FYI THIS MONTH: DECEMBER 2006
HIGHLIGHTS OF DEVELOPMENTS IN WASHINGTON IMPACTING THE PHYSICS COMMUNITY FROM FYI, THE AMERICAN INSTITUTE OF PHYSICS BULLETIN OF SCIENCE POLICY NEWS
Audrey T. Leath, Richard M. Jones
fyithismonth@aip.org
NANOTECHNOLOGY RESEARCH: Nanotechnology may grow into a trillion-dollar market within a decade, if concerns about the real and perceived environmental, health and safety (EHS) risks of nanomaterials are adequately addressed. Former and incoming House Science Committee Chairmen Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) and Bart Gordon (D-TN) called for better planning, coordination, and funding of federal nanotechnology EHS research, and criticized a National Science and Technology Council Working Group report for not defining research priorities and resource needs. Boehlert and Gordon recently came out in support of a paper in the November 16 issue of the journal Nature, which lays out research priorities for nanotechnology EHS.

GLOBAL WARMING FOCUS: As the new Congress convenes in January, one of the most dramatic changes will be in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, where the chair will shift from global warming naysayer James Inhofe (R-OK) to Barbara Boxer (D- CA). Boxer has previously cosponsored legislation to control greenhouse gas emissions, and intends to make it one of the committee's top priorities.

FY07, FY08 RESEARCH FUNDING: In February, President Bush will submit his fiscal year 2008 budget request to Congress. In anticipation, outgoing Science Committee Chair Boehlert wrote to OMB Director Rob Portman, urging the Administration to seek FY08 support for physical sciences basic research as called for in Bush's American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI). "I hope and expect that the Administration will continue to press forward" with the initiative, Boehlert wrote, and will request FY08 funding for NSF, DOE's Office of Science, and NIST that is "at levels appropriate for a second year of ACI implementation." However, even as Boehlert urged greater funding for FY08, the likelihood lessened that basic research will receive the increases requested for FY07. Incoming Senate and House Appropriations Committee Chairmen Robert Byrd (D-WV) and David Obey (D-WI) announced in December that they would complete the FY07 appropriations process via a year-long continuing resolution that would eliminate earmarks but hold most programs to flat funding. "While the results will be far from ideal" they said in a statement, "this path provides the best way to dispose of the unfinished business quickly." They promised to "do our best to make whatever limited adjustments are possible within the confines of the Republican budget to address the nation's most important policy concerns."

K-8 SCIENCE EDUCATION: A committee of the National Research Council reviewed current research on learning and cognitive development and concluded that most science instruction in K-8 classrooms today is based on an out-of-date understanding of how children learn. The committee's report contends that teachers face a false dichotomy between teaching science content and science process skills, and calls for both to be replaced by four interrelated "strands" of science proficiency. The report also calls for curriculum, instruction, and assessment to be aligned, and to be focused on "a few core ideas in a discipline." Additional recommendations address teacher preparation and professional development.