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The lead article in the May 1995 issue of APS NEWS included a chart depicting the growth of Physical Review and Physical Review Letters. A quick glance at the graph without carefully reading the numbers on the y-axis would give an incorrect message. Visually, the papers submitted by non-U.S. authors appear to have increased over 800 percent in the time period shown. The U.S.-authored papers show a modest increase of about 10-20 percent over the same time period.
However, when the actual values on the y-axis are read, the appropriate percentage increases are closer to 75 percent and 5 percent, respectively. This kind of graphical exaggeration is what I have come to expect when my daily newspaper reports on the Dow-Jones average. Surely as scientists we should be more careful and precise than that.
With regard to the Back Page editorial by Dana Rohrabacher (APS NEWS, July 1995), I was appalled by what passes for discourse and debate these days. What I read was an attempt to pass off partisanship and name-calling as reasoned debate. I realize that this argumentum ad hominem style is sometimes effective in political campaigns and in Congress, but in an APS forum? Please!
A few points appeared legitimate and might have made a good debate had they been backed by sound arguments. However, there were so many flawed arguments and non-arguments that it would take a very long epistle indeed just to list them all. Here are a few points and counterpoints by way of example.
First, Rohrabacher's argument that some proposals are duplications, or do not have "an ounce of science in them," is legitimate in that the proposals are misplaced and their placement jeopardizes funding for true R&D projects. On the other hand, it is common practice in Congress to append unrelated projects to bills, which may be tolerable in circumstances where they are important but have no other avenue to be heard.
Second, Rohrabacher's suggestion of leaving commercialization and production to the marketplace sounds like a reasonable policy, except for the fact that the market does what is good for the market in the short term, and not necessarily what is good for the country in the long term. It is a legitimate role of government to educate the public and structure legislation to favor the development of technology which benefits society.
Finally, Rohrabacher says that long-term research should be terminated if "no scientist (will say)_ that we will reach the goal in less than 40 more years." That may be a reason to increase funding rather than decrease it. Furthermore, requiring a prediction of short-range success as a condition for funding may favor projects which have proponents with less integrity than others; besides, SDI has been richly funded without any non-vested scientist predicting short-range success.
Texas Instruments, Inc.
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