The following news items are derived directly from the electronic FYI publications of the American Institute of Physics, authored by Audrey T. Leath and Richard M. Jones.
From “FYI this month: December 2003”
- An OSTP official reported that the Bush Administration was strongly supportive of fusion energy. The same official warned that calling for balance in the federal research budget [presumably between physical and biological/medical sciences] is “divisive” and is “…just not going to help.” (see FYI #156)
- An AGU statement released December 16, 2003, stated that human activities are “altering the Earth’s climate” and “it is virtually certain” that increasing greenhouse gas concentrations “will cause global surface climate to be warmer”. (see FYI #164)
From “FYI this month: January 2004”
-The AIP and many of its member societies played an active role during 2003 in trying to keep religion out of the K-12 science classroom, and peer-reviewed science in those classrooms. Specifically, the societies supported peer-reviewed science for New Mexico’s classroom science standards and Texas’ biology textbooks.
- Shortly after China announced its intentions to initiate a program leading to a manned landing on the Moon, President Bush announced that the US would be involved in “human missions to Mars and beyond” after achieving extended human missions to the Moon by 2015. (see FYI #6) [Editor’s note: The APS’ Robert Park subsequently appeared on The News Hour (PBS) as a critic of Bush’s plan, along with a NASA administrator who praised Bush’s plan.]
From FYI #11, February 4, 2004
The Bush Adminstration requested a 3.0% increase for the NSF for the fiscal year starting on October 1. This represents an increase from the current $5.578 billion budget to $5.745 billion. NSF Director Rita Colwell commented, “ In light of the significant challenges that face the nation – in security, defense, and the economy – this increase is a tribute to the extraordinary performance of the 200,000 plus students, teachers, and researchers who are directly supported by NSF each year, and a vote of confidence for the National Science Foundation’s performance. Thanks to strong support for NSF’s vision and mission in the Administration and Congress, the NSF budget has grown steadily…” A different view was presented by Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), a senior Democrat on the House Science Committee, “Two years ago, the Congress sent the President a bill authorizing a doubling of NSF’s programs over five years. Despite signing that bill to glowing reviews, the President has sent us two successive budgets that fall far short of reaching that goal. With this budget submission we stand $3 billion below the doubling path…. The only thing more surprising is the 18% cut to the education and human resources budget account from an Administration that has claimed education of our youth as one its rhetorical hallmarks.”
From FYI #22, February 27, 2004
The House Science Committee has pressed NASA and the White House for a clearly defined goal for human space flight, but some members of that committee are reluctant to endorse Bush’s manned Moon/Mars exploration vision. “…this will not be an easy year to start major new initiatives in the face of a growing deficit.” remarked Bart Gordon, a Democrat (Tennessee) on the committee. OSTP Director John Marburger and NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe said that the program’s total cost and schedule were impossible to predict at this time. Gordon repeatedly pushed Marburger and O’Keefe for a cost estimate, but they were never given a numerical answer. Several of the other committee members expressed concern that the Moon/Mars program would land up taking funds from NASA’s other missions. Marburger said that much of the $11 billion dollars in NASA that were to be shifted to Moon/Mars would come from “reprioritizing” space station research and from phasing out the shuttle program. Regarding the intention to cancel the last Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission, Marburger said that with the safety recommendations made by the Columbia Accident Investigation Board, the approaching end of the Hubble’s design life, and the increasing capabilities of adaptive optics, “the risk-benefit equation has been altered.” Support for the President’s vision came from committee members Tom Feeney (R-FL), “I do believe that this vision is focused, I think it is bold, it’s affordable.”
From FYI #23, February 27, 2004
The Senate VA, HUD, and Independent Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee held hearings on February 26 regarding the NSF. Subcommittee Chairman Christopher Bond (R-MO) and Ranking Minority Member Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) are united in their support for NSF. Both have expressed deep disappointment in the Adminstration’s request for a 3% increase for NSF. However, there is very little additional money. “…with major funding shortfalls throughout the VA-HUD account, it is going to be a major and perhaps an impossible challenge to find additional funds for NSF for FY 2005”, was how Bond put it.
Bond and Mikulski have criticized the Administration’s proposal to phase out NSF’s Math-Science Partnership Program. They also discussed nanotechnology and their concerns that public fears could derail it a la genetically engineered foods. Mikulski urged NSF to engage the critics of nanotechnology and meet the challenge head on via public education campaigns.
This last news item is from Bob Park’s What’s New column dated March 5, 2004:
Sixty prominent scientists issued a statement charging the Bush administration with manipulating the science advisory process to further serve the political agendas of the administration. Subsequently, two advocates of stem cell research were removed from the Council on Bioethics and replaced by three people opposed to stem cell research on religious grounds.