The last in our series of articles on IOP strategy themes looks at what we’re doing to aid scientific discovery.
Learning more about how the universe works is valuable for its own sake, with the resulting deeper understanding of nature’s laws enriching all our lives.
But it also makes it possible to harness that newly discovered science in innovative ways that improve our lives. And discoveries such as that of the Higgs boson, of water on Mars, or of neutrino oscillation inspire people to find out more about physics, whether through formal education or through popular media – and even to create physics-themed art themselves.
IOP aims to support and celebrate scientific research, and we do this in a number of different ways.
The Institute’s publishing arm provides a range of journals, ebooks, magazines, conference proceedings and websites, allowing physicists to publicise their research and to stay on top of the latest developments in their field. On 2014, IOPP published more than 30,000 research articles across its 70 journals and magazines, and they were downloaded around 22 million times.
The annual IOP awards celebrate the best of the year’s scientific research, recognising the excellence of physicists at the top of the field and encouraging those that will follow them. The Institute’s many reports, booklets and videos on careers and professional development, and web service that helps members record their own development through each stage of their career, showcases the wealth of options available to people with physics qualifications and ensures that they have the skills they need for the modern workplace – meaning they’ll be best prepared to make those world-changing discoveries.
IOP’s conferences, of which there have been 29 during 2015 as of the end of October, bring together experts on a given subject to discuss and explore their research, helping to make advances in their subject area. The Topical Research Meetings, introduced in 2011 and happening once or twice a year are discussion style-meetings on major and topical themes in physics. The next event, on physical principles of biological and active systems, is set to take place in Edinburgh in January 2016.
Many conferences are organised by one of the Institute’s 50 subject groups, through which members can organise a variety of activities in support of their particular areas of interest. The IOP sees its groups as a prime mechanism to support science, and is keen to encourage more members use and engage with the groups – it’s really a primary benefit of IOP membership to be able to connect with other members working in related fields. The IOP wants its groups to be living and thriving, and would especially like to see more collaboration between different groups on interdisciplinary work and particularly from early-career researchers.
During 2015, the Research Student Conference Fund and CR Barber Trust Fund have been fully used, enabling 125 students to attend conferences where they otherwise would not have been able to. Among them, perhaps, will be someone destined to make one of those inspirational discoveries.