APS News

April 2018 (Volume 27, Number 4)

Letter to the Editor

AIP and The Physical Review

APS is celebrating the 125th anniversary of the founding of The Physical Review with a number of publications and program events. Roberto Lalli’s article (APS News, February 2018) on the early history of the journal, however, omits an influential series of events set in motion by the 1929 stock market crash that had significant impact on the fortunes of the APS journals and many other American physics journals.

In 1929 APS formed a "Committee on Applied Physics," initially to look at the role of industrial physicists and their participation in APS programs and meetings. The effects of the Great Depression on scholarly journals soon became a pressing committee topic. The Committee invited The Optical Society and the Acoustic Society of America to collaborate on addressing these economic challenges. Together with the American Association of Physics Teachers and the Society of Rheology, they formed the American Institute of Physics (AIP) in 1931 to consolidate their publishing operations. (AIP was largely financed by the Chemical Foundation until the new organization became self-sufficient. I encourage my fellow APS members to thank our chemistry colleagues for their community’s role in our history.)

Lalli points out that The Physical Review editor at the time, Jack Tate, instituted voluntary page charges and page reductions to combat the significant budget pressures on the journal. This is true, but the economies of scale generated by the joint publishing operations of AIP had significant positive impact on publishing as well. This fascinating story is recounted by Henry Barton, AIP’s first director, in the January 1956 issue of Physics Today [1] and in Tom Scheiding’s article [2] published in 2013.

AIP served as the publisher of APS journals up until 2004 when APS began to manage its own publishing operations. APS and AIP continue to partner on scholarly publishing industry initiatives, such as co-founding the non-profit CHORUS in 2014 to provide public access to publications describing publicly funded research.

AIP now manages a $25M annual portfolio of outreach services on behalf of all 120,000 members of AIP’s ten Member Societies. These programs include the Society of Physics Students, the Statistical Research Center’s education and work force studies, the Center for History of Physics, the Niels Bohr Library & Archives, and publications such as Physics Today, the GradSchoolShopper, FYI science policy news, and Inside Science for science literacy.

APS initiated the formation of AIP when APS leadership was deeply concerned about our community’s ability to disseminate research findings. Future challenges facing science can be addressed more effectively by societies working together. The lesson from our history in the 1930s validates this collaborative approach.

1. Barton, H. A. 1956. The story of the American Institute of Physics, Physics Today 9, 1, 56-66.

2. Scheiding, T. 2013. Building the scholarly infrastructure in physics in interwar America, Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 44, 450-463.

H. Frederick Dylla
Lewes, Delaware

The author was the Executive Director and CEO of AIP from 2007-2015, and currently serves on the Board of CHORUS as AIP Publishing’s representative.


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Editor: David Voss
Staff Science Writer: Leah Poffenberger
Contributing Correspondent: Alaina G. Levine
Publication Designer and Production: Nancy Bennett-Karasik

April 2018 (Volume 27, Number 4)

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Articles in this Issue
Physical Review Accelerators and Beams: Open-Access Pioneer and Community Organizer
Astrophysicist Helms the NSF Mathematical and Physical Sciences Directorate
Condensed Matter Physics Gets an AI Assist
Kavli Symposium: LIGO, Quantum Computers, and More
The Hunt For the Elusive Majorana Qubit
Q&A with Danielle Bassett on the Physics of Brains
"Silent Sky" Sparks Discussion of Women in Physics
Spotlight on Development
This Month in Physics History
Education & Diversity Update
International News
Letter to the Editor
The Back Page