April 7, 2002

Washington, DC

Present: Berry, Bienenstock, Brecher, Cahn, Cox, Davis, Edelstein, Eisenberger, Evenson, Frazer, Goldman, Gronlund, Herzog, Lamb, Primack, Quinn, Sarachik, Tsang

Absent: Block, Brinkman, Capasso, Krauss, Mattis, Richardson, Schuller

Guest: M. S. Dresselhaus (MIT)

APS Staff: Franz, Ginsberg, Johnson, Lubell, Slakey


  • October 6, 2002
  • January 12, 2003

Tsang called the meeting to order at 8:30 AM. The minutes for the January 20, 2002 meeting were approved with minor changes.

Announcements from the chair:

Consideration of a statement on DoD research funding was added to the new business section of this meeting.

The request by Professor Bernard Cohen (Pittsburg) for a POPA study of “the linear no threshold theory of radiation induced cancer,”and an electronic discussion of it involving several POPA members which concluded that we should decline the request was described. A letter informing Prof. Cohen of this decision will be sent by the chair.

The e-mailings and meeting book enclosures on national security derived restrictions on research publications and scientific activities were reviewed. A recent meeting at OSTP involving Lubell and Tsang concerning administration policy for the removal from public access of previously declassified material which has never been “widely” circulated was mentioned. J. Ahearne and H. Quinn have expressed interest in the issue. Peter Eisenberger and Bill Frazer also expressed interest and a sub-committee will be formed.

Edelstein, Davis “Panel Members' Viewpoint” article will soon be ready for posting on the POPA website.

Capasso has resigned from POPA. Possible replacements for this year, and the handling of the coming election were discussed by Franz.

10 members responded to a request by Lamb for brief bios, and these were distributed. Remaining members are requested to submit their bios for distribution to the Panel.

Energy Committee

Davis proposed a POPA study of fuel cell technology. The Bush administration recently announced a “FreedomCAR” initiative based on fuel cells as part of its energy policy. Fuel cell technology was discussed. Davis and colleagues will examine available technical information on the technology for the October meeting where the opportunities for a POPA project will be discussed. Cox, Edelstein and Brecher will work with Davis on this.

Edelstein proposed a POPA study of wind power. This was discussed and it was agreed that an effort to pull together available information and lay out key questions needing to be answered about the practicalities of this technology will be undertaken for presentation at the October meeting. Cox will work with Edelstein.

Conflict of Interest Policy

Bienenstock proposed a conflict of interest policy for members of POPA. After discussion, the proposal, as per the material included in the meeting book, was moved, seconded, discussed, and adopted. An electronic version of the tool will be sent to all members for completion and return to Franz before the October meeting. All current members and all new members will be expected to complete the form on joining POPA. The executive officer and POPA chair can raise concerns with individual members should it be necessary. Sensitivity to the conflict of interest issue, and need for disclosure when conflicts exist are motivations for this policy.

Physics and the Public

Goldman described the Physics and the Public Committee including its goals, methods, and examples of its web-oriented work as per material distributed at the meeting (included). There was discussion about its current focus on courses for undergraduate nonscience-majors and the needs of science students and professionals for related courses, of how the outreach of this program could be improved, what could be done with the website, etc. The committee will continue to develop the site content, and work with the APS webmasters on an APS website implementation.

Bienenstock described his efforts to reach out to other communities to increase support for the physical sciences, using as an example his presentation on the impact of physics and x-ray technology in medical diagnostics. Bienenstock will work with Franz to institutionalize such efforts, identifying organizations that APS members should reach out to, refining possible messages etc. There was discussion of other efforts to promote awareness of the central role of the physical sciences in contemporary life such as uses of the AIP Physics Success Stories series.

Revisiting/Updating the APS Statement on CTBT

Gronlund reviewed recent developments regarding the administration's desire to design of new types of nuclear weapons for various potential applications, and the possible need to test such weapons as part of the design process. An possible update to the APS's 97.2 Statement on the CTBT was introduced and described. The update argued against the development of new nuclear weapons, argued against resumption of testing, and reiterated continuing support for CTBT. An alternative statement aimed at similar ends but differing in the details of the argument was presented. There was an extensive discussion of what information was needed in such a statement to be effective, what would be needed to secure the complete credibility of certain supporting arguments, the usefulness of references to CTBT given current political realities, and the impact of different types of arguments. The National Security Sub-Commitee as asked to obtain more authoritative external support for a statement using its stronger language regarding drawbacks the proposed new weapons systems. In particular, if the statement is to rely on the FAS report by R. W. Nelson, a committee of experts such as Drell, Jeanloz, and Garwin should write a short report and then give POPA an opportunity to revisit this issue.


Brecher introduced the subject of the Government Performance Review Act and Professor M. S. Dresselhaus. Dresselhaus provided background on the Act, described National Academy efforts to help in the implementation of GPRA to the government's R&D efforts. She described the 1999 COSEPUP report on GPRA and subsequent activities ending in the late February workshop addressed by OMB senior management. COSEPUP and OMB approaches and criteria were contrasted and the rationale for COSEPUP choices described. The possible benefits and dangers of the GPRA process were presented in the context of administration pressure for agencies to adjust internal budget processes to GPRA. Subject raised included improvement of management in the agencies, the importance of training as a product of research support, problems of “productivity” as a criteria for basic research, dangers of applying program level criteria to projects, pressure to support projects with short-term outcomes, extra costs of a complicated process, etc. Dilemma of agencies supporting science faced with OMB pressures to adhere to GPRA and lack of interest on the part of congressional science committees in GPRA was discussed as were questions of hidden agendas regarding research on the part of the administration. The GPRA subcommittee will consider different kinds of possible response to GPRA on the part of the APS and present a recommendation at the October meeting.


Lamb provided an off the record briefing on the current status of the APS Boost Phase Intercept Study.

Washington Report

Lubell described the administration's budget in the physical sciences and highlighted a wide range of problems. The status of OSTP, and the views of the Science Advisor on present and future funding for the physical sciences was discussed. Congressional response to the science parts of the administration's proposed 2003 budget are negative, and there is hope of improvements in the final document.

New Business

A statement concerning DoD support of research in 6.1 and 6.2 (enclosed) was presented. The increasingly applied character of DoD supported research was described. The statement both supports DoD research funding, and encourages increased emphasis on long term basic research projects. After a few small changes were suggested, the statement was moved and approved to be taken to the Council.

Ahearne described a request from the Society for Risk Analysis for APS support for a World Congress on Risk. Judy described the APS process for sponsoring or endorsing conferences which in this case can go through FPS. POPA endorsed the proposal and referred it to FPS for consideration. If FPS approves, it will be sent to the APS Executive Board for action. Brecher welcomed the use of this route and said she would forward it to the FPS Executive Committee."

Gronlund discussed the role of POPA in helping to resolve scientific disagreement in public policy questions involving the physics community. She cited the example of the POPA subcommittee with reviewed conflicting evidence on the effectiveness of the Patriot missile system in the Gulf War. The request today to the National Security sub-committee to further review material supporting a claim in its proposed statement on new nuclear weapons and testing is another example and the question was whether POPA should advertise its willingness to serve in such a role. At present, issues will be allowed to “bubble up” although Gronlund may write an article in APS News or a similar forum on how POPA has played this role in the past on particular issues.

The meeting was adjourned at 3:30PM.