Friday, 11 March 1988
TITLE IV OF THE "SUPERCONDUCTIVITY COMPETITIVENESS ACT
of 1988" (WN 26 Feb 88), which the
President sent to Congress on 23
Feb 88, would amend the Freedom of Information Act to require
agencies to withhold "commercially valuable scientific and
technical information" generated in Government laboratories.
This would include all scientific discoveries with the "potential
for commercial application." I have been trying ever since to
think of a discovery that lacked that potential. In any case,
you would suppose that the framers of this legislation must have
checked with the industries involved in superconductivity to see
if they wanted this protection against foreign exploiters of
American ingenuity. I have since conducted my own informal and
admittedly incomplete survey of research directors at some of the
major corporate laboratories involved in superconductivity
research. Without exception, and in colorful language, they
expressed the view that Title IV will do more harm than good.
. WHO IS ADVISING THE PRESIDENT ON SUPERCONDUCTIVITY?
In his 28 July 87 address to the 2,000 scientists, engineers and
businessmen gathered in Washington for the "Federal Conference on
Commercial Applications of Superconductivity," the President
promised to name a group of "wise men" to advise him on this
subject. True to his word, the White House recruited the
"Advisory Group to the President on Commercial Applications of
Superconductivity." The Chairman of the group is Ralph Gomory,
Vice President for Research at IBM, and its members include such
clear-eyed scientists as Praveen Chaudhari, Ted Geballe, Bob
Schrieffer and Kent Bowen. What was the advice of this
distinguished group on Title IV? They were never consulted.
3. MEANWHILE, "HIGH Tc" HAS BEEN REDEFINED!
It's a good thing
the Japanese don't have a Superconductivity Competitiveness Act.
Superconductivity above 120 K in a bismuth compound was announced
by a group at the National Research Institute for Metals in Japan
on 23 Jan 88. Most American researchers learned it just three
days later from the New York Times. Several American groups have
already confirmed the Japanese result, and solved the crystal
structure. High Tc Update, the action-packed bi-weekly newsletter
from Ames Laboratory, says "It's a whole new ballgame."
4. PERCENTAGES DON'T TELL THE WHOLE STORY OF THE NSF CUTS
in the size of superconductivity research grants (WN 4
Mar 88). It
appears that NSF also reduced the commitment period for the grant
renewals to as little as 8 months rather than the normal 1 year.
Therefore, researchers will have to apply for their next year's
funding 4 months early. FY 88 funding for Materials Research
Laboratories, many of which are involved in superconductivity,
was slashed 2.5%. Engineering Research Centers are up 13.3%.
NSF Director Erich Bloch is said to feel that writing proposals
is healthy. At this rate many of us should be positively robust.