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
SCIENCE AND SECURITY : OSTP Director John Marburger spoke on science and security issues at this year's Industrial Physics Forum, sponsored by AIP's Corporate Associates. Noting that the Administration's actions so far do not "signal an intent by the U.S. Government to intervene in the process of review and publication of the results of scientific research," Marburger discussed the difficulties of balancing scientific openness and security.
DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY : The Homeland Security Act signed by President Bush on November 25 has a number of provisions relating to S&T, including establishment of a Directorate of Science and Technology within the Department of Homeland Security, headed by an Under Secretary for Science and Technology. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's advanced scientific computing activities will be transferred to the new department, and other national laboratories may contribute efforts as appropriate.
S&E WORKFORCE ISSUES : Representatives from many organizations gathered last month to share perspectives and concerns regarding the nation's science and engineering workforce. While many differing views were presented, virtually everyone agreed that K-12 science and math education should be improved, and that timelier and more comprehensive data on the workforce is needed. Other topics of discussion included making S&E careers more attractive, and training S&E workers to be more "agile" to adapt to changing employment trends.
NEW FUSION PLAN : The Fusion Energy Sciences Advisory Committee gave its "unanimous, unqualified endorsement" to a plan that would lead to an operational demonstration fusion power plant in approximately 35 years. The committee was also briefed on the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) project. "Should the Administration decide to enter ITER," Marburger commented recently, "it would be desirable to have the U.S. enter sooner rather than later."
DRAFT CLIMATE CHANGE PLAN : The Administration has released, for public comment, a roadmap to guide its climate change research. The plan sets out a series of major research questions and strategies for addressing them. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham was the keynote speaker at a workshop held in early December to seek input from interested parties, and additional comments are being accepted until January 13.
NSB ON S&E INFRASTRUCTURE : Also available for public comment is a new report by the National Science Board, addressing NSF's role in supporting the nation's research infrastructure. The report's first recommendation states: "The current 22 percent of the NSF budget devoted to infrastructure is too low and should be increased." Other recommendations include prioritizing future activities, expanding education and training opportunities at facilities, and strengthening infrastructure planning and budgeting. Comments on this report will be accepted until January 9.
FY 2003 APPROPRIATIONS UPDATE : Congress will not be back in town until January 7. President Bush wants the FY 2003 appropriations bills wrapped up before his State of the Union address on January 28, but there is no clear end in sight for the budget stalemate.