Historically IUPAP came into existence, charged with enhancing physics through the organization and sponsorship of the most appropriate conferences, and ensuring that all physicists had free access to the meetings. These goals basically remain today.
As the subject broadened specialized commissions were formed in the sub-disciplines. There, members of commissions were selected as experts in the sub-disciplines, who would be better able to recommend the most beneficial conferences for IUPAP support, and also to ensure that the conferences were organized in different appropriate venues. Appropriate that is, from the point of view of reinforcing and strengthening the sub-discipline internationally. Two commissions, those on physics for development and on physics education, fall into a slightly different category, but the same basic principles for conferences apply.
Over time, three kinds of conferences have evolved, all of which are international in nature, with international speakers, international attendees, and held on a rotating basis at different international locations (on different continents). The Type A conference is a large general meeting of 750 – 1000 attendees covering an entire field (i.e. the area covered by the commission), the Type B conference is smaller with 300 – 500 attendees on a subset of topics, and the Type C conference has 50 – 200 attendees on a specialized topic, possibly a workshop. IUPAP Council believes that if the meetings are part of a series of Type A, B or C then there should generally be at least two years between their occurrences.
A fourth type of conference, Type D - Workshops in developing countries, was added in 2007. All applications for Type-D Conferences must be submitted to the Commission on Physics for Development (C13).
As a particular subject develops and matures it is possible that support of a series of conferences may merit termination. A commission should point this out, and possibly propose a replacement. It is not possible to continue to support all of the “old” meetings, while adding a “new” series. The level of IUPAP financial support is modest; nonetheless around 50% of the annual dues are dispersed to conferences. Adding to the list of conferences supported would simply reduce the unit support.
The amount granted to sponsored conferences varies from year to year. For conferences in 2012 the amount of this support is €9,000 for sponsored Type A conferences and €5,000 for sponsored Type B conferences. The Type A conferences were also awarded travel grants of €6,000. In addition, Type D workshops have been approved for sponsorship of €7,000. In general Type C conferences are endorsed by IUPAP but receive no grants.
All travel grants should be used to support only the physicists from developing nations. Indeed it is hoped that a large part of the rest of the grant should be used for this purpose. It is suggested that full travel is never given; people should be encouraged to raise some funds from their own country.
When considering venues for meetings priority should be given to locations in IUPAP member nations, since economic benefits do flow from staging meetings. This is particularly important for the small member nations in IUPAP.
IUPAP is trying to engage developing countries as member nations. It could well be holding a Type B or Type C meeting in a non-member developing nation may have a beneficial impact on physics in that particular country. This would represent a valid exception to the member nation priority.
IUPAP continues to try to attract women into physics and to support the careers of women already working in the subject. It therefore expects to find women represented as organizers, speakers, and attendees of IUPAP sponsored meetings. The presence of women on the local organizing committee and as invited speakers is a condition for IUPAP support.