Physics and Society Jul '97 - News

Volume 26, Number 3 July 1997


Forum Elections

Peter Zimmerman was elected Forum Vice-Chair while Art Hobson and Jerry Marsh were elected to the Forum's Executive Committee in the first APS election in which both paper and electronic voting was possible. There were 298 valid paper ballots and 468 valid web ballots, which was a significant increase over recent all-paper votes (224 in 1996).

Joint Statement on Scientific Research

In an unprecedented show of unity, 23 organizations from the American scientific and engineering community issued a joint statement on scientific research. The AIP's FYI #34 (by Richard M. Jones) reported that the presidents (or equivalent) of the following organizations endorsed the statement:

American Association of Physicists in Medicine
American Astronomical Society
American Chemical Society
American Geological Institute
American Institute of Biological Sciences
American Institute of Physics
American Institute of Professional Geologists
American Mathematical Society
American Physical Society
American Society of Engineering Education
Association for Women in Mathematics
Association for Women in Science
Astronomical Society of the Pacific
Council on Undergraduate Research
Engineering Deans Council
Federation of Materials Societies
Geological Society of America
Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.
Materials Research Society
Mathematical Association of America
Optical Society of America
Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics

The statement, among other things, states that federal investment in scientific research is vital to the four national goals of economic competitiveness, medical health, national security, and quality of life. It stresses the interdependence of science disciplines and urges a comprehensive approach to funding. It specifically calls for 7 percent increases, for FY 1998, for NSF, NIH, DOE, DOD, and NASA. And it ends by warning that our national well-being will be jeopardized in the event of excessive constraints on funding.

Creationism Again

What's New (from Robert Park) on February 28, 1997, reported that the APS Executive Board reaffirmed the 1981 APS statement on Creationism. The Board, once again concerned with recent attempts to have Genesis taught as science in public schools, wrote,"Scientific inquiry and religious beliefs are two distinct elements of the human experience. Attempts to present them in the same context can only lead to misunderstandings of both." In a related development, the state Senate of New Mexico voted, also in February, to restore the teaching of evolution in public schools. Such teaching had been prohibited by the State Board of Education in August of last year.

Mission to Planet Earth under attack!

In March, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) provided a witness to the House Science Subcommittee on Space, Edward Hudgins, who urged abolishment of NASA's Mission to Planet Earth. According to AIP's FYI#47, Hudgins claimed that the Mission is a purely politically driven, bogus issue based on bad science, and an excuse for NASA to keep asking for money. In the past, Rohrabacher has described the theory of global warming as "...liberal claptrap...", but NASA's Acting Associate Administrator for Mission to Planet Earth, William Townsend, tried to explain why the Mission should not be considered "claptrap", including his description of five principal themes of the Mission: Land Cover and Land Use Change; Seasonal-to-interannual Climate Variability and Prediction; Natural Hazards Research and Applications; Natural Variability and Change of Long-term Climate; and Atmospheric Ozone Research. To Hudgins' charge that NASA sees "environmental projects aspotential cash cows", Townsend pointed out that expected costs through the year 2000 have been reduced by more than 60% from earlier projections based on responsive program cost management.

Benefits from what we do: Exhibits available from AIP

For physicists that are interested in showing the public and the Congress the benefits of physics research, and who want some help in doing so, the AIP has produced 12 exhibits for use in writing to or meeting with Congresspersons, teachers, other public leaders and officials. There is no charge for a limited number of copies of these "Physics Success Stories", which concern medical imaging, lasers, global positioning systems, the environment, new materials, telecommunications, computers, consumer goods, national defense, transportation, energy efficiency,and medical physics. To obtain these materials, send your name and U.S. mail address to or to:

American Institute of Physics
Public Information Division
One Physics Ellipse
College Park, Maryland 20740-3843

Their fax number is 301-209-0846. You can also review the materials at

Peer Review? It Helps To Have a Y Chromosome and Connections.

Given the concern in this issue with the careers of women in physics, the item by Robert Park in the June 6 "What's New"seems to be very appropriate:
"It used to be said that women have to be twice as good as men to succeed. In Sweden, a more precise number is 2.5 times as good --and Sweden is generally regarded as the world's leader in gender equality. A study of postdoctoral fellowship awards found that reviewers gave women far lower rankings than men with the same publication impact as measured by citation count. 'Anyone who is surprised is naive,' shrugged Laurie McNeil of the APS Committee on Status of Women in Science. At NSF, funding rates for female PIs have been higher than for males for five of the last seven years, but Luther Williams, Assistant Director for Education and Human Resources, agrees that the figures ignore relative impact. He believes NSF should carry out such a study. The Swedish study, 'Nepotism and Sexism in Peer-Review' which appeared in Nature (Vol. 387, p.341), found another variable that correlatedwith high scores: having a colleague on the review committee."

Clinton Budget Requests

Richard M. Jones, of the Public Information Division of the AIP, reports in FYI of February 13, 1997 that the Clinton administration's FY 1998 NSF budget request includes the following increases over FY 1997:

Astronomical Sciences: up $2.5M to $118.8M
Physics: up $9.5M to $148.2M
Materials Research: up $2.9M to $186.3M
Atmospheric Sciences: up $0.85M to $ $151.3M
Earth Sciences: up $1.4M to $95.1M
Ocean Sciences: up $4.3M to $206.2M
The Education and Human Resources budget proposals include:
Education Systems Reform: up $0.9M to $102.8M
Elementary, Secondary, and Informal Education: down $13.8M to $183.3M
Undergraduate Education: up $11.3M to $98.7M
Graduate Education: up $3.0M to $73.8M
Research, Evaluation, & Communication: up $6.4M to $56M

NSF Director Neal Lane has warned, though, that "Securing this level of support in the Congress...will require an extraordinary level of commitment and dedication from the science and engineering community."