IUPAP sends heartfelt best wishes to the international physics community in these difficult times of COVID-19.
As we negotiate them, we are reminded of the importance of science, scientific expertise, and of evidence-based decisions. We are also reminded of the importance of shared reliable information and collaborative efforts on a global scale – that to address our problems of the 21st century we need diversity of thought and approach with transparency of ideas across borders and boundaries.
We also recognize the bravery of our healthcare worker heroes on the front lines, and those scientists working tirelessly to understand, combat, and recover from this global pandemic.
We also note that the extra work, besides scientific activity, usually done by women (taking care of children, of education, of domestic tasks) penalizes those who perform these tasks much more during the Covid-19 period and just after. We expect that increased awareness by everyone will lead to establishing multi-faceted criteria for appointments and promotions that take these aspects into consideration.
During this pandemic, many scientific meetings are being held remotely, which has great advantages and disadvantages. The advantages include how much easier it is to attend a meeting remotely – saving great cost and time and increasing the number of participants. For example, this happened at the April meeting of the American Physical Society. This meeting typically has had 1500 attendees; but in 2020 when it was held remotely, over 7,500 registered, with some talks having more than 1000 attendees. This greatly helped to educate members beyond their own areas of expertise, and also allowed more students and international attendees. But we must not forget some important disadvantages. First, so much of our scientific education and collaborations are germinated through casual contact and informal, even chance, meetings. Second, we must not forget that one needs good connections to the internet to attend a remote meeting, which can be very expensive, or non-existent for a large part of the developing world. IUPAP has always been committed to holding meetings in developing countries to bring the science to them, and to providing travel grants to scientists in developing countries. When this again becomes possible, we will continue those practices, according to the IUPAP Mission*.
Finally, IUPAP is also committed to showing appropriate care in addressing the carbon footprint of our meetings. We are transitioning our committee and scientific meetings to virtual meetings, but will return to having some face-to-face scientific meetings when they again become possible. We will be requesting that the organizers choose a location that has a reduced carbon footprint, taking into account transport and the facilities, and allow remote access. It could be an interesting option to organize a worldwide conference into smaller conferences in parallel across the world and link these conferences virtually. Attendees could then physically participate in their local conference and at the same time, gather together remotely.
*To assist in the worldwide development of physics, to foster international cooperation in physics, and to help in the application of physics toward solving problems of concern to humanity.