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FYI THIS MONTH: SEPTEMBER 2001

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
fyithismonth@aip.org

MANAGEMENT OF ASTRONOMY RESEARCH: A report by a National Research Council committee reviewed the management of federal astronomy and astrophysics research and concluded that "the National Science Foundation's astronomy and astrophysics responsibilities should not be transferred to NASA." The report called, though, for an interagency planning board to coordinate research across agencies.

DECLINE IN PHYSICS FUNDING: Another National Research Council report found that federal support of physics dropped 24.6 percent from 1993 to1999. The biggest cuts in physics research over that period were made by DOE (a reduction of 25.3 percent) and DOD (a reduction of 57.8 percent).

YUCCA MOUNTAIN WASTE REPOSITORY: In preparation for a decision by the Secretary of Energy this year on whether Yucca Mountain, Nevada, is a suitable site for a nuclear waste repository, DOE invited public comment to help inform the Secretary's decision.

INVESTMENT CRITERIA FOR R&D: In a report entitled, "The President's Management Agenda," OMB criticized many federal R&D projects for vague goals and lack of evaluation criteria. OMB plans to work with DOE to develop objective investment and performance criteria for applied R&D programs, then transfer the criteria to other federal agencies. It will also attempt to develop separate criteria for evaluating basic research.

AIP SCIENCE FELLOWSHIPS: This year, AIP established a State Department Science Fellowship to complement its Congressional Science Fellowship, providing PhD scientists an opportunity to contribute their expertise to either the domestic or foreign policy-making process. Applications are due on November 1 for next year's State Department Science Fellowship, and on January 15 for next year's Congressional Science Fellowship. (FYIs #118, 121)

DOE S&T PERSONNEL SHORTAGE: The Department of Energy's Inspector General recently concluded that "the Department has been unable to recruit and retain critical scientific and technical staff in a manner sufficient to meet identified mission requirements." The Inspector General recommended that DOE develop a workforce planning program and quantifiable recruitment and retention performance measures, and more fully utilize available tools for hiring and keeping skilled staff.

STATUS OF FY 2002 APPROPRIATIONS: The September 11 terrorist attacks led to a spirit of bipartisanship in Congress but delayed progress on the 13 FY 2002 appropriations bills. A continuing resolution was passed to keep programs funded at current levels through October 16, but leaders in Congress rejected the idea of a long-term continuing resolution, preferring to try to get the spending bills passed as quickly as possible. (FYIs #120, 122) The day after the October 1 start of the 2002 fiscal year, President Bush and key Members of Congress reached agreement on an overall discretionary spending amount, paving the way for the bills to move forward.