Activities of the Forum on Physics and Society 2016

Ruth Howes, Past Chair of Forum on Physics and Society, 2018; Chair, 2017

The first activity of FPS, in the spring and summer of 2015, was to identify a new editor for the Newsletter of the Forum on Physics and Society. Andrew Zwicker, our longtime editor, was elected to the New Jersey State Legislature. We congratulate him although we will miss him. A search committee (PushpaBhat, FPS Council Representative; Cameron Reed, Editor of the FHP Newsletter; and Laura Berzak Hopkins, associate editor of the FPS Newsletter, and Ruth Howes) selected Oriol Valls, a professor of physics at the University of Minnesota and a well-published physicist specializing in superconducting systems, for the position. To date, Dr. Valls has solidly fulfilled his promise as editor.

Next Ruth Howes and Bev Hartline conducted a survey of all FPS members to determine the areas and activities which interested the membership. The survey had a response rate of a little over 10% and provided many of the ideas included in our plans for the future of FPS. If you would like to see details, the results of the survey were published in the October edition of the FPS Newsletter.

The fact that the April Meeting of the APS was held in January meant that FPS had to hold elections in December. Gratitude is due to the Nominating Committee (Frank Von Hippel. Warren Buck, John Harte and Ruth Howes) for locating an excellent slate of candidates and to Tony Fainberg, Secretary/Treasurer of FPS, for conducting the early election in a timely manner.

The major effort of FPS this year has been outreach to other forums, topical groups, and divisions of APS as possible. Allen Sessoms has done a terrific job as program chair. One of the more important links has been to the APS Office of Public Affairs, culminating in a report to members by Francis Slakey, Interim Director of the Office, concerning the financial plans of the Current Administration and a talk by Mike Lubell, former Director of the Office, on the best way for APS to respond to the new administration.

Finally I have started a small, all volunteer study to look at the importance of basic research to the development of new and important technologies. The time scales involved are long, on the order of 10-15 years so it is not a trivial problem. The idea is not only to develop case studies of technologies, but also to produce a method for doing such studies that can be adopted by physicists working on science advocacy in Congressional Districts around the country whatever their specialties in physics. FIAP has helped lay the groundwork for the study which is still in its early stages. If you have ideas or are interested in participating, please contact me at

Continued Project: The FPS Bylaws need revision. I will work with Ken Cole at APS to prepare a draft that is consistent with our current practices; lets elected officers take positions on January 15 (as approved by the Executive Committee and avoids confusion as APS plans to move the April Meeting at least once more in 2019); and is consistent with the new APS governance policy.

Ruth Howes

These contributions have not been peer-refereed. They represent solely the view(s) of the author(s) and not necessarily the view of APS.