Friday, 17 Dec 1993 Washington, DC
1. GATT R&D SUBSIDIES ARE FIXED: THE HAND THAT ROCKED THE CRADAS!
As we reported
(WN 26 Nov 93), a draft of the General Agreements
on Tariffs and Trade, scheduled to take effect on 1 July 1995,
threatened Administration efforts to encourage more cooperation
between federally funded labs and industry through such devices
as Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAS).
Critics, led by Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Rep. George Brown
(D-CA), objected that: (1) the percentage of federal funding
allowed was too low, (2) the definition of "basic industrial
research" and "applied industrial research" too imprecise, and
(3) the requirement to prenotify a GATT panel of each project
came too close to revealing sensitive information. But the final
agreement was changed to correct all three problems: the prenotification
requirement is gone, and the government can fund 100% of
"fundamental research," 75% of "industrial research," and 50% of
"precompetitive commercial development." Governments are still
barred from contributing anything to "commercial development."
2. SO JUST WHAT IS "THE FUTURE OF THE NSF"? THE DEBATE GOES ON.
The Senate Report language accompanying the VA/HUD/IA Appropriations
Bill, you will recall
(WN 17 Sep 93), was controversial.
In September, prior to the conference on the appropriations bill,
George Brown (D-CA) and Rick Boucher (D-VA) wrote to the chair of
the House Appropriations Subcommittee, Louis Stokes (D-OH), to
urge the House conferees "to keep the Conference Report free of
changes to the mission of NSF and to include language nullifying
specific directives in the Senate Report involving changes to
NSF's mission statement." The Conference Report satisfied half
of that request; it was silent on the NSF mission, but did not
disavow the Senate language. To clear up any confusion, Rep.
Stokes wrote Brown that "The Senate language stands." But that
doesn't mean the House will agree with it. According to Stokes,
it means "the NSF needs to examine its policies in light of the
Senate language." Once NSF has done so, Stokes promises to work
with Brown to have the issues openly debated. Brown's complaint
is that, although appropriations Report language is not legally
binding, Executive Branch agencies see the language for what it
is: "direct orders to be ignored at their peril." It is simply
appropriation by intimidation. According to Brown, the result is
"to substitute the view of a select few Members and their staffs
for the orderly and open consideration of issues by all Members."
3. A TEAM OF FRENCH RESEARCHERS CLAIMS SUPERCONDUCTIVITY AT 250K!
An artificial layered compound, grown epitaxially on a strontium
titanate substrate, appeared to exhibit superconductivity at
almost double the existing 133K record. Previous claims at this
temperature have not stood up, but this may be the strongest
evidence so far. The paper was published in the 17 December 1993
Science magazine. The team leader, Michel Laques, believes the
results should not be difficult for other groups to confirm.