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.

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

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.

Archived Board Statements

Statement Regarding H-1B Visas

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.