During a session of the EPS Executive Committee, the Committee of European Integration of the European Physical Society (CEI-EPS) organised a meeting of physical societies of the EPS that are on the periphery of the European Union, or are members of the Balkan Physical Union. The purpose of the meeting was to share information among each of the societies and identify common issues affecting the societies and physics in their respective countries. Following the presentations, ideas for action by the EPS would be explored.
Presentations were made by:
- Bulgarian Physical Society (Alexander PETROV)
- Hellenic Physical Society (Paasikivi KLEIDERI)
- Hungary – Eotvos Lorand Physical Society (Balazs UJFALUSSY)
- Macedonia – Society of Physicists (Riste POPESKI-DIMOVSKI)
- Moldovan Physical Society (Viorel CIORNEA)
- Serbian Physical Society (Goran DJORJEVIC)
- Romanian Physical Society (Victor Nicolae ZAMFIR)
- Turkish Physical Society (Gulfem SUSOY DOGAN)
- Ukrainian Physical Society (Igor ANISIMOV)
- SEENET–MTP, integration and improved competitiveness in Physics (Goran DJORDJEVIC)
- BPU, more than 30 years of science promotion in Balkans (Alexander PETROV/ Kostas VOURLIAS)
The EPS can help these societies to address specific issues and discuss with national politicians.
Quality of Physics
The countries that attended the meeting all stated that the quality of physicists in their countries at the present time is rather good. The educational system that trained them was very good, leading to high quality research opportunities and results. However, the situation is degrading at present, notably as a result of a lack of research funding and of the disregard of physics as an important teaching subject at schools. This will lead to a decline in the number and quality of physicists trained in their countries. The consequence is evidently a brain drain to other richer countries, and this already at the high school level!
The economies of the represented countries are not developing. Budgets in research, education, libraries etc. are being cut. There is a shortage of governmental financing for research projects in physics. If any financing it is aimed mainly for short term projects.
The quality of physics education, in particular at the secondary school level is a cause for concern in all countries invited to attend the meeting. Physics as a separate subject is being phased out of the high school programmes, demonstrating the general decrease of support for science and physics by national governments. In several countries there is also a lack of experimental laboratory facilities at the school level..
Few of the societies represented are involved in curricula development. However, curricula development is essential to ensure that modern teaching techniques are introduced into the classrooms. Teacher training is very poor, and the number of qualified teachers in physics is very low. Only the Hungarian Physical Society has a large portion of high school physics teachers among its members. It is necessary to design curricula that will increase the students’ interest in physics.
The level of education, including education in sciences should also be an essential condition when applying for membership in the EU. The pressure should be put by the EU on countries wishing to become members of the Union.
International Collaboration/European Participation
Many physicists in the region feel isolated from their colleagues in the rest of the world. Participation in EU Projects is a good way for them to develop contacts and networks with physicists in other countries. The EPS has addressed this issue in a series of workshops organised with the CEI-Trieste and ICTP.
Access to international research facilities is another issue for physicists in the countries that attended the meeting. The size of the communities in a given field is not big enough to justify the membership fees in many of the European and International research centres. The EPS helped to organise a workshop (INARIE) that addressed these issues as well.
Joint studies focusing on specific issues, comparing the situation in different sets of countries is an idea to be explored. Independent expertise of research projects, coordination of efforts in physics education, joint projects on societal issues of interest for whole Europe are needed.
Many of the societies present have activities that are international (e.g. prizes). However, the international participation is often too low. Communication of the possibility to participate in these activities is needed.
Brain drain is a recurrent problem. Without creating challenging research positions in these countries, the most talented people will leave to find work in Western Europe and the US.
Large scale outreach activities open to countries in the region are appreciated. Many of the countries that attended the meeting were involved in organising outreach activities during the World Year of Physics (2005) and the International year of Light (2015). EPS is encouraged to continue to explore and pilot these types of activities.
A series of actions have been listed by the participants to improve the situation of physics in this region of Europe.