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FYI Number 109: October 4, 2002

President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology Meets

The President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) met on September 30 at the Department of State. Secretary of State Colin Powell addressed the members about the contributions science and technology can make to the nation's security. The chairs of the four PCAST subcommittees reviewed their work. Not mentioned was the status of the August 28 PCAST draft letter to President Bush regarding federal R&D.

PCAST co-chair and OSTP Director John Marburger opened the meeting by stating it had been a year since President Bush signed the Executive Order establishing his administration's PCAST. The council has been busy since then, Marburger said, with four subcommittees studying federal R&D, broadband communications, energy efficiency, and terrorism. Co-chair Floyd Kvamme noted the council's advocacy of science and technology.

G. Wayne Clough chairs the Federal R&D subcommittee. His subcommittee's draft August 28 letter to President Bush was the subject of the PCAST conference call reported in FYI #101. Much of that one-hour call centered on the draft letter's recommendation that "we suggest that FY2004 presents the appropriate opportunity to double federal research investments in physical sciences and four major engineering fields . . . from the FY 2002 levels." During this call some concern was expressed about the time frame and the concept of doubling. There was little discussion about the letter's other two recommendations.

At this week's meeting Clough said that too much attention has been focused on the letter's funding recommendation. He devoted his presentation to the subcommittee's other concerns regarding the future S&T workforce, the splintered S&T structure in the executive and legislative branch, the measurement of program effectiveness, international competition, and technology transfer.

There was no comment made during Clough's presentation about the status of the letter to President Bush. During the August 28 conference call Marburger said that they wanted to get the letter to the President within just a few days to impact OMB's development of the FY 2004 budget request. The final letter has not been sent, and the links to the original draft letter and the underlying report authored by Erich Bloch have been removed from the PCAST web site's front page. Both can be read at http://www.ostp.gov/PCAST/PCASTDraftLetterPublic2.pdf and http://www.ostp.gov/PCAST/AssessingRD82202%20final.pdf

Secretary Powell's remarks surveyed the Administration's efforts to improve national security. Powell views science and technology as a quiet way to fight terrorism, and addressed the importance of information technology to improving his department's visa function. The secretary discussed the relationship between democracy and economic development, saying the U.S. needs an aggressive S&T policy to assist developing countries in areas such as biotechnology, energy and AIDS. Following Powell's remarks there was a roundtable discussion on S&T and international development that featured a speaker from the Agency for International Development and Norman Neureiter, Science and Technology Adviser to the Secretary of State. Neureiter discussed the contributions that education, access to information, and science-based decision making can make to sustainable development. Partnerships between the developed and developing nations will be important, he said, in alleviating clean water, energy, health, and agricultural problems.

Richard M. Jones
Media and Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics
fyi@aip.org
(301) 209-3095

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