FPS VI: Improving the image of physics: a challenge

By . Published on 27 January 2015 in:
2015, January 2015, News,

Forty delegates met in Belgrade (RS) on 2 October 2014 in the marvellous surroundings of the University Rector’s Office for the EPS Sixth Forum Physics and Society.

FPS VI participants in Belgrade
FPS VI participants in Belgrade

By 16:00 Friday 3 October we were convinced that improving the image of physics will:

  • Increase the support for physics research funding through increased appreciation of physics among the public and politicians;
  • Increase the contribution of physics to the economy through increasing the number or physicists using their skills in the workplace;
  • Increase the numbers wishing to study physics which will ensure sufficient students entering physics departments and thereby guarantee the future skills supply to universities and businesses.

During the meeting, participants were challenged to work out why a laser spot was multiply reflected in a compelling argument by Gorazd Planinsic and Eugenia Etkina for students to be actively engaged with their studies.

Veronica Benson of the South East Physics Network [SEPnet] UK described undergraduate work placements to improve the image with employers while Ove Poulsen gave the employers’ perspective.
Hendricke Ferdinande introduced delegates to “Generation Z” and the messages needed to bridge the generation gap while Christophe Rossel challenged them to get involved in The International Year of Light.

But what of the general public – that hardest of audiences? Clare Harvey, Wendy Sadler, Lydia Sanmarti and Charlotte Thorley demonstrated the power of a careful choice of language and involving the audience from the beginning of a presentation.

The Forum meeting developed a set of challenges to policy makers:

Enhance the status of physics teachers:
a. Instigate national awards for physics teachers with media coverage.
b. A bonus/salary premium to demonstrate teachers’ value to society.

Enhance the employability of physics students:
a. Instigate national schemes of summer work placements for physics undergraduates.
b. Develop a Careers in Physics initiative to demonstrate the range of careers available to physics qualified people with training for teachers and lecturers in understanding the careers available.

Enhance the profile of physics including greater visibility on main stream media
a. Nominate annual ‘Physics Week’
i. Schools and universities motivated to put on physics events
ii. TV and radio encouraged to cover physics events
b. Festival organisers encouraged to have physics ‘stalls’ at events.

A. MacDonald, the chair of the by the EPS Forum Physics and Society thanked the participants and described the Belgrade meeting as “efficient and effective”.

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