January 28, 2001

Washington, DC

Present: W. Frazer, Tsang, Ahearne, Saxon,Sarachik, Berry, Birnbaum, Cahn, Davis, Doyle, Edelstein, Evenson, Goldman,Krauss, Lamb, Riordan, Schwartz, Trilling

Absent: Gronlund, Schuller, Richardson,Herzog, DeWitt

APS Staff: Franz, Lubell, Slakey, Victoria


  • 1 April 2001, Washington.
  • 14 October 2001, Washington

Announcements, Minutes: The minutes of October 15, 2000 were approved without changes. The 2000 APS Annual report will be posted on the APS web. The Chair called attention to the letter that former Secretary of Energy Richardson sent to Bob Park, thanking APS for its contributions to science.

1.- NMD: By a recommendation from POPA's Committee on National Security, an APS Advisory Committee on National Missile Defense was appointed to look into the possibility of a study on NMD systems, and suggest a list of possible members for the study group. The Council of the APS approved their proposal. Thestudy group will be co-chaired by F. Lamb and D. Kleppner; with a possible total of 10 to 12 members, 4 or 5 of those to be expert engineers, and the rest physicists. Their initial meeting will take place in March 2001; an internal draft of the study, to be distributed among members of the study group, should be ready by the autumn. Scope of the study was reviewed at some length.. J. Franz is working on the funding for the study.

2.- Proposed compensation to workers exposed to radiation: W. Edelstein reported on a letter from R. Wilson, from Harvard, asking if the APS would be willing to make a statement on the issue of compensation for workers exposed to radiation. L.Gronlund, J. Doyle and W. Edelstein studied the possibility and came to the conclusion that APS should not make a statement on the issue, because among other reasons, the measurements on levels of exposure are not clear,and there may be political and legal consequences involved.

Action: It was decided that APS will not issue a statement on this subject.

3.- Report on DOE - There is a growing concern over the future of the DOE. In the last few years, the organization has gone through a steady decline in its funding and political recognition. PPC proposed a committee of experts, not directly connected to APS, to look into ways of reorganizing DOE to bring it back into full recognition. Thiscommittee of experts released a report on December 14, 2000, proposing two alternatives: one would look into enhancing the influence of the DOE Officeof Science by moving the Director of Science to the rank of Under Secretary for Science and Energy. Theother was a more radical position in which the Office of Science would bemoved to a newly formed office within the Dept. of Commerce. The report, which is not an APS report, was sent to the transition team and members of congress. Comments about the report appeared in Science and Nature magazines, and in the German Physical Society Letters. Lubell added that the report was well received in theSenate: Bob Simon, Minority Staff Director for the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, expressed that the report raises important issues, with extremely provocative ideas, although it doesn't mean that something is going to happen legislatively.

4.- Polygraph testing at DOE: a new statement on national security was discussed. There was some concern with this proposal, since APS already issued a statement on national security in 1999. The broader issue, emphasized in the first paragraph on the draft, should be the focus of the statement. There was general concern with the wording. The suggestion that the statement should refer exclusively to polygraph testing was rejected.

Action: Frazer appointed a drafting committeeto edit the statement: Trilling, Frazer, Goldman, Lubell, Doyle and Krauss, to work on the statement over lunch. A new draft of the statement was circulated and accepted for forwarding to the Executive Board. (Statement to be posted when approved by APS council.)

5.- Database legislation: the Patent and Trademark office had been developing several versions of a treaty on copyrights for the World Intellectual Property Organization(WIPO) that would effectively allow data to be owned and sold. Scientists were alerted about the draft treaty shortly before the WIPO meeting, and requested the Secretary of Commerce [that] to put the treaty on hold until all parties representing different views in the issue had been heard. Although the European Union had already adopted very strong and protective forms of intellectual property protection for databases, the U.S did not support the European position at the WIPO treaty meeting, partly because of this timely intervention. However, there has been a steady move in Congress for new legislation in the U.S to protect databases. The motivation came from a Supreme Court decision that said that databases that involve no intellectual creativity but only "sweat of the brow," cannot be protected by copyrights, because copyrights are meant to protect only intellectual creativity. There have been several versions of database bills introduced in Congress in the last several sessions, some extremely restrictive, but none have passed, again, at least partly due to the actions of the scientific community. Nonetheless, a new bill will most likely be introduced in the current session.

Current Issue: APS has received a request from the Council of Scientific Society Presidents (CSSP), to sign a letter addressing the anticipated legislation.The letter is a general statement of principles, not a detailed discussion of any specific legislation. Essentially, the letter from CSSP takes the same position as the APS presidential letter sent to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1998, namely that proposed new intellectual property protection for databases might have a substantial negative impact on scientific education and research. Discussion on the wording in the letter followed.

Action: POPA recommends that APS signs the CSSP letter, with two changes: in the first paragraph the word "free" should be replaced by "full," and in the last one, the word "lead" should be changed to "leadership."

6.- Challenges and Changing Nature of Physics: (J. Tsang, C. Davis) The possibility of a supplement to APS News was suggested, with the purpose of informing the scientific community what the physics profession is all about, highlighting various aspects of the changes that the profession is going through. It would consist of a series of articles/essays, intended to involve the community in addressing these issues, and getting them involved in finding possible solutions. The most important issues that would be addressed by these articles are the changing environment in physics, physics in the new economy, communicating with Congress, and educational challenges. A more financially viable option to the 20-page supplement would be to have just one essay at a time in APS News, let readers comment on it, maybe set up a website to debate the issue for a couple of months, and only then move to the next essay. Other possible issues and how to handle them were discussed, such as reports from AIP on enrollment and degrees in science, the cold war and national security, support of long-term research, and effective lobbying.

Action: Tsang and Davis will write an essay on one of the issues mentioned, and it will be posted on the website for the membership to discuss. Tsang will keep a list of members willing to contribute to the writing of the essays.

7.- Energy: (L.Schwartz) The Steering Committee agreed on the need for an energy committee, given the fact that energy has become a very important issue in the public eye. The functions of the committee were discussed, whether it should act more aggressively through statements, or have a more passive "how can we help" kind of attitude. The committee should look into energy use, which is a more challenging subject than energy supply. The committee should also keep in mind the 1999 statement on energy that calls for the government to support more energy research, and part of this support is to work more effectively with industry, and to push toward government support for more basic research.

8.- Washington report: (Lubell) So far, there is nobody in the Administration dealing with science, no one yet nominated for OSTP. The important issues emerging are NMD, education, and energy. On the issue of energy, fossil fuel is the centerpiece, with a policy of further exploration and development of resources in the US. There is not much emphasis on climate change policy, although some members in both parties will keep pressing on that issue. A very tough year for the science budget is expected, because of major tax cuts and increases in the defense budget.

9.- New Business: (Ahearne) G. Morgan, from Carnegie Mellon, is planning a workshop on what can be done to replace the Office of Technology Assessment, OTA, and would like APS to co-sponsor the event.

Action: It was decided not to co-sponsor the workshop.

10.- POPA website update was discussed.

Action: Saxon, Tsang and Goldman will work on necessary changes for the website.

Meeting adjourned at 3:00 PM.