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Duncan T. Moore (2011-2014), January 2012

Duncan Moore calls for members’ input to ICO’s strategic plan.


ICO President, Duncan Moore ,is the Rudolf and Hilda Kingslake Professor of Optical Engineering, Professor of Biomedical Engineering, and Professor of Business Administration at the University of Rochester, USA.

The world has changed in extraordinary ways since a small group of creative, collaborative scientists founded the International Commission for Optics (ICO) 65 years ago and the world of optics has changed right along with it.

Optical fibers usher our data across the world in a fraction of a second. Satellites chock full of optical components beam our cell phone signals to every corner of the globe. Lasers help produce music of a quality that was once the province of elaborate orchestras. And ICO officials now “meet face to face” several times a year via Skype, a technology that wasn’t ever dreamed of when ICO was founded in 1947.

Change is relentless. That’s why it’s crucial for ICO to embark on a strategic planning process. The bureau will meet in Genoa, Italy, for a retreat on 1–2 July to begin the process of drafting a strategic plan for review at the next general assembly, to be held in Spain in 2014. Current and former officers of ICO are part of the process, and input from all of our members is crucial.

ICO has a rich history. Our organization was founded as an affiliated commission of the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP). IUPAP is one of about two-dozen scientific unions organized in the early part of the last century that are part of the International Council of Scientific Unions. ICO currently includes members from 52 territories.

But who are we, really, and where are we going? We consider ourselves to be the international meeting place for optics and photonics. Yet in recent years many other optical societies have expanded rapidly into the international arena. It’s absolutely critical at this juncture that we consider what we uniquely have to offer.

The planning process has several components, including an evaluation of what we have to offer in the world as it is today, and as it may be in 10, 25 or even 50 years. Today, global economies continue to shake off the effects of the biggest economic downturn since the Great Depression. Bluntly, these are among the most challenging economic times that the world has faced since ICO was born. And so boosting economies and creating jobs are among the greatest needs across the globe.

At the same time, we are privileged to be immersed in what may be the most exciting industry on the planet. As we discussed in Sydney in 2008 and again in Puebla last year, we need to consider and expand the role of optics in developing economies worldwide. We all know of incredibly bright, talented young people graduating from fine programmes, ready to push the boundaries of science. They attend scientific meetings, publish in journals and contribute to the world of science in crucial ways. But have we, their mentors, done our part? Have we done all that we can to make sure that these students are equipped with the skills to evaluate their discoveries, new technologies, in terms of business opportunities? Nearly every large company, employing hundreds or thousands of people, once started out as a very small company, a group of like-minded individuals (sometimes just a single individual) confident that their idea could make a difference in the lives of others. We need to do all that we can to nourish this potential. Technology like optics is a driver that can truly ignite an economy.

An important part of the future is ensuring the stability and vitality of our organization’s finances. I am pleased to announce that ICO is in the early stages of launching the first fundraising campaign in its history. Already, ICO has received a most generous pledge of $20000 from our former treasurer, Sandy Sawchuk, professor and chair of electrical engineering systems at the University of Southern California. This is a wonderful first step forward, and I hope to have more such examples to share with you during the three years that I will serve as president.

Equally important to ICO’s future is increasing our membership in ICO, and the commitment of members to the organization. ICO is an all-volunteer organization, and your input and time are wonderful assets to share with the organization. As part of your involvement, please consider nominating a colleague for the ICO Prize and the Galileo Galilei Award, whose nominations are due in April.

I’d like to extend my heartfelt thanks to Maria Calvo, immediate past-president of ICO, for the wonderful job that she did for the last three years. I also want to thank Ari Friberg who has served as secretary, president and past -president. Please join the rest of the bureau and me as we begin our strategic planning process; contact any member of the bureau with input or suggestions. This is your organization, and we need your talents as we set our sights on 2014 and beyond.

Duncan T. Moore
ICO President
January 2012