Leo Szilard Lectureship is Funded
The APS has received nearly $65,000--enough to endow a Leo Szilard Lectureship. This new, endowed lectureship, which upgrades the unfunded Leo Szilard Award, will provide exposure for physicists who have applied their science for the benefit of society. Starting with the APS Centennial Meeting this March, the recipient of this award will receive a $1000 honorarium and travel money for lectures at least two institutions whose audiences include young physicists.
The rationale for the lectureship is to increase the visibility of physicists working for the public good and thereby to provide positive role models. Public policy issues increasingly involve a scientific or technical component: In addition to questions of energy use and nuclear weapons, citizens are now asked to evaluate the evidence for global warming, the possible health effects of power lines, the claims for and against new medical technologies and even the risk of asteroid impacts. In the dawn of the nuclear age, prominent physicists led the debate over the control of nuclear weapons; subsequently physicists lent their insights to the discussion of such issues as the safety of nuclear power, the antiballistic missile treaty and Star Wars.
But physicists involved in public service seem to be less visible today, so that younger physicists have fewer positive examples to follow. At the same time, the young PhDs are under great pressure to get and keep a job, and they are often shown only traditional paths. We would like to expose them to new directions, introducing them to many individuals who have done excellent physics to solve or elucidate problem of importance to society.
This endowment goal was reached thanks to the generosity of individuals and foundations. In June, 1997, the Packard Foundation made an initial grant of $9,000 over three years. Since then the Energy Foundation provided $10,000 and, in July, the MacArthur Foundation gave $35,000 to the cause. The Forum on Physics and Society already had about $6,000 in an awards account and donations from the generous individuals listed below totaled another $4,500. We would welcome any additional conributions.
We thank all the contributors who made this endowment a reality.
Leo Szilard Lectureship Working Committee:David Hafemeister, Barbara G. Levi, Tina Kaarsberg
Contributors: David Bodansky, Dave Hafemeister, Betty Karplus, Barbara Levi, Howard Rockstad, Art Rosenfeld,Andrew Sessler,John Silard, Kosta Tsipis, Lincoln Wolfenstein,
Visa Denials for Indian and Pakistani Scientists
In mid-July, there were reports that large numbers of Indian and Pakistani scientists were being denied entry into the United States for the purpose of participation in open scientific meetings, and that a number of students wishing to do graduate study were being denied entry. In a letter to Secretary of State Albright, APS President Andy Sessler noted that "the APS strongly supports the principle of free circulation of scientists as promulgated in the statutes of the International Council of Scientific Unions--a statute to which the US has adhered since its entry in 1931, and which requires timely approval of visas for bona-fide visiting scientists. Even in the depths of the Cold War, the US actively promoted the engagement of American and Soviet scientists; the continuing dialog contributed materially to the development of our science and to the reduction of international tensions. Today, we follow a similar course of engagement with China." He went on to express concern that failure to abide by these statutes could result in the US being barred from hosting international conferences.
The State Department responded that visas had not been denied, but just deferred, until a formal policy on dealing with Indian and Pakistani scientists had been reached. The State Dept. has been constrained by the Glenn Amendment, which automatically triggered sanctions when the tests took place, and which could be interpreted as requiring an end to all US-supported scientific collaboration. This new policy has now taken shape. A list has been drawn up of Indian and Pakistani institutions at which research and procurement for the nuclear weapons (and ballistic missile) program has been done, and only scientists from those institutions will be denied entry. Further, the State Department claims that individual scientist that have not been associated in any way with the nuclear weapons program will be able to apply for a waiver, even if theycome from institutions on the list.
Many scientists have mixed feelings about this issue. They support the concept of unrestricted travel for scientists.However, over the past decades, non-proliferation efforts have sought to restrict the spread of nuclear weapons based on the concept that overt proliferation should be punished, and such efforts can hardly maintain credibility if no punishment is forthcoming. The State Dept. policy, if implemented as claimed above, would seem to satisfy both desires.
A problem, of course, is to ensure that the State Department has the technical expertise to evaluate properly requests for visas (one scientist was denied a visa to attend a lattice gauge theory conference, in addition, Indian participation in the D0 experiment at Fermilab was cancelled; the relationship of these with weapons research is unclear, although the latter cancellation may be required by the Glenn Amendment). The NAS and APS are currently (as of mid-August) considering the best mechanism for providing this expertise. A Nature editorial stated, "The NAS and US scientific societies should press the State Department. to maintain normal scientific relations as far as is possible within the letter of the sanctions law and to maintain the right of scientists from the two countries to travel freely. Even non-proliferation efforts would benefit."
Bill Richardson, former Congressman and U.N. Ambassador, was confirmed on July 31st to replace Federico Pena as Secretary of Energy. Following his nomination, Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) threatened to stall the confirmation because of concerns about undue White House indluence on the DOE approach to nuclear waste cleanup, however he was assured that Richardson would have full authority over nuclear waster issues, and then the Senate voted unanimously (by voice vote) in favor of the confirmation. President Clinton commented, "I am very pleased that the Senate today voted unanimously to confirm Ambassador Bill Richardson as Secretary of Energy. Ambassador Richardson brings extraordinary experience and expertise to this vital post. As a member of the U.S. Congress representing New Mexico, an energy-rich stae that is home to two DOE national laboratories, he has extensive firsthand experience on issues ranging from oil and gas deregulation, to alternative energy, to ensuring strong environmental standards in energy development. As U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., he has been a vigorous and articulate proponent of U.S. engagement and has successfully tackled tough negotiating challenges around the world. I am confident that Ambassador Richardson's tremendous energy, creativity and leadership will help secure our nation's energy future so that America continues to prosper."
On the same day, the Senate unanimously confirmed Neal Lane as Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). This office is responsible for providing the President with advice in all areas of science and technology policy and programs across the federal government. The Director also co-chairs the President's Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology and serves on the National Science and Technology Council. Lane had served as Director of the National Science Foundation since 1993. Rita Colwell will now asssume the position of NSF Director.
Appropriations Bills; The R&D Doubling Bill
By the time this newsletter is distributed, the appropriations process should be nearly completed. At the time of the August recess, total funding for the NSF was $3,697 million in the House, with $2,815 million going to Research and Related Activities (R&RA), while the Senate appropriation was $3,644 million with $2,725 million for R&RA. This represents, depending on the final values, an increase of approximately 7 percent over last year's levels. The final appropriation will be worked out in a conference committee in September The bill faces a potential veto threat from President Clinton for various reasons, including language concerning the Global Climate Change Kyoto Treaty and elimination of funding for AmeriCorps, Clinton's national service program. The level of NSF funding, however, is supported by the White House.
Appropriations for NIST were considerably below President Clinton's request ($70 million in the Senate and $90 million in the House), primarily due to large cuts in the Advanced Technology Program. The in-house core laboratories (Scientific and Technical Research Services) were $11 million less than requested in the House, but only $1 million less in the Senate (the request was for a roughly 5% increase). The House would provide less total funding for NASA than either the request (by $100 million) or the current appropriation (by $300 million), and less than the amount recommended by Senate appropriators, which was very close to last year's appropriation. All of these appropriations await conference committee action. You can get the latest numbers from the AIP web-site at http://www.aip.org
The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation marked up S. 2217, the Frist-Rockefeller Federal Research Investment Act. This Act replaces the Gramm-Lieberman Act (see the April and July newsletters) which called for doubling non-defense R&D over a ten year period. The Frist-Rockefeller Act would authorize annual increases for most non-defense R&D of 5.5% over a 12-year period. This would result in a doubling of the federal government's support for civilian research from an estimated $34 billion in FY 1998 to $68 billion in FY 2010. Note that authorizations approve budget level, while appropriations provide the actual funds--the latter must be on a year-to-year basis. The bill also contains guiding principles for federal research efforts and calls for development of mechanisms for determining successful and unsuccessful programs. The bill currently has 22 cosponsors. Whether it is brought to the floor before the end of this year's session may depend on how quickly the appropriations bills can be completed this fall.
Does The National Ignition Facility Violate The CTBT?
The Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IEER), a group in Takoma Park, MD, has claimed that the National Ignition Facility (NIF) and the Laser Megajoule Project violate the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and could open the way for the development of "pure fusion" weapons (fusion explosions without need for a fission trigger). Both NIF and Laser Megajoule will generate tiny fusion explosions (equivalent to a couple of sticks of dynamite) , triggered by huge, immobile banks of laser beams. The Director of the IEER, Arjun Makhijani, says that "NIF will not, by itself, lead to pure fusion weapons, but it could play a crucial role by enabling the design of targets for other driven systems, which could be miniaturized" .
David Crandall, director of the NIF office at the DOE, said that his office and the Jason group have confirmed that the machines pose no proliferation risk. Crandall says the signatories to the CTBT accept the definition of a nuclear explosion contained in the Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), which specifically permits inertial confinement fusion research. In particular, the Germans, French, Swiss, Japanese and Americans (all of whom have laser fusion programs) have stated that the words "nuclear explosions" in the CTBT do not apply to laser fusion research, and no NPT party objected to that interpretation at the time of ratification. As far as "pure fusion" weapons, nobody has managed to get more than a few joules of energy out of such a device, even without "miniaturization". As FPS Chair-Elect Peter Zimmerman put it: "The only way I know of to use the NIF as a weapon is to drop the laser on somebody's head". It is unlikely that the paper will affect the construction of the NIF, which has strong Congressional support.
American Geophysical Union Statements
The following position statements were adopted or reaffirmed by the American Geophysical Union:
1. The Council of the AGU notes with concern the continuing efforts by creationists for administrative, legislative and judicial actions designed to require or promote the teaching of creationism as a scientific theory. The AGU is opposed to all efforts to require or promote the teaching of creationism or any other religious tenets as science
2. A healthy and effective space program is of critical importance to many fields of geophysics. The Space Station is designed to maintain human presence in space and facilitate microgravity and life sciences studies. The AGU remains deeply concerned that the high cost of implementing the current Station design will detrimentally affect NASA's science programs including Earth and space sciences. Transferring funds from the Science, Aeronautics and Technology accounts, which include Earth science, threatens the viability of a balanced national space program. AGU is also concerned that the high costs of the Station may detrimentally impace geological science programs in other areas. AGU recommends that the 1990 Report of the Advisory Committee for the Future of the U.S. Space Program be carefully heeded. The Report argues for a balanced space program, with selected program elements that are tailored to match the availability of funds. Implementation of the Space Station must not be allowed to cause the decline or demise of the exciting and important science elements of the national space program. AGU recommends that funds be included in the projections of future budgets for science elements of the space program, even if this action results in future reduction of the scope of the Station.
The Doomsday Clock Advances Five Minutes
Since 1947, the symbolic "doomsday" clock on the cover of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has been set to indicate the distance to "midnight"--thermonuclear war. It was set closest to midnight in 1953, when it was at 11:58. After the end of the Cold War, it was set back all the way to 11:43. As a result of the nuclear testing by India and Pakistan, the clock has been moved forward to 11:51, the closest to midnight since the end of the Cold War.
Watch Out For NSF Grant Titles!
During the House debate on the NSF Appropriation, a move was made by Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC) to slash NSF funding by $270 million dollars. He said "we need a tighter grip on the way they spend money; when I stand in front of a grocery store back home in my district and talk to folks, they talk about how they have to set priorities withing their homes...this organization should do the same" He circulated a letter criticizing the NSF for research to study "ATM's", "billiards", "poker" and "cheap talk".
Rep. Vern Ehlers (R-MI), a Ph.D. physicist then responded "I would remind y colleague that when his people come out of the store, he might ask them what they think of the laser scanner that was used to get them out of the store more efficiently, because development of the laser was financed in part by the NSF. He then pointed out that "ATM"s refer to asynchronous transfer modes (not automatic teller machines), "billiards" refers to the theory of rigid body collisions used in turbulent flow, "poker" refers to research on social interaction used to study decision-making processes and "cheap talk" refers to the cost of electronic information transmittal. As Rep. Boehlert (R-NY) noted, "A little learning is a dangerous thing---it's a mistake to judge a grant by its title". The Sanford amendment was defeated overwhelmingly.
Physicist Wins Easily in New Jersey Primary
Rush Holt, who was assistant director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab for nine years, handily defeated a better-funded opponent in the Democratic primary for Congress in New Jersey. He will oppose first-term Representative Mike Pappas (R-NJ), and the contest is expected to be very close. Holt was a APS Congressional Fellow in 1984, after teaching at Swarthmore. The only Ph.D. physicist now serving in Congress is Rep. Vern Ehlers (R-MI), who has been an extremely powerful voice for science in the last few years.
Truman Comments on Science Funding: 1948
50 years ago, President Truman addressed the AAAS on its 100th anniversary. The type of funding issues he discussed will be considered as Congress votes on the FY1999 appropriations bills in coming weeks. Excerpts from his address, which seem particularly appropriate today, follow. The full text can be found in FYI#109.
"In the 100 years since the AAAS was organized, science has helped transform the United States into the most productive nation in the world. I know that in your meetings this week you will be looking back over the progress of American science in the past century. I also know that you are much more interested in looking into the future.
You are looking forward, I know, because we stand at the threshold of revolutionary developments. Scientific research daily becomes more important to our agriculture, our industry, and our health. The members of the AAAS know better than I what developments to expect in the years ahead in physics, in chemistry, in biology and the other sciences, but I am certain of this--that science will change our lives in the century ahead even more than it has changed them in the 100 years just past.
I hope you will also be thinking about the relationship between science and our national policy.
Two years ago, I appointed a Scientific Research Board. Its report, entitled "Science and Public Policy" was submitted last fall to the 80th COngress. That report stressed the importance of science to our national welfare, and it contained a number of important recommendations. The most important were these:
First, we should double our total public and private allocations of funds to the sciences... Second, greater emphasis should be placed on basic research and on medical research.
Third, a National Science Foundation should be established. Fourth, more aid should be granted to the universities, both for student scholarships and for research facilities. Fifth, the work of the research agencies of the Federal Government should be better financed and coordinated.
If we are to maintain the leadership in science that is essential to national strength, we must vigorously press ahead in research. There is one simple axiom on which this thought is based. The secrets of nature are not our monopoly....
Our problem, therefore, is not a static one of preserving what we have. Our problem is to continue to engage in pure research. Such research alone leads to striking developments that mean leadership. yet it is precisely in this area that we, as a nation, have been weakest. We have been strong in applied science and in technology, but in the past we have relied largely on Europe for basic knowledge.
Now and in the year ahead, we need, more than anything else, the honest and uncompromising common sense of science. Science mean a method of thought. That method is characterized by open-mindedness, honesty, perserverance, and above all, by an unfliching passion for knowledge and truth. When more of the peoples of the world have learned the ways of thought of the scientist, we shall have better reason to expect lasting peace and a fuller life for all."
George Brown Speaks at AAAS Colloquium
Following are brief excerpts from "Past and Prologue: Why I am Optimistic About the Future", a speech given by Rep. George Brown (D-CA) at the AAAS Colloquium on Science and Technology on April 29th. A more extended version of the speech can be found on FYI #86.
"I will be very frank with you in my remarks. First, because I am getting too old and cranky to allow politeness to obscure the message...but also because we are facing a set of very tough policy issues that demand our attention as fully as any issues in recent history.....We are on the cusp on a number of changes in the way that we conduct our research and educational activities.
We shy away from the difficult work of developing qualitative measures for our efforts...An individual researcher is measured by numbers of publications or citations, research dollars obtained, or numbers of graduate students. Universities are similarly ranked by quantity..All of this leaves us with a clumsy and unsophisticated set of tools for evaluating the best of human innovation and thinking. I doubt that any of you would sign on to a research project as poorly designed as our current national experiment in science and technology policy.....
But the challenge is how do we address the issues I detailed earlier using the options presented to us by the positive changes taking place. Let me throw out a few suggestions:
First, on the international front....we should systematically review outstanding science needs, plans, and opportunities around the globe....From this list, we should plan a comprehensive series of collaborative agreements wherein we could work with international partners on the development of these projects...As we enter an international age of science, it makes no sense to continue our ad-hoc, item-by-item approach to international collaboration. On the domestic front....I think that the science and engineering community should work toward the development of an entity to perform broad forecasting and technology assessment work. The biggest mistake that the Republican majority in Congress has made was eliminating the Office of Technology Assessment. Without it, we have no place to integrate technology with social impact and are left blind on a host of complicated issues.
Next, I ask that AAAS or NAS or some respected multidisciplinary group develop a normative science budget... Congress does have a rational priority-setting system. Unfortunately, it is largely zip-code based: anything close to my district or state is better than something farther away... But if the science, engineering and academic community is serious about having a different, priority-setting process, the political system will need guidance from it.... I went through the process of developing an investment based budget last year and learned a great deal about budget priorities and politics. The fact that this process was so painfully informative leads me to call upon the research community to finish the work that it started in its reports on priority-setting for science funding and develop its own value-based budget.
One final point of action. The scientific community should review the present reward and incentive system...It is pointless for any of us to speak of reforms that emphasize a stronger role for education if a faculty member is judged mainly by the research that he or she performs. It is meaningless to speak of cooperative or interdisciplinary research if the rewards system discourages this behavior.
These are the simple challenges I lay before you this afternoon. And, don't blame me for raising these issues, blame your genius whose excellence raised the standards for success."
President Clinton Addresses MIT
Excerpts from President Clinton's address at the MIT Commencement on June 5th.
"First, we must help you to ensure that America continues to lead the revolution in science and technology. Growth is a prerequisite for opportunity, and scientific research is a basic prerequisite for growth. Just yesterday in Japan, physicists announced a discovery that tiny neutrinos have mass. Now, that may not mean much to most Americans, but it may change our most fundamental theories---from the nature of the smallest subatomic particles to how the universe itself works, and indeed how it expands.
This discovery was made, in Japan, yes, but it had the support of the investment of the U.S.Department of Energy. This discovery calls into question the decision made in Washington a couple of years ago to disband the superconducting supercollider, and it reaffirms the importance of the wrok now being done at Fermilab in Illinois.
The larger issue is that these kinds of findings have implications that are not limited to the laboratory. They affect the whole of society--not only our economy, but our very view of life, our understanding of our relations with others, and our place in time.
In just the past four years, information technolgy has been responsible for more than a third of our economic expansion. Without government-funded research, computer, the Internet, communications satellites wouldn't have gotten started. When I became President, the Internet was the province of physicists, funded by a government research project. There were only 50 sites in the world. Now, as all of you know, we are adding pages to the Worldwide Web at the rate of over 100,000 an hour. It all started with research, and we must do more.
In the budget I submit to Congress for the year 2000, I will call for significant increases in computing and communications research. I have directed Dr. Neal Lane, my new Advisor for Science and Technology, to work with our nation's research community to prepare a detailed plan for my review.
Over the past 50 years, our commitment to science has strengthened this country in countless ways....That is why, evan as we balanced our budget for the first time in 29 years, we have increased our investments in science. This year I asked Congress for the largest increase in research funding in history---not just for a year, but sustained over five years. It is a core commitment that must be part of how every American, regardless of political party or personal endeavor, thinks about our nation and its mission."