Friday, 24 January 1997 Washington, DC
1. **SENATOR GRAMM EMERGES AS THE CHAMPION OF BASIC
178 new bills were introduced in the Senate on Tuesday --
one, S.124, is a thing of beauty: "The National Research Investment Act
of 1997." It calls for doubling the federal investment in basic science and
medical research over a 10-year period (WN 17 Jan 97). Funds must be
allocated by a peer review system and can not be used for the
commercialization of technologies. A dozen non-defense agencies and
programs are covered by the bill, which is the work of Phil Gramm
(R-TX). Gramm pointed out that in 1965, 5.7% of the federal budget went
for non-defense R&D -- 32 years later, that has dropped to only 1.9%,
and real spending on research has declined for four straight years.
Ten-year doubling requires an annual increase of 7% -- just what
leaders of the science community have been calling for (WN 10 Jan 97).
2. MORE: "BIOMEDICAL RESEARCH COMMITMENT RESOLUTION OF
Senator Gramm was also a cosponsor of a resolution (S. RES.
15) introduced by Connie Mack (R-FL) to double the Federal commitment
to biomedical research in only five years. A resolution does not have
quite the force of an authorization bill, and it's a long way from either one
to an appropriation, but it helps. Although the appeal of medical research
to aging legislators is obvious, medical researchers are the first to point
out that progress is impossible without input from other sciences. It is a
message that bears repeating. Among the research developments of
NIH, for example, S. RES. 15 includes Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
and Positron Emission Tomography (PET), which physicists had a little
something to do with. Every federal agency except the Railroad
Retirement Board has by now claimed credit for MRI.
3. MORE STILL: GLIMMERINGS OF A BIPARTISAN SCIENCE
In his first inaugural address and subsequent
state-of-the-union speeches, which were notorious for their word
count, President Clinton's lips seemed unable to form the word "science."
He now seems to have the hang of it. In his inaugural address, he even
spoke of "physicists." The next day, speaking to the Democratic National
Committee, he described "investing more in education and science and
technology" as one of the keys to economic growth. A day later, to
parents and teachers in Northbrook, IL, he spoke of "a veritable
revolution in the way we live and work because of science and
technology"; he used the word "science" eleven times.
4. GRAVITY: ASTRONAUT RETURNS FROM MIR AFTER A FOUR
John Blaha had to be poured from the shuttle Atlantis
onto a stretcher Wednesday in spite of his grueling exercise regimen on
Mir. "I'm stunned," he said, "after the orbiter stopped, I could not raise my
leg even an inch." Space official acknowledge that without the room and
board other nations pay for their astronauts to stay on Mir, Russia would
be forced to abandon the facility.