Friday, 22 November 96 Washington, DC
1. DIGITAL AGENDA: WHITE HOUSE SCIENCE OFFICE WAS OUT TO LUNCH!
Next month, at the insistence of the United States, the Draft Treaty on Intellectual Property in Respect to Databases will be taken up at a diplomatic conference in Geneva. On the very day the draft treaty was placed on the table, Carlos Morehead (R-CA) introduced a bill in the U.S. House (H.R.3531) with very similar provisions (WN 25 Oct 96). Neither the Morehead bill nor the draft database treaty had any input from groups outside the database industry. Compilers of data (not producers!) would gain a perpetual license, since a 15-year protection period would be renewed with each update. Yesterday, at a conference sponsored by the National Research Council, experts warned that the treaty could inflict serious harm on American science. Among the science policy pooh-bahs packed into yesterday's NRC conference, the most frequently asked question was: "Where was OSTP when all this was happening, and why was it left for an NRC committee to discover?"
2. EDUCATION: "PURSUING EXCELLENCE" -- BUT NOT VERY CLOSELY.
Yet another report from the Third International Math and Science Study (WN 18 Oct 96). This one compares U.S. 8th graders with those in the rest of the world. The goal in 1990 was for the U.S. to lead the world in math and science education by 2000. With three years to go, the U.S. is 17th in science, 28th in math and the politicians are still debating prayer and choice.
3. HIGHER EDUCATION: IS THE OVERHEAD CAP DRIVING UP TUITION?
From 1980 to 1994, tuition at public colleges and universities increased 234%, while household incomes were rising only 82%. Even as state appropriations for higher education declined, expenditures were rising. According to a GAO report, the largest percentage increase in expenditures was in research, which went up 157%. Big surprise! Since 1991, indirect cost recovery on government contracts and grants has been capped at 26%. Where, you might ask, did Congress think the money would come from?
4. NSF: NATIONAL SCIENCE BOARD ADVISED TO CONTINUE S&T CENTERS.
At a National Science Board meeting yesterday, two separate panels recommended to the Board that the NSF program of Science and Technology Centers should be continued at its present level.
5. MARS: RUSSIAN LANDER DOESN'T MAKE IT OUT OF THE PARKING LOT.
Conspiracy theorists were clucking "I told you so" following the loss of Mars '96 on Saturday. There hasn't been a successful mission to the red planet in the 20 years since Viking: two Soviet Phobos missions were lost in 1989; the US Mars Observer disappeared in 1993 just before arrival. The loss of Mars '96 was also an embarrassment for the nation that launched the first artificial satellite in 1957. It follows news that the last Russian spy satellite died in September. Requiescat in pace.