Report to the 2002 General Assembly for 1999-2002
October 7-12, 2002
Traditionally the IUPAP General Assembly has been used as an opportunity for the Commission to meet and plan some of its activities for its new term of office. Due to the fact that few members of C13 (outgoing or incoming) attended the General Assembly in Atlanta, no meeting was held at the time. During its term of office several unsuccessful attempts were made for the Commission to meet. The members of the Commission were therefore forced to interact electronically. Commission 13 is anomalous compared to all the other Commissions because it is not defined in terms of a specific discipline. While members of the other Commissions have several opportunities to meet at topical conferences, the members of C13 have little in common except their interest and commitment to development in Physics. Meeting face to face becomes logistically difficult and unaffordable to the Commission.
For 2000, two applications were received and one was approved for support:
- Physics & Industrial Development: Bridging the Gap: September 2000, Durban, South Africa
Two applications were received and one application was approved for support in 2001
- Colloquim on Physics and Technology for Africa: January 2001, Trieste, Italy
No applications were received for 2002. Only one application is under consideration for 2003.
The number of applications received over the past three years should be compared with the previous cycle where up to 11 applications were received during a particular year. The poor interest in funding could be ascribed to the following: Even though there have been large numbers of applications in the past, IUPAP has seldom been able to support more than two conferences per Commission per year. The disappointment of not receiving support could have discouraged potential conference organizers. Secondly, all the Commissions except C13 are structured around a particular area of specialization in Physics and their conferences focus on topics within their specialized fields, thus attracting several hundred physicists. Conferences within the domain of C13 often have a broad (or no) focus and seldom attract large number of specialists.
The conference series Physics & Industrial Development: Bridging the Gap was initiated by the Commission. The first conference was held in New Delhi in January 1994 and the second was held in Belo Horizonte in July 1997. The third conference was successfully organized in Durban, South Africa in September 2000. Although attempts were made to have a focus for the conference, the papers presented at the conference covered a wide range of topics and represented research and development at various levels of sophistication. The proceedings of the conference (refereed papers) were published in Physica Scripta T97 (2002). We would like to express our gratitude to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences for accommodating the conference in their journal.
One of the objectives of the Commission is to stimulate and facilitate development through conferences in selected areas that could result in fields of specialization for the region where the conferences are being held. It is evident that a single conference in a region on a particular topic is not sufficient to develop a new field of specialization for the region. It is therefore necessary to review the strategy that has been followed thus far, to ensure that the development is sustainable.
Notwithstanding the inactivity of the Commission, various activities of development and capacity building within Physics have taken place in developing countries. Various well-resourced countries with longstanding traditions of supporting development in physics in the developing world, should be credited for it. The list of countries that are providing support to specific regions in the developing world includes, but is not limited to, Italy, Sweden, Germany, and the USA.
In certain regions, the developing countries have established a variety of networks and have facilitated the development of physics through these networks. Latin America is an example where two very different networks have contributed significantly to the development of physics in the region, namely FeLaSoFi (affiliation of Physical societies) and ReLaFi (affiliation of government departments of behalf of physicists in member countries). A different approach is being followed in Africa where the LAM Network of physicists who work in the field of lasers and optical physics, aims to stimulate co-operation and exchange of information. The key to the success of all these networks is the continued support from one or more of the well-resourced countries. Networks that are discipline-specific seem to have a better chance of success. A similar network focusing on space science in Africa is being explored. The advent of the Internet has enabled the launch of an electronic network linking physicists in Africa to African-oriented physicists outside Africa. Although the network has great potential, it is dependent on the access to communications technology.
PHYSICS AND THE DEVELOPING WORLD
If Physics is to serve society, Physics will have to aim for solutions to real world contemporary problems. It is the moral responsibility of everyone to contribute directly or indirectly to the development of Physics in the under-resourced world. Scientific knowledge and technology as well as indigenous knowledge should be used to the benefit of all and problems of global concern should be addressed jointly.
Recognizing the need for development in the context of Physics, IUPAP established C13, the Commission on Physics for Development, in 1981. It has become impossible for C13 to carry out successfully that responsibility on behalf of IUPAP. Commission C13 has served as the conscience of IUPAP but has had limited success because of the enormity of the problem of development and capacity building. Each Commission of IUPAP should have development as one of its objectives. This is already accomplished to some degree through special grants that are made available by IUPAP to A-type conferences to assist physicists from developing countries to attend such conferences. Furthermore, the membership of C13 has been expanded with associated members from C14 and AC1 with the objective to promote the development agenda within those disciplines. Our commitment to development demands more than just associate members. The responsibility to develop physics in the developing world should be assumed by all the Commissions and the format of C13 should be reviewed.