Friday, 22 Dec 95 Washington, DC
1. THERE ARE A LOT MORE LOBBYISTS NOW THAN THERE WERE A WEEK AGO
. People who wouldn't even utter the L-word before Tuesday will now be registering as lobbyists under the provisions of the Lobbying
Disclosure Act signed by the President. Lawyers for universities and professional societies will be happily analyzing the new law for weeks to come, but one thing is clear: employees who spend
20% of their time trying to influence legislative bodies, either by directly contacting legislators or their staff, or organizing
"grass roots" campaigns, are lobbyists. Well, maybe not perfectly clear; faculty whose private lobbying efforts are not on behalf of their university are not included. Moreover, distribution of analysis and research on a public policy issue, even if it takes a position on specific legislation, is not considered lobbying as long as it is equally available to people on all sides and does not urge recipients to contact legislators. I'm off the hook!
2. WILL COMMERCIAL SCIENTIFIC PUBLISHING FALL VICTIM TO INTERNET?
Paul Ginsparg, the Los Alamos high-energy physicist who created an electronic preprint exchange 4 years ago, hopes so, according to Forbes magazine, which quotes him as saying he would like "to see the whole system collapse." The first victim, according to
Forbes, might be Nuclear Physics B, published by Elsevier, which costs $10,775-a-year. Ginsparg's server now handles up to 70,000 transactions/day. The only rap is that the papers are unreviewed, but plans for a formal review process are about to be announced.
3. TOBACCO SMOKE OBSCURES THE ETHICS OF SCIENTIFIC COMMUNICATION.
The American Thoracic Society decided that its journals will not publish the results of research funded by the tobacco industry. The industry has a shameful record of suppressing evidence of the deleterious effects of smoking, but censoring academic research funded by tobacco raises new ethical concerns, and impugns the integrity of academic scientists. Efforts to bar publication of work on the basis of funding source are not without precedent.
During the Vietnam protest era, there was a motion in the Council of the American Physical Society to bar papers funded by DOD from publication in the Physical Review. The proposal was rejected.
4. WRECKAGE OF THE BUDGET AGREEMENT IS STILL BLOCKING THE TRACKS!
Republican leaders have lost whatever control they had of House freshmen, who are determined to use the government shutdown as leverage to force acceptance of their budget plan. As this is written, Senate debate over a partial continuing resolution to restore certain essential government services, such as mailing veteran's checks, is delayed by argument over a provision in the
Agriculture Appropriation Bill for a federal tea-tasting office. Both sides deny any knowledge of how the provision, which no one seems to support, wound up in the bill. Sigh! The only good news is that the sun is making a comeback. Happy winter solstice!
THE AMERICAN PHYSICAL SOCIETY
(Note: Opinions are the author's and are not necessarily shared by the APS, but they should be.)