Board Statements

Board Statements expedite the APS Statement draft and review process in cases where more rapid action is necessary. If Board Statements are not eventually submitted to APS Statement review procedures, they are archived after one year and may not be renewed.

APS Board Statement on Racism in Physics (July 24, 2020; Amended September 21, 2020)
Board Statement on Support for Extension of the New START Treaty (July 22, 2020)
Board Statement on Nuclear Testing (July 22, 2020)
Board Statement on Treatment of Students and Scientists of International Origin in the US (May 21, 2020)
APS Board Statement on Open Science and a Recommitment to Research Principles (February 14, 2020)

APS Board Statement on Racism in Physics

July 24, 2020; Amended September 21, 2020

The current outrage over the killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others has awakened the conviction that without sustained effective action, systemic racism in America will continue to impede full participation of Black people in many walks of American life, including the field of physics.

Racism has no place in physics. The APS condemns racism in all its forms. But stating this is not sufficient. The percentage of physics bachelor’s degrees earned by Black Americans has, if anything, decreased from around 5% in the late 1990’s to under 4% now. Only about 1-2% of APS members identify as members of the African diaspora. These appalling statistics cannot be attributed solely to the pipeline and inequities in K-12 education. We ask everyone in the physics community to join us in reflecting on the words of writer and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel: “The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference.” We have not done enough to fix a culture in physics that has created and perpetuated practices that fail to support Black participants sufficiently. This failure is longstanding: the first PhD degree conferred in any field to a Black American was in physics, to Edward Bouchet in 1876, yet he was subsequently denied a university position due to his race. We can change the culture and do better.

The APS is committed to transforming the culture and practices of our field to welcome and support the participation of Black people. Our insistence on intellectual rigor, innovative thinking, and excellence demands this transformation. We are working to revise practices with physicists at all levels, ranging from undergraduates to teachers and researchers, who study or work in environments ranging from academic departments and large collaborations to research and industrial laboratories. The reason why this work is critical is simple: Equal opportunity regardless of race is a basic human right.

Board Statement on Support for Extension of the New START Treaty

July 22, 2020

APS Board Supports Extension of the New START Treaty

The Board of the American Physical Society calls on the United States and the Russian Federation to sign a five-year extension of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). Without this extension, the treaty will expire on February 5, 2021, leaving the United States and Russia without any nuclear arms limitations treaty or agreement in place for the first time in nearly fifty years1.

Background

New START2, signed in 2010, serves to reduce the number of deployed nuclear warheads and their delivery systems to levels well below previous arms control agreements3. The Treaty limits US and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals to no more than 1,550 deployed warheads on 700 deployed strategic delivery systems and establishes a verification regime. The US military and intelligence communities have publicly stated these weapons limits and verification provisions are of great value because they provide predictability and transparency with regard to Russia’s nuclear weapons arsenal. The US State Department’s April 2020 report on arms control compliance concludes that Russia remains in compliance with this Treaty4.

The Treaty will expire on February 5, 2021, unless the United States and the Russian Federation agree to extend it. Article XIV of the Treaty stipulates that the US and Russian presidents can agree to extend the treaty by a period of up to five years without further approval from the US Senate. The Russian government has already stated that it is ready to sign a five-year extension of New START without preconditions5. The United States should do the same.

Concerns about New START extension revolve mainly around Russian strategic delivery systems under development, and a desire to bring China into future arms control agreements6. Multilateral agreements between the United States, Russia, and China are worthy goals, but enhanced arms control regimes of the future do not require sacrificing an effective arms control treaty today.

A decision by the presidents of the United States and Russia to extend New START would provide additional time and a stable foundation for further potential negotiations with Russia and potentially with China on new and more ambitious arms control arrangements. It also would contribute to the fulfillment of their disarmament obligations and commitments under Article VI of the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).

References

1Urgent Steps to Avoid a New Nuclear Arms Race and Dangerous Miscalculation: statement of the Deep Cuts Commission” Brussels, 18-19 March 2018.

2 U.S. Dept of State, “New START Treaty.”

3 Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI).

4 U.S. Dept. of State, “2020 Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmement Agreements and Commitments (Compliance Report), April 2020.

5Putin says Russia ready to extend New START nuclear arms treaty.” December 5, 2019.

6 U.S. Dept of State, “Briefing with Senior State Department Official On the New START”, March 9, 2020.

Board Statement on Nuclear Testing

July 22, 2020

In light of Congressional interest and press reports of Administration interest in resumed nuclear testing, we reaffirm our 2018 statement that "fully informed technical studies have concluded continued testing is not required to retain confidence in the safety and reliability of the remaining nuclear weapons in the United States' stockpile. Resumption of nuclear testing may have serious negative international consequences, particularly on the nonproliferation regime. In addition the Society strongly urges the Congress and the Administration to provide sufficient notification and justification for any proposed nuclear test to allow adequate time for informed and thorough analysis and public discussion.”

Board Statement on Treatment of Students and Scientists of International Origin in the US

May 21, 2020

Our national response to the pandemic can only succeed with the broadest participation by scientists. The APS Board therefore notes with great concern reports that many students and scientists of international origin in the US feel they are under attack1,2. They experience heightened governmental suspicion based on their national origin that is expressed in many ways, including restrictions on participation in some areas of fundamental research that could be vital to our national response to the current crisis as well as to all future challenges. This has particularly affected students and scientists of Chinese descent.

As recently noted by the APS Presidential Line, “The success of the scientific enterprise of any nation requires maintaining a balance between being openly collaborative and securely competitive.”3 The APS Board has previously expressed our firm belief that this balance is best maintained by adherence to universal ethical standards of openness and inclusion that must govern the behavior of everyone involved in the scientific enterprise4. Those who violate these standards harm all of us, and must be called to account. Just as important, unfair treatment of a segment of our physics community based on national or ethnic origin is antithetical to these values and should not be tolerated. The APS Board wishes to reaffirm these ethical principles, and reassure all students and scientists that they are highly valued members of our community. We are working actively to support international members of the scientific community in the US and abroad5, and particularly appreciate the contributions to science and society of those studying or working in the US. Their presence here enriches us all.

1House Oversight Committee Feb 2020 letter to FBI
House Oversight Committee Feb 2020 letter to NIH
China’s scientists alarmed, bewildered by growing anti-Chinese sentiment in the United State (Science)
Chinese scientists and US leadership in the life sciences (Nature Bioengineering)
The new red scare on American campuses (The Economist)
Chinese Americans uneasy as tensions disturb research (Nature)
As China Anxiety Rises in U.S., Fears of New Red Scare Emerge (Bloomberg News)
2Attracting the Best Students in the World to US Universities: Challenges and Opportunities
3APS News August/September 2019, The Back Page
4APS Board Feb 2020 Statement on Open Science and a Recommitment to Research Principles
5APS International Programs (edited)

APS Board Statement on Open Science and a Recommitment to Research Principles

February 14, 2020

Preamble
Open exchange of information is essential for progress in fundamental science and has been critical to the success of U.S. science research. Increasingly, however, national security concerns such as those expressed in recent reports1 have led to consideration of significant restrictions on U.S.- international cooperation that could jeopardize U.S. leadership in research and innovation. Particular concerns focus on the vulnerability to undisclosed or unauthorized transfer of U.S.- based knowledge and technical expertise, especially during the period before public release.

While some areas of research must employ controls, the benefits of openness in research and of the inclusion of talented foreign researchers dictate against broad federal measures that would wall off areas of fundamental research. Instead, many of the problems of foreign influence that have been raised must be addressed within the framework of research principles.

A Recommitment to Research Principles
The APS believes that the balance between national security and the research requirements of open science is best achieved through adherence by the U.S. federal government and by scientists to the following principles:2

U.S. government: The APS believes that the U.S. should continue to abide by Presidential Directive NSDD-189, which states that fundamental research is defined as research that is meant to be published in the open literature and that the products of fundamental research should remain unrestricted “to the maximum extent possible.”3 If control of particular fundamental research is required for national security, the mechanism is classification.

Scientists: The APS believes that concern over undisclosed or unauthorized transfer of U.S.-based knowledge and technical expertise is addressed most effectively by an intensified commitment to research integrity by all scientists involved in fundamental research. The elements of research integrity include objectivity, honesty, openness, accountability, fairness, disclosure, and stewardship4. We particularly note the need for (1) disclosure of conflicts of commitment; (2) reciprocity in the exchange of research information between U.S. and international scientists—the flow of information must not be one-way; and (3) responsible handling of research information, particularly before public release.

The health of the fundamental research enterprise and the needs of national security can both be satisfied by strict adherence to these principles of openness coupled with responsible stewardship.

 

1 For example: Threats to the U.S. Research Enterprise: China’s Talent Recruitment Plans, Report of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (2019)
2 These principles are described in the recent NSF-commissioned JASON report, Fundamental Research Security, JSR-19-2I, December 2019)
3 National Security Decision Directive 189 (1985), reaffirmed in 2001 and in 2010.
4 Many of these principles are described in the National Academies Report Fostering Integrity in Research, NAP21896, National Academies (2017)

Archived Board Statements

Ending Sexual Harassment in Physics

July 17, 2019

Harassment and discrimination in the conduct of physics is unacceptable. While sexual harassment is understood to be a pervasive problem at all levels (reference NASEM report), APS leadership is appalled at the results of a recent survey of women undergraduates studying physics, which showed that nearly 75% of them experienced some form of sexual harassment in the previous two years1. Not only can this harassment be traumatic to the individual who is subjected to it, harassment also does lasting damage to the scientific enterprise by discouraging participation as well as undermining the collaborative environment needed for science to flourish.

To broadly uphold the important core values of diversity, inclusion, and respect, and to enable full participation throughout our physics profession, we should all become part of the solution.

We urge all members of the physics community to adhere to the standards of professional behavior developed by APS members and described in the APS Statement 19.1 - Guidelines on Ethics.

We ask leaders in academia, industry and government to:

  1. Learn and help educate about various forms of harassment.
  2. Train in how to effectively intervene when witnessing harassment.
  3. Teach, train and mentor effectively, and welcome everyone as a valued colleague in the work of moving our field forward.

To support these efforts, APS:

  • plays a major role in the leadership of the Societies Consortium on Sexual Harassment in STEMM: http://educationcounsel.com/societiesconsortium/.
  • established an Ethics Committee, which will promote ethics education to inform the physics community and develop responses to accusations of ethics violations;
  • is a leader among science societies in advancing federal legislation that enhances U.S. funding agencies’ ability to combat sexual harassment in STEM;
  • offers site visits to physics departments, in order to provide an outside appraisal of the environment experienced by women and minorities within the department;
  • established and is enforcing a Code of Conduct at APS meetings, to ensure that the environment is welcoming to all participants and free of harassment; and
  • developed an on-line system – aps.ethicspoint.com – that enables APS meeting attendees to report cases of harassment confidentially and anonymously.

As stated in the APS Strategic Plan: 2019, APS is committed to full and respectful participation by everyone. Physics thrives when all participants are treated with respect, so we must act now to end sexual harassment in our discipline.

 

1 L. M. Aycock, Z. Hazari, E. Brewe, K. B. H Clancy, T. Hodapp, and R. M. Goertzen, “Sexual harassment reported by undergraduate female physicists,” Phys. Rev. Phys. Educ. Res. 15, 010121 (2019)
DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevPhysEducRes.15.010121

Statement Regarding H-1B Visas

September 14, 2018

Access to scientific and technical talent is essential to US security and competitiveness. In some areas, the number of highly-skilled applicants who are US citizens is insufficient to our needs. The H-1B temporary work visa program that permits highly skilled foreign-nationals to work in the U.S. has been vital to American interests. Nevertheless, the APS recognizes a need to reform the H-1B program to stem recent abuse, without affecting the ability of American companies and academia to acquire needed talent. Any reform of the work visa system must ensure access to scientific and technical talent wherever it may be found, while protecting the interests of U.S. citizens. This reform should also address the abuse of the system where workforce outsourcing firms flood the application system placing US industry at a disadvantage in targeted hiring of critical talent. It should also protect the interests of visa-holders by changing the application mechanism to attach the visa to the individual applicant rather than to the hiring organization. As for the portion of the H-1B program that exempts institutes of higher education, non-profit organizations and government research organizations from the overall visa cap under specific circumstances, APS is not aware of any abuse of this portion of the H-1B program and recommends that it remain intact.

September 16, 2017

The H-1B temporary work visa program that permits highly skilled foreign-nationals to work in the U.S. has been vital to American interests and should continue. Nevertheless, the APS recognizes a need to reform the H-1B program to stem recent abuse, without affecting the ability of American companies and academia to acquire needed talent. The reform of the H-1B system must ensure access to scientific and technical talent wherever it may be found, while protecting the interests of U.S. citizens.

As for the portion of the H-1B program that exempts institutes of higher education, non-profit organizations and government research organizations from the overall visa cap under specific circumstances, APS is not aware of any abuse of this portion of the H-1B program, and recommends that it remain intact.

Background

In 2003, the APS passed a Statement on visas establishing the APS position that U.S. “national security and economic vitality critically depend on science and technology and strongly profit from contributions of foreign-born scientists and engineers.” The Statement stressed the need for appropriate and effective visa rules but did not address the H1-B issue.

The H-1B system was created to allow non-immigrant hiring in critical skills areas where there is a demonstrable shortage in U.S. talent. This gives U.S. businesses access to the international pool of talent when searching for unique skills. However, there is abuse of the system; for example, some outsourcing companies acquire large numbers of H-1B visas and use them to displace American workers. With the existing cap on the number of visas, this abuse limits access to the global talent pool in the areas of greatest technical need, while also depressing salaries.

The H-1B system also has an uncapped portion for institutes of higher education, non-profit organizations and government research organizations. This exemption enables foreign nationals to conduct research in the U.S., allows foreign graduate students to stay in the country for post-doctoral research, and is vital to the international competitiveness of the non-for-profit elements of the U.S. scientific enterprise.

Statement on Racial Violence

April 23, 2017

Physics flourishes best when physicists can work in an environment of safety, justice, and equity. Therefore, all of us must work vigorously against systemic racism and to overcome implicit biases. The Board of the American Physical Society believes that it is timely to reaffirm the importance of building a diverse and inclusive physics community, as expressed in the APS Joint Diversity Statement (Human Rights 08.2). The Board expresses deep concern over incidents of racially biased violence and threats of violence against people of color.

HEU Reactor Conversion

September 17, 2016

The Board of the American Physical Society supports the crucial need to reduce, with the goal of ultimately eliminating, the use of highly enriched uranium (HEU) to fuel civilian research reactors as called for by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in its 2016 report Reducing the Use of Highly Enriched Uranium in Civilian Research Reactors. Since HEU can be readily used to construct nuclear weapons, minimizing it as a fuel in civilian reactors is an important step toward reducing proliferation risks in the United States and throughout the world.

Background:

Low-energy neutrons from research reactors are essential for research in science, engineering and medicine. They are invaluable for research in fields including material science, nanotechnology, chemistry, high-Tc superconductivity, polymer science, and archaeology. They are also critically important for testing of materials, such as those used in nuclear power reactors, and for producing radioactive isotopes used in medical treatments and various industrial applications.

Currently, neutrons are produced by reactors either fueled by highly enriched uranium (HEU) or fueled by low enriched uranium (LEU). Some neutron applications require intense, bright sources of neutrons that, at this time, can be provided only by HEU-fueled reactors. However, HEU can be readily used to construct nuclear weapons and consequently every HEU reactor presents a significant proliferation risk. In contrast, LEU cannot be easily converted into a material to make a nuclear weapon.

It is therefore urgent to reduce, with the goal of ultimately eliminating, the use of highly enriched uranium (HEU) without detracting from the essential science and engineering enabled by neutron sources. Possibilities include developing new reactor fuels based on low-enriched uranium (LEU), and converting HEU reactors to operate on LEU fuel. In addition, enhanced security measures need to be developed in order to balance the need for continued access to the unique capabilities provided by research reactors with the imperative to reduce proliferation risks. The National Academies report urges further study of ways in which the use of HEU in civilian reactors can be minimized. Possible methods include using spallation neutron sources where practical, converting some HEU-fueled reactors to high-density LEU fuel, design and construction of reactors designed to operate using LEU fuel, and increasing the efficiency of the remaining HEU facilities for studies and applications that require the high fluxes from HEU reactors. Scientific input is needed to realize the simultaneous goals of minimizing HEU proliferation risks and continuing excellent science through reactor neutrons.

The Lincoln Project Excellence and Access in Public Higher Education

September 17, 2016

The American Physical Society Board of Directors commends the American Academy of Sciences for its report on public research universities, “Recommitting to Lincoln’s Vision: An Educational Compact for the 21st Century.” The report, co-chaired by Robert Birgeneau and Mary Sue Coleman, provides a sobering account of the decline in public research university support — a drop of 34 percent nationwide in just the last decade — and its implications for America’s future. The report contains a set of thoughtful recommendations for (1) public research universities, (2) state government, (3) the federal government and (4) the private sector that are worthy of serious consideration. The American Physical Society Board recognizes that public research universities represent only one segment of the public higher education establishment and urges concerted study by scholarly and educational organizations of the broader problems of public higher education support.