Friday, 17 Sept, 1993 Washington, DC
1. "THE FUTURE OF THE NSF?": BIZARRE SENATE SUBCOMMITTEE REPORT
reopens old debate. Like the weatherman in "Ground Hog Day," the
science community woke up this week to find itself forced to
relive last year's bitter debate over the future of NSF. The
report accompanying the FY 94 HUD/VA/IA Appropriations Bill
(WN 10 Sept '93)
charges NSF with failing to pursue national goals
"with entrepreneurial vigor and enthusiasm." It directs NSF to
shift resources toward short-term "strategic" research in support
of industry. If NSF does not get it right this time, the report
warns, its next budget should be reallocated to other agencies.
Although a report accompanying an appropriations bill lacks the
force of law, agencies are so intimidated by threats of a budget
cut that they seldom resist. If the offending language is not
deleted when the bill comes up for a vote on the Senate floor
next week, it could still be cut in conference with the House.
2. APS URGES CONGRESS TO ELIMINATE THE OFFENDING REPORT LANGUAGE.
A letter to members of both Houses from APS President Langenberg
and President-Elect Richter, on behalf of the Executive Board,
notes that: "...the language is clearly in error. NSF is directed
to pursue a course that would duplicate the functions of other
agencies and jeopardize the long-term prospects for American
competitiveness. Moreover, to embark on a major redirection of
an agency, without authorizing legislation or debate, is not a
sound way to make policy." The ill-considered directive was based
on a misreading of last year's report of the Commission on the
Future of NSF and a misinterpretation of the word "strategic."
3. HOUSE SCIENCE COMMITTEE HEARING LOOKS AT ACADEMIC EARMARKING.
With a little prodding from Chairman George Brown to speak up in
front of the cameras, a spokesman testified that Tufts had paid a
lobbyist $3.2M since 1984 to secure earmarked funds. Since
earmarks usually show up in appropriations report language, which is
non-binding, why don't agencies just refuse? They must stay on
good terms with appropriators, agency reps said. "What about
keeping on good terms with authorizers?" Rep. Bob Walker asked.
4. SSC RALLY IN WASHINGTON ATTRACTS STUDENTS, BUT FEW MEDIA.
The SSC rally opened to a hall packed with enthusiastic students from
across the country and speakers blaring "Supercollider" from The
Tribe's "Sleeper" CD. "Leno" Lederman astutely cracked in his
opening monologue that SSC news can't compete with a Rabin and
Arafat handshake. The APS statement, issued Monday, was then
announced: "The Executive Board of the APS is deeply concerned by
the prospect of SSC termination. A decision to discontinue the
SSC in midstream would underscore a lack of the coherent national
research policy that is needed to sustain American leadership in
science. The APS Executive Board reaffirms its support of the
SSC in the context of a balanced effort for all of science." The
Senate bill on the SSC goes through markup early next week.