Friday, 29 April 1988
FRANK PRESS TOOK A FIRST CUT AT PRIORITY SETTING FOR SCIENCE
in his address to the 125th Annual Meeting of the National
Academy of Sciences on Tuesday. The speech was critical both of
internal dissension and the reluctance of scientists to attempt
priority setting across fields. "I say that we have to do better
and I would like to propose criteria for the allocation of
resources." Starting with the premises that American leadership
in science and technology must be maintained and the budget
crisis won't last forever, he proposes three categories:
I. THE HIGHEST PRIORITY, TO BE FUNDED NOW --
in spite of limited budgets. In this he includes three items: funding that
reaches the largest number of investigators and graduate students
to ensure a continued supply of trained people; national crises
such as AIDS; and breakthroughs such as high-Tc superconductors.
II. LARGE PROJECTS, TO BE AUTHORIZED NOW --
and funded as soon
as we can. Here he includes the super collider and gene mapping.
III. POLITICAL PREROGATIVES --
those projects for which
priorities are properly based on value judgements of Congress and
the Administration. He gives five examples: the DOD R&D budget;
the Space Station; economic development; image projects, such as
manned space flight; and "competitiveness" initiatives.
. SDI IS LOOKING LESS AND LESS LIKE "STAR WARS."
Just one year
ago, after the feasibility of directed energy weapons was called
into question by the APS study, Secretary of Defense Weinberger,
in a speech to the Commonwealth Club of California, proposed
early deployment of a scaled-back "Phase I" missile defense using
space-based kinetic energy weapons (WN 1 May 87).
Expectations are reduced another notch with the release of a Defense Science
Board report recommending what might called "Phase 0" deployment
of ground-based interceptors. After $12B and 5 years invested in
SDI, the US could be back to the ABM concept abandoned in Grand
Forks, SD in 1979, when it was deemed to be ineffective. The DSB
report may be intended to blunt the impact of the yet unreleased
OTA report on SDI, which is highly critical of the Phase I plan.
3. CONGRESS REJECTED A SEPARATE LINE ITEM FOR NSF S&T CENTERS
that would have provided $150M over five years, as we meant to
convey in last week's cryptic comment that the Centers were
"dead." However, other funds in the NSF budget could be used to
create centers in FY 89 (WN 1 Apr 88)
-- if the budget holds up.
4. THE WALKER AMENDMENT REQUIRING A DRUG FREE WORK PLACE
(WN 22 Apr 88) was attached to
the DOE Authorization Bill by a vote of
20 to 7! It requires institutions receiving DOE funds to certify
they are completely drug free. Walker indicated his intention to
attach the amendment to the NSF and NBS authorizations as well.