Friday, February 4, 2005
1. STATE OF THE UNION: OUR ANNUAL LOOK AT WHERE SCIENCE FITS IN.
This will be brief, since I fell asleep. However, we did a word search on the transcript. Bingo! We got a hit on "scientific research." It came up in a discussion of the need "to build a culture of life." (When was it that "life" became a code word?) The President thanked Congress for doubling NIH funding, but he urged the lawmakers to quit dawdling on his energy strategy, "including safe, clean nuclear energy." That was it for science. .
2. HUBBLE: WILL EARTH'S MOST PRODUCTIVE SCIENTIFIC INSTRUMENT DIE?
In his opening statement at a hearing on Hubble options, Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), Chair of the House Science Committee, observed: "One can't help but root for it"; surely he can do more than that. It's widely expected that on Monday the President's asking budget will only include funds to dump Hubble in the Ocean. What madness compels this act? Hubble, Joe Taylor testified, "is still in the prime of its scientific life." Steven Beckwith, director of the Space Telescope Institute, said it's the nation's "most productive science facility." It was designed to be serviced by the shuttle. The James Webb Space Telescope won't go on line before 2011. Even more powerful, we will no doubt come to view JWST with the kind of affection we now feel for Hubble. But long before that happens Hubble is posed to explore dark energy and extrasolar planetary systems. The official explanation for cutting the service mission to Hubble is that, at more than $1B, it's too expensive. Whoa! Lou Lanzerotti testified that it would cost no more than a flight to the ISS, and the nation is committed to 25-30 shuttle flights to the ISS. Would someone tell us what the ISS is doing? And how is NASA paying for 25-30 flights at $1-2B each? Is Ken Lay doing NASA's books? As we pointed out years ago, shuttle arithmetic is not that hard. You just divide the cost of the shuttle program by the number of flights (WN 28 MAR 03). President's budget or not, it's Congress that controls the purse
3. PUBLIC ACCESS: AT NIH, ZERHOUNI ANNOUNCES A NEW ACCESS POLICY.
The public pays for research done on federal grants as well as the cost of publishing it; they shouldn't have to pay again to see it. Under a new policy that goes into effect on May 2 researchers on NIH grants will be "asked" to submit their results to a public Web site within one year after publication in a scientific journal. There are advantages to having articles in one federal database. However, most journal publishers, including APS Editor in Chief Marty Blume, oppose the policy, fearing it will cut into their subscription base. A leading proponent of free access, former NIH Director Harold Varmus, only regretted that scientists were "asked" to submit their data. He would have preferred "expected."