October 23, 2004
Present: J. Ahearne, A. Bienenstock, P. Bond, B. Clark, D. Cox, P. Eisenberger, M. Einhorn, S. Fetter, Y. Gupta, R. Hagengruber, F. von Hippel, S. Koonin, B. Levi (by phone), E. Moniz, J. Primack, B. Richter (by phone), J. Wiseman, J. Zinck (by phone)
Absent: J. Bahcall, S. Block, Morrel Cohen, Marvin Cohen, H. Quinn, W. Shotts
APS Staff: Franz, Lubell, Pierson, Slakey, Victoria
Guests: Amy Flatten, APS Director of International Affairs
JoAnn Milliken, DOE, Chief Engineer, Hydrogen & Fuel Cells Infrastructure Tech.
Robert Budnitz, DOE, Representative, Seven Labs Director Task Force
January 9, 2005
Bienenstock called the meeting to order at 8:30 AM. Primack requested that his comments on the proposed Moon/Mars report be included in the March 2004 POPA minutes. Subject to this change, the minutes were approved unanimously.
Flatten informed the committee that although there are improvements in the foreign students visa process, there is a new emerging problem. A report published this year by the Inspector General of the Department of Commerce proposed changes in export control regulations. Universities, previously exempted from these regulations, are now included. Particularly worrisome is that foreign students from some countries would now have restricted access to and use of export controlled equipment or technology at universities. Universities would be required to apply for special licenses for those students.
Bienenstock said that these regulations might have been originated by Homeland Security and by companies who believe that there is unfair competition with labs. University presidents sent a letter to Condoleezza Rice and other administration officers, voicing their concern. He informed the committee that the White House has left it to the agencies to work with universities to determine how to implement the regulations. A group of university representatives met with Undersecretary of Commerce Ken Juster, who told them that the community will be consulted before implementing the new regulations.
Gupta commented on the difficulty of enforcing the control.
Flatten said that a university task force was formed to meet with government officials. This task force, headed by AAU, will work to narrow down the list of export-controlled equipment. Commerce Department officials have already agreed to meet.
Bienenstock mentioned that the Bay Area Science and Innovation Council has expressed concern over the export control issue and distress over the future of the science and technology work force. When the group met with Juster, he said that the community has misunderstood the Inspector General's definition of "use." He also asked not to involve Congress on this issue because it could make things worse.
Bienenstock proposed sending a letter encouraging discussion between the Commerce Department and universities to ensure that no changes in policy are implemented without a clear common understanding.
Franz suggested that the letter be sent by the POPA chair. Depending on how the issue evolves, a letter could be sent from the APS president.
ACTION: Bienenstock will draft a letter to Undersecretary for Industry and Security Kenneth Juster, with copy to Mr. Franklin Miller, National Security Council Senior Director for Defense Policy and Arms Control, on the issue of export control. Bienenstock will email it to members for comments.
Flatten gave an update on the visa issue. Twenty five societies signed a letter that made recommendations on the visa process. The State Department sent a letter to Helen Quinn saying, among other things, that 90 percent of the Visa Mantis cases are now cleared within thirty days. One of the reason for the improvement, Flatten said, is that Federal agencies have streamlined the visa process - the State Department and Department of Homeland Security have more direct control over the approval and do not have to receive clearance from as many other agencies to issue a visa.
New Guidelines for Lobbying on POPA Reports:
Franz explained that there were no established procedures for lobbying on POPA reports. So, Franz and Lubell drafted guidelines, which were approved by the Executive Board and will be presented to the Council for approval. Franz explained that under the new guidelines the Executive Board can object to any part of a report they deem inappropriate for lobbying. However, the E-Board would not edit a report, only send it back to POPA for rewriting.
Cell Phone Towers:
Slakey explained that there is a growing public concern regarding supposed negative health effects associated with cell phone towers. He posed the question of broadening the APS Statement on Power Lines to include this issue.
Primack said that there is insufficient evidence on the effects of cell phone towers to draw a conclusion at this time. He added that the flawed logic or flawed research of anti-cell phone tower advocates is not a sufficient reason to issue a statement. Members agreed.
ACTION: No action will be taken on the issue of the supposed negative health effects associated with cell phone towers.
Science Advice to Congress:
Slakey explained that Sen. Bingaman and Rep. Holt introduced bills that offer mechanisms to improve the input of science advice to Congress. Rep Holt ’s bill was voted on, but failed to pass.
Slakey said that the bills will be reintroduced in the next Congress and asked the committee if the APS should take a position or lobby on this issue. He added that POPA reviewed this issue in 2001 and decided not to act on it.
Bienenstock summarized possible POPA action: POPA could endorse the idea of Congress improving on its science advice mechanisms without promoting any particular one; POPA could examine the various legislative proposals more carefully and promote one; POPA could come up with a new proposal.
ACTION: A subcommittee of POPA will: 1) assess the methods Congress has for obtaining scientific advise; 2) identify any gaps in those methods; and 3) identify ways to fill any gaps. The subcommittee should report back to POPA at the January meeting.The subcommittee includes: Ahearne, Eisenberger (Chair), Levi, Primack, Slakey (Advisor), and von Hippel.
As a result of the discussion at the April POPA meeting, Primack chaired a task force charged to prepare a brief POPA report summarizing the science opportunities that will be lost or seriously delayed as a consequence of shifting NASA priorities toward Moon-Mars. A second charge to the group was to draft a statement to be considered by the American Physical Society Executive Board in mid-June. The report was written by a committee consisting of leading astrophysicists and planetary scientists, and the statement, which they drafted, was approved unanimously by the APS Executive Board during its June meeting. The draft report was sent to a number of reviewers (listed in Appendix IV of the report), including the APS Division of Astrophysics Executive Committee. All the recommendations of the reviewers were considered by the committee, and almost all of them were implemented.
Primack summarized the contents of the report, which expresses concerns that the cost of the Moon-Mars program will decrease funding for important science programs that were given high priority in the National Academy of Sciences decadal studies.
Lubell commented on the recommendations of the report. He discussed the intended audience: congressional staff, and some members of the administration who are not scientists but have an influence on policy development.
POPA members made various comments. The main subject of the discussion was the need to clarify and strengthen the Findings and Recommendations. Franz suggested that the subcommittee work during the break to address the POPA comments. After lunch, Primack presented to the committee the proposed changes.
ACTION: The Mars-Moon report was approved, with one abstention. Primack will send the corrected version by email.
Milliken gave a presentation on New Hydrogen Production, Delivery, and Storage Research Projects (handout distributed at the meeting), an overview of DOE ’s Hydrogen Program. Levi explained the purpose of the second Hydrogen Report she is drafting and she asked for comments. Eisenberger explained that the Levi report was drafted as an aid for the scientific community to understand the issue. He suggested approving the report and posting it on the POPA website. Bienenstock commended the work of the subcommittee that worked on the first Hydrogen Report. He noted that it was a very successful lobbying tool.
ACTION: That Levi Hydrogen report was approved for publishing once it is reviewed and edited accordingly.
Nuclear Power Study:
Slakey introduced the issue of nuclear power and proliferation resistance citing past APS statements related to these issues. Congress is also concerned, he said, because of the current situations with Iran, N. Korea, S. Korea and Brazil. Congressional staffers suggested that APS study the existing information on this issue and make recommendations to Congress on how to expand nuclear power while reducing the threat of nuclear proliferation.
Hagengruber said that congressional staff demonstrated strong interest on this issue but many of them do not have scientific background, particularly in nuclear physics. More than a technical paper, then, this paper should serve as a “tutorial” that would inform them not only on proliferation in national programs but also shortcuts that terrorists can take to produce nuclear bombs with enriched uranium.
Members discussed the proposal. Von Hippel said that the issue should be fuel cycle and proliferation and suggested that information on Yucca Mountain might be included in the report. Gupta said that considering the weight that this report would carry, it shouldn’t be rushed and should be comprehensive and credible. Moniz said that the report should be about the interaction of nuclear energy, fuel cycle and nuclear proliferation, and waste management. Eisenberger cautioned members about addressing too many issues and he added that the report concentrate on the science and not advocate a position. Budnitz said that the urgent issue is non-proliferation.
The committee approved the funding for the report.
ACTION: A subcommittee of POPA will address the issue of nuclear power and proliferation resistance. The subcommittee should: 1) frame the issue of proliferation resistance and fuel cycles; 2) identify general approaches for reducing proliferation risks; and 3) recommend technology pathways that can be applied to reduce proliferation risks a) currently, b) in the near-term, and c) in the long-term. The subcommittee should report back to POPA via e-mail for comments after completing step 1). The subcommittee should report back to POPA at the January meeting. The subcommittee includes: Ahearne, Hagengruber (Chair), Moniz, Slakey (Advisor) and von Hippel.
Los Alamos Statement:
Lubell explained that recent security lapses at Los Alamos have deteriorated the morale among scientists at this lab. He recommended that POPA issue a statement of concern and support. Some POPA members thought that a statement just about Los Alamos was too limited when other labs also have problems. Moniz stated that the key issue is lab mismanagement. A statement would be appropriate only if this was addressed. Primack said that a statement should not be rushed. A more factual discussion should be held at the next POPA meeting.
ACTION: A subcommittee formed by Koonin, Gupta and Lubell will draft another statement in support of National Labs.
The meeting adjourned at 3:15 PM.