Friday, 11 October 1991 Washington, DC
1. OMB IMPOSES RESTRICTIONS ON OVERHEAD PAYMENTS TO
It was Congress that exposed massive bungling
of indirect costs at Stanford and elsewhere and declared its
intention to impose a 26% cap on administrative costs (WN 26 Apr 91). In an attempt to regain
turf, the Office of Management and Budget lost no time in
announcing that it would impose a 26% cap without legislation by
simply revising OMB Circular A-21, "Cost Principles for Academic
Institutions" (WN 24 May 91). Last week,
OMB issued its revised A-21; administrative costs are indeed capped
at an arbitrary 26%, but a uniform accounting system is not
established. A predictable response of university administrators
will thus be to stay within the cap by directly charging for some
services that are presently in the indirect-cost pool; we can
imagine a charge for using the library. One result will be to
increase bookkeeping costs. Rep. Boucher (D-VA), chair of the
Science Subcommittee, warns that if OMB doesn't impose a uniform
accounting system Congress will. In addition to capping
administrative costs, the revised A-21 lists charges that are not
allowed (country club memberships are out!).
2. IF I EAT THEM IN THE LAB, CAN I CHARGE PIZZAS TO MY NSF
Sen. Glenn (D-OH) directed the General Accounting
Office to look for abuses by scientists in direct charges to NSF
grants. He may have hoped for an explosion like the one Rep.
Dingle (D-MI) set off at Stanford, but all he got was a pepperoni
burp. In what Science magazine called "the great pizza scandal,"
investigators at three major research universities found no yachts,
silk sheets or grand pianos, but they uncovered $5,000 for "working
3. CEBAF REPORT BREAKS NEW GROUND IN THE ESCALATING SPINOFF
It was all too confining. How could the Continuous
Electron Beam Accelerator Facility, still under construction,
compete with NASA or Fermilab in claiming credit for recent
technologies? Why not claim the technologies of the next decade?
CEBAF thus became the first program to announce that it did NOT
develop MRI, which was brushed off as a "mature" technology.
Instead, using something called the "Delphi Method" (I'm not making
this up!), the Center of Innovative Technology forecast
applications of CEBAF-related technology ranging from
superconducting materials to RF control systems, with a total
estimated market value of $6.8 billion.
4. MYSTERY DEEPENS OVER THE DISCONTENT AMONG ACADEMIC
"No question the malaise is out there," said Mary Good, chair of
the National Science Board, after Roland Schmitt reported to the
NSB this morning that a task force, of "about 10 people," met in
closed session on Monday to "brainstorm" the discontent problem
(WN 13 Sep 91). "There are little things
here and there," he said, "but nothing pops out as the single
source of trouble." The APS, in a letter from Physics Planning
Committee chair Eugen Merzbacher, had urged NSF to include active
research faculty on the task force, but NSF today refused to
identify the members.