Friday, 27 September 1991 Washington, DC
1. THE APS OPPOSES LIMITING PARTICIPATION IN SCIENTIFIC
in a strongly worded letter to the Office of
Government Ethics. Proposed rules bar federal employees from
using official time to conduct the affairs of professional
societies (WN 23 Aug 91). At least two
dozen other scientific societies also met the 20 Sept deadline;
the Office of Government Ethics rejected requests for an
extension of the comment period. White House Science Advisor
Allan Bromley and NSF director Walter Massey also criticized the
rules. The APS letter, which was endorsed by the Panel on Public
Affairs and signed by president-elect Ernest M. Henley, stressed
that the federal government has a major stake in the effective
dissemination of research results; the proposed rules, the letter
warned, "could unravel the very fabric of scientific discourse."
2. SSC IS OFF LIMITS AS TOWNES TASK FORCE SETS PRIORITIES FOR
research facilities in Friday massacre (WN 20 Sep 91). One panel member ruefully
described DOE's spending limits as "Will Happer's Procrustean
bed." In Greek mythology, Procrustes was a giant who tied
travelers to an iron bed and amputated their limbs to make them
fit. Among the severed limbs were such venerable facilities as
BEVELAC and LAMPF, but other projects perished in the womb: A "B"
factory and the injector upgrade at Fermilab were "delayed"
pending HEAP reexamination; the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne
will also be "reexamined"; RHIC may be slowed down at Brookhaven.
The Princeton Burning Plasma Experiment was still twitching four
days later when Secretary of Energy Watkins met with the Fusion
Energy Advisory Committee. His blunt assessment of prospects left
no choice but to concentrate on ITER as the next step after TFTR.
3. CONGRESS FULLY FUNDS $PACE $TATION--SPACE SCIENCE AND NSF
House conferees played dead yesterday as Senator
Mikulski (D-MD) opposed any tampering with the President's $2.25B
request for the space station. A move by Bill Green (R-NY) to
shift $65M to space science programs was brushed aside. CRAF,
Comet Rendezvous and Asteroid Flyby, was terminated (Mikulski
notes that comets always come back anyway); CASSINI, the mission
to Saturn, was delayed a year; and EOS lost another $15M. The
President's request for NSF was not so sacrosanct. Usually,
conferences produce a compromise, but the final NSF appropriation
of $2.58B is below either the House or Senate bill. Still, it is
an increase of 11.2% over FY 91, the biggest of any agency.
Research, as usual, did less well (+10.9%) than Education (+44%).
$105M is still missing from the Antarctic program, but if it
comes in, it won't help research.
4. NASA's COMPTON GAMMA RAY OBSERVATORY IS PERFORMING
even as the future of space science is threatened
by the space station. Launched 7 Apr 1991, the first findings
were announced this week. The most startling discovery was that
gamma-ray bursts are not concentrated in the Milky Way. That
kills the previously favored theory that they are produced by
quakes on neutron stars.