Friday, 23 April 93 Washington, DC
1. BAD NEWS! FY 94 NSF REQUEST GOES FROM 8.2% INCREASE TO 16.3%.
The 200 page "Justification" for the FY 94 Budget Request of the
National Science Foundation is more confusing than usual. Budget
requests are normally judged against the appropriation for the
current year. But in preparing its FY 94 request, OMB directed
NSF to base its figures on a "revised current plan" that included
a pending $207M supplemental appropriation
(WN 2 Apr 93). Alas,
the supplement was part of President Clinton's ill-fated stimulus
package. So it's now official: FY 93 is a really bad year at NSF;
research is down about 1% from last year. The situation is
particularly desperate in Physics where a $23M shortfall on LIGO is
wreaking havoc (18 Dec 92). Will it get better next year? By our
calculation, the FY 94 request now calls for an increase of 18.6%
in research; for Physics, make that 11.2%. But don't make plans
to spend it yet; Congress is in a really ugly mood this year.
2. SELLING THE SUPER COLLIDER: WHO SAYS THERE'S NO FREE LUNCH?
A complementary lunch is part of a one-day "educational forum" on
the SSC that will be presented at SUNY, Stony Brook on 29 April.
Invitations were mailed to several thousand "civic leaders" in
the Stony Brook area, including members of the League of Women
Voters. The program will be moderated by television personality
Edwin Newman. According to the organizers, Newman's assignment
is "To lead the audience to think about how they should evaluate
the information they will gain through the day." And who are the
organizers? A news release announcing the forum is on the
letterhead of the Superconducting Super Collider Laboratory, which is
managed for the DOE by the Universities Research Association, a
university consortium. But the "contact" listed on the release
turned out to be a partner in a Rochester media relations firm;
he said the bills are being paid by the Texas National Research
Laboratory Commission, which was created by the Texas Legislature
in 1985 to oversee the state's $1B investment in the SSC. There
was no mention of TNRLC in the news release. The forum at Stony
Brook is described as the first of a nationwide series; the next
will be at Purdue in mid-May. There are 80 universities in URA.
3. THE HEAD OF THE SPACE STATION FREEDOM REDESIGN TEAM RESIGNS!
Joseph Shea stepped down amid uncertainty over whether it will be
possible to meet the spending limits imposed by the White House.
Shea, who is in poor health, was replaced by a former astronaut,
Bryan O'Connor. Several redesign concepts have been dropped,
including a plan to build the station around a shuttle with its
wings and tail removed--sort of like moving into an abandoned
school bus. The current favorite seems to be a single can that
requires little or no assembly in space--sort of like Skylab,
launched 20 years ago and abandoned because no one could think of
anything to do with it. Meanwhile, some of the space station's
past supporters in Congress are edging closer to the exit. They
have begun questioning the value of a stripped-down station.