Friday, 30 Jul 1993 Washington, DC
1. B-FACTORY DECISION IS TO BE MADE BY ENERGY SECRETARY O'LEARY.
A joint NSF-DOE panel, chaired by Stan Kowalski of MIT, completed
its review of competing proposals by Cornell and SLAC to build a
B-factory. In a letter to OMB Director Leon Panetta, who asked
for the review, acting NSF Director Fred Bernthal makes it clear
that the decision is up to DOE; Secretary of Energy Hazel O'Leary
announced that she will make the decision personally. Meanwhile,
DOE refuses to make the panel's report public before she makes a
decision, which is expected next week. The panel reportedly makes
no recommendation, but finds that both proposals are technically
competent and the risks about equal. The cost estimates of both
proposals are revised slightly upward, but generally confirmed,
and the Cornell cost estimate is substantially lower than SLAC's.
2. SECRETARY O'LEARY GIVES HER STRONGEST ENDORSEMENT OF THE SSC!
Back in February, Secretary O'Leary told reporters that she did
not "feel passionately" about the Supercollider
(WN 5 Feb 93).
At a hearing yesterday, Representative Boehlert (R-NY), an arch
SSC foe, asked if she is now "passionate" about the SSC. The
aroused Energy Secretary laughed and replied, "I'm maybe nearly
passionate." Pressed for a more definitive answer, she declared
firmly, "This project needs to--and must--go forward." Meanwhile,
the 30 days, within which she promised John Dingell a decision on
the SSC management
(WN 2 Jul 93), is up today. According to a
DOE source, an internal report on the SSC's management problems
is on O'Leary's desk and she will decide what to do next week.
3. IS THE RATE OF RETURN ON ACADEMIC RESEARCH REALLY 28 PERCENT?
Economist Edwin Mansfield of the University of Pennsylvania, has
examined the relationship between academic research and industrial
innovation, and estimates a whopping 28% return on investment.
A recent CBO review examined Mansfield's approach, and concluded
that although there are many uncertainties, the return is indeed
very high. By contrast, large technology-oriented programs, such
as the space shuttle, typically show a very low or even negative
return. The Bush Administration used Mansfield's estimate to
justify a request for increased basic research funding, but the
CBO review points out that, even given an historical average of
28%, the return from an additional dollar is not actually known.
4. DOE UNVEILS A NEW STRATEGIC PLAN FOR TECHNOLOGY PARTNERSHIPS.
Fresh from a three-day seminar on quality management,
Motorola University in Chicago, Secretary of Energy O'Leary and
the directors of six national laboratories testified yesterday
before the House Science, Space and Technology Committee. They
flashed "Value Diversity" buttons and declared their commitment
to "customer service." But when Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) asked why
we need national labs, O'Leary said she would get back to him on
it. Meanwhile, it was announced that Martin Marietta will succeed
AT&T as the management contractor of Sandia National Labs.