The International Union of Pure and Applied Physics: a confluence of science and policy

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 M. Spiro, J. Vigen    31-10-2023     Leggi in PDF
In the photo, members of the IUPAP Executive Council at CERN on the 9th of October 2023.

On the 9th of October 2023 – more or less exactly 100 years after the very first IUPAP General Assembly held in Paris – the 32nd General Assembly took place as a hybrid meeting organized from CERN in Geneva, Switzerland. The assembly brought together prominent physicists from all corners of the globe. Many relevant outcomes emerged from this significant gathering.

A poignant start to the General Assembly was a ceremony in memory of Kennedy Reed who passed away earlier this year. Reed served IUPAP for a total of 17 years and he was President of the Union from 2017 to 2019. His long standing involvement in improving the participation and recognition of minority groups, particularly women and black physicists, was a focus of his work for IUPAP. To honor Reed’s memory, one of the IUPAP medals will now carry his name: "IUPAP Kennedy Reed Medal for Outstanding Contributions to the Enhancement of Physics in Developing Countries".

Several administrative matters were discussed during the assembly. The former Singapore secretariat has come to a close. The new headquarters is based in Geneva, Switzerland, supported by an administrative secretariat based in Trieste, Italy. The secretariat was commended for its efficient operation.

Most of the IUPAP commissions award early career scientist prizes in their respective fields of physics. For the first time it was decided to also award and interdisciplinary early career scientist prize. At its first edition, two winners were selected: Evelyn Tang from Rice University and Stefano Martiniani from New York University, were recognized for their contributions to their respective field of physics.

The General Assembly approved the inclusion of several new Corporate Associate Members, including the organizations Advanced Laser Light Source (ALLS), CERN, Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (JINR), Park Systems, and Synchrotron-Light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East (SESAME). Nepal was also accepted as the first Associate Territorial Member, following a Memorandum of Understanding signed between IUPAP and the Nepal Physical Society a few weeks earlier. A presentation was made on the steps to attract Associate Territorial Members, particularly from Africa, showcasing IUPAP's commitment to fostering international scientific collaboration in the developing world.

The General Assembly decided that the next gathering in 2024 will be an in-person event, scheduled to take place in Hainan, China, from October 6th to October 12th. This event will coincide with the 25th anniversary of the creation of the working group “Women in Physics” and a proposed inter-commission symposium on "Physics Research for a Sustainable Planet". Furthermore, IUPAP is acting as the legal entity for the organization of the International Year of Basic Sciences for Sustainable Development (IYBSSD 2022-2023). As the year ends in December, the International Decade of Science for Sustainable Development will start – another UN observance in which IUPAP certainly will play a role.

In conclusion, the 32nd IUPAP General Assembly exemplified the spirit of international scientific collaboration and innovation. It reaffirmed IUPAP's commitment to fostering physics, supporting early-career scientists, and addressing critical global challenges, including sustainability and climate action. As physics continues to play an ever more vital role in addressing the world's challenges, the General Assembly provided a platform for physicists to chart a course for a brighter, more sustainable future through science and cooperation.

Michel Spiro – Former President of CERN Council (2010-2012), former Director of CNRS IN2P3 (2003-2010), Past President of the French Physical Society, now Emeritus Research Director at CEA and since 2019 President of IUPAP, he is also Chair of the IYBSSD. He received many prizes and honours. His experimental research work ranged from particle physics at CERN (W and Z discovery) to astroparticle physics (detection of solar neutrinos and search for dark matter through microlensing). He wrote many books.

Jens Vigen – Jens Vigen is IUPAP Secretary-General since 2021. He graduated as a civil engineer and later as an academic librarian from NTNU, Trondheim, Norway. From 1994 onwards, he is employed as a scientific information officer at CERN, Geneva, Switzerland.