Friday, 21 Apr 95 Washington, DC
1. RESHAPING THE GRADUATE EDUCATION OF SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS.
You would not be surprised to learn that graduate schools should
be preparing students to be flexible in their careers. Neither
was a National Academy panel that released its study of graduate
education yesterday. Everybody knows it, but it's not clear that
real changes are underway. Phillip Griffiths, Director of the
Institute for Advanced Study, who chaired the study, sought to
dispel two "myths," 1) Most PhDs go on to academic careers; more
than half don't and their proportion is growing; and 2) There is
high unemployment among PhDs; it's a mere 1.6%. For new PhDs the
rate has risen to 2%, but that's still very low compared to other
professionals. What's the bad news? More new PhDs are taking
temporary jobs; the queue waiting for permanent jobs is growing.
2. CLINTON EXECUTIVE ORDER DECLASSIFIES SECRETS AFTER 25 YEARS.
A CNN poll, released this morning, found that 79% of Americans
believe in miracles. Perhaps they were reacting to new secrecy
rules signed by the President this week. It took a federal task
farce two years to agree on the automatic release period (WN 20
Jan 95); hard liners wanted a 40-year period to keep the mistakes
of Viet Nam era bureaucrats safely in the vault until after their
retirement. But don't expect an avalanche of new information;
the bureaucracy knows how to defend itself. The order allows for
"narrow exceptions" (ha!) and inflated cost estimates circulating
on Capitol Hill argue that we can't afford to declassify anyway.
3. ROEMER BILL WOULD CUT STAFF AT DOE LABORATORIES BY ONE-THIRD!
Introduced just as Congress took off, the "Department of Energy
Laboratories Efficiency Improvement Act," might be called the
"Tiger Team backlash bill," in reference to the management teams
that rampaged through the labs under Admiral Watkins; enforcement
of environmental, safety and health regulations would be taken
out of DOE's hands. The staff cuts, which would be spread out
over ten years, are to be used to terminate outmoded programs,
eliminate duplication, consolidate research and reduce management
inefficiency. Livermore, Los Alamos and Sandia laboratories are
exempted. The bill is not likely to stand on its own, but could
easily be incorporated into some larger piece of legislation.
4. FOR AN INERT GAS, HELIUM SURE PRODUCES SOME STRONG REACTIONS!
Nobody but physicists, it seems, lie awake worrying about where
their next dewar of helium is coming from. It's found in natural
gas, mostly in the US, and if it's not extracted before the gas
is burned, it's lost forever--it's not a renewable resource. John
Kasich, House Budget Committee chair, wants government out of the
helium business. But if it's left to private helium production,
there will be no incentive to stockpile against future demand.
To pay off the debt the Helium Recovery Program has incurred so
far, the price of Helium would have to go up by a factor of 54!
THE AMERICAN PHYSICAL SOCIETY (Note: Opinions are the author's
and are not necessarily shared by the APS, but they should be.)