The highest priority research areas for physics in the coming decade,
as identified by the NRC's Physics Survey Overview Committee in its
recent report, "Physics in a New Era: An Overview," are highlighted
in FYI #90. This FYI provides details
of the committee's nine recommendations. "They are meant," the report
says, "to sustain and strengthen all of physics in the United States
and enable the field to serve important national needs."
The committee's recommendations follow, with selected explanatory
text from the report:
Recommendation 1: INVESTING IN PHYSICS.
"To allow physics to contribute strongly to areas of national need,
the federal government and the physics community should develop and
implement a strategy for long-term investment in basic physics research....
The Physics Survey Overview Committee believes that...the federal
investment in basic physics research relative to GDP should be restored
to the levels of the early 1980s."
Recommendation 2: PHYSICS EDUCATION.
"Physics departments should review and revise their curricula to
ensure that they are engaging and effective for a wide range of students
and that they make connections to other important areas of science
and technology.... Greater emphasis should also be placed on improving
the preparation of K-12 science teachers."
Recommendation 3: SMALL GROUPS AND SINGLE INVESTIGATORS.
"Federal science agencies should assign a high priority to providing
adequate and stable support for small groups and single investigators
working at the cutting edge of physics and related disciplines."
Recommendation 4: LARGE FACILITIES AND INTERNATIONAL COLLABORATIONS.
"While planning and priority setting are important for all of physics,
they are especially critical when large facilities and collaborations
are necessary.... Planning and implementation for the very largest
facilities should be international. The federal government should
develop effective mechanisms for U.S. participation and leadership
in international scientific projects, including clear criteria for
entrance and exit."
Recommendation 5: NATIONAL SECURITY.
"Congress and the Department of Energy should ensure the continued
scientific excellence of [DOE's] Office of Defense Programs' national
laboratories by reestablishing the high priority of long-term basic
research in physics and other core competencies important to laboratory
Recommendation 6: PARTNERSHIPS.
"The federal government, universities and their physics departments,
and industry should encourage mutual interactions and partnerships....
The federal government should support these programs by helping to
develop protocols for intellectual property issues in cooperative
Recommendation 7: FEDERAL SCIENCE AGENCIES.
"The federal government should assign a high priority to the broad
support of core physics research, providing a healthy balance with
special initiatives in focused research directions. Federal science
agencies should continue to ensure a foundation that is diverse, evolving,
and supportive of promising and creative research."
Recommendation 8: PEER REVIEW.
"The peer review advisory process for the allocation of federal government
support for scientific research has served our nation well over many
decades and...should be maintained as the principal factor in determining
how federal research funds are awarded."
Recommendation 9: PHYSICS INFORMATION.
"The federal government, together with the physics community, should
develop a coordinated approach for the support of bibliographic and
experimental databases and data-mining tools. The use of open standards
to foster mutual compatibility of all databases should be stressed.
Physicists should be encouraged to make use of these information technology
tools for education as well as research. The bibliographic archive
based at Los Alamos National Laboratory has played an important role
and it should continue to be supported."
The report, "Physics in a New Era: An Overview," can be read online
at the Board on Physics and Astronomy web site: http://books.nap.edu/books/0309073421/html/index.html.