the world will serve as the Society’s “ambassadors” at their institutions, helping to plan APS activities and communicate with members in their local communities. Moreover, the International Friends are regarded as advisors—a source for advice and insight from our international members as we endeavor to expand our international activities.

The International Friends program is just one small step in a larger effort by APS to expand the Society’s overall international engagement. Along with establishing the International Friends network, the Society proposed an amendment to the APS Constitution to enable more international representation on the APS Council, the main governing body of the APS. The amendment proposed to increase the number of International Councillors from one (our current number)--to a total of four. The APS membership overwhelmingly passed the amendment and the four International Councilor positions will be phased in over the next four years. By increasing the number of International Councillors, who will each serve a four-year term, the Society will better ensure that the interests of the international members are brought into the Society’s deliberations. The Councillors will collaborate with the International Friends network to bring important concerns and issues of the international community to the APS governance.

This past year, the APS partnered with other national physics societies toward a number of new initiatives. We signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Sociedade Brasileira de Física (SBF) toward a new exchange program for physics graduate students and professors. Through the Brazil-U.S. Physics Student Visitation Program, graduate students can apply for travel funds to pursue a breadth of opportunities in physics, such as attending a short-course or summer institute; visiting with a professor in his/her field of study; working temporarily in a lab; or any other opportunity that the student and professor feel is worthy of travel support. The Brazil-U.S. Professorship/Lectureship Program funds physicists in Brazil and the United States wishing to visit overseas to teach a short course or deliver a lecture series in the other country.

The Society continues to partner with the Indo-US Science and Technology Forum (IUSSTF) toward exchanges of graduate students and professors between the United States and India. This ongoing program funds physicists’ visits overseas to teach short courses or provide a “physics lecture series” at U.S. and Indian universities. The student visitation program not only enables U.S. students to conduct research in India’s laboratories, but provides first-hand experience with Indian science, culture, and fosters opportunities for developing long-term collaboration.

APS underscored its ongoing commitment to physics colleagues throughout the developing world through several programs. The Society enabled collaborative research between APS members and developing country physicists through its International Travel Grant Award Program (ITGAP). Twice this past year, the Society invited members of participating APS units to submit proposals for this expanding program. Originally launched by FIP, the ITGAP is ever growing through support from sources even beyond even APS. In 2010, six awardees received travel awards to visit an international collaborator.

In partnership with the UK Institute of Physics (IoP) and the International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP), the Society co-sponsored a workshop designed for physicists and engineers from developing countries who are interested in learning entrepreneurial skills to commercialize their scientific inventions. The workshop was held at ICTP in Trieste, Italy, and included approximately 60 participants. Such an educational program is missing in many of the developing countries for scientists working in universities and scientific institutions. The objectives of the workshop were to introduce scientists and engineers to the process of innovation, generation and protection of intellectual property, technology transfer and product commercialization.

The Society continued to bring international physicists to speak at APS meetings through both the Marshak and Beller Lectureship Awards, which support distinguished physicists from the developed and developing countries respectively. In 2010, the Marshak Awardee represented the Palestinian Authority, and the Beller Awards were presented to physicists representing Israel and France.

The APS also supported physicists in the Middle East through the SESAME project, the construction in Amman, Jordan of a major international research center with a synchrotron light source. By enabling physicists from Middle Eastern and neighboring countries to avail themselves of training opportunities, the APS and other partnering societies are building a synchrotron "user community" in the region. To support this, the Society had established the SESAME Travel Award Program in partnership with the European Physical Society (EPS), the UK Institute of Physics (IoP), and the German Physical Society (DPG). Just this past year, the American Chemical Society joined the program, expanding the available travel for Middle Eastern physicists.

Throughout the past year, the APS continued its vigilance regarding important U.S. Government policies that impact international scientific collaboration. This year, APS joined other scientific and higher education organizations to meet with State Department officials regarding new developments in visa processing. The APS will continue to work with federal leaders to ensure national security concerns do not unduly restrict scientific research with international colleagues.

The Society joined with other organizations in the AAAS Science and Human Rights Coalition--a network of professional societies providing strengthened connections between the human rights and scientific communities.  Through this Coalition, and through the efforts of its volunteers, the APS advocated for the human rights of scientists in the U.S. and around the world and responded to calls to assist those scientists in need.

Dr. Amy Flatten is Director of International Affairs at the American Physical Society.

Disclaimer - The articles and opinion pieces found in this issue of the APS Forum on International Physics Newsletter are not peer refereed and represent solely the views of the authors and not necessarily the views of the APS.