AIP | Matters
-- -- April 16, 2012

Fred Dylla Director's Matters

By H. Frederick Dylla, Executive Director & CEO

Public Access at home with the US House Science Committee

At the end of March I was invited to testify to Congress on a subject that has occupied much of my time over the past few years: public access to the results of federally funded scientific research. How this complicated issue is handled through public policy is extremely important to AIP, its Members Societies, and all who participate as publishers or readers of scholarly publications.

Congress is trying to figure out in what manner should the public, as taxpayers who pay for scientific research, have access to scholarly publications that stem from that research. Like many of my colleagues in the publishing community, I support this noble goal. Wide availability benefits the research community and the interested public alike. But herein lies the problem: we are driven to make published works freely available, but they are not free of cost. Although taxpayers may pay for the research, they presently do not pay for publishing the research results. Considerable resources are required to manage the essential peer review process, prepare the accepted manuscripts, deliver them through a variety of online and print forms, and archive the works for continued access. All told for AIP journals, this added value costs an average of $2000 per scholarly published article. AIP recoups this cost through subscription fees to its journals.

On March 29 a subcommittee of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee held a hearing on this subject, chaired by Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA). This was the proper venue, because it was the House Science Committee which laid the groundwork for an extended study of this issue when it empanelled the Scholarly Publishing Roundtable in June of 2009. Many of the Roundtable's recommendations were incorporated in Section 103 of the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010, calling for federal funding agencies to engage key stakeholders in the development of pragmatic public access policies. Sitting at the witness table, I joined two of my Roundtable colleagues, Crispin Taylor, the executive director of the American Society of Plant Biologists, and Scott Plutchak, the director of Lister Hill Library at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Also testifying were Stuart Shieber of Harvard University and Elliot Maxwell, the author of a recent study on public access for the Center for Economic Development. One of the central themes of my testimony is that existing law is working.

Chairman Broun and Ranking Member Paul Tonko (D-NY) both observed in their opening statements that public access was a complex issue and referred to the engagement process laid out by the COMPETES legislation. Their comments pointed to agency/stakeholder collaborations currently underway. (The initiatives that involved AIP and eight other publishers, including AAS, APS, together with the DOE and NSF, are briefly described in my column dated March 26.)

For those interested, all of the testimony and a webcast of the hearing are posted on the House Science Committee website. Given the importance of this subject to the research community, there was commentary posted on a number of national publications several hours later—see the Chronicle of Higher Education and ScienceInsider. For a good summary of the hearing, consult Richard Jones' recent FYI.

What comes next? We understand that the House Science Committee may hold a follow-up hearing, given that the Office of Science and Technology Policy has just released its report on public access. As policy discussions continue, we will continue to advance the process set in motion through our collaborations with the DOE and NSF. Together we hope to demonstrate that such partnerships significantly advance public access and related issues, such as interlinking the world's databases and platforms from public and private sources, improving discovery tools for readers to find relevant information from these vast international collections, and archiving this content in perpetuity. These goals may be ambitious, but they are achievable.
Publishing Matters

Jules Routbort In Memoriam: Jules Routbort

We are saddened to report the sudden passing of Applied Physics Letters (APL) Senior Associate Editor Jules L. APL coverRoutbort. Dr. Routbort joined the journal as an associate editor in 1992 and became senior associate editor in 2008, in concurrence with his regular research work as a senior scientist at Argonne National Laboratory. In his 20-year dedicated service to the journal, he efficiently shepherded thousands of submitted papers through the peer review system and constantly strived to maintain the high standards of APL publications. His judgment was always fair and firm. The American Institute of Physics joins the entire APL community in honoring Dr. Routbort's legacy of excellence.
Physics Resources Matters

Elegant Connections in Physics

Dwight E. Neuenschwander The SPS Observer and Radiations, the magazines of the Society of Physics Students (SPS) and Sigma Pi Sigma (ΣΠΣ), respectively, have been greatly enriched over the past 15-plus years by the vision, service, and leadership of their editor, Dr. Dwight E. Neuenschwander of Southern Nazarene University. In addition to his role as SPS Editor, Neuenschwander (or "Ed" for short), a former director of SPS and ΣΠΣ, and currently the at-large member of the SPS Executive Committee, has made substantial contributions to the science content of both periodicals with his Elegant Connections in Physics articles that have appeared in every issue of both magazines since the late 1990s. These in-depth tutelages aim to develop physics appreciation, highlight the relation of physics to other fields, expound on recent and historical discoveries, and most importantly, teach some physics. While Ed has recently transitioned out of the role of SPS editor, we are delighted that he will continue his Elegant Connections (EC) series as a contributing author.

An F5 tornado heading for Neuenschwander’s neighborhood in Piedmont, OK, on May 24, 2011. This photo was taken by a neighbor, Terry Harris, who ducked for cover immediately after capturing the image. Ed's recent EC articles have garnered a lot of attention and positive feedback, along with requests for reprints. The Fall and Winter 2011 issues of The SPS Observer featured a two-part EC on "The Physics of Tornados," inspired by the author's much-too-close encounter with an F5 tornado in May 2011. "Our twister was on the ground for 65 miles, and when it passed through our neighborhood it was over half a mile wide and rain-wrapped. . . . When it hit our street, 17 of 21 houses were cleaned off down to their concrete slabs." Ed's house was one of them.

His most recent EC article in Radiations, "NASA After the Space Shuttle: Begin in a Museum" (Fall 2011), is a comprehensive history of human flight and spaceflight, from early fictional accounts through the 2011 retirement of NASA's Space Shuttle fleet. The piece has come to the attention of Dr. Thomas Armstrong, an emeritus professor of physics at the University of Kansas, who has done a lot of work with NASA and has requested reprints of the article for upcoming lectures. Armstrong states, "Neuenschwander's article is the most concise and well written of any I have ever seen. I am doing a couple of space history public talks and will appeal significantly to his article." Hard copies of both EC articles can be obtained from the AIP Education Division.

Speaking on behalf of the SPS and ΣΠΣ membership, Director Gary White remarks, "We salute you, Ed, for your great contributions to physicists everywhere and look forward to benefitting from your leadership for many years to come."
Coming Up

April 14–15

  • AAS-sponsored workshop on observations and outreach for Solar Eclipse 2017 (College Park, MD)

April 16–19

  • 2012 Industrial Physics Forum (Trieste, Italy)

April 18–19

  • Astronomical Plates workshop, sponsored by AIP Center for History of Physics and AAS (College Park, MD)

April 23–25

  • Individual TIAA counseling sessions (Melville, NY)

Tuesday, April 24

  • Brown bag lunch: "A Year in a Solar-Powered House," 12 – 1pm (College Park, MD)

Wednesday, April 25

  • ACP employee appreciation spring breakfast (College Park, MD)

April 27–29

  • 2nd Annual USA Science & Engineering Festival (Washington, DC).
    As part of the event, SPS will join forces with APS, AAPT, ASA, OSA, and the University of Maryland's MRSEC program to create a one-of-a-kind physics circus "Big Top Physics".  Click here to volunteer your time at the booth.

Monday, April 30

  • EEO and harassment training (Melville, NY, and College Park, MD)