FYI: The AIP Bulletin of Science Policy News

FYI This Month: November 2008

Highlights of developments in Washington impacting the physics community from FYI, The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Science Policy News

Richard M. Jones

Hearing on basic energy research:

A hearing by the House Energy and Environment Subcommittee demonstrated high regard for the Department of Energy's (DOE) Basic Energy Sciences Program, but found significant concern about funding for the program. One witness spoke of more than 300 proposals that were submitted for an initiative for which funding never materialized, describing it "a massive waste of time." (#104)

White House Science Advisor:

Almost 180 organizations signed letters to the two major presidential candidates urging the prompt naming of a new cabinet-level Assistant to the President for Science and Technology. Doing so will allow this individual to "participate immediately in coordinating relevant policy and personnel decisions relating to science and technology." (#105)

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committeee agenda:

Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman's (D-NM) agenda includes new energy technologies, energy infrastructure, energy efficiency, and funding. "I would like to make clear . . . my intention to push early and hard in the next Congress to return us to an effective, bipartisan and comprehensive approach to energy policy," said Bingaman. (#106)

DOE's fusion energy sciences program:

"The key thing for us is the appropriation" a senior DOE official told a fusion advisory committee. While Congress is very supportive of the fusion program, the United States cannot fulfill its commitment to the ITER program with the level of funding Congress has appropriated. (#107)

NRC Committee reviews DOEW fusion plan:

A National Research Council committee chaired by Patrick Colestock of Los Alamos National Laboratory gave a positive review to DOE's plan for the participation of the U.S. fusion community in the ITER program. The committee expressed concern that "the lack of funding stability will make it difficult for the U.S. to effectively participate in ITER, and ultimately, to access and thus benefit from the valuable scientific and technical knowledge to be gained from the facility." (#108)

High Energy Physics Progam budgetary outlook:

Despite an 8.5 percent cut from the previous year's budget, the administrators of DOE's High Energy Physics Program were able to mitigate most serious impacts. Later additional funding was crucial to the program, a DOE advisory panel was told. If Congress decides to flat fund the rest of FY 2009 a senior official warned that the impacts will be "really significant." (#109)

Stimulus bill may include new science funding:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert Byrd (D-WV) introduced an economic stimulus bill that included $1,659 million in new science-related spending for DOE, NASA, USGS and NIH. (#110)

Joint Dark Energy Mission:

NASA and DOE have signed a Memorandum of Understanding that secures the Joint Dark Energy Mission's status as the first Beyond Einstein mission. This mission will measure the expansion of the universe and how it is growing to better understand the nature of dark energy. Congress has been supportive of this mission. (#111)

Physics Honor Society meets at Fermilab:

Many of the presentations at the recent meeting of Sigma Pi Sigma at Fermilab were devoted to the importance of "scientific citizenship." Participants were cautioned that policy decisions in areas such as climate change, energy policy and science education will be made with, or without the input of experts in these field. (#112)

Richard M. Jones
Media and Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics
rjones@aip.org
301-209-3095