H. Frederick Dylla Director's Matters

Reaching the public with physics news
Several weeks ago in AIP Matters (August 11 issue), I highlighted the importance of AIP's key contributions to the communication of science through its role as a major publisher of physics journals. An equally important contribution—also part of its core mission—that AIP makes is increasing the awareness, appreciation, understanding, and support of science among the general public. AIP does this by promoting and delivering physics-related news in ways that connect scientific developments to everyday life. The stories are delivered to media outlets and from there to the general public. The way the general public perceives science has consequences for many of the issues AIP and its Member Societies care about—U.S. competitiveness, climate change, energy policy, funding for research, and many more. To successfully inform society of the role science plays in daily life, AIP targets many audiences and uses diverse means of communication—newspapers and other print vehicles, the Web and electronic media, and television.

AIP established Physics News Update (PNU) 18 years ago to facilitate coverage of physics research news in the print media. The target audience of the brief news items was science journalists who were trained to understand technical explanations. Those journalists would use the information to generate stories of interest to the public. PNU has always been well received and appreciated by the media. Recent times, however, have ushered in changes to the media landscape. Major newspapers have been placing less emphasis on national science reporting, shuttering science news sections, and scaling back science beats. In response to that trend, AIP must adapt and find ways to continue achieving good news coverage for advances in scientific research. One approach we are taking is to transition PNU into a product that is more useful to nonscience journalists.


PNU has now joined forces with another AIP news operation, Inside Science News Service (ISNS). ISNS reports on breaking news and the science behind current affairs and is distributed to newspaper reporters who do not normally cover science and to seasoned science journalists. The service mainly writes full-length AP-style reports in a ready-to-use format. The revised PNU will add more research news to the broader ISNS. Under the ISNS banner, the new Inside Science Research—Physics News Update will continue to provide science reporters with important physics and science news, even as its focus shifts to include more general assignment reporters.

Over the past 18 years, PNU coincidently developed a significant following of nonjournalists, mainly physicists and other scientists who used PNU to stay abreast of the latest "news" in physics research beyond their specialty. The loyal PNU audience will still receive Inside Science Research items and will also get selected news items from the broader ISNS. Other AIP services also generate stories on current research, and others are being developed to expand the options available. Physics Today Online has expanded the print magazine's Physics Update section by adding to the online feature twice a week. APS offers a cadre of resources, including the Physical Review Focus service, and later this month will be announcing Physics, a major Web service for physics developments.

So, here is an Inside Science Research teaser: "The sharpest ever measurement of ice crystals in clouds will help to improve climate change predictions." Read it and determine for yourself why its important for the public to put stock into science.



helicopter We're taking off!
Growth of the Scitation platform is accelerating. Four new publishers have become Scitation partners and will add their publications to the Scitation platform:

  • American Accounting Association plans to transition all their publications to Scitation, which will culminate in a fully featured Digital Library.
  • American Astronomical Society, an AIP Member Society, will contribute Astronomy Education Review, which publishes results in astronomy education research and disseminates new ideas that can be used in the classroom and beyond.
  • AHS International: The Vertical Flight Society is bringing the Journal of the American Helicopter Society to Scitation. The journal presents innovative papers covering the state of the art in all disciplines of rotorcraft design, research, and development.
  • Physics Essays—an international, peer-reviewed journal dedicated to theoretical and experimental aspects of fundamental problems in physics—will also join Scitation.

Follow updates about Scitation through the News link.

The History Center will "map" the physics elite
Will Thomas (L) and Chris Donohue have started research on the project Ambitious physicists have always sought to "make the history books" by making big discoveries. AIP's Center for History of Physics emphasizes the importance of looking beyond discoveries and chasing down changes in what it has historically meant to be a part of the physics community. To demonstrate how the internet can be useful for analyzing these changes, the center's associate historian, Will Thomas, has secured a $50,000 grant from the NSF to collect information on more than 600 prominent American physicists and to create an interactive "map" of their overlapping institutional and intellectual career data. History graduate student Christopher Donohue has joined the center part-time to work on the project. The project data will be available on the center's website beginning in 2009.

Economic futures
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September is National Preparedness Month
The fifth annual National Preparedness Month (NPM) is sponsored by the US Department of Homeland Security. NPM is designed to increase public awareness and to encourage government leaders and members of the community to work together on emergency preparedness, planning, mitigation, response, and recovery. Here are simple steps everyone can take to prepare for emergencies in their homes, businesses, and communities:

  • Get an emergency supply kit
  • Make a family emergency plan
  • Be informed
  • Get involved

For more information visit the 2008 National Preparedness Month website.


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