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(Ed. Note: The July 2013 edition included a series of articles on “Science Advising” referenced by the author.)
Dear Dr. Thomas:
The articles in this issue, including yours, are quite interesting. However, when it comes to policy advice and public service, it never ceases to amaze me that the FPS (and most physicists) always appear to concentrate on physics and policy at the national level (and at APS meeting levels as you write below regarding conferences and committees). Physics at this national level is, of course, important for our nation. In fact, however, there are numerous opportunities and instances where physicists make important contributions to society at state and local levels, bringing insights to problems close to their communities, universities, and industries. It is certainly important to have physicists serve nationally, including in the highest level positions in the federal government. But there are numerous physicists (and members of the APS) throughout our country who contribute quietly and effectively to society everyday, from service on their local zoning and planning boards, on their environmental commissions, in elected offices from school boards to town council members to mayors, and in state advisory committees. These positions may not be as glamorous (and as visible to FPS and APS) as those in Washington, but they are important for society. And the positions demonstrate to local voters what a physicist does and knows, and why physics is important. As the late House Speaker Tip O’Neal titled his little book, “All Politics is Local”.
The FPS might eventually enlarge its scope of interest to encompass the opportunities for physicists in public service beyond the continued concentration of FPS inside the Washington beltway.
Louis J. Lanzerotti, APS Fellow
Dear Dr. Lanzerotti,
Thank you for highlighting this important point; I agree that state and local science advice should receive more attention.
In my talk at the April APS meeting I did speak about Art Rosenfeld, who has served with distinction on the California Energy Commission. And John Morgan’s piece in the latest issue of Physics and Society mentions that he was an elected Maryland State Delegate for eight years. Nevertheless, the set of three articles did focus mostly on national level science advice. In future FPS sessions or newsletter articles, we’ll look for opportunities to bring more attention to state and local service, and, in parallel, to scientists active in international advisory roles.
Sincerely, Valerie Thomas
These contributions have not been peer-refereed. They represent solely the view(s) of the author(s) and not necessarily the view of APS.