Interview of the Month: European Physical Society (01/2018)

Every month, for you, EPWS presents the characteristics and activities of one Member Association.

Read all the previous Interviews with our Members here

Our member for January is the association European Physical Society.



For the European Physical Society, Rüdiger Voss, Professor Emeritus CERN, David Lee, EPS Secretary General

5, rue des Frères Lumière
68200 Mulhouse
tel : +33 (0) 389 32 94 40
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Association website:



EPWS: If you wanted to describe your association in one sentence, what would you say?

The European Physical Society and its members promote the interests of physics and physicists in Europe.


EPWS: What are the objectives of your association?

To begin with, the EPS works to create a community of physicists. The community engages in activities that are both for the benefit of its members, and for the society in general. Community oriented activities include career development (for example through the organization of conferences, and the publication of journals), identification and recognition of scientific excellence (through prizes and awards), as well as promoting the next generation of physicists. The EPS provides a forum, bringing together physicists from different countries, working in all fields of physics for the exchange of ideas and experience. The EPS actively advocates for the interests of physics and research, particularly towards EU policy makers supplying a European view on important questions relating to physics. The EPS also engages in activities for the general public. Physics has made significant contributions to the social, cultural and economic development of Europe. It will be a key factor in facing challenges such as renewable energy, health and safe and secure societies. Understanding the important role of physics in these areas will be a useful element in developing appropriate policies and technologies.


EPWS: What is the history of the EPS, in a few words?

The EPS is a not-for-profit organisation created in 1968. It has 42 Member Societies, which are all national physical societies in the wider European region, individual members, as well as Associate Members, e.g. research institutions such as CERN and the CEA. Its membership and the focus of its activities have evolved over the past 50 years, following geopolitical changes.


EPWS: Could you explain the organization of your association?

The EPS is unique, as it is a federation of Member Societies as well as a learned society with over 3500 Individual Members. The scientific activities of the EPS are carried out in its 19 topical Divisions and Groups. Programs in fields such as Physics and Society, and Equal Opportunity are managed by Action Committees. On a daily basis, the EPS Secretariat in Mulhouse, France, provides central services for its Divisions and Groups for its various projects and programs. The Executive Committee, comprised of 11 members elected by the EPS Council, is charged with the establishing the annual budget, and monitoring activities and operations of the EPS. It also develops new initiatives as needed. The President, and President-elect, also elected by the EPS Council, are the main representatives of the EPS with sister societies from around the world, as well as the main advocates of the EPS towards decision makers. The annual Council meeting decides the strategic orientation of the Society, and assesses the relevance of EPS actions against these objectives. The Council is comprised of representatives of the Member Societies, Individual and Associate Members, and Division and Groups. The triennial General Meeting is open to all members and provides them with an opportunity to meet and exchange on issues relating to the future of the EPS.


EPWS: What are its recent achievements?

The Young Minds activity, which aims to provide young researchers with leadership and outreach skills, has now expanded to 22 countries, with more than 500 active members. Young Minds organize educational activities for their local communities.
Under the EPS Historic Sites initiative, more than 30 places have been inaugurated in 18 countries across Europe. This initiative recognizes places where important advances in physics have been made. They include places such as the Einstein Haus in Bern, and the laboratory of Marie Curie Skłodowska in Paris.
The EPS organizes many of the world’s leading Conferences in physics.
The EPS was at the origin of the declaration by UNESCO of 2015 as the International Year of Light. It will also be active in the International Day of Light (IDL), which has recently been decided by the UNESCO Governing Board. The IDL launch ceremony will take place in Paris on 16 May 2018.


EPWS: What is your agenda for the coming months?
The EPS will be active in providing input into the next European Commission Framework Program for research, FP9. Among EPS priorities are increased funds particularly for the ERC, safeguarding discipline specific science teaching (physics, mathematics, biology, chemistry etc.) and recognizing the importance of physics in addressing the societal challenges.
The EPS is also piloting a project that will consist of a series of articles that explore how physics can contribute to grand challenges facing society on the horizon 2050. This ambitious project is aimed at the general public and policy makers.

In 2018, the EPS will celebrate its 50th anniversary. A number of events are planned, including a special session at the EPS Council meeting in April, and a Forum Physics and Society Meeting in September.
Inspired by the work of the French Physical Society, the EPS will collect data on the representation of women at the conferences organized by its Divisions and Groups. These conference organizers will be asked to provide information on the number of women involved in the organization of the conference, plenary and invited speakers who are women, and the number of women participants. The goal is to discover whether there is a gender bias at EPS conferences, to sensitize EPS Divisions and Groups to gender fair practices, and develop policies addressing these issues.


EPWS: Are you collaborating with other EPWS members?
The EPS does not have any direct collaboration with members of EPWS. Nonetheless, it was the onsite organizer of the first International Conference of Women in Physics. In addition to the Gender Fair project described above, the EPS awards the Emmy Noether Distinction for outstanding contributions to physics by a woman twice per year, and regularly publishes interviews with young women researchers in our electronic bulletin e-EPS.


EPWS: What do you expect from EPWS? In what ways can it help you develop your action?
Information on the issues and best practice on the gender balance in research, as well as inclusion in activities of EPWS.



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