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Pushpa Bhat, Fermilab
We live in a rapidly changing, highly interconnected and interdependent world. Science shapes our society, defines and refines our destiny. With the pace of scientific progress and innovation accelerating, science and technology issues will continue to be of ever-greater importance. Scientists have an obligation and a duty to inform and interact with society at large in guiding how the ideas and tools of science are used. The APS Forum on Physics and Society, therefore, should play a leading role in the important discussions about science and society that lie ahead.
The Forum on Physics & Society (FPS) is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. This is a good time for us to make an effort to renew and reenergize the Forum to build a stronger future.
Over the past four decades, the FPS has been serving the physics community through activities on a variety of physics & society issues such as organizing plenary sessions at the APS annual meetings; periodically sponsoring studies, short courses and workshops on specific topics; and through the publication of its quarterly newsletters. These activities should be continued. It is also necessary that the FPS adapts to the times, and the needs, so that it is able to fulfill its role, on a continuing basis, as a facilitator of healthy dialogues about the most pressing issues of physics and society. In addition, I would like to set as a goal more direct engagement of the physics community with the broader societal issues. I outline below some new initiatives to accomplish these.
First of all, I would like to urge the FPS members to volunteer to participate and help drive the Forum's plans and activities. We are in the process of implementing a web page at the FPS website, to enable APS members to provide ideas/ input/feedback and to volunteer for tasks. (Please feel free to email me with suggestions at email@example.com.) Some ideas and activities that I have previously advocated are: (1) The FPS could set up task forces and sponsor/support studies to develop solutions for problems and find ways to get them adopted and implemented. We could solicit collaboration of other APS units whenever there are overlapping interests. (2) The FPS could work with regional sections to hold town halls or events on topics of relevance at regional APS meetings with the help of member volunteers to engage the broader community of physicists and the general public in such discussions. (3) The FPS should also more pro-actively identify and recognize individuals who contribute to make societal impacts through promotion to fellowships in the society and through prizes/awards. We could also encourage and sponsor talks by the awardees and fellows on their work at institutions across the country.
One important activity of the Forum, as mentioned earlier, is the organization of several sessions at the annual APS meetings. As the Chair-Elect of the Forum for 2011-12, I served as the FPS program committee chair for the upcoming April 2012 meeting in Atlanta. Our March meeting programs in Boston, chaired and coordinated by Brian Schwartz, were well attended. By the time this newsletter is released, the April meeting will be underway, and there are several excellent FPS sessions scheduled. If you are at the meeting, please come and celebrate 40 years of FPS at the "Forum at Forty" session on Saturday, March 31st which features talks on the past, present and the future, and join us for an FPS-hosted reception. We also invite you to come and participate in the discussions at our "American Science & America's Future" panel session with Neal Lane, Jim Siegrist, Tim Hallman and Frank Wilczek. I hope that this discussion will provide us with ideas for action; action that we, as citizens, scientists and leaders, should undertake to help strengthen the science & technology enterprise in the United States so that the US can retain its competitive edge and scientific leadership in the global society of the 21st century. I hope to see many of you at these sessions and at the FPS business meeting. I also very much look forward to hearing from and working with many of you and the executive committee members on the FPS activities in the coming year.
The APS Forum on Physics and Society, through proper engagement, volunteerism and actions, can make a difference. It can and should play a role in the grand human endeavor to create a better world: a world with a culture that is based on reason and evidence; a civilization that is adventurous yet peaceful and prosperous, committed to universal values such as honesty, integrity, social justice, decent standards of living for all people, and caring for the planet that belongs to future generations as much as it belongs to us; a society where science is done for its own sake as well as for the benefit of humanity.