January 25, 2004

Washington, DC

Present: Bienenstock, Bond (by phone), Blume, Cahn, Clark, Morrel Cohen, Cox, Eisenberger, Einhorn, Gupta (by phone), Hagengruber, von Hippel, Koonin (by phone), Levi, Moniz, Primack, Quinn, Shotts, Wiseman, Zinck

Absent: Ahearne, Block, Fetter, Richter

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

Guests: Frances Houle, Chair, APS Ethics Task Force; Stephen Berry, former POPA member


  • March 28, 2004

Bienenstock called the meeting to order at 8:30 AM. Minutes from the past meeting were approved, with one correction.

POPA Membership: Franz announced that the APS Nominating Committee will meet in February and would like suggestions for future POPA members. POPA members are chosen by the Council from nominations submitted by the Nominating Committee. Several names were proposed.

Report on Council Actions: Franz said that the APS Council reconfirmed the 1983 Statement on Freedom of Scientific Communication for Basic Research. A preamble was added to the original statement. Moniz stressed the importance of this issue and suggested taking the statement to the staff on the Hill. A discussion on the issue followed. Franz noted that the statement already passed, but it can be brought back to discussion. If a POPA subcommittee decides to pursue this issue, Slakey will work on a lobbying strategy. On other issues, the Council has encouraged the publication of the Boost Phase Intercept study in Review of Modern Physics. It has also accepted the Ethics Task Force report and encourages POPA and the APS presidential line to work together to determine what actions can be taken on this issue.

APS Ethics Task Force Report: Houle reported on the activities of the Ethics Task Force. The task force was created at POPA’s request after the Shoen affair. The task force gathered information through interviews and surveys of academia, APS Units, and research institutions. The results revealed insufficient ethics training, students’ personal knowledge of ethics violations, and a concern with the treatment of subordinates. The task force recommended to the APS Council to broaden the ethics statement to include topics such as treatment of subordinates and intellectual property. The task force also proposed sponsoring programs and discussions on ethics, and working with international organizations on the issue of international ethics standards. The task force also recommended that the Council consider having a formal standing committee on ethics. Primack proposed that the task force write a Physics Today article to disseminate the results of the report. Also, he suggested creating an office, or having an ombudsman that would listen to and follow up on complains. Franz clarified that while there is a POPA subcommittee on ethics, having a retired eminent physicist charged with this issue may be more effective.

Possible POPA Actions on Task Force and Council Recommendations: Franz called for the POPA Ethics Subcommittee to draft a statement on treatment of subordinates. Franz also suggested that POPA form a subcommittee or create a special task force to generate a statement on electronic data storage. On the recommendation to consider a standing ethics committee, Franz said that the recommendation would be forwarded to the APS Committee on Committees. Franz also requested that POPA discuss and eventually approve the Supplementary Guideline on References in Publications drafted by the Editorial office and distributed at the meeting.

POPA actions:

  • The POPA ethics subcommittee will draft a statement on treatment of subordinates
  • Franz and Bienenstock will contact NRC on the issue of electronic data
  • The POPA ethics subcommittee will draft a revised version of the ethics statement to include the issue of conflict of interest
  • Urge Physics Today to publish a summary of the ethics report
  • The subject of an APS ombudsman should be discussed further by the ethics subcommittee

Washington Report: Lubell: The Senate finally cleared the FY04 omnibus bill. In the area of R&D, NSF received an increase of 5%, DOE Office of Science received 4%, and NIH received 3%. NASA appropriation is still under revision. Funding for DOD 6.1 program went down by 1% while the 6.2 program is up by 3.5%. NIST funding declined by 2%.
The presidential FY05 budget request will be released by the administration on February 2. Discretionary funding will show a 4% increase, most of it for defense programs. As a result, civilian programs will be significantly lower. Funding for science programs may reflect anything from a flat budget in comparison to the FY04 budget to a 2% increase.
Republicans in Congress will have to face the escalating FY04 budget deficit, which is expected to reach $0.5 trillion. However, if revenues continue to decrease, the deficit may go close to $1 trillion. On the energy bill, Lubell said that Congress has been trying for the last two years to pass an energy bill. Last summer, the Senate couldn’t come to an agreement on the language in the bill. Before going into recess, they passed previous legislation drafted by Democrats, which allowed them to take the bill to conference with the House. The bill was drafted by the Conference Committee leadership, without participation of other congressional members or staff. Two controversial pieces of legislation generated a filibuster; the ethanol provision and the contamination of ground from MTBE. Unless this last prevision is removed, the bill will not pass. In the bill, there is a strong spending authorization for the DOE Office of Science, but two provisions were killed, the creation of a new Undersecretary for Science and Energy and elevating the position of Director of DOE Office of Science to Assistant Secretary of Energy.
Quinn commented on the OMB proposal to have science, used as a basis for regulations, go through an additional peer review process. Franz said that the issue is not peer reviews but how to choose reviewers. Bienenstock said that the seriousness of the issue requires more time for discussion. He said that National Research Council panel on Science, Technology and Law had a workshop on this issue and POPA could invite the convener of that meeting to the next POPA meeting.
On the issue of space programs, Lubell said that the presidential announcement on the moon and Mars mission may have to do with air space industry concerns about China, and recommendations from policy advisors. The issue is what NASA will do after the end of the space shuttle, the implications for the Hubble telescope, and for science in general. There were no specifics in the speech on the cost of the mission, or how it will be funded. However, the president announced that the budget for NASA would be increased by a billion dollars in a five-year period, plus $11 billion for reprogramming. Quinn requested that POPA endorse a statement from the American Astronomical Society on the future of the Hubble Space Telescope (statement distributed at the meeting).
Wiseman explained that the service on the telescope is done every 3 to 5 years, and the next one was scheduled for 2005. After the Columbia accident, there is specific safety issues required that have yet to be develop for the Hubble Telescope. NASA decided to bring down the telescope because of the cost involved in implementing these new safety requirements.
Primack said that the consequences of the decision are that scientific benefits from the telescope will be lost, and that NASA will have to invest resources anyway in a new kind of rocket to bring down the telescope. Both issues would have been taken care of by having one last service to the telescope.

POPA Action:

  • Motion to recommend to Council that APS endorse the AAS Statement passed. Wiseman recused herself from voting.

Pit Facility Report: von Hippel explained that the question is whether to commit to the building of a new pit facility to replace the one closed, or to stay with the existent capability in Los Alamos. The issues involved are: the size of the stockpile; new types of warheads that would require new types of pits and more nuclear testing; and the longevity of pits. The report was reviewed by people inside and outside the labs. Inside reviewers requested more extensive quotes in the report, and outsiders concentrated on the longevity of pits issue.
A discussion followed.
Gupta: the report should address the character of the future nuclear arsenal.
Koonin: listing the reviewers by name would enhance the influence of the report.
Eisenberger: the report should address efforts by the Administration to rethink the nation’s nuclear weapons capability.
Moniz: the aging pits seem more robust in the report than in reality, the TA-55 potential is overstated. He questioned whether APS should get involved at all.
Hagengruber: the report should address the issue of modularity. Also, while it is true that there is no urgency to build a facility, there is an increasing urgency, not addressed in the report, for the military and DOE to pursue science leading to the production of nuclear stockpile.
Shotts: the congressional legislation says that $10.8 million is approved but no further decisions will be made until the issue of stockpile size is addressed.
Lubell: there are reasons why APS should be involved in this issue. The physics community is thought as having technical capability to make assessments, independently of political objectives. DOE doesn’t have much credibility with some congressional members, so they welcome outside opinions. The plan to build a new facility will move forward.

Gupta: the report should not recommend expanding the TA-55 facility. He agrees with APS taking a position on nuclear weapons, but the report doesn’t provide all the information needed to make judicious comments on such a complicated issue.
Slakey reiterated that the purpose of the report is to raise questions in the political debate about arsenal size, longevity or the need for a new facility. In view of the comments, the issue of modularity should be added.
Bienenstock: the consensus among members is that the report should be rewritten, taking into account the comments.

POPA action:

  • Eisenberger made a motion for the panel to redraft the report and return it to POPA with a revision. The motion was approved with one opposed.

Hydrogen Committee Reports: Eisenberger summarized the methodology applied in the preparation of these reports. He requested that the Committee decide what the next steps should be. Bienenstock proposed that members send comments to Eisenberger by email on the Hydrogen Economy report written for APS members, to give everybody the opportunity to review the report thoroughly. Members discussed the hydrogen report written for congressional staff.
Slakey: the purpose of the Hydrogen Initiative report is to provide congressional staff with some guidance, and as a tool to lobby on the issue. The report will be widely circulated on the Hill.
The National Academy of Science hydrogen report is coming out soon. There is a possibility of appearing jointly in some committee hearings to testify. The POPA panel will review the NAS report.
Moniz: the report gives the impression that hydrogen economy is inevitable, particularly in transportation, and he disagrees with that.
Einhorn: from the political point of view, the report sound as if the community were complaining about not getting "a piece of the pie," that there is not enough basic science.
Eisenberger: the point is to bring to the debate a principle of caution, that it is essential not to make a transition to development before developing the necessary scientific knowledge that will warrant success.
Lubell: one concern in the public policy arena is the assumption that, when starting a program and a time line for development is set up, that science would deliver. The report addresses the fact that Administration and Congress are supportive of the hydrogen initiative, and the question is not if there are other initiatives more viable, but what science is needed for this initiative to work.
Moniz: the report gives too much credibility to the belief that hydrogen is the solution. The table on page 9 says that the funding for hydrogen initiative in NSF and Office of Science is zero. The statement is misleading because it leaves the impression that there is no basic research going on to develop the hydrogen initiative.
Berry: the statement made on demonstration projects may not be strong and explicit enough to emphasize that too much effort in short term demonstration may be counterproductive if it diverts money needed for more fundamental new science.
Bienestock: uneasy with the emphasis on university research centers because there is no evidence that centers will achieve more than individual scientists.

POPA action:

  • Eisenberger made a motion to edit the report, based on the feedback received. The report will be circulated by email to POPA members. POPA members will respond with a "yes" or "no" vote. The motion passed unanimously.

Levi: the hydrogen report for APS members needs to be shortened, and focus more on what the key research challenges are in different areas are.
Eisenberger: The report will be reviewed to incorporate feedback. The report will be presented again in the next POPA meeting.
Ethics Guidelines statement: the revised statement was brought back for discussion. Quinn asked if a sentence on the responsibility of referees should be added. Blume commented that the instructions to referees include the issue of responsibility.

POPA Action:

  • Motion to accept the revised version of the statement passed unanimously.

POPA Subcommittees for 2004: New members volunteered for POPA subcommittees. The steering committee will be made up of the POPA chair, chair elect, past chair and the chairs of all subcommittees. Franz reminded members of the resolution passed some time ago about revising statements to determine which ones should to be archived. This should be done maybe by the website subcommittee. This subcommittee should also make sure that the POPA website is up-to-date.

Physics and the Public: Franz: APS has ongoing activities in many areas, and there is a need for an oversight committee in the area of informing the public. Levi volunteered to chair the committee.

New Business: Bienenstock: Some time ago, an OSTP study posed the question of what would happen to the scientific and technology workforce if the participation of ethnic groups remained at the 1995 level. Demographics showed that the fraction of workforce devoted to science and technology declined steadily. Immigration policy in this country and efforts in foreign countries such as India and China, to keep their scientists, has affected the U.S. scientific workforce. Preliminary statistics show now a 25% drop in registration of Chinese students to grad school. POPA should examine this issue.
Eisenberger: POPA should concentrate efforts on the overall issue and not on the symptoms of the problem. Also, to expand the limits of the analysis, not to limit it to physics.
Einhorn: it is not an either-or situation; national policy on visas is affecting international meetings.
Franz: APS has a statement on visas and Executive Board will continue to work on this issue.
Quinn: it is not a matter of new information but of how to move forward on this. POPA could provide documentation to lobby and educate congressional staff.
Primack: would like for POPA to work on the national space policy, maybe produce a statement. The issues of presidential proposal for space missions and militarizing space are worth looking into.
Franz: if APS works on this, it should be done with AAS, maybe forming a task force.
Cox: proposed to discuss the future of academia, given the increasing number of courses available on the Internet. Perhaps the Physics and the Public subcommittee should study this issue.
Bienenstock: summarized the issues brought to the table. Issues should be considered only if at least three members volunteer to work on each of them.
National space policy. Primack volunteered to start the work, but only until December, when his term as a member expires. More volunteers are needed.

Off-shoring: Franz: APS should inform members on the issue of off shoring and prepare them for what is coming. She proposed putting together a workshop to look into the issue and produce a report. It could be a group of 10-15 experts, not necessarily physicists, which would examine what is happening and frame the issue. The purpose would be to inform APS members. Bienenstock and Hagengruber will look further into the issue. The general consensus is to go ahead with the proposal for a workshop.

Levi proposed that in the future, people gather volunteers before suggesting the formation of a new subcommittee.

Public Perception of Science: Members discussed the article from the New York Times, Does Science Matter?
Levi: the questions raised by the article are whether science is serving the public, whether science is a threat to belief systems, whether physics is inspiring people to reach new frontiers, whether science is being "politicized", and whether the US is losing international preeminence in science.
Eisenberger: suggested formation of a committee to rework the social contract into a more modern context, and generate a statement. The concern is with the influence science has today in all aspects of society and how science influences and affects them. The committee should not be limited to physicists but should include experts in other areas, such as ethics or sociology.

POPA action:

Eisenberger, Wiseman and Zinck will work on a proposal to be presented at the next POPA meeting.

The meeting was adjourned at 2:45 PM.