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
FUSION COMMITTEE MEETING: A meeting of the Fusion Energy Sciences Advisory Committee was dominated by discussion of the U.S.'s renewed participation in the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) project, and concerns about its impact on the U.S. domestic fusion program. Ray Orbach, Director of DOE's Office of Science, told the committee that "people are looking to the ITER framework to define a path forward" for other international scientific collaborations. "As a consequence," Orbach said, "if something goes wrong...it will have ramifications far beyond fusion."
ADMINISTRATION R&D PRIORITIES: Earlier this summer, the directors of OSTP and OMB issued a memo outlining the Bush Administration's research and development priorities for the FY 2005 budget request. Five priority areas of R&D were listed, as follows: R&D for Combating Terrorism; Nanotechnology; Networking and Information Technology R&D; Molecular-Level Understanding of Life Processes; and Environment and Energy (comprising Climate Change; Environmental Observations; and Hydrogen Fuel R&D).
OFFICE OF SCIENCE HEARING: Expressing his enthusiasm for the R&D supported by DOE's Office of Science, Senator Lamar Alexander (R- TN) and the witnesses at a July 29 hearing raised concerns about funding trends for the office and for physical sciences and engineering in general. The testimony pointed out the negative effects of years of flat funding for the office, and highlighted the value of DOE research to U.S. industry and to the nation's economic prosperity, national security, and quality of life.
HYDROGEN RESEARCH CHALLENGES: A just-released report summarizes results of a workshop on the use of hydrogen as an energy carrier that was convened in May by DOE's Office of Basic Energy Sciences. The report reviews the major basic research challenges to developing a hydrogen economy and offers guidance on the research directions needed to get there. "While the hydrogen economy represents a visionary strategy for our future energy security," the report notes, "significant scientific and technical challenges must be overcome to achieve its implementation."
MARBURGER ON HIGH ENERGY PHYSICS: "The opportunities in high energy physics have increased, not diminished, in importance during the past decade," declared OSTP Director John Marburger at a meeting of Fermilab users. "But at the same time," he added, "the opportunities in...other very attractive fields of science are also increasing.... What this suggests to me is that federal budgets for high energy physics are not likely to grow substantially faster than in the past." In his speech, Marburger described how other fields of science are beginning to compete with particle physics for construction of large-scale research facilities, and how strategic planning will be increasingly important to the future of the federal science enterprise.
SHUTTLE ACCIDENT REPORT: On August 26, the Columbia Accident Investigation Board, chaired by retired Admiral Harold Gehman, released its report on the Columbia shuttle accident. "We are going to have to analyze what is being accomplished in space with humans," stated House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R- NY), who plans a series of hearings on the findings and recommendations of the Board and the future of the space program.