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The traditional role of the American Physical Society has been to serve the physics community through the organization of technical meetings and publication of journals. Beginning in 1973, however, the Society undertook to expand its role to serve emerging public needs. As one component of its concern with the relationship between physics and public policy, the Society has undertaken a number of studies of timely technical issues. The final decision on the release of these studies is made by the APS Council, with advice from the Panel On Public Affairs (POPA) and from a Review Panel appointed by the Council.
Over the past two decades the APS Council has authorized POPA to initiate small-scale studies on topics ranging from energy and environment to national security issues. In this process, POPA secures outside funding, if necessary, and establishes the Study Group. These studies, when read and accepted by the Panel (but not reviewed by the APS Council), become POPA Reports.
POPA Reports are unclassified, so as to allow for broad public discussion of the topic. Limiting these reports to unclassified material has proven to be a benefit to advocacy, as evidenced by the formation of new federal programs in response to the Nuclear Forensics and Nuclear Power & Proliferation Resistance reports.
In exceptional circumstances, where the integrity and thoroughness of a report requires awareness of classified information, POPA insures that some members of the Report committee have appropriate clearance and are provided an environment where classified briefings and discussions can take place.
In 2001, POPA began to post Occasional Papers written by its members, in order to foster discussion within the physics community. These papers are approved by the Panel prior to being posted.
POPA is now accepting ideas and proposals from APS members for future studies and reports.
Suggest POPA Studies