October 6, 2002

Washington, DC

Present: Ahearne, Berry, Bienenstock, Brecher, Cahn, Cox, Davis, Edelstein, Evenson, Gronlund, Herzog, Lamb, Primack, Sarachik, Schuller, Tsang

Absent: Block, Brinkman, Eisenberger, Krauss, Mattis, Quinn, Richardson

APS Staff: S. Brown, Chodos, Lubell, Slakey, Victoria


  • January 12, 2003
  • March 30, 2003

Tsang called the meeting to order at 8:30 AM. The minutes for the April 7, 2002 meeting were approved.

Tsang notified the committee that Mitch Daniels, Director of OMB, has responded to the APS letter on DOD support for basic and applied research. The PPC determined that no further response was necessary.

Lamb gave an update on the BPI study. The report was sent out to the internal APS review committee at the end of August and he is now working on the suggested changes. It should be ready by the end of the fall.

Energy Subcommittee: Davis gave a short presentation on fuel cells and an overview of a study draft on this subject. The committee discussed the need for the subcommittee to keep working on the study.
Next, Edelstein reported on a Wind Energy study.

Action: The subcommittee will keep working on the fuel cells study. All comments should be emailed to Davis.
Edelstein will continue to work on the Wind Energy study and report back in January.

Ethics Subcommittee: Cahn reviewed LBNL investigation of the supposed discovery of element 118, concluding that there was clear evidence of scientific misconduct. Data was fabricated and it was argued that there were deficiencies in various aspects of the collaborative process for this work.

M. Beasley, in a conference call, recounted the Bell Labs investigation on the issue of scientific misconduct by H. Schon. The committee, chaired by Beasley, worked with the guidelines and principles developed under Bienenstock’s leadership during his tenure at OSTP, which helped enormously in providing a structure to the investigation. The most important issues the committee was concerned with were those of coauthors’ responsibility and the need for institutional reforms, i.e.: journals’ review procedures. The committee determined that the community understands both, scientific responsibility and the “sanctity of data,” but the practical application of those guidelines is difficult. There should be a correlation between shared credit and shared responsibility. Other issues were in this particular case the mismanagement of electronic data files, intentional data manipulation, and the lack of original data, which should have been in itself a warning of misconduct.

When asked what, if anything, APS could do about the issue of ethics in scientific research, Beasley cautioned that revising Council statements on the issue makes sense only if the Society can ensure applicability of those guidelines.

Bienenstock proposed a structure for a discussion of the ethics problems. This involved a series of discussions on four subjects; retiring the APS statement 87.1, the handling of accusations of research misconduct, improving education in research ethics and standards, and coauthorship responsibility in physics publications.

1: Retirement of APS Statement 87.1.

Bienenstock proposed that the APS Statement 87.1 "Statement on Integrity in Physics" be retired.

Two reasons for retiring 87.1 are: 1) there are misstatements in it such as the assertion that the APS has not felt the need for a formal code of ethics, and 2) 87.1 has been superseded by statement 91.8.

Action: the motion to recommend to the Executive Board and Council that statement 87.1 be rescinded was approved unanimously.

2. Handling of Accusations of Research Misconduct.

On the general, philosophical issue of how the scientific community handles cases of research misconduct, there seems to be a disagreement within POPA as to whether the scientific process functioned properly in these two recent incidents, Bienenstock said, and the issue merits further discussion. From the point of view of how accusations of research misconduct are actually handled, Bienenstock described the Federal Policy on Research Misconduct, which was promulgated by OSTP in 2000. The federal policy, which applies to all agencies that are federally funded, defines misconduct in detail and provides explicit criteria for judging accusations. It is designed first to protect the person/s making the allegations, and second, to protect the person/s subjected to the allegations through a multi-step process. Each step must occur within a specific, limited time frame. In order for the policy to be come operational, it must be implemented by agencies funding research, and organizations which carry out research Bienenstock proposed drafting an APS statement that urges federal agencies supporting research to complete and publish their implementation plans, and organizations which carry out research to adopt practices consistent with the Federal policy. Discussion on the terms for such a statement followed.

Action: The motion to proceed with the writing of this statement, pending final wording, was approved unanimously.

3. A Proposed APS Statement on Improving Education on Research Ethics.

Bienenstock proposed and there was discussion of an APS statement on improving education on research ethics, which would recommend:

  • Working with physics departments to emphasize professional and ethical standards to students and trainees,
  • Helping physics department and faculty in preparing education programs such as seminars, workshops and courses on professional standards of ethics by identifying best practice,
  • Providing a website on ethics and professional standards for the physics community to find information in one place,
  • Surveying APS members on how professional standards and ethics can be part of education of physicist,
  • Sponsoring symposia on professional standards and ethics.

A statement on Improving Education in Research was approved in principle. The discussion of the ethics issue was suspended till after lunch to allow for further work in drafting statements, and to consider other business.

Washington Report: In reference to the Federal budget, Lubell said it was an interesting year, beginning with a presidential budget request that contained little good news for science, except for NIH and DOD. This request met with great disapproval on the Hill. Even before organizations lobbied on behalf of the science budget, many members of Congress who support science told the President that the request was not adequate.

A graph shown by Lubell demonstrated what happened to the physical sciences in the last ten years. It showed that purchasing power declined. Also, it showed that some agencies get preferential treatment. For example, there is a strong difference between NIH and DOE/ Office of Science; the latter is flat funded.

Lubell said that the situation led to several pieces of legislation. One is the five-year authorization bill for the NSF. Both the House and Senate versions were relatively generous in the authorization that basically doubles the NSF budget over the next five years. There are features in the Senate version, which are problematic, but overall, are a major statement from Congress that the NSF needs to grow.

Also, there is a bill pending in conference, HR4, which deals with the Office of Science in DOE. The House version contained nothing about Office of Science in DOE. The Senate passed its own legislation that contained a major segment on science R&D. The bill is a multi-year authorization, and includes the creation of the position of Under Secretary for Science and Energy Research. HR.4 has been in conference for the last 5 months. There was a delay in naming the conferees. Whether the bill comes out of conference is not known, since there are difficulties with other energy related issues such as ethanol, ANWR, and electric regulations. Probably, there will be a compromise on the first two issues.

The R&D portion of the bill passed the Senate in the Energy and Natural Resources committee. 98 percent of the R&D provision has been agreed by conferees APS is working on a separate Office of Science authorization bill, H.R.5270, which takes Senate provisions to the House legislation; it has 75 cosponsors so far. It calls also for the creation of the Under Secretary position, makes the position of Director of Office of Science an Assistant Secretary, and outlines budget increases for the next four years.

It is unlikely that Congress will pass any legislation before recess. Most probably, there will be a continuing resolution, with funding at last year’s level, provoking disagreement from liberals. If it were a year-long continuing resolution, the discretionary spending for FY03 would be $766 billion, 7 more than what the President requested, since the FY02 contains emergency spending that gets rolled into FY03. This would help the Office of Science only marginally. There would be no new programs in R&D under a continuing resolution. Most probably, there will be a lame duck session in Congress after the election recess, and no appropriation bills will pass.

NSF is in a peculiar situation; it has great support for research on Capitol Hill, but its director is not well liked. Conflicts between Congress and the NSF director emerged on the management of Major Research Equipment Account (MRE). This has a budget that has been growing year by year, and is currently in the order of $120-135 M. There is no one person in charge of managing MRE, and Congress requested last year that somebody be appointed to that position. This was done this year only at the very last minute, which did not please the Hill. No list of priorities for MRE programs was given to Congress, which was also a source of irritation.

Humanitarian DeMining: Gronlund and Sessler presented a proposal for a humanitarian demining study. There are important differences between military and humanitarian demining. The first emphasizes speed over cost and effectiveness. Humanitarian demining, on the other hand, emphasizes cost and effectiveness.

The study, if APS approves it, would look into technologies that may be useful in detecting mines. The committee discussed the issue, particularly the scope of the study, the eventual sources for funding the study, and the concern with the political side of the study (US position on mining). Sessler prepared a preliminary budget; members suggested a more detailed budget.

Action: Motion to recommend to the Council that a study be developed was passed unanimously. An amendment was voted on, requesting that the steering committee revises the budget before the recommendation goes to Council. It was approved unanimously.

Ethics statement: Proposed drafts for the Council statements on Ethics including the Handling of Allegations of Research Misconduct, Improving Education for Professional Ethics, Standards, and Practices, modifications in the existing wording of APS 91.8, and supplementary guidelines on Coauthorship and research processes in collaborations have been generated, and will be approved in principle. Final revisions regarding details language will be handled by email and final approval will be done by email also.

Action: Motion to approve the principle of the draft statements on “Policies for Handling Allegations of Research Misconduct,” and on “Improving Education for Professional Ethics, Standards and Practices,” was passed unanimously. A proposed final draft will be emailed, and members will vote on approval of the final language by email.

4. Proposed APS Guidance on Coauthorship on Research Practices in Collaborations.

The committee discussed the revision of the 91.8 statement on guidelines for professional conduct and whether to add supplementary guidelines to the 1991 statement rather than rewriting it. The committee edited the 1991 statement to express the degree of responsibility authors should share when collaborating in a paper, and the need to make data accessible to all authors, prior to publication. There was particular concern with the degree of responsibility that should be conveyed in a statement; a statement on co-authorship suggesting that all authors take full responsibility could discourage collaboration among scientists.

Action: Bienenstock, Tsang and Ahearne will work on the statement on co-authorship, and have a final draft for the Council meeting in November. This will be subject to revision and approval by POPA by email

The subject of current policies for publishing full length papers expanding on materials presented in prior letter length publications was discussed. Editorial policies, which make such publications more difficult, were mentioned.

In particular, concern was expressed that current policies and practices of The Physical Review made it more difficult to publish full length, archival papers following up on shorter, less detailed letter type report now than in the past. The full-length archival publications are essential to the reproducibility of the published literature and must be encouraged for the completeness of the research record. Obstacles to the publication of full length papers should not be based on the fact that elements of the paper have previously appeared in short, letter type journals.

Action: Motion to encourage Physical Review’s editors to reexamine policies concerning publication of longer papers, was unanimously passed.

The committee congratulated Bienenstock for his excellent work on this issue.

CIFS - ICSU: Sarachik introduced the issue of a petition circulating in Europe to boycott Israeli scientists, and urging European science agencies not to fund scientific activities in Israel. She made a request for the APS to introduce its own statement on this issue. A draft was introduced and discussed. One of the major concerns among members was the fact that APS should be careful in using the word boycott. It was suggested to form a subcommittee to study the issue further, since members were undecided on the terms and content of the statement.

Action: A subcommittee formed by Cahn, Brecher, Cox and Sarachik will revise the resolution’s content and wording, and send a final version to members, via email, for approval.

Space Debris: Primack introduced a proposal for a study on space debris, an issue that could become a major concern if space is weaponized, as the Secretary of Defense suggested. The study would address the implications of various weapons systems and would clarify the threat from other uses of lower orbits. Primak suggested the formation of a small panel of expert that would communicate by email and requested advise on how to proceed with the issue.
The proposal will be dealt with at a later time.

GPRA: Tsang commented on the Memorandum from OMB and OSTP on the FY04 Interagency Research and Development Priorities, that sets criteria for budgeting agencies research programs based on effectiveness of programs.

The meeting adjourned at 3:50 PM.