NUCLEAR REPROCESSING: Witnesses at two hearings on the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel expressed reservations about the concept, due to its high costs and the risks of nuclear proliferation.
ENERGY POLICY: The Energy Policy Act signed by President Bush on August 8 authorizes a substantial boost in funding for DOE's Office of Science, as well as a new Under Secretary for Science position at DOE, which may help raise the profile of science within the department. At a House Science subcommittee hearing on developing a hydrogen economy, members pressed for faster progress, but witnesses cautioned that much basic research is still needed to overcome potential showstoppers and that "fundamental science doesn't happen overnight."
S&T WORKFORCE: U.S. S&T workforce issues were explored in several different fora recently. A roundtable discussion hosted by House Democrats highlighted the paucity of data on high-tech outsourcing, the difficulty of predicting future S&T workforce demand, and the danger of "short-term fixes." Witnesses at a Science Committee hearing called for improving the nation's K-12 science and math education, investing more in basic R&D, and developing new metrics for innovation. A National Academies panel found a "lack of accurate and timely data" on foreign grad students and postdocs, and offered recommendations to bring clarification and consistency to U.S. policies affecting them.
NEW NIST DIRECTOR: The new NIST director, William Alan Jeffrey, has a PhD in Astronomy and a B.S. in Physics, and previously worked on homeland and national security, space, and aeronautics issues at the Office of Science and Technology Policy.
PHYSICS DEGREES: A new report from AIP shows that for physics departments around the country, the numbers of students taking an introductory undergraduate physics class, earning physics bachelor's degrees, and starting physics graduate school all continued to increase in 2003, and the number of physics PhDs produced has also started to rise.
HIGHER EDUCATION ACT: The House's version of the Higher Education Act reauthorization includes provisions to encourage students to pursue S&T careers, including scholarships and loan interest forgiveness.
NUCLEAR WEAPONS COMPLEX: A task force report calls for a dramatic transformation in the nation's nuclear weapons complex, including design of a new warhead and consolidating nuclear component production, assembly and dismantling at one site.