Friday, 14 October 1988
THE NSF AUTHORIZATION BILL PASSED THIS MORNING,
held hostage for two weeks by Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), who
is bent on moving as much of the federal government as possible
into the Maryland suburbs. She picked out a nice site in Silver
Spring for the NSF and tried to use the authorization bill as
leverage to force a move. The bill authorizes a doubling of the
NSF budget over a 5 year period. (We are always doubling the NSF
budget in 5 years. When does it start?) The bill also creates
a merit-based Academic Research Facilities Modernization Program
that starts at $80M the first year and rises to $250M the fifth
year. The latest share-the-wealth scheme requires the top 100
federal R&D recipients to put up half of the funds, while other
institutions would only be required to put up 30%. There is also
a $7M cap on funds to a single institution and a 12% set aside
for minority institutions. There are no funds appropriated for
facilities modernization in FY 89, but as an expression of
Congressional sentiment the authorization may help in the future.
. THE NSF HAS ALLOCATED $25M IN FY 89 FOR S&T CENTERS.
Since Congress declined to fund the line item requested for Centers,
the money will be taken from somewhere else in the budget. The
NSF will recommend fewer than 10 centers to the National Science
Board on 1 Dec 88, along with a very (vanishingly?) small number
of planning grants. A public announcement is planned the next
day. There were 322 proposals for Centers and another 300 or so
for planning grants. Site visits to the 48 institutions on the
short list have been completed. More than 300 scientists were
involved in the visits. NSF is conscious of the enormous
investment in proposal preparation and selection and is seeking
ways to capitalize on it. The NSF asked finalists for permission
to contact state governments to see if they will pick up some of
the projects. They also plan to approach the private sector.
3. CONGRESS BACKED DOWN ON FBI SNOOPING AMONG THE STACKS.
As we reported (WN 30 Sep 88),
the FBI was seeking an amendment to the
"Video and Library Privacy Protection Act" that would have had
the effect of giving the FBI a license to examine library records
without a court order. The FBI failed to get such an amendment
inserted in Committee, but the danger that it would be introduced
on the floor during the rush to adjourn was just too great and
the bills sponsors reluctantly withdrew the library portion of
the bill. The video rental records portion is likely to pass. It
is an interesting commentary on our times that our right to view
films may be afforded greater protection than our right to read.
4. DOD RESEARCH CONTRACTS WILL CONTAIN A DRUG-FREE CLAUSE
under interim rules just announced. The contractor will be required to
"institute and maintain" a drug-free workforce. The clause will
require contractors to identify illegal drug users by testing
employees "on a controlled and carefully monitored" basis.