Friday, 12 Aug 94 Washington, DC
1. GEORGE BROWN BLASTS DOE FOR CAVING IN TO APPROPRIATORS ON PORK
A year ago, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee was content to
earmark a total of only $15.4M for universities, down from $100M
in the good years. The recipients of this booty were familiar to
pork watchers, but otherwise undistinguished. They included tiny
Oregon Health Sciences University, which got another $4.6M; since
1983 OHSU has made off with $96M. I calculate that to be about
$32,000 for every graduate, compliments of Mark Hatfield, ranking
minority member (WN 29 Oct 93).
DOE is not legally obligated to
fund such earmarks, but agency heads are notoriously reluctant to
offend appropriators--better to take the money from some nameless
researcher. So DOE stripped $13M from Human Genome and Global
Change research and sought approval from the appropriations and
authorization committees to transfer the other $2.4M from capital
equipment. George Brown, chair of the House SS&T Committee, not
only refused, he told Secretary Hazel O'Leary she would need "a
more compelling reason than a desire to placate a Senator on the
Appropriations Committee....I expect nothing more than that you
exercise the responsibility that comes with the high public trust
we place in you as Secretary of the Department of Energy."
2. REVIEWING PEER REVIEW: GAO REPORT GIVES NSF A PASSING GRADE.
Members of Congress from regions that attract limited research
support are fond of blaming an unfair peer review system
(WN 29 Jul 94).
Two years ago GAO began a survey of selected reviewers
that asked about their reviews of specific proposals (WN 10 Jul
92). Questions such as, "Were you and the PI sufficiently
acquainted that if you passed each other on the street you would
be expected to stop and chat?," generated anxiety attacks at NSF
and among reviewers who received the questionnaire. But GAO has
now completed its study; it found that if you're expert enough to
review a proposal, you probably know the applicant. "Contrary to
what some critics have asserted," it says, "reviewers are no more
likely to come from elite institutions than were applicants." But
in some NSF programs, women reviewers were underrepresented.
3. AN EFFORT WILL BE MADE IN THE HOUSE TO CAP ENERGY RESEARCH!
There seems to be no end to the assaults on research. The House
is preparing to consider a bill to authorize fusion, high energy
and nuclear research programs (H.R. 4908). The bill already caps
Energy Supply R&D, but Robert Walker (R-PA) wants an amendment
freezing all DOE research funds for four years. The freeze would
not allow for inflation. Even as the science community launched
a campaign against Walker's amendment, Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY),
offered a substitute that is little better. Just two months ago
Boehlert was threatening to "picket the White House" if high-
energy physics didn't get the "Drell bump" of $150M over three
years (WN 17 Jun 94), but his amendment, which is expected to
attract strong support, would preserve, at most, 40% of the bump.