Statement by Hideo Mabuchi

Hideo Mabuchi's statement:

For starters, here is a brief “Charter” statement for our APS Topical Group. Note that this has not yet been officially approved by the advisory board, but I think it gives a good description of how I see our mandate:

The distinctly non-classical features of quantum mechanics have spurred scientific research programs with aims ranging from the basic to the applied. On one hand there are powerful implications of quantum mechanics for information technology and computer science, which are now being vigorously pursued, and on the other there is a strong tradition of basic research on the logical structure and conceptual foundations of quantum mechanics. This APS unit is being created with the vision of bringing together a vertically-integrated community of researchers that spans this entire range of activity, and of promoting future work that more strongly connects its basic and applied aspects.

Hopefully this gets across the idea that our Topical Group is meant to be a broadly inclusive home for researchers whose professional lives may have kicked off in various traditional disciplines, but who nonetheless share an overarching interest in the foundations and “surprising implications” of quantum mechanics.

Practically speaking, we aim to bring together two major existing communities that do not currently have natural representation in the APS: people who work in quantum information science (i.e., quantum computation, quantum communication, quantum precision measurement, etc.) and people who do research (both theoretical and experimental) on the foundations of quantum mechanics. Somehow this grouping feels intuitive to absolutely everyone involved, but we (the advisory board) are already finding that it is tricky to formulate a “brand name” for the topical group that naturally encompasses both aspects without appearing conspicuously bipartite. For example, we are currently starting a process officially to change our name from “APS Topical Group on Quantum Information, Concepts and Computation” to “APS Topical Group on Quantum Information Science.” Some members of the advisory board argued strongly in favor of retaining the word “foundations” or “concepts” in the new name, so as not to run the risk of making foundations researchers feel excluded. But in the end we decided that our top priority should be to build and to publicize a coherent intellectual mien, and as a reflection of this we are adopting the snappier label. I hope it doesn’t seem odd of me to go on about this naming issue, but I thought it was essential to make note of the fact that while everyone agrees on the combination of quantum computation, etc. with quantum foundations, no one quite knows what to call it.

In terms of our planned activities, we have a preliminary set of strategic priorities and a short list of action items for the coming year. Our initial objectives as an APS unit will include improving job prospects (both academic and industrial) for young researchers in our field, integrating the various sub-communities within quantum information science and quantum foundations research, promoting a deeper appreciation of our field’s motives and prospects among members of a broader scientific community, and addressing problems and uncertainties in the long-term funding outlook for research in our field. Our immediate activities include planning sessions (and hopefully a tutorial) for next year’s APS March Meeting, seeking APS approval and raising funds for a thesis prize in our field, and seeking a venue for promoting research that explicitly connects questions about the logical/conceptual foundations of quantum mechanics with practical applications such as advanced telecommunication systems and distributed computation. Of course, we are also taking steps to ramp up our membership and to move quickly towards holding official elections for a proper executive committee. For now, we are operating under the guidance of an inaugural advisory board consisting of Daniel Greenberger and Anton Zeilinger (founding members), Hideo Mabuchi (acting chair), Jonathan Dowling, Barry Sanders, H. Jeff Kimble, Rob Spekkens, Tony Leggett, Paul Kwiat, Dave Bacon, Michel Devoret, and Mark Kasevich. Barry Sanders is our point of contact for fund-raising and the proposed thesis prize; Jon Dowling is acting as our coordinator for next year’s APS March Meeting.