AIP | Matters
-- -- March 26, 2012

Liz Dart Caron Fred Dylla Director's Matters

By H. Frederick Dylla, Executive Director & CEO, and
Liz Dart Caron, Director, Corporate Communications

2012 Assembly of Society Officers

AIP is in a unique position to assemble scientific society leaders to learn about and discuss pressing issues that affect our communities. Twenty-one Member, Affiliated, and guest societies sent representatives to this year's Assembly of Society Officers last Thursday, March 22. They were joined by members of the AIP Governing Board, staff, and speakers from academic institutions and government agencies for a day of informative and, at times, provocative discussion. At the risk of being oversimplistic, the three sessions addressed certain issues that impact the future of our disciplines, our societies, and our business.

"Will small undergraduate STEM programs go extinct?" Bob Hilborn, associate executive officer of AAPT, meant to grab attention with this session title. Yet the possibility it posits should be taken seriously. Texas, Louisiana, and Missouri are among those states that have instituted bachelor's degree quotas, which many small science departments are having trouble filling. As a result, departments are losing their degree-granting status. Lee Sawyer of Louisiana Tech explains that several threatened departments in his state have been successful at consolidating programs with related disciplines. When departments morph into simple "service departments"—offering courses to support other majors—programs tend to deteriorate rapidly; faculty become disenfranchised and academic rigor languishes. Ramifications are compounded when looking at the impact this trend has on underrepresented minority students. Roman Czujko, director of the Statistical Research Center, reports that more than half of the African American physics bachelor's received their degrees from historically Session I speakers, from the left: Lee Sawyer, Michael Marder and Roman Czujko. Not pictured is session chair Bob Hilborn. black colleges and universities (HBCUs)—and HBCUs are among the hardest hit in those states that are using degree metrics to reduce degree granting programs. Michael Marder of the University of Texas at Austin shared that the Texas Board of Higher Education is concerned that the retention rate among physics enrollees is very poor. We must do something that dramatically changes the way we treat students, placing more emphasis on their needs so that they can succeed.

So the question that was posed to the group was: What can scientific societies do that will make a difference? The answer: When there is a good case for support, societies can play an important role, bringing national attention to a local issue. AAPT and APS have been especially active in galvanizing support from the physics community. SPIN-UP (Strategic Programs for Innovations in Undergraduate Physics) has helped many schools improve/save their programs. Moreover, the physics community is vocal! In some instances the groundswell of support/protest in the face of potential quota implementations has been enough to reverse the strategy of certain institutions—and certain state education boards as well.

Lou Lanzerotti, chair of the AIP Governing Board, opened the second session, "Strategic Planning for Professional Societies." The process helps any organization to define its long-term goals and develop a roadmap to advance its mission. Some organizations may take this process further, using strategic planning as one essential element in reinventing the entire organization. Yet all societies, large and small, can benefit from a thorough review of strategic direction. Typical plans guide the organization for three to five years, and the better plans are continually adjusted in response to arising challenges, opportunities, and budgetary conditions. Kate Kirby, executive officer of APS, shared that strategic plans can be used to communicate a broad vision for the society, help the organization to make decisions regarding resource allocation, and ensure financial stability and sustainability of the core mission. For APS, the process has helped to create a sense of common purpose and focus across the society, as well as energize the staff, society leadership, and member volunteers. Chris McEntee, executive director of AGU, relayed how governance reformation and strategic planning had helped prepare the society to better serve its members. The society had experienced substantial growth over the years presently exceeding 60,000 members from around the world; the evolution of AGU's operations and goals hadn't kept pace. Chris provided details of AGU's process for reinventing itself, and shared elements of its strategic plan, now into its second year.

The final session allowed participants to become familiar with current publication and data policy and bills in Congress that have recently come up through the legislative process that could seriously affect the scholarly publishing enterprise. Fred Dylla wrote an excellent summary of the issue in his column of February 13, "Progress Toward Public Access." Walt Warnick of the Department of Energy's Office of Science and Technical Information and Tom Statler of the National Science Foundation shared information about recent collaborations with publishers, librarians, and other stakeholders, and the progress that has been made in the development of pilot programs that advance interoperability among federal agency and publisher data platforms as well as discovery and access issues.

DOE's platforms, "" and "," represent significant advancements in searching and linking to a multitude of scientific databases, many of which are not otherwise accessible through popular search engines like Google. The publisher-research institution collaboration, CrossREF is working toward adding two new metadata elements that will track funding agencies and grant numbers, making it easier for agencies to track published articles resulting from their funding. ORCID is a related pilot program to disambiguate author names, and DataCite will assign a digital identifier to datasets available through appropriate databases so that the community can easily use and/or verify the data for future research. All of these initiatives require collaboration from publishers and other stakeholders. Progress on this complex and nuanced issue will continue without the need for blanket federal legislation that forces a uniform approach across all disciplines.

We invite you to learn more about these topics by accessing the speakers' presentations through the Assembly of Society Officers website. Thanks to all attendees for making the day's discussions more valuable through active participation.

Member and Affiliated Society representatives and guests at the Assembly of Society Officers enjoy the time set aside to socialize and network.
Publishing Matters

AIP Advances launches editorial blog "The Idea Box"

AIP Advances has launched a new blog that features posts on recently published articles, scientific puzzles, new research ideas, and issues of relevance to the scientific community. The blog aims to create an online forum where members of the scientific community can start conversations and exchange ideas. Executive Editor Vincent Crespi, from Pennsylvania State University, has been leading the effort. Since January he has posted on topics ranging from the peer review process to the physics of maximizing the contents of a salad bar bowl. Blog readers can contribute to the discussion by posting comments, and can sign up to receive auto-updates by clicking on the RSS button at the top of the blog. The AIP Advances blog is part of an overarching effort by the journal to communicate research in new ways and help forge new connections between authors and readers.
Physics Resources Matters

Richard Feynman oral history interview now online

The Niels Bohr Library and Archives added a valuable new transcript to its online oral histories—that of Richard Feynman, recorded over a seven-year period. The interview has been available to researchers in-house for a long time; recently the library was given permission to place it on the web, making it accessible to a wider audience.

NBL&A screenshot The resource is exceptionally prized because it is the only oral history interview of Feynman. It is 22 hours long, and the transcript itself is nearly 500 pages. Charles Weiner, the first director of the Center for History of Physics, conducted the interview in a series of sessions between 1966 and 1973, beginning shortly after Feynman won the Nobel Prize in Physics. It tracks his life from childhood throughout his influential career. There are many personal anecdotes and details about his work and time at Caltech, Cornell, MIT, Princeton, and Los Alamos. Throughout the interview, he discusses interactions with Hans Bethe, Niels Bohr, Enrico Fermi, Murray Gell-Mann, Julian Schwinger, and John A. Wheeler. Check out this new resource and see if you can find out something you didn't know about Richard Feynman.

AIP Governing Board meeting minutes from 1931–1953 are now available online. Subsequent years’ minutes will be added to the archive shortly.
Off the Press
SPS Observer cover Winter 2011/2012 issue:
"Connecting Worlds: Academia & industry, science & the public, car racing & physics."
Coming Up

Thursday, March 29

  • CPR/AED training (Melville, NY)

March 31–April 3

  • APS April Meeting, "100 Years of Cosmic Ray Physics" (Atlanta, GA)

Thursday, April 5

  • Ice cream social (Melville, NY)

Wednesday, April 11

  • Employee birthday breakfasts (College Park, MD, and Melville, NY)

April 11–12

  • Committee on Publishing Partnerships meeting (College Park, MD)

April 16–20

  • 2012 Industrial Physics Forum (Trieste, Italy)