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By the APS Task Force on Expanding International Engagement*
The APS Council has strongly endorsed the Report of the Task Force on Expanding International Engagement. Effective international partnerships are crucial both to APS and the entire physics enterprise in the United States. This report gives APS a strategic roadmap for making connections and strengthening relationships with the international physics community.
—Timothy J. Gay, 2018 Speaker of the Council
Physics is a global endeavor, with some of the greatest breakthroughs and achievements realized through international collaboration. The APS membership reflects the international nature of physics, with nearly one quarter living outside of the United States (Fig. 1). Physicists cross continents to attend the Society’s annual meetings, with nearly one third of all March Meeting participants coming from outside the United States, making it one of the largest and most internationally diverse gatherings of physicists worldwide. Moreover, international issues cut across essentially all interests of APS, and their importance is increasing:
Figure 1: Geographic distribution of APS Members. As of January, 2018, 13,772 of 55,385 APS members were living outside the United States.
The APS Strategic Plan: 2013-2017 recognized that expanded international engagement was key to the Society’s service to the physics community. Consequently, APS created new international programs to serve its members, increased its offerings to physicists in the developing world, established ongoing physicist exchanges with new international partners, and united with other national physical societies to carry out a suite of joint activities.
Then, with the development and upcoming launch of the APS Strategic Plan: 2019, APS leadership decided it was time to take the Society’s international efforts to the next level, and in March 2017, APS Chief Executive Officer Kate Kirby launched the APS Task Force on Expanding International Engagement. The Task Force worked for nearly 18 months to understand the interests, concerns and priorities of all APS stakeholders and to create an international strategy to serve the larger APS mission.
These Principles served as the foundations upon which the Task Force built its recommendations for the Society.
Task Force members conducted extensive outreach to better understand the perspectives and priorities of essentially all APS stakeholders. Most notably, the Task Force partnered with the Statistical Resource Center of the American Institute of Physics to conduct a survey of APS members on international priorities. A sample of nearly 9,400 members (~6400 U.S.; ~3000 non-U.S.) yielded a 33% response rate, with an especially strong response from non-U.S. members. This suggested that APS members, especially those outside of the U.S., were invested in the Society’s efforts to expand its international engagement. In addition to the survey, the Task Force sought advice from essentially all APS components, as well as other national and international physics organizations:
APS Units and Other Physics Organizations
APS Leaders & Staff
Figure 2: Stakeholder responses to Question 1
Figure 3: Stakeholder responses to Question 2
While the stakeholders’ feedback proved critical to developing the Task Force goals and recommendations, the feedback also revealed a few shared values among essentially all groups:
The “Member Survey,” and subsequent internal surveys to APS components, provided crucial insights into the stakeholders’ priorities. To compare and contrast responses, every survey included two common questions:
1. The list below describes some broad, over-arching goals for APS international programs. Which of these do you believe APS should make top priority? [Select up to 2.]
2. The list below describes some broad, cross-cutting issues that involve actions that APS might take. Which of these do you believe APS should consider making a top priority? [Select up to 2.]
Comparisons or responses across the various stakeholder groups are presented in Figures 2 and 3.
The Task Force identified four goals that encompassed the breadth of interests conveyed by all stakeholders in APS international activities. (* = Priority identified by the Task Force)
Goal 1: Offer new/expanded ways to participate in the APS community.
Goal 2: Integrate international affairs across all APS activities.
Goal 3: Expand international opportunities for young physicists; better prepare young physicists for international careers.
Goal 4: Advance government policies that promote international scientific collaboration.
Along with its recommendations, the Task Force also developed an Implementation Plan with specific actions designed to accomplish each goal. This Plan gives the pragmatic next steps for each recommendation and is provided in Appendix A of the full report (available at aps.org/programs/international). The Task Force also recognized the need for APS to consider: 1) evaluation and assessment of current international programs; 2) measures of success (metrics) for existing and future international activities; and, 3) impact upon resources and sustainability of key initiatives.
The Task Force’s ultimate observation, however, was that APS must deepen its international engagement across the full range of Society activities. This is a transformational proposition, one that affects far more than programs under the direct purview of the APS Office of International Affairs. Therefore, international goals must be embraced by the APS leadership and consistently incorporated into the Society’s ongoing strategic planning. More specifically, the Task Force asserted that APS must allocate sufficient resources (staff, financial, and leadership attention) to develop and implement a five-year roadmap with near-, mid- and long-term goals.
The Task Force emphasized that if the Society is indeed committed to expanding its international engagement, APS must make transformative change a priority and commit resources accordingly. In particular, some international activities may be especially attractive to potential donors or foundations, and APS may launch fundraising campaigns for certain new initiatives.
The Task Force recommendations covered a wide range. Most importantly, the Task Force hopes that APS members, leaders, and staff will embrace its overarching proposal: that APS fully incorporate international engagement into all of the Society’s activities. To realize this vision, the Society must proactively welcome international members and integrate them into all APS activities and leadership levels.
Even the most carefully developed recommendations, however, have little impact without follow-on commitment to progress. Consequently, the Task Force stressed that its report represents merely the first step towards expanding the American Physical Society’s service to the international physics community. Doing so will not only benefit the APS members, but will also strengthen the Society’s leadership in serving all physicists worldwide.
*Task Force members: Jonathan Bagger, Chair, TRIUMF; William Colglazier, Vice-Chair, Center for Science Diplomacy, AAAS; Dirk Jan Bukman, APS Editorial Office; Luisa Cifarelli, University of Bologna; Carlos Henrique de Brito Cruz, São Paulo Research Foundation and Universidade Estadual de Campinas; Laura H. Greene, National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, Florida State University; Alan J. Hurd, Los Alamos National Laboratory; Young-Kee Kim, University of Chicago; Patricia McBride, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory; Eliezer Rabinovici, Hebrew University, Jerusalem; Johanna Stachel, University of Heidelberg; Nai-Chang Yeh, California Institute of Technology. APS staff: Amy K. Flatten, Director of International Affairs; Michele E. Irwin, International Programs Manager.
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Editor: David Voss
Staff Science Writer: Leah Poffenberger
Contributing Correspondent: Alaina G. Levine
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