The focus of the AIP appears to be organized around a set of core activities. The first delineated activity is to support member societies regarding essential society functions. This is accomplished by annually convening the various society officers to discuss common areas of concern. A range of topics is discussed which includes scientific publishing, public policy issues, membership-base issues, philanthropic giving, science education, science careers for a diverse population, and a forum for sharing ideas.
Another core activity is publishing the science of physics in research journals, magazines, and conference proceedings. Member societies continue nevertheless to publish their own journals.
Other core activities are tracking employment and education trends with six decades of coverage, being a liaison between research science and industry, historical collections and physics outreach programs, and supporting science education initiatives and supporting undergraduate physics. One other core activity is as an advocate for science policy to the U.S. Congress and the general public.
The AIP was founded in 1931 as a response to lack of funding for the sciences during the Great Depression. It formally incorporated in 1932 consisting of five, original, "member-societies", and a total of four thousand members. A new set of "member-societies" was added beginning in the mid-1960s. As soon as the AIP was established it began publishing scientific journals.