Thomas M. Baer
As the 50th anniversary of the first demonstration of the laser approaches, we have an opportunity to celebrate our history of discoveries, inventions, and challenges that were overcome through persistent curiosity. This is also an ideal time to look forward to a future filled with even more amazing scientific advances and world-shaping applications. For example, we have woven a web of single-mode fiber optics around the world, enabling almost instantaneous transfers of financial resources and the fundamental interlinking of national economies. Immediate access to information shapes public opinion, as Internet-savvy campaigns and voters know.
Further back in history, optical devices—the sextant and astrolabe—guided navigators sailing uncharted oceans. Today, inexpensive, handheld devices link to navigation satellites carrying optically pumped atomic clocks and hydrogen masers; these tools provide anyone with the ability to pinpoint their precise location within a few centimeters. Medical knowledge, previously enhanced by microscopy, now expands into three dimensions via high-resolution, whole-body images of human anatomy.
The OSA community stands at the center of this exciting photonics renaissance. The world leader for many years in providing the highest impact optics journals, OSA remains committed to maintaining excellence while exploring new approaches and more efficient means of offering rapid access to technical information. OSA’s latest innovative initiative in publishing, Interactive Science Publishing (ISP), offers readers the facility to visualize and evaluate source data published in conjunction with traditional text-based journal articles.
Supported by a collaboration between the OSA, the National Library of Medicine and the Air Force Office of Strategic Research, ISP enables researchers in fields such as medical imaging, oil exploration, climatology and pollution monitoring to develop and explore new methods of data visualization, as well as to objectively compare the performance of different image analysis and quantitation technologies. The first ISP publications are now accessible on Optics InfoBase, and several special feature issues will be published during 2009.
OSA’s topical meetings are the preferred venue for the latest reports on advances in many fields of optics. These meetings offer valuable opportunities for growing and renewing professional networks. However, the current economic climate puts pressure on research travel budgets. In response, OSA is exploring Web-based methods using video interlinks to multiple geographical sites, providing an interactive environment for information exchange and dialogue while limiting travel costs.
OSA student chapters have already begun to adopt this model. They have organized regional international meetings with video links to other student chapter centers around the world. We look to our young OSA leaders to help introduce these new technologies into our topical meetings.
Although based historically in the United States, OSA is truly an international society. Scientists and engineers residing outside the United States are the most rapidly growing fraction of our membership. The board of directors is focused on defining a comprehensive strategy and implementation plan to further enhance OSA’s global presence. I welcome your comments as we explore new ways to support the worldwide growth of our scientific community.
OSA faces challenges. Rapid changes in technology, progress brought about in many cases by technological advances we ourselves have pioneered, demand the evolution of OSA meetings and publications. We must decide which programs should continue, particularly in those areas where we excel, and which need to evolve. I plan to use these messages to encourage discussion and possibly generate some controversy in the OSA community. Please participate in this dialogue. I look forward to hearing from you!
— Thomas M. Baer