BELLINGHAM, WA—By now you’ve probably seen the SPIE press releases “Hong Kong Optical Engineering Society is launched” and “Photonics Society of Poland is launched.” While the announcements are recent and describe how the former SPIE chapters are becoming independent entities, SPIE’s decision to retire its regional chapters goes back to 2005 when an SPIE Board of Directors task force developed the SPIE Global Strategy Initiative to increase its international efforts. “The task force concluded that direct interaction between local professional communities and SPIE would enable more effective support of international interaction than through the Regional Chapters,” said Amy Nelson, public relations manager of SPIE and SPIE Europe. “SPIE is a dynamic organization, and recognizes that traditional structures may not best serve in the global/flat-Earth era. Looking at the makeup of SPIE’s recent leadership gives a sense of global perspective of the Society.”
In an October 2007 article in the members-only SPIE Professional magazine entitled “SPIE Expands its Global Efforts,” the goals of the SPIE initiative were clearly delineated. In essence, members working on the initiative found that SPIE needed to develop a systematic approach to identifying, documenting, and building relationships with and engaging people from key organizations throughout the world. “We weren’t efficiently using our resources,” said Janice Walker, SPIE senior director, events and global services. “Requests for support would come in and SPIE lacked criteria and rationale to base a decision on. There were missed opportunities because we didn’t coordinate efforts.” In response, the initiative identified significant focus areas such as implementing systematic outreach strategies and increasing worldwide awareness of available SPIE resources.
One of the new directions was to retire the SPIE regional chapters in a way that would better address the very different and individual needs of each chapter, as well as opening up SPIE resources to non-SPIE members and organizations. “Chapters are something of a U.S. cultural construct, and SPIE is sensitive to this,” said Eugene Arthurs, SPIE’s CEO. “The transition of a chapter into a new local society aligns with the E.U. desire to foster local organizations, and in Asia with the growing strength of science and technology capability. Those who were leaders of the former chapters are also becoming leaders of the local optical societies. Changes the internet made to international communication meant that a major role for the chapters was gone. Overall, the need for the chapters was no longer there.”
Nelson explained that the newly formed Hong Kong Optical Engineering Society and the Photonics Society of Poland offer good examples of how the needs of local groups differ.
In Hong Kong, initial programs focus on fostering ties between education and industry. The Hong Kong Optical Engineering Society (HKOES), formerly the SPIE Hong Kong Chapter, wants to focus on optics promotion in schools. According to Chi-Man Fok, chairman of the Board of Directors for HKOES, the new society’s membership structure will build up larger numbers and include companies.
In Poland, the local society’s inaugural event was a conference, and they are interested in pursuing some new publication models. The Photonics Society of Poland has begun integrating activities with the Committee of Electronics and Telecommunication of the Polish Academy of Sciences and the Committee of Optoelectronics of the Society of Polish Electrical Engineers.
“The relationships between SPIE and our friends and colleagues from the former regional chapters have many dimensions that extend beyond standard business interactions,” Arthurs said. “SPIE is proud of any role that it may have played in supporting optics and photonics in these areas.”