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While 2012 will bring new opportunities for strengthening our international outreach and the Society's engagement with colleagues across the globe, I would like to take a moment to share with my friends in FIP the many activities we collectively accomplished during 2011. The partnership between FIP volunteers and the APS International Office is critical to our ongoing programs, and I hope you enjoy this recap of our fruitful efforts during 2011.
Over this past year, the Society especially focused upon better serving APS members living beyond US borders and upon reaching out to the international physics community. By establishing the International Friends of APS network, key contacts across the world served as the Society's representatives at their institutions, helping to plan APS activities and communicate with members in their local communities. This past year, the International Friends used Activity Grants from the Society to host local activities in such diverse locations as Cartagena, Colombia; Jerusalem, Israel; Taipei City, Taiwan; Hsinchu City, Taiwan; Bangalore, India; and Warsaw, Poland.
The Society also worked to better serve those members who cannot travel to APS meetings, especially those living outside of the United States (nearly 25% of the non-student members). At the 2011 April Meeting in Anaheim, the APS conducted a trial of the usefulness and acceptance of online slide presentations by providing Internet access to speakers' slides from a broad cross-section of plenary, scientific and general-interest sessions that would appeal to a diverse audience. The Society advertised the trial to physicists worldwide, including those who were not yet APS members, and conducted an online survey of those who viewed the presentations. The results of the trial indicate that APS members, as well as non-members, place great value on accessing APS meeting presentations online. This provides the Society with new opportunities for expanding APS meeting participation by international physicists, students, and industrialists.
This past year, the APS partnered with other national physics societies toward a number of initiatives. With the Sociedade Brasileira de Física (SBF), we issued our first call for proposals for a new exchange program for physics graduate students and professors. Here, the Brazil-U.S. Physics Student Visitation Program offered graduate students 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 felt was worthy of travel support. The Brazil-U.S. Professorship/Lectureship Program funded physicists in Brazil and the United States that wished to visit overseas to teach a short course or deliver a lecture series in the other country.
The Society continued to partner with the Indo-U.S. 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 US and Indian universities. The student visitation program not only enabled US students to conduct research in India's laboratories, but provided first-hand experience with Indian science, culture, and fostered opportunities for developing long-term collaboration.
In partnership with the UK Institute of Physics (IoP) and the Abdu Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP), the Society co-sponsored a workshop in Cebu City, the Philippines, designed for physicists and engineers from developing countries who are interested in learning entrepreneurial skills. Such an educational program is missing in many of the developing countries. The event attracted 63 participants who learned about issues such as intellectual property and business planning.
The Society partnered with the physical societies across North America for the Canadian-American-Mexican Physics Graduate Student Conference (CAM2011) that was hosted by the APS in Washington D.C. The CAM conferences are bi-annual meetings jointly sponsored by the American Physical Society (APS), the Canadian Association of Physicists (CAP), and the Sociedad Mexicana de Física (SMF). They provide a unique scientific meeting for physics graduate students and are organized by the students themselves, with mentorship from senior staff of the respective professional societies. The conference hosting rotates among the 3 co-sponsoring countries, and hence, the APS hosted CAM in 2011. The conference promoted international networking and career development for physics graduate students, encouraged collaborations among North America's young scientists, and exposed students to sub-disciplines of physics beyond their individual research. Along with the scientific sessions, hosting CAM2011 in Washington, D.C. also provided a unique opportunity to highlight the links among science, diplomacy and public policy.
The SESAME Travel Award Program, the Society's joint program with the European Physical Society (EPS), the UK Institute of Physics (IoP), and the German Physical Society (DPG), endeavors to build scientific capacity in the Middle East. The SESAME project--the synchrotron light source in Amman, Jordan, brings together physicists from Arab countries & Israel for international scientific collaboration. By enabling Middle Eastern physicists to avail themselves of training opportunities, the APS and other partnering societies have been building a synchrotron "user community" in the region.
The Society continued to bring international physicists to speak at APS meetings through both the Marshak and Beller Lectureships, which support distinguished physicists from the developed and developing countries respectively. The Society also continued its ongoing commitment to 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, which is ever growing through support from sources beyond even APS.
The Society also partnered with other organizations toward 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 stressed the need for scientific organizations to advocate for the human rights of scientists in the US and around the world.
Throughout the past year, the APS continued its vigilance regarding important US Government policies that impact international scientific collaboration. The 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.
Dr. Amy Flatten is Director of International Affairs at the American Physical Society.