HIGHLIGHTS OF DEVELOPMENTS IN WASHINGTON IMPACTING THE PHYSICS COMMUNITY FROM FYI, THE AMERICAN INSTITUTE OF PHYSICS BULLETIN OF SCIENCE POLICY NEWS
Richard M. Jones, Audrey T. Leath
FINAL FY01 DOE APPROPRIATIONS: The final FY 2001 budget numbers for DOE's science programs included moderate increases for the High Energy Physics, Nuclear Physics, and Fusion Energy programs. Basic Energy Sciences was given a 30 percent increase, fully funding the FY 2001 construction request for the Spallation Neutron Source. Within DOE's defense programs, National Ignition Facility funding fell ten percent short of the request and came with strings attached, reflecting congressional concern with the project's progress.
SCIENCE EDUCATION NEWS: John Glenn's National Commission on Mathematics and Science Teaching for the 21st Century released a highly anticipated report, which finds an unprecedented opportunity to improve science education, and lays the responsibility for reform directly at the feet of the American public (FYI #120, FYI #123). A bill authored by Rep. Vern Ehlers' (R-MI) to improve NSF's education programs was brought to the House floor October 24 but not passed, due to questions about the constitutionality of one provision. It seems likely that the bill will have to be reintroduced next year (FYI #130, FYI #131).
INCREASED SCIENCE FUNDING URGED: In the Washington Post, former NIH director Harold Varmus articulated the case for a five-year doubling of the budgets for NSF and DOE's Office of Science to support the research opportunities made available by the growth in NIH's budget. In a letter to House Science Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), former House Speaker Newt Gingrich asked him to drop his objections to a bill, passed by the Senate, that would authorize the doubling of federal civilian R&D over ten years.
SCIENCE POLICY AT THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES: At a forum of the National Academies of Science and Engineering, White House science advisor Neal Lane warned against science at DOE's weapons labs being "undercut by unnecessary and counterproductive security measures." A National Academies committee successfully demonstrated a method for benchmarking U.S. fields of research against international efforts. Another Academies committee released a report making recommendations for improving the process of appointing senior-level federal science and technology administrators.
PHYSICS DEGREE PRODUCTION SURVEYS: After a decade of declines in physics graduate program enrollment and production of bachelors', masters', and PhD degrees, some of these indicators are beginning to level off. Two reports from AIP's Statistical Resource Center provide data on current trends in degrees and graduate enrollment.
FINAL FY01 NSF, NASA APPROPRIATIONS: In the final FY 2001 VA/HUD appropriations bill, the National Science Foundation came out with a 13.6 percent increase over last year's funding - the largest single increase, in real or constant dollars, ever received by the foundation. It appears that all physics-related research subactivities will benefit from this generosity. Also within the VA/HUD bill were the final appropriations for NASA. The space agency received a 5 percent increase over last year, which was more than either the President, the House, or the Senate individually had recommended.