Volume 27 , Number 1 January 1998
The American Physical Society Mass Media Fellowship Program for Students. In affiliation with the popular AAAS program, APS will sponsor two ten-week fellowships for physics students to work full-time over the summer as reporters, researchers, and production assistants in mass media organizations nationwide.
PURPOSE: The program is meant to improve public understanding and appreciation of science and technology and to sharpen the ability of the fellows to communicate complex technical issues to non-specialists.
ELIGIBILITY: Priority will be given to graduate students in physics, or a closely related field, although applications also will be considered from outstanding undergraduates and postdoctoral researchers. Applicants should possess outstanding written and oral communication skills and a strong interest in learning about the media.
STIPEND: Remuneration is $4,000, plus a travel allowance of approximately $1,000.
TERM:Following an intensive three-day orientation in early June at the AAAS in Washington, winning candidates will work full-time through mid-August.
SELECTION PROCESS:During February, a review committee will screen completed applications
received by the January 15 deadline. Files of the four or five most qualified applicants will be submitted, together with those of the AAAS finalists, to host media organizations for final selection in April.
TO APPLY: The following materials must be received at the address below by JANUARY 15. Completed application form (available from the program office address below, or the APS home page: http://www.aps.org/public_affairs.cfm)
A copy of your resume
Brief sample(s) of your writing (3-5 pages on any subject, written in language understandable to the general public -- no technical papers, please), on single-sided, 8 1/2" x 11" paper, unstapled Three letters of recommendation (to be mailed directly to the program). Two of these letters should be from faculty members; one should be a personal reference. Transcripts of your undergraduate and graduate work (to be mailed directly to the program)
APS Mass Media Fellowship Program
529 14th Street, NW, Suite 1050
Washington DC 20045
Using Technology for Education: Panel Recommendations "During a period in which technology has fundamentally transformed America's offices, factories, and retail establishments, its impact within our nation's classrooms has generally been quite modest." --Panel on Education Technology Report. To support President Clinton's commitment to prepare American children for the twenty-first century, the President's Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) formed a Panel on Education Technology. The Panel's findings were recently made available in a 135-page document entitled, "Report to the President on the Use of Technology to Strengthen K-12 Education in the United States" (March 1997.) "If the federal government is to play a meaningful role in applying technology effectively within the nation's elementary and secondary schools," the Panel states, "the deployment of computers and their interconnection...must not be viewed as an end in itself." The report emphasizes that importance must also be given to understanding methods of using technologies for teaching, developing appropriate software, providing teachers with the time and training to integrate it into the curriculum, and evaluating what methods are most successful. On the basis of its review of current policies, programs, and pedagogy, the Panel makes the following recommendations:
1. FOCUS ON LEARNING WITH TECHNOLOGY; NOT ABOUT TECHNOLOGY.
"Although universal technological literacy is a laudable national goal," the report says, "the Panel believes the Administration should work toward the use of computing and networking technologies to improve the quality of education in all subject areas."
2. EMPHASIZE CONTENT AND PEDAGOGY, AND NOT JUST HARDWARE. Although "access to modern hardware remains a significant impediment," the Panel finds "widespread agreement that one of the principal factors now limiting the extensive and effective use of technology within American schools is the relative dearth of high-quality computer software and digital content designed specifically for that purpose."
3. GIVE SPECIAL ATTENTION TO PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT. "The benefit to students increasingly will depend on the skill with which some three million teachers are able to use these new tools," the report claims. Yet the Panel's review shows that "among teachers who report having one or more computer systems readily available at school, only 62 percent use a computer regularly for instruction." It attributes this to the fact that teachers currently receive little technical, pedagogical, or administrative support for integrating educational technologies, and few education colleges prepare them to use such tools in the classrooms. The Panel calls for doubling the amount of the typical education technology budget devoted to teacher development from 15 percent to at least 30 percent.
4. ENGAGE IN REALISTIC BUDGETING. The Panel warns educators that "in the absence of realistic budgetary planning, schools and school districts are prone to overspending on the initial acquisition of hardware, and may find themselves with inadequate funding for upgrading and replacement, software and content, hardware and software maintenance, professional development for teachers, and the hiring and retention of necessary technical support personnel." It recommends that the amount of public investment in K-12 education devoted to technology-related expenditures be increased from approximately 1.3 percent to at least five percent (about $13 billion per year in 1996 dollars.)
5. ENSURE EQUITABLE, UNIVERSAL ACCESS. The Panel comments that in recent years, "specifically targeted federal programs have...helped to substantially mitigate some of the disparities in access to educational technology." However, it finds reasons for continued concern, and notes that "systematic disparities in the availability of computers and modems within the home may represent an even greater problem from the viewpoint of equitable access."
6. INITIATE A MAJOR PROGRAM OF EXPERIMENTAL RESEARCH. "In the judgment of the Panel," the report says, "any research that sheds light on how technology might be employed in efficacious...or cost-effective manner would be of great value in maximizing the ratio of benefit to cost." It adds, "In the long run, the Panel believes that much of the promise of educational technology is likely to remain unfulfilled in the absence of a significant increase in the level of funding available for research in this area." The Panel recommends gradually increasing this percentage so that "a steady-state allocation of no less than 0.5 percent of our nation's aggregate K-12 educational spending (or approximately $1.5 billion per year at present expenditure levels) be made to federally sponsored research aimed specifically at improving the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of K-12 education in the United States." The fraction of educational spending currently devoted to this aspect is less than 0.1 percent. The report generally praises the Clinton Administration's current educational technology efforts, finding that "most of the areas the Panel has identified as critical to the successful deployment of educational technology are encompassed by the President's initiative." But it adds the following caveat: "The most important respect in which the Panel believes the President's initiative should be fundamentally broadened and strengthened, however, relates to the pressing need for large-scale, federally sponsored research and evaluation." Copies of the report can be obtained by calling 212-478-0608 or emailing a request to firstname.lastname@example.org. The full text is available on the Web at:
Reprinted from: The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Science Policy NewsNumber 107: September 4, 1997
Good (relatively) News from TIMSS: A June 10, 1997 report on results from the Third International Mathematical and Science Study (TIMSS) states that "U.S. fourth-graders perform above the international average of the 26 TIMSS countries in both mathematics and science." For this grade level, only Korean students outperformed the U.S., whereas Japan, Austria, Australia, Holland, and the Czech Republic showed comparable performance. In math, fourth-graders from Singapore, Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, Holland, Czech Republic, and Austria all performed above U.S. fourth-graders. The U.S. showed no significant sex disparity in fourth-grade math, but did
show disparity in science, especially physical science and earth science. Further details can be obtained from AIP's FYI #87, by Audrey Leath, from which all the information in this article was taken. In addition, Ms. Leath gives an internet address at which the 68-page report, "Pursuing Excellence: A Study of U.S. Fourth-Grade Mathematics and Science Achievement in International Context" can be obtained: http://www.ed.gov/NCES/timss
Summer Scare: In June of this year, the National Association of Graduate-Professional Students sent out an electronic alert with the title "House Cmte Votes 1000% Tax Increase on Grad Students". The alert went on to report that the House Ways and Means Committee had voted in favor of a tax bill that provided for elimination of Section 117d of the Internal Revenue Code. That Section protects from taxation the tuition wavers often granted by universities to graduate research and teaching assistants. The resolution of this alert/issue was described in Bob Park's What's New of August 15. In conference, the House-proposed tax waiver elimination was eliminated, and the Senate version, preserving the waiver, prevailed. Thus, the House bill that had been offered "to make taxes more fair" was not passed, much to the relief of many graduate students.
Physics Education and Employment. AIP's FYI #104, authored by Audrey Leath and dated August 21, 1997, gives detailed information regarding the current conditions of physics education and employment. Included in her article are quotes from the following reports from AIP's Division of Education and Employment Statistics:
1995-96 Academic Workforce Report: Publication No. R-392.2, March 1997
Physicists in Government: Publication No. R-398.2, April 1997
Salaries 1996: Publication No. R-311.09a, April 1997
Enrollments and Degrees: Publication No. R-151.33, April 1997
1996 Bachelor's Degree Recipients Report: Publication No. R-211.28, June 1997
1996 Initial Employment Follow-Up of 1995 Physics Degree Recipients: Publication No. R-282.19, July 1997
All of these reports can be ordered by calling 301-209-3070. Below are some representative quotes from some of the above-listed reports.
"Although academia continues to be the largest single employer of PhD physicists who remain in physics...only 5% of 1995 PhD recipients who remained in the U.S. secured potentially permanent faculty positions within six months of completing their degrees. The vast majority of the remainder went on to postdoctoral fellowships..."
"Government workers with a physics background are more than twice as likely to have PhDs as their colleagues in the private sector..."
"...the median annual salary for full-time employed [AIP member] society members with PhDs reached $65,000, with master's degrees, $55,000, and with bachelor's degrees, $50,000."
"Enrollments in degree programs for both graduate and undergraduate majors are experiencing substantial declines...A decade-long increase in physics doctorate production appears to be leveling off, with the 1995 degree total at 1,461."
End of Cold Fusion?Robert Park's What's New of August 29, 1997 contains a short piece on cold fusion. According to Park, Japan's Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) announced earlier that week that the odds of cold fusion being a viable source of energy no longer justify even a small research program in Japan. Since the Japanese government had been more tenacious than most other governments in keeping an open-mind toward cold fusion, MITI's announcement appears to represent a major nail in the coffin for cold fusion.
Vindication of APS? Also from Park's August 29 piece: A federal judge in New York rejected all claims by the publisher Gordon & Breach, who had sued the APS, AIP, and Henry Barschall for Barschall's 1988 publication comparing the cost-effectiveness of physics journals. This means that the G&B suits in Germany, Switzerland, France, and the U.S. have all failed.
Mir Debate. Recently added to the debate over the wisdom of building a new space station has been the issue of continued U.S. participation aboard the Russian MIR station. Herewith are quotations (all from AIP's FYIs, authored by Audrey Leath) from American elected representatives regarding U.S. participation in the new [Freedom] and the old [MIR] space stations:
Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, "Part of the American dream is the commitment to research. It is the commitment to the future. An important part of that is space and the space station [Freedom].... To walk away from that would be un-American and it would be unthinkable."
House Science Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner, on June 25 following that morning's collision of an unmanned resupply vehicle with MIR , "I, for one, can no longer sit idly by as mishap after mishap occur while we continue to plan the next Shuttle mission to Mir hoping for, but not really expecting, the mission will succeed without a potentially life-threatening situation."
Senator Christopher Bond," ...the vast body, I think, of scientific knowledge and scientific expertise indicates that the space station is a tremendous opportunity for us to expand our knowledge not only about space but to develop new processes, new pharmaceuticals, medical advancements, and items that can be of tremendous benefit for us here on Earth."
Senator Dale Bumpers ," Almost all the scientists in the country, virtually every Nobel physicist, virtually every scientific group in America, opposes the space station... Do you have any idea, when we sit in the Agriculture Committee talking about research, how we have to grovel and fight and scratch and claw for every dime we get for research? Do you know the National Institutes of Health can only fund one out of every four good scientific projects that are brought to them? Do you know what real medical research could be done if we simply gave them the cost of one space shuttle flight?...virtually 99% of all the physicists in the world...oppose this thing and say we ought to be spending the money on legitimate medical research. You are not going to get a cure for warts out of the space station."
Senator John Glenn, "Furthermore, the international space station will continue research into fundamental physics. Scientists use low gravity to test fundamental theories of physics with degrees of accuracy that far exceed the capacity of earthbound science....The long-term benefits will challenge and expand our theories of how matter organizes as it changes state, and that is especially important in understanding superconductivity and its advantages. We can also test the theory of relativity with precision beyond the capacity of earthbound science."
Senator Phil Gramm,"This ultimately comes down to a debate between investing in the next election and investing in the next generation."
NSF Budget. AIP's FYI #122, written by Richard M. Jones on October 10, 1997, gives some of the final 1998 budget figures for NSF. According to Jones, the following actions followed less than three minutes of debate in the Senate regarding H.R. 2158, the VA, HUD, and Independent Agencies Appropriations Bill:
Congress approved $62 million more than requested by the Clinton Administration. Instead of the Administrations 3% increase over FY 1997, the funded increase was 5%, or $ 159 million. The breakdown is as follows:
Research and related activities increases $114 million, to $ 2.546 billion. This includes funding for work on Knowledge and Distributed Intelligence, Life and Earth's Environment, Next Generation Internet activities, peer-reviewed plant genome research, and the U.S./Mexico Foundation for Science. NSF was encouraged to "study how it would establish and operate a National Institute for the Environment...".
Major Research Equipment increases $29 million to $ 109 million. This includes $ 4 million for technical enhancements to the Gemini telescope project and $ 70 million for upgrades to Antarctic facilities.
Education and Human Resources increases $ 14.5 million to $ 632.5 million. From this, $2 million will be provided for Advanced Technology Education and $ 5 million for an initiative to improve the production of science and engineering doctorates drawn from under-represented groups.