URSI is an active Union with 42 member countries (plus 5 associate members) supporting a range of activities centred around the triennial General Assemblies. It is supported by a small secretariat based at the University of Gent in Belgium with an unpaid Secretary General and Assistant Secretary General and one full-time paid member of administrative staff. The object of URSI is to stimulate and to co-ordinate, on an international basis, studies in the field of radio, telecommunication and electronic sciences, and, within these fields:
- to promote and organise research requiring international co-operation, and the discussion and dissemination of the results of this research;
- to encourage the adoption of common methods of measurement, and the inter-comparison and standardisation used in scientific work;
- to stimulate and co-ordinate studies of the scientific aspects of telecommunications using electromagnetic waves, guided and unguided, the generation and detection of these waves, and the processing of the signals embedded in them.
There are ten scientific commissions, the names of which indicate the breadth of radio science as interpreted by URSI:
Fields and Waves
Radiocommunication Systems and Signal Processing
Electronics & Photonics
Electromagnetic Environment and Interference
Wave Propagation & Remote Sensing
Ionospheric Radio and Propagation
Waves in Plasmas
Electromagnetics in Biology and Medicine
The detailed terms of reference of the Scientific Commissions are given in the link on the left. It should be noted from the above list that some Commissions cover subjects which are associated with engineering applications of electromagnetic waves (e.g. Commission C) whilst others are associated with the purely scientific study of radio waves (e.g. Commission H).
The General Assembly consists of about 120 technical sessions which review developments over the last three years including a series of joint sessions designed to report and review many interdisciplinary topics. The level of activity between General Assemblies varies considerably across Commissions.
A very successful feature of the General Assemblies has been the Young Scientist programme which sponsors about 120 young scientists to attend the Assembly.
UK Panel for URSI
The UK has always played a prominent part in URSI. In the past, such great scientists as Sir Edward Appleton had a significant influence on the shaping of URSI.
The UK Panel for URSI was established in 1990 as the successor to the British National Committee for Radio Science.
The aims of the UK Panel for URSI are:
- to liaise with URSI;
- to encourage and support radio science activities in the UK, either jointly with other bodies or separately;
- to ensure the maximum participation by UK scientists in relevant activities of URSI;
- to inform URSI of UK views and plans on subjects of relevance to radio science.
The Panel membership consists of an Honorary Chairman, an Honorary Secretary, national representatives of the ten Scientific Commissions, representatives of UK agencies associated with radio science and any UK scientists who are current URSI Office holders.
The Panel meets formally twice a triennium (when expenses are paid by The Royal Society) and informally once a year at the annual national radio science colloquium.
The activities of the Panel include:
- appointing national representatives to the scientific commissions;
- arranging the National Radio Science Colloquium which is normally held annually. This is a lowcost colloquium held at a university with the intention of providing a venue for young scientists to both give presentations and to be exposed to a wider range of radio science topics than the normal conference or workshop;
- informally coordinate activities in radio science and being aware of issues and trends affecting radio science;
- acting as an interface with international URSI activities;
- proposing the position to be taken by the UK representative on issues to be decided at the URSI Council which meets at the General Assembly;
- encouraging and promoting UK scientists to be URSI Office holders both of the Board of Officers and Chairs of Commissions;
- preparing for a General Assembly by encouraging UK participation in the scientific programme, prioritising UK applications for young scientist awards, nominating candidates for URSI Medals and assisting in the assessment of applications for travel grants.