History and mission of the “Physics for Development” group (formerly called IGPD as Interdivisional group Physics for Development) .
Many believe that not much happens in Physics in developing countries and that research in Physics is largely in the hands of industrialized countries. Yet, the same will agree that Physics can address a large number of problems that developing countries have to face, and can find cheap and easy solutions to many of them, e.g. production of solar energy, monitoring of urban and rural pollution, medical applications, agriculture, mining, etc.
The problems encountered in Physics research and training in developing countries are acute. While they may vary from country to country, they obey more or less the same rules: serious lack of funding, which worsens with the economic situation, lack of public awareness, political instability, isolation of scientists, lack of institutional frameworks for research, difficult access to international publications, etc. . Yet at the same time, what is being and has been achieved, in terms of Physics teaching and research, is impressive and deserves admiration, given the local difficulties physicists have to face.
In parallel, and despite the many individual initiatives by European scientists to develop links with colleagues from Developing countries, it is fair to say that there is no initiative or policy by European countries (except for very few exceptions) or by the EU to strengthen the research potential of developing countries in Physics. At a time when Physics has become highly international and that European laboratories have more and more doctoral students from developing countries, leaving more than “the other half of the world” out of the game is just counterproductive, and we feel that the European Physics Community should grasp the importance of this issue.
While the awareness of the European Physical Society for Physics for Development dates back to 1981 when H. van Regemorter founded the Interdivisional Group of Physics for Development (IGPD) at the European Physical Society, the importance of pursuing the effort and making it more significant is crucial at present.
It is in the spirit of strengthening the research and training potential of Developing Countries in Physics that the Physics for Development group focused its efforts, despite its very limited funds:
- a) Grants for advanced schools and workshops in developing countries, with particular emphasis on participation by citizens from developing countries both at the level of lecturers and attendees.
- b) Grants for the bi-annual Southern European School of Physics which is targeted to students from the Developing countries.
- c) Short-term travel grants to physicists from developing countries that need to travel to a European country for training.
And last but not least EPS agreed to give a free membership to EPS for African scientists.