Balancing International Collaboration and Competition in Physics

Prominent researchers will present benefits, risks to US scientific enterprise

COLLEGE PARK, MD, January 23, 2020 – Science thrives when people and ideas are free to flow across borders, yet some US officials have raised concerns that the openness of the scientific environment puts America at risk of espionage and intellectual property loss. The American Physical Society (APS) contends that a healthy balance between international collaboration and global competitiveness is essential to maintain the United States’ position as a leader in science and technology.

“An overreaction to security risks can endanger US physics, which relies upon international participation in research,” the Society’s leadership wrote in APS News. “Every country must evaluate the policies necessary for being internationally collaborative and globally competitive.”

Scientists from around the world are set to discuss these issues during two plenary sessions at the APS Annual Leadership Meeting on Thursday, January 30, 2020, in Washington, DC. The new International Leadership Forum will feature David Reitze, Executive Director of LIGO Laboratory, who will speak on the topic of international collaboration. Chris Monroe, Distinguished University of Maryland Physics Professor & Bice Seci-Zorn Professor, will discuss international competition. Each talk will be followed by a panel discussion. Members of the media are invited to attend in-person at the JW Marriott or via livestream.

China represents an outsized threat to America’s research enterprise, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. While a majority of Chinese scholars studying or working in the United States provide valuable expertise and perspective to US research institutions, there is evidence that China is exploiting this access for its own economic gain. In light of this threat, a recent congressional report warns that federal agencies and universities need to be more vigilant in vetting potential conflicts of interest among the grantees and the scientists they employ.

The APS Presidential Line has discussed these concerns with the FBI and science agencies, including the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the National Science Foundation.

“We will continue to have meetings with government officials to discuss any proposed policy responses and we’ll continue to make the case that security concerns must be balanced against the value of keeping the scientific enterprise open and collaborative,” the APS leaders wrote.

To promote a common understanding of the balance between collaboration and security, APS hosted a two-day roundtable discussion in December with high-level scientists from China focusing on the opportunities and challenges of scientific collaboration between the two countries. A similar meeting in Beijing is slated for later this year.

Any efforts to protect the US research enterprise from foreign interference must be balanced with academia’s need to attract the best talent in the world. To this end, APS is addressing a decline in applications from international students to US PhD programs by advocating for legislation that would enable those students to remain in the country after graduation. APS is also working to educate policymakers about the essential contribution of international students and scientists to US research.

* * * * * * * * * * * * 

Journalists are invited to attend the APS International Leadership Forum at the JW Marriott and Medal and Prize Ceremony at the Willard InterContinental. Please RSVP here. Those unable to attend the forum may livestream the talks and discussions here.

For more information, please visit

APS International Leadership Forum
Thursday, January 30, 2020
7:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
JW Marriott Washington, DC
1331 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20004

All plenary talks and panel discussions will take place in Salon IV.

9:30 a.m. Plenary Talk: International Collaboration
Host: David J. Gross, APS President
Speaker: David Reitze, Executive Director of LIGO Laboratory
11:00 a.m. Plenary Panel Discussion
Moderator: David J. Gross, APS President
  • Jonathan Bagger, Director, TRIUMF
  • Rob Adam, Director, Square Kilometer Array, South Africa
  • Krishnaswamy VijayRaghavan, Principal Scientific Adviser, Government of India
  • Fabio Zwirner, Steering Committee Chair, International Centre for Theoretical Physics
  • Arthur Bienenstock, Associate Director, Wallenberg Research Link, Stanford University
  • Marta Losada, Dean of Science; Professor of Physics, New York University - Abu Dhabi
2:00 p.m. Plenary Talk: International Competition
Host: Philip H. Bucksbaum, APS President-Elect
Speaker: Chris Monroe, Distinguished University of Maryland Physics Professor & Bice Seci-Zorn Professor
3:30 p.m. Plenary Panel Discussion
Moderator: Philip H. Bucksbaum, APS President-Elect
  • Steven Chu, William R.Kenan Jr. Professor & Professor of Molecular and Cellular Physiology at Stanford University, former US Secretary of Energy
  • Craig Mundie, President, Mundie & Associates
  • Peter Knight, Senior Research Investigator, Department of Physics, Imperial College London
  • Petra Rudolf, President, European Physical Society
  • Siegfried Hecker, Senior Fellow, Center for International Security and Cooperation, Stanford University
  • Dongping Zhong, Robert Smith Professor of Physics, Chemistry, and Biochemistry, Ohio State University
6:00 p.m. APS Medal & Prize Ceremony and Reception
Willard InterContinental
1401 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20004
Hosts: Kate P. Kirby & Philip H. Bucksbaum
Award recipients:

APS Press Releases

APS issues press releases on research news, Society activities, and other physics tips.

View Archive

APS Media Contacts

General Media Inquiries

Using the APS Logo

Logo Usage Guidelines

About APS

The American Physical Society is a nonprofit membership organization working to advance and diffuse the knowledge of physics through its outstanding research journals, scientific meetings, and education, outreach, advocacy, and international activities. APS represents more than 50,000 members, including physicists in academia, national laboratories, and industry in the United States and throughout the world.