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ICPEAC: Report on the future

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This report describes the findings and recommendations of a recent study regarding the future of ICPEAC.

ICPEAC Futures Committee

Report and Proposals

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This report is based on e-mail feedback received from Futures Committee members, Nils Andersen, Fritz Aumayr, Steve Buckman, Joachim Burgdorfer, Eleanor Campbell, Lew Cocke, Nigel Mason, Isao Shimamura and Joachim Ullrich. Members were also made aware of a paper by Hartmut Hotop. Some of the issues were briefly discussed by Futures Committee members attending the Programme meetings in Cambridge, MA in July 2002 and Stockholm, March, 2003.

There is a good consensus on most issues raised. In particular a strong view emerges that this is the only truly international meeting covering a broad range of atomic collision physics and that it has served this community well over many years. Indeed some speak with affection of ICPEAC and the role it has played in the development of their research. Nevertheless, we need to be mindful of both scientific and logistical developments related to ICPEAC, but the majority view emerging is that our reaction to these should be evolutionary rather than revolutionary.

The comments following each of the proposals below summarise the views of a joint meeting of the Futures and General Committees held in the Manne Siegbahn Laboratory, University of Stockholm, on Friday evening, 25 July 2003.


1. ICPEAC should continue as a biennial meeting.

There was a large majority of members in favour of maintaining the 2 year cycle of meetings, with only one advocating a 3 year cycle. Both scientific and logistical reasons were given in support of the biennial cycle. For example, a triennial meeting would tend to either ignore important work conducted in the period following a meeting, or by its inclusion at the next meeting, make that programme seem dated. There is also a good possibility that the original work will have been superseded by new work and so never get the exposure at ICPEAC that it deserved. Logistically, it is recognised that moving away from the 2 year cycle would not eliminate clashes with other meetings. There is a consensus that ICPEAC, and hopefully other meetings, could be flexible on dates, especially within the July/August period. This will require careful co-ordination given the long (6 years) planning cycle for ICPEAC. Given that many delegates are unlikely to attend two major meetings within a short time period, due to financial or time constraints, an alternative is to seek joint meetings with others. There was some support for this, but as the exception rather than the norm.

Proposal accepted

2. The duration/format of the meeting should be the decision of the local organisers, with Executive Committee approval.

The length and format of the meeting has been discussed many times over the lifetime of ICPEAC. For some time it had settled into a Wednesday-Tuesday format with the weekend free for delegates and accompanying persons to pursue either organised events or their own itinerary. Recently there has been some variation on this (Sendai) and there now appears to be an acceptance that it is for the local organisers to propose alternatives to the standard format if they see fit. This view is strongly supported by the ICPEAC International Treasurer on the basis that it is the local organisers who bear the full financial risk associated with a meeting. This consideration probably has to outweigh any cost saving which might accrue to delegates from, say, a Tuesday- Saturday inclusive format, although they could be consistent.

There was considerable discussion on this proposal, resulting in votes being taken on various formats. These strongly favoured either a one or two day weekend break, with only a minority supporting a straight through meeting.
This was interpreted as broad support for the proposal.

3. Bids to host ICPEAC must demonstrate the availability of a range of accommodation, including low-cost student-type housing.

There is concern that the cost of ICPEAC has become high, especially for student participants who are the future of the meeting. This is at a time when funding agencies across the world are providing decreased levels of support. It is essential that local organisers provide at least cheap accommodation (university dormitories or subsidised housing) for students and delegates unable to afford high hotel costs. This should be one of the criteria used in the selection of conference venues.

It is pointed out that July/August is the period of highest international airfares. However, since the great majority of delegates come from the northern hemisphere and are free of university teaching commitments at this time, it is not surprising that there is little support for a move outside this time window.

Proposal supported

4. The number of plenary sessions should be increased from five to at least seven.

A strong view emerges that Plenary talks are generally of a very high standard and consideration should be given to the provision of more plenary slots. Poster sessions attract similar positive comments. However, a number of the Committee comment negatively on the general quality of the talks in the parallel Progress Reports/Reviews sessions. A unanimous view emerges that these talks should be selected purely on the basis of scientific merit and timeliness. It is perceived that these principles have sometimes been compromised to achieve nationalistic and other politically correct balances. (I was pleased that the desire to achieve nationalistic objectives by individuals was not obvious at the Cambridge, MA Programme meeting. It will be interesting to see if this leads to an improvement in the standard of these sessions in Stockholm.)

It would seem unfortunate to eliminate these sessions. An invitation to give one of these talks has marked a milestone in the research career development of many in our community. It is clearly important in the establishment of the academic and research careers of many young people and arguably we don't do enough to help younger members of our community enhance their CVs. The allocation of some of these sessions specifically to young people has been suggested. Perhaps there is a greater sense of satisfaction for them to be seen to be competing openly with some of the more mature. The reservation of some of these sessions for shorter selected topic presentations based on submitted abstracts has been a feature. Perhaps this could be expanded as a means of ensuring that the highest quality and most timely work is included.

There was considerable discussion with a view emerging that if all review talks, which sometimes failed to fulfil their intended role, were replaced by the shorter progress reports, then this could create space for a further one or possibly two plenary talks.


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