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We face a time of extraordinary challenges. We know, however, that our physics community will be resilient and resourceful in the face of crisis as the world confronts the coronavirus pandemic. We saw this in Denver following the sudden cancellation of the March Meeting, as many members stepped forward to schedule and conduct online sessions to ensure the continuity of scientific exchange. APS staff worked tirelessly to support, encourage, and enable these sessions, but the drive to push so much online so fast came from the March Meeting physicists.
This spirit is also seen in physics departments and labs worldwide, where physicists have suspended research with almost no prior warning, and students and staff have dispersed. Now and in the coming weeks, we will all be called upon to do what we can to keep our communities healthy, keep our research and education missions alive, and prepare for an uncertain future.
As a result of the coronavirus, APS — like most other professional societies around the world — has canceled conferences and requires staff to work from home. APS has prepared for this, and thus far the staff have maintained most core activities as usual. Research meetings have been affected profoundly, however. APS meetings are essential to our worldwide physics community, and so we have taken several steps:
The Board Executive Committee agreed that the April Meeting, originally to be held in Washington, DC, is canceled as an in-person meeting, but will be held online to the greatest extent possible. The April Program Committee and APS IT support are working together to implement a robust virtual meeting.
All spring section meetings have been canceled.
DAMOP leadership will make a decision about their June meeting soon.
APS is supporting several community-driven efforts to continue to place many of the planned March Meeting sessions online. We are all exploring new ways to disseminate scientific information and interact with our colleagues. You can read more about this on the March Meeting website.
The APS's Office of Government Affairs (OGA) has focused on ensuring that our graduate students and postdocs continue to receive support, despite the shutdown of labs and universities across the country. Through a grassroots-driven partnership with FGSA, APS OGA is urging federal agencies to continue to provide salaries and benefits. In addition, in preparation for any future phase of federal economic stimulus to respond to COVID-19, OGA has prepared a proposal for including scientific infrastructure in the funding package.
We acknowledge the stress so many in our community are experiencing as they close down research experiments and laboratories and pivot to teaching all courses online and hold office hours in cyberspace. The April APS News Back Page article contains some suggestions regarding successful transitioning to online teaching. In addition, we must especially look for ways to help our early career and student members, whose lives have been upended as institutes are shuttered and campuses are closed.
Other actions, both large and small, are taking place throughout our community to address critical needs resulting from the pandemic. Physics labs across the country are donating much-needed personal protective equipment to local hospitals. Several groups engaged in biological and medical physics are busier than ever, racing to develop knowledge that could lead to effective treatment. Although many national laboratories are temporarily shut down, some beamlines at synchrotrons such as SSRL at SLAC remain open for important research related to the COVID-19 virus.
Like other global threats our society has faced, from world wars to national disasters (both natural and man-made), this current situation is an existential challenge, which can accelerate positive change, spur innovation, and make us stronger and more resilient. APS exists to serve its members, the physics community, and society broadly. Learn more about our efforts on our COVID-19 response page. If there are additional actions you think we should be taking at this time, please let us know (firstname.lastname@example.org).
We send all best wishes to you and your families, and hope that you are able to stay healthy and strong.
Kate P. Kirby
Philip H. Bucksbaum