Issues that concern science of engineering itself or a branch thereof: scientific manpower, education, and other matters that coincide closely with the interests of a given society.
Issues of public welfare with a large technical component on which a society and its members can offer advice by virtue of their special knowledge.
In dealing with these issues, scientific and engineering societies have several options. They can develop and publish objective analyses of major problems. They can adopt or oppose a particular position in Congressional testimony, in dealings with federal agencies, by news releases, or in other ways. Societies or their members can form new groups specifically to cope with one or more special questions. All of these options are exercised from time to time by societies and special-purpose groups of scientists or engineers. The technical societies have tended to focus their efforts of this type at objective analyses of major problems in public policy that fall within their particular technical competence.
In this respect, scientific and engineering societies have found active encouragement from government on the grounds that failure of societies to involve themselves in the legislative process creates an imbalance in the flow of information to Congress. The ethical obligation of professionals to speak out on technical issues of public concern has recently been emphasized by the creation of a “Clearinghouse for Professional Responsibility.” This body receives and investigates complaints of alleged unethical or wasteful practices of organizations and advises on possible courses of action when such practices are found. Technical societies could serve the public by judging whether or not this idea of a “Clearinghouse” has merit, and might consider undertaking a similar role themselves.
How can a professional society of materials science and engineering serve the varied technical needs of individuals in the field and at the same time speak out on broad national problems involving materials? A good possibility to achieve this lies in the recent formation of the Federation of Materials Societies. The formal examination of a Federation of Materials Societies started* at a meeting convened in March 1968 by the National Materials Advisory Board with the societies represented in the National Research Council. At least 36 societies have a significant degree of interest, and usually activity, in the general area of materials, although in many of these societies such interest is not dominant. Eighteen of the 36 societies believed to have a more identified interest with the materials field were invited to send representatives to an informal session for the planning of a conference on the subject in Washington on 14 August 1970. After subsequent discussions and planning sessions, ten of the societies agreed in 1971 to form a steering group to delve more deeply into organizational matters and to explore early opportunities for cooperative action.
The general reasons for establishing a Federation of Materials Societies formulated at these various meetings are as follows: