APS News

Washington Dispatch

ISSUE: Science Research Budgets

In July, the House completed passing all twelve appropriations bills for FY 08, which began October 1. But by the start of the new fiscal year, the Senate had completed only four of the 12 appropriations bills. Without a single FY 08 appropriations bill conferenced and signed into law, the federal government is running on a Continuing Resolution that is expected to last until at least November 16. The president has threatened to veto any spending bill that exceeds his requested amount. It is unclear how or when the FY 08 spending bills will be resolved, but the science community must remain vocal about preserving increases approved for basic research.

Since the last Washington Dispatch, the Senate Appropriations Committee and the full House approved funding levels for DOD basic (6.1) and applied (6.2) research, well above the presidential request but below last year’s levels. The Senate Appropriations Committee and the full House also approved levels above the president’s request for the NASA Science account to cover inflationary costs for research. Congressional funding plans for DOE Science, the NIST Core programs, and NSF are reasonably consistent with the presidential request.

To track the progress of the appropriations bills, visit www.aaas.org/spp/rd/approp08.htm or go to www.aps.org/policy/issues/research-funding/index.cfm.

In August, the US President signed into law landmark legislation intended to keep the US globally competitive. Public Law 110-69, the America COMPETES Act, calls for sharp increases in federal support for math and science education and for basic research in the physical sciences and engineering. The bipartisan bill, also known as H.R. 2272, authorizes a doubling of funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Energy Office of Science (DOE-SC) and the core programs of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) over seven years. In addition, the legislation contains initiatives for recruiting and retaining highly qualified educators in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects at the K-12 level. It also contains programs to help attract early career researchers to the science and technology fields.

The America COMPETES Act is a positive step for science, but it authorizes increases for only basic research and education. Like the 2002 NSF 5-year doubling bill, budgets will increase only if appropriators fund the authorizations.


ISSUE: POPA Nuclear Forensics Report

The APS Panel on Public Affairs (POPA) and the AAAS have established a study group on Nuclear Forensics technology and techniques. The chair is Michael May, Emeritus Director of Lawrence Livermore National Lab and Professor Emeritus at Stanford University; other members of the group include Al Carnesale, Phil Coyle, Jay Davis, Bill Dorland, Bill Dunlop, Steve Fetter, Alex Glaser, Ian Hutcheon, Don Kerr, Francis Slakey, & Benn Tannenbaum. The first panel meeting was held in July of 2008, and the report is scheduled to be completed by February 2008.

POPA is an APS standing committee that is charged with advising the Council and officers of the Society in the formulation of APS positions on public policy issues that have a technical dimension of interest to physicists. POPA also investigates the desirability of APS-sponsored expert studies on physics-related topics of importance to society and helps to organize such studies.


ISSUE: POPA Nuclear Workforce Report

The APS Panel on Public Affairs has established a study group to examine the workforce needs and training infrastructure of the United States Nuclear Workforce. Sekazi Mtingwa, from MIT, is the chair of the study; other members of the group include Ruth Howes, William Magwood, Darlene Hoffman, Andrew Klein, Lynne Fairobent, Allen Sessoms, Marc Ross, & Carol Berrigan. The first panel meeting was held this summer, and a second meeting of the committee is planned in November. A report is slated to be completed in early 2008.


ISSUE: Campaign Project Update

Eight organizations will be participating in the next phase of a project to educate scientists and engineers in electoral politics. A “Campaign Workshop” is being planned for May 2008. The participating societies are: AAAS, ACS, AIBS, AIP, APS, ASCE, COSSA, and IEEE.


ISSUE: Washington Office Media Update

The San Francisco Chronicle published an op-ed October 8 by Norman Augustine on Sputnik and the competitiveness issue. The fall edition of Capitol Hill Quarterly leads with a story about the APS energy efficiency study being chaired by Nobel Laureate Burton Richter. In other media news, the Task Force on the Future of American Innovation, of which APS is a founding member, is developing plans to announce the winner of its YouTube American Innovation Video Contest. The purpose of the contest was to show how science has changed American life. The winning video will be shown to congressional members to reinforce the need for increased funding for basic research. The Task Force also placed an ad in Congressman Vernon Ehlers’ hometown newspaper, the Grand Rapids Press, to thank him for rallying House Republicans to support the America COMPETES bill.

Log on to the APS Public Affairs website (www.aps.org/public_affairs) for more information.

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Editor: Alan Chodos
Contributing Editor: Jennifer Ouellette
Staff Writer: Ernie Tretkoff