January 12, 2003

Washington, DC

Present: Ahearne, Berry, Bienenstock, Cahn, Clark, Marvin Cohen, Morrel Cohen, Cox, Davis, Edelstein, Eisenberger, Evenson, Fetter, Lamb, Levi, Plapp, Primack, Shotts, Stephan, Tsang, von Hippel, Zink

Absent: Block, Goldman, Quinn, Richter, Sarachik, Schuller

APS Staff: Blume, Franz, Lubell, Park, Pierson, Slakey, Victoria


  • March 30, 2003
  • September 21, 2003

Tsang called the meeting to order at 8:30 AM. New members were introduced. The minutes for the October 6, 2002 meeting were approved with minor changes.

Lamb gave an update on the BPI study. The final version will go to the APS Editorial Committee on 1/13/03. When approved, the study will go the APS Council for approval. The study will be presented to the public in a press conference.

Tsang reported that the APS Council passed the two statements that the Committee had been working on: Statement 91.8 detailing guidelines on professional conduct and the statement against boycotting Israelis scientists passed. Supplementary guidelines on responsibility of coauthors and on research results also passed, with modifications.

The proposal for a de-mining study was approved, provided that external funding can be obtained.

Washington Report: Slakey reviewed lobbying strategies. He said that there are indications that the Administration may be interested in resuming nuclear testing. These include the 2002 Nuclear Posture report suggesting that the Administration may be interested in new nuclear weapons and shortening nuclear test readiness; the defense authorization bill drafted in the House that reduced nuclear test readiness to 12 to 24 months, and required comparing and contrasting different earth-penetrating weapons; and DOD memo from NWC chair, E.C. Aldridge suggesting that there may be problems with stockpile stewardship. POPA's National Security subcommittee identified 3 areas where pressure to resume nuclear testing is coming from:

  1. claim of failure of stockpile stewardship;
  2. claim that the U.S. needs a new kind of nuclear weapons;
  3. claim that the W76 warhead might suffer a catastrophic failure, so testing is necessary to make sure the weapon works;

The Washington office intends to address these issues. The subcommittee is updating the 1997 APS statement on CTBT as a response to the issue of stockpile stewardship. The defense authorization bill requires that a report be written comparing nuclear vs. conventional earth penetrating weapons. The Washington Office will have access to a portion of the report and intends to be prepared to respond after the report is issued. Nothing has been said yet on the failure of W76 warhead, but if it becomes an issue, a possible response is to simply retrofit another warhead. On the issue of testing new weapons, the Washington Office can have experts available to communicate with Hill staff.

Lubell reported that of thirteen appropriation bills considered last year, FY03, only three passed, and Congress went into recess with a continuing resolution. There is a reasonable chance that bills will not pass and there will be a continuing resolution for the entire year.

Lubell predicted that the 108th Congress will not oppose the White House policies any time soon. This is not only because Republicans now controlthe Senate, House, and White House, but also because the president is credited with helping Republicans regain the Senate. This dynamic may change as general elections come closer, but it will not change in the next six months.

The NSF authorization bill passed and the president signed it, setting up NSF for a ?doubling.? The FY04 budget for science looks flat but NSF will be an exemption. It will not be the 15% increase that passed the House and Senate but closer to 10%.

Energy: Edelstein discussed the idea of posting information concerning energy and environment on the POPA website as POPA reports. The purpose is to post information on these issues that can educate the public and be a useful tool for scientists. Edelstein then discussed a report on wind energy he distributed at the meeting.

Edelstein proposed giving POPA members two weeks to review the report, provide and consider comments, and then vote on approval by email. Ahearne suggested the first step should be to obtain subcommittee approval, then look for approval by POPA members, and then place the report on the web. A discussion followed regarding on how to proceed with the reports and the kind of publications that should be submitted.

Action: After adding a paragraph on policy, Edelstein will place the wind energy study on the web as an Occasional Paper, and submit the paper to the editor of Physics and Society for possible publication

Ethics: Blume submitted the APS guidelines for the investigation of research misconduct for discussion.

He explained the procedures APS follows when misconduct is suspected, illustrating the account with examples of misconduct: plagiarism, fabrication of data and copyright violations.

Action: Blume will make some small modifications to the guidelines he presented before submitting it for Council's approval.

Web Voting: Tsang discussed the need for a formal process for POPA to work and edit documents by email. Edelstein elaborated on possible methods to improve the electronic exchange, such as naming a moderator, using a title on the subject line to sort issues, and numbering versions as the editing progresses.

Action: The web voting procedure Edelstein proposed will be considered in the future, when editing is necessary.

Statement on Perpetual Motion Machines: Some time ago, the Executive Board issued an statement denouncing the claims of perpetual motion machines, and Park asked the committee to adopt it as a POPA statement. He stressed the fact that these claims are widespread and attract investment from people who do not recognize the scientific impossibility of the claims. There was concern with the clarity of the term ?perpetual motion,? and there was a general consensus that the statement should be stronger and more explicit.

Action: An ad hoc subcommittee formed by Morell Cohen, Cahn and Fetter will assist Park in rewriting the perpetual motion statement.

APS Statement on Physics for Everybody: Franz discussed a statement that the APS Committee on Education (COE) approved unanimously. The COE requested support and approval of the statement by POPA. The COE believes it is important that the APS publicly conveys its position on science education. Cahn expressed concern over endorsing the statement without enough background information. Cox would like the wording revised. Franz suggested having a POPA subgroup work on comments to be conveyed to the Committee on Education.

Action: The statement will be revised by an ad hoc subcommittee formed by Cox, Zinck, Levi, Evenson, and Eisenberger. The revised statement is to be ready for POPA action at the next meeting. In the interim, POPA concerns will be discussed with the new chair of the Education Committee.

After lunch, the chairmanship was transferred to John Ahearne, the 2003 POPA chair. The Committee thanked Tsang for his work as the 2002 POPA chair.

Nomination Committee: Franz requested that POPA members suggest a list of possible candidates for POPA membership. Ahearne read the list of candidates and the POPA member who proposed a name gave a brief comment.

Franz suggested replacing this year's departing members with new members having similar areas of expertise. Ahearne added that members should be aware also of possible new issues that may require specific areas of expertise.

Resumption of Nuclear Testing: Fetter introduced the issue and posed the question of rewriting the APS 1997 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty statement in view of the latest events. There is the general sense that the Administration might favor a resumption of nuclear testing. DOD submitted to Congress a Nuclear Posture Review that stated the need for rebuilding the defense infrastructure, and for new initiatives in nuclear weapons programs. In additiong, the Administration has proposed removing the U.S. signature from the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

The purpose of rewriting the statement is to clarify APS's position on non-proliferation and to bring attention to the fact that APS has expertise on the subject. Lubell said that the first sentence of the last paragraph of the draft turns the statement into a ineffective political tool. The statement should state that any possible technological advantages associated with resumption of nuclear testing should be weighed against possible global consequences. Such statement on resumption of nuclear testing would have much more public impact and promote a discussion in Congress, Lubell said. Cahn said that there is a choice to be made between supporting a moratoria or a twelve-month waiting period. The first one would bring about the second one, he said, so that makes more sense. Lamb opposed the twelve-month wait since he sees it as a political maneuver from Congress. It is a question of intellectual integrity, he said, and since APS opposes testing, it has to make its position very clear.

Action: The statement will be redrafted by the National Security subcommittee, sent out for POPA comments, and be submitted for approval at the next POPA meeting in March.

POPA Organization for 2003: A subcommittee on Domestic Security was formed.

Action: A complete list of subcommittee members will be distributed by email. Members who want to join any of the committees should email Ahearne.

Visas issue: Franz commented on the work APS has been doing on this issue. She said that Irving Lerch, APS Director of International Affairs, has been doing extensive work on the visa problem, and has become a national leader on the issue. APS, along with AAAS, FASEB and ACS, held a meeting last August with Jack Maburger and his staff to talk about the U.S. visa system as it relates to foreign students and scientific researchers. APS sent letters to Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, George Tenet, John Ascroft, Tom Ridge and Spencer Abraham, with copies to Marburger and Norman Neureiter, advising them on the danger of disrupting international collaboration on scientific research by delaying or denying visas to foreign graduate students and research scientists. The letter offered APS's assistance to help address the problem.

Franz stated that most of the visa requests are delayed rather than denied, due to language in the Patriot Act that makes consular legally responsible if they approve visas for suspected terrorists. As a consequence, the U.S. is losing valuable contributions from foreign scientists. Franz suggested that revoking that language from Patriot Act may be the only way to solve the problem.

Franz said that Lerch has worked extensively on making the issue known to the public. As a result, several articles were published on the issue.

Action: Cox will organize a letter-writing campaign among California's APS members, but it will not be pursued as a POPA activity.

Funding for future policy studies: The POPA budget allocates funds for small-size studies only. Any large APS studies require funding outside APS, Franz said.

Gronlund's memo to the Committee raised the possibility of asking APS members to contribute to a study fund. APS is already doing that to fund educational programs, Franz said, and Gronlund's proposal would work only if it is assumed that new money were to come in. Franz cautioned that it is not a good idea for APS to compete with itself for funds. However, she suggested to keep the issue on the agenda.

Action: An ad hoc group led by von Hippel will examine how to raise funds for studies.

The dates for the next two meetings were set for March 30 and September 21, 2003.

The meeting was adjourned at 3:05 PM