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Physics Benefits to being an APS member?

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  1. Sep 20, 2015 #1
    I was an APS member for a while, but when finances got tight I started wondering why I was spending so much for it. As I saw it, there were three benefits—a mailaps.org email address, APSNews, and discounts on conferences (which I couldn't afford to go to anyway)—which didn't seem worth the cost. And yes, APS does advocacy, but as a part-timer I can't afford to give so much to an advocacy group.
    I'd be interested to know if there are benefits that I have missed, particularly for a 40-year-old part-time stay-at-home dad trying to get his career back.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 20, 2015 #2
    I don't think I've missed much by not being a member these past few years.
     
  4. Sep 21, 2015 #3

    ZapperZ

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    That's like saying that you've stopped contributing to your PBS station, and you still get to view all the programs on it and haven't missed anything.

    If you do not make use of the discounts given for various activities etc., then you will not get any financial benefits from being an APS member, IF that is your only concern. For many of us who do attend several APS-sponsored conferences, these do save quite a bit of money, even if they came out of our funding grants.

    The APS is also a strong advocacy group, and it represents professional physicists in the US. Therefore, it does a lot of things beyond just publishing journals (which in itself is an expensive endeavor), provide internships, and sponsoring studies. All of these cost money, and memberships and financial contributions are necessary to accomplish all these. Every physicists in the US may not be an APS member, but in some way, whether directly or indirectly, each of them have derived benefits from it.

    So I am an APS member not simply because I derive direct benefits from my membership, but also due to a sense of fairness and putting in my fair contribution to an organization that collectively strengthen my field of study.

    ... very much the same way I contribute to my PBS station.

    Zz.
     
  5. Sep 21, 2015 #4
    There is no doubt that APS is heavily involved in advocacy. If I supported the kind of advocacy done by PBS, I would probably be a contributor to PBS.

    If I supported the advocacy done by APS, I would probably be a contributor. You might want to investigate more closely the kind of advocacy any group is doing and whether it aligns with your beliefs and interests before sending your money.

    APS lost my support when they become overly involved in political issues (like climate change).
     
  6. Sep 21, 2015 #5
    What I'm interested in are professional benefits. For example, mentoring: I have been a part-time stay-at-home dad, part-time adjunct professor for the past 8 years, and I need help getting back into physics, and I really don't know where to turn. It seems like a professional organization would be in the ideal position to provide that sort of service. But if they do, they don't seem to talk about it.

    Advocacy is great; I'm happy to send a few bucks to the FSF or the ACLU or PBS for that matter. But I don't send them $145/year, not on my salary.

    And I'm really not trying to knock APS. If I were full-time, this would be a no-brainer. If the APS offered a discounted rate for adjuncts, I would probably become a member again.
     
  7. Sep 21, 2015 #6

    StatGuy2000

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    Dr. Courtney, issues like climate change is not just a "political issue" but an issue that impacts the entire global population. Given that any attempts to address this will involve scientific input or expertise at some stage over another (not to mention that scientists as a group are especially well-informed enough and are positioned to potentially have influence over the broader society), it would seem strange to me for organizations like APS or the NSF to not be involved.
     
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2015
  8. Sep 21, 2015 #7

    bcrowell

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    I was an AAPT member for about 15 years, but I finally dropped out. They're basically part of the same umbrella organization as APS. The only benefits I got from membership were subscriptions to Physics Today and The Physics Teacher. Physics Today sucks, and should really be called Physics Yesterday. It's obviously run by a bunch of old guys who like to fill every issue with historical articles and obituaries. I can learn about current developments in the field much more efficiently and cheaply through online sources of information such as PF and arxiv. The Physics Teacher was useful to me over the years, and I even contributed one or two articles to them, but its utility was not in proportion to the very high cost of dues.

    It's been suggested in this thread that we should support APS because they publish journals. Yeesh. Those journals are paywalled, and since I teach at a community college, I can't even read them. No way am I paying someone else to publish paywalled content that I can't read. Journals are irrelevant and are going the way of the dinosaurs. Prepublication peer review is not particularly useful (and was not even a common practice, e.g., in Europe before ca. 1920), and in any case is done by unpaid volunteers. Journals only exist these days because people in academia want to be able to keep score of their publications. They hinder scientific inquiry rather than supporting it.

    Re political advocacy, if I want someone to lobby on a political issue, I'll give money to the appropriate political group. I do donate annually to the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. I resent it when groups like AAPT or my labor union use my dues money for political advocacy, because I often don't even agree with them on the issues they work on. As a CTA member, I'm very much hoping that the supreme court will rule against CTA in Friedrichs v. CTA, which they will probably hear in June: http://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/friedrichs-v-california-teachers-association/ .
     
  9. Sep 21, 2015 #8

    ZapperZ

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    I don't have to like every show on PBS to support it. I cringe every time I see anything done by Deepak Chopra aired on PBS. But I support the philosophy and idea of the station, and for most part, like the shows that they air.

    Not supporting APS because of their advocacy is like saying you do not support PF because of the nonsensical discussion on the Politics forum. It is such a minor part of their existence and their mission.

    Zz.
     
  10. Sep 21, 2015 #9

    bcrowell

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    These are apples-to-oranges comparisons. Forced political speech for a position I disagree with is very different from having some of my money to produce a TV show that I think is dumb, or supporting a forum where people are free to express views that disagree with mine.

    If APS's political advocacy is such a minor, irrelevant patr of what APS does, they should just stop doing it.
     
  11. Sep 21, 2015 #10

    ZapperZ

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    I disagree. As the largest body representing physicists, such an organization has always been asked for their opinions on various issues. They also provided timely and accurate information for congressional staffers on issues related to physics. So it is not something they can divorce themselves from.

    Besides, what percentage of their political advocacy that one has objection with here? This is not counting other non-political advocacy that they also do to promote physics education and physics literacy among the public.

    Zz.
     
  12. Sep 21, 2015 #11

    bcrowell

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    I have no idea what the percentage is, because APS never bothered to tell me what political advocacy they were doing. They just took my dues money and assumed consent. This is what's creepy about this kind of thing. Similar problem with teachers' unions. In Friedrichs v. CTA, what CTA wants is for union members like Friedrichs to be forced to pay their dues, including whatever portion of their dues is being used to support political speech. This political speech includes all kinds of advocacy on issues totally unrelated to education, including gun control, abortion, and immigration. They have fought hard to keep members from even learning that they could opt out of paying the portion of their dues that goes to political lobbying, and they've tried to prevent their members from opting out after a 6-week window. One thing that I will say for CTA is that, unlike APS, they are very up-front about what political causes they support. They send me a magazine every month that discusses this stuff in detail, so I knew exactly what forced political speech was being imposed on me. (I just didn't know until this year that I had the ability to opt out.) On the other hand, I never had any clue during the 15 years that I was an APS member that they were using my dues for political lobbying.
     
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2015
  13. Sep 21, 2015 #12
    Wow, this thread went in the wrong direction. *sigh*
     
  14. Sep 22, 2015 #13

    jedishrfu

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    And Scott you were saying about APS...

    I had an opportunity years ago to join but never did primarily because of the dues and because I couldn't read the published articles in Physics Today (undergrad) and tended to read Scientific American or Nature.

    I also agree with the problem of pay-walled articles and the throttle that publishers have on the marketplace. I've seen it in other professional organizations as well. How did that even happen?
     
  15. Sep 22, 2015 #14

    ZapperZ

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    I was going to let this go, but something should be said about this.

    In my professional experience, the APS has been the MOST generous organization as far as their journal goes. Not only do they not have any kind of embargo on submitted manuscript, authors are also freely given permission to put up their submitted manuscript to ArXiv. In fact, you could submit your manuscript to ArXiv AND an APS journal almost automatically.

    And they have been very accommodating in giving as much access to the public as possible. This was illustrated clearly when they made ALL APS journals available for FREE at all US public libraries. Authors are also not restricted to upload the published paper onto their own personal website, and many have done this. Their multi-tiered fees system means that small institutions pay very little to get site-wide access to their journals. So if your institution doesn't have access to these journals, ask the librarian or the institution to seek access!

    Edit: I forgot to add that THREE of APS journals are also open access. PRX, PRST-AB, and PRST-PER are all available for free! And if you think these are irrelevant journals, PRST-AB has become the most preeminent journal, outside of PRL, for accelerator science.

    Zz.
     
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2015
  16. Sep 22, 2015 #15

    jedishrfu

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    Sorry, Zz I didn't mean to attack the APS in particular. I was thinking more about the Aaron Swartz case and JStor where articles were funded by tax payer dollars and subscribers were being charged for access.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/JSTOR
     
  17. Sep 22, 2015 #16

    bcrowell

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    It's true that there's a big difference between APS and scum like Elsevier. However, your word "generous" implies that there was something that was rightfully theirs in the first place. Most of the research published in APS journals was funded with the money of US taxpayers. If it's tax-funded, then anything less than full open access is a form of theft.

    This is a step in the right direction, but I could already access APS journals by driving to a university library. This just means I have a closer library I can drive to. Either way, APS is throttling the dissemination of research rather than fostering it. This is the 21st century. It's absurd for me to get in my car and pump carbon into the atmosphere in order to move information from point A to point B.

    I guess I could ask the community college where I work to pay for access to APS journals, but I don't know how much money you mean when you say "pay very little." Considering that it's not a research institution, and they have a very limited budget, it's hard for me to imagine in good conscience asking them to pay for that. If they had a little extra money, it might be more appropriately spent on increasing the library's hours, which are extremely limited.
     
  18. Sep 22, 2015 #17

    jedishrfu

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    So to conclude this thread Pros and Cons are:

    Pros:
    - no embargo on authored articles, author free to post on Arxiv too
    - lobbies for Physics Research
    - provides job marketplace
    - discounts on APS merchandise
    - political involvement

    Cons;
    - cost of membership
    - political involvement
     
  19. Sep 22, 2015 #18

    ZapperZ

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    Sorry, but you have a very naive view of this. There are many US taxpayers funded research that were given to private companies that are never part public information. Many SBIR companies that existed solely based on funding from DOE can copyright and patent their work. None of them belong to the public.

    And no, you may need access to get those papers from their journal websites, but you are never restricted in getting those papers by other means. In fact, DOE, NIH, NSF, CERN, etc have all instituted directives to make sure that all of their funded work are available for free by making sure the authors load them somewhere. So if you want a paper, ASK the author!

    Lastly, the percentage of non-US funded papers in the Phys. Rev. Journals have significantly increased. So the APS journals are not just the domain of work funded by the US taxpayers. Should you get free access to those as well since you didn't pay for them?

    Zz.
     
  20. Sep 22, 2015 #19

    StatGuy2000

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    Getting back on topic....

    To the OP:

    I am a statistician, not a physicist, but I am currently a dues-paying member of the American Statistical Association (ASA), the equivalent to the APS for statisticians. The benefits that I gain from being a member include news about conferences, networking opportunities with fellow members, access to specific journals electronically (at least for free, and a small additional fee on top of the dues for paper access), job postings, webinars on relevant topics, etc.

    I would presume that some or all of the above benefits should also be available for APS members. It's easy to assume that mentoring of the kind you're seeking should be something that a professional organization like the APS or ASA should help. However, IMHO, mentoring of the kind you're seeking is really something that is most readily accomplished by speaking to or meeting 1-1 with other professionals, and I'm skeptical of the effectiveness of large organizations to mentor individual professionals effectively (unless if the organizations offer specific workshops dedicated to career mentoring), although the networking opportunities you gain will allow you to contact or connect with members who could provide you with the career mentoring you seek.

    Ultimately, it is up to you to decide whether the $145 per year is worth the above benefits you could potentially gain.
     
  21. Sep 22, 2015 #20

    atyy

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    How is this different from the policy of an Elsevier journal such as Physics Letters B?

    http://www.elsevier.com/journals/physics-letters-b/0370-2693/guide-for-authors
     
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