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The 20th Anniversary of the Asia Pacific Center for Theoretical Physics (APCTP): Striding Toward the
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The 20th Anniversary of the Asia Pacific Center for Theoretical Physics (APCTP): Striding Toward the Future


This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Asia Pacific Center for Theoretical Physics (APCTP). Since its establishment in 1996 as an international nongovernmental organization, APCTP has grown in scope and influence, especially after its relocation in 2001 to Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH) in South Korea. There were initially 10 member countries, and now the number of member countries has increased to 16. About 50 academic activities are held annually with the support of about 15 administrative staff members. Out of these activities, more than 10 activities are normally held either in the member countries or with renowned institutes, in accordance with their respective memorandums of understanding (MoUs) with the center. The center also houses more than 25 researchers.

Looking back upon the past 20 years, we experienced many changes in the research environment in the Asia Pacific region. We hope that the changes that occurred in the past and those that may happen in the future will increase the center's ability to adapt and prepare for the future.

I strongly believe the key concept to our center's future is 'international cooperation'. This is because APCTP was founded upon a principle of international collaboration and support, and this innate characteristic is something that other institutes in the region do not possess. This concept of international cooperation can be realized only when member countries actively participate in the center's programs and activities, and cooperate in organizing, selecting and operating the center's academic activities.

With its distinctive focus on international collaboration and organization, the center should become ever more active as a global network hub in the field of theoretical physics in the Asia Pacific region. Clearly, there are many institutes in the Asia Pacific region, and it is encouraging that we see more and more cooperative activities among these institutes. However, these activities are generally limited to bilateral arrangements or exchanges with a few institutes. The center can and should help all institutes, connected cooperatively, from the member countries. APCTP's role as a hub could unite all the institutes as a single large entity in coherence in the Asia Pacific region, in a way similar to how the EU connects European countries. The network could include comprehensive central information services, such as academic activities and researcher recruitment in the Asia Pacific region. Moreover, a more extensive academic network for the Asia-Pacific region would strengthen and enhance exchanges by researchers, by lowering the barriers for researchers to travel to and work with different institutes. This would certainly make the Asia Pacific region even more attractive to researchers worldwide.

The center should pay special attention to training young and promising scientists in the Asia Pacific region. One of the particular advantages of this region is the widespread intellectual inquisitiveness and determination of the youth in the region. However, the environment for proper scientific training in many member countries is still lacking. APCTP is running the postdoctoral Young Scientist Training Program (YST), and there are calls for the expansion of this program. In particular, there is quite high demand to introduce and strengthen the programs for graduate students as well as for new faculty members in developing member countries. The help and leadership of advanced member countries in these programs will be highly desirable for the programs' success.

The extension of APCTP's relations with other international forums and organizations such as Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the Association of Asia Pacific Physical Societies (AAPPS), the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP), and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), etc., should also help to increase APCTP's international role. In this aspect, the APEC YST program that APCTP launched last year and the 1st APEC-PPSTI (Policy Partnership on Science, Technology and Innovation) "APEC Centers" Cooperation Conference hosted by APCTP this June were positive moves. Future cooperation through scientific activities with AAPPS divisions should contribute to the scientific enhancement of the Asia Pacific region.

For APCTP to be able to meet the demands of the future and become internationally well recognized, many things would need to be restructured. For example, several senior scientists, who would stay at the center with at least semi-permanent status and who would help lead the center through their scientific activities, are desperately needed. For APCTP to become an outstanding international institute beyond the regional scope, it cannot be overemphasized that the system must then be advanced and flexible enough to let highly qualified scientists (whether from the host country, member countries, or from places worldwide) lead and implement their visions. Furthermore, the organization of the center should reflect the diversity of the member entities.

During the past several decades, the scientific contribution of researchers in the Asia Pacific region has, in every area of physics, been increasing. It is certain that the Asia Pacific region will become even more important for physics in the future. In my capacity as president, I look forward to seeing APCTP contribute ever more significantly for the Asia Pacific region, and I am confident that our researchers will be leading fundamental scientific advancements internationally.


Bum-Hoon Lee received his bachelor's and master's degrees in physics from Seoul National University and a Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1989. After working as a research fellow at the University of North Carolina and the University of Minnesota, he became a professor of physics at Hanyang University in 1990. He then moved to Sogang University in 1996 and founded the Center for Quantum Spacetime in 2005. He served as an auditor and trustee of APCTP from 2010 to 2015 and was appointed as 6th President of APCTP in June 2015. His research field is Quantum Field Theory and Superstring Theory.

AAPPS Bulletin        ISSN: 2309-4710
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