Friday, 24 August 1990 Washington, DC
1. BLOCH BEQUEATHS MAGNET LABORATORY DISPUTE TO HIS SUCCESSOR.
It appears that MIT will challenge the NSF decision to award the
National High Magnetic Field Laboratory to Florida State
(WN 17 Aug 90).
The NSF's own Materials Research Advisory Panel and a
site visit team had recommended MIT over Florida State by a small
margin, on the basis of scientific excellence. The state of
Florida, however, was willing to commit $58M to get the facility.
In this sort of competition, states can expect to recover their
investment through economic stimulation; lacking any recovery
mechanism, private institutions are at a clear disadvantage. It
is reported that MIT plans to contest the NSF decision. We are
told that MIT has absolutely no complaint against Florida State,
but does have a serious quarrel with NSF procedures. Erich
Bloch, who made the decision, has barely a week left in his term.
2. THE LACK OF A NATIONAL ENERGY POLICY HAS COME BACK TO BITE US.
Representatives of seven leading environmental/energy policy
groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council and the
Union of Concerned Scientists, held a press conference yesterday
to urge the immediate adoption of an energy strategy emphasizing
conservation measures. At the time of his nomination, Secretary
of Energy James Watkins was instructed by President Bush to begin
formulating an energy policy, and one year ago DOE began a series
of public hearings on national energy strategy. The next one will
be held on Monday in Fairbanks, and DOE's recommendations will go
the President in December. But at a press conference yesterday,
the President displayed scant enthusiasm for energy conservation.
Rising energy prices will, of course, start people conserving.
3. COLD FUSION OFFERS AN ALTERNATIVE TO DEPENDENCE ON FOREIGN OIL
according to a letter from the Fusion Information Center in Salt
Lake City to key members of Congress. According to the August 8
letter, DOE has been misled by advisors, "most if not all of whom
are supported by DOE hot fusion funds." The letter cites work in
Taiwan, Japan, Hawaii and Los Alamos as conclusive proof of the
reality of cold fusion, and urges the Chairs of the Senate and
House Energy Committees to schedule public hearings. Congress,
however, seems content to leave this technology to the Japanese.
4. THAT REMINDS ME, A PANEL ON RESPONSIBLE SCIENTIFIC CONDUCT
been formed by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering
and the Institute of Medicine to examine factors affecting the
integrity of research, consider explicit guidelines, and assess
the effectiveness of current procedures for handling allegations
of scientific misconduct. The study, which is expected to take
18 months, is Chaired by former White House Science Advisor Ed
David. Five members of the APS, including former APS President
Val Fitch, are on the 17-member panel. Attention has been
focused on misconduct by recent cases in the biomedical sciences.
Fortunately, misconduct seems to be much less common in physics.