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History of AAPT — Committee Structure

It is understandable that in relinquishing its role as a separate entity, the Commission on College Physics should try to create a body that would replace it in some sense, a body that would perform other functions as well as holding meetings and publishing journals, the primary activities of AAPT. To this end the Association created what was called the Council on Physics in Education (CPE). This council was to be a central policy committee, subsidiary to the AAPT Executive Board, but one to which the so-called action committees would report and through which recommendations for action by the board would be filtered. Its makeup was diverse: it included the President, President-Elect and Past President of AAPT, two representatives from AIP, and others elected by AAPT membership or appointed by the AAPT council on nomination from CPE itself. Every level of physics education, from elementary through graduate school, was to be represented.

At first CPE met separately for extensive discussions, but as financial stringency increased, its meetings were confined to times of regular Association meetings. It published a series of newsletters, either separately or in AJP. It was an unwieldy body, and its influence waned as ambitious projects became less feasible. Its functions have now been distributed among other policy committees, as we shall see.

Committees have always been necessary to the functioning of the Association, but until 1972 they had been created only as their need became apparent. Special purpose committees, appointed by the President or the Executive Board, included those that set up journals, or organized the preparation of publications such as books, manuals, special reports, etc. There were also continuing committees, such as those on apparatus, on visual aids, and on the maintenance and solicitation of membership. Two committees came to be prescribed by the constitution: that on awards and that on nomination, the latter to be appointed partly by the Executive Board and partly by the regional section representatives.

The pattern of other committees adopted by the Executive Board in June 1972 comprised seven "action" committees, more accurately area committees, as they were renamed in 1976. There are now (2003) 16 Area Committees on: Apparatus, Astronomy Education, Educational Technologies, Graduate Education in Physics, History and Philosophy of Physics, International Education, Laboratories, Minorities in Physics, Physics in High Schools, Physics in Pre-High School Education, Physics in Two-Year Colleges, Physics in Undergraduate Education, Professional Concerns, Research in Physics Education, Science Education for the Public, and Women in Physics. Each committee has nine members with staggered three-year terms: One new member is appointed each year by the Nominating Committee, and two are appointed by the incoming President.

The advisory committee responsibilities correspond to their names: Personnel and Finance, Publications, Membership and Benefits, and Programs (primarily for planning meetings). There is also an overall Review Board, chaired by the Past President. The Council on Physics Education has been abolished. The advisory committees are essentially subcommittees of the Executive Board, with some additional members: Publications includes the Resource Letter Editor and Examinations Editor, and the Programs Committee includes the chairpersons of all area committees. Moreover, Membership and Benefits, chaired by the Treasurer of AAPT, consists largely of members selected by the regional section representatives. Special ad hoc committees may be appointed as needed for specific tasks.

The administrative body of the Association is the Executive Board, made up of all the officers, the chair and vice chair of the section representatives, and three elected members. These elected members represent three areas, namely pre-college, two-year college, and four-year college or university. The Executive Officer and the Editors of the American Journal of Physics and The Physics Teacher are non-voting Executive Board Members, ex officio. The primary governing body is the Council, made up of the Executive Board and the representatives of the regional sections. The council meets officially once each year, during the Annual Winter Meeting of the Association.

In addition to maintaining its internal committee structure, AAPT cooperates with a variety of organizations having overlapping interests. We have noted several activities conducted jointly with AIP, particularly within the area of physics education. The Association is represented on the AIP Governing Board by four members. (This number is fixed according to the relative membership of the societies.) Officers and other members of AAPT participate in AIP committees that oversee all the various services provided by the Institute for its member societies. Of these societies the one most closely related to the Association is The American Physical Society. The two once held joint meetings and have jointly sponsored conferences at other times.

In 1973, after a lapse of more than half a century, the APS established a committee on education upon the recommendation of a committee on the future of APS chaired by Ronald Geballe. Its major goals were defined as: "(1) to influence the style and extent of graduate education in physics; (2) to make faculty and students aware of the challenging technological problems of industry; (3) to examine the need for continuing education of practicing physicists and to recommend a possible program for the APS; and (4) to develop an effective partnership with AAPT in matters of common interest." Many of its members are members of AAPT as well.

The Association since its inception has been affiliated with the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and is represented on Section B (Physics) and Section Q (Education). Other organizations to which AAPT appoints representatives include the U.S. National Committee of the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics, and several committees on metric practice and education. An organizational directory listing the names and addresses of the people filling these various roles, appears in the Spring issue of Interactions each year.