"It is time for your community to step forward."- Energy Secretary Bodman
Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman spoke at last week's AAAS Forum on Science and Technology Policy on issues of major importance to the physics community. Selections from his address follow, including the need for the science community to communicate with Congress. Some paragraphs have been combined in the interest of space. The full speech may be read at http://www.doe.gov/print/3510.htm
NATIONAL SENTIMENT REGARDING S&T:
"We are at a moment of historic challenge and historic opportunity for the nation's scientific community. A consensus is building - not unlike the one that moved the nation nearly 50 years ago - when we learned in 1957 that a Soviet space satellite called Sputnik was orbiting the earth. The consensus is that this nation must act, and act decisively, to improve mathematics and science education at all levels and expand its support for basic research and development work in the physical sciences."
"Today, the nation faces an equally serious challenge. It can't be captured in a single stunning development like the launch of a space satellite, but the challenge is no less real. The speed and reach of the Internet and lower barriers to trade have given us a globalized economy that is changing rapidly." ". . . the long lead the U.S. has had over the rest of the world in this area is shrinking.
"Other nations have studied our success and are moving aggressively to emulate it. China . . . has gone from ranking 17th among nations in its support for in science in 1992 to 3rd today. India and South Korea are also investing heavily in science and education. And, over the next 15 years, China plans to double its national investment in science and technology research.
"Meanwhile, here at home, according to the National Science Board, only 15% of college students now choose to pursue degrees in science and engineering, compared with 38% in South Korea, 47% in France, 50% in China and 67% in Singapore. Even more disturbing, the Board has reported the number of bachelor's degrees in engineering awarded in the U.S. fell 8% between 1990 and 2000, and the number of mathematics degrees dropped 20%."
PHYSICAL AND LIFE SCIENCES FUNDING:
"Under President Bush, federal support for research in the life sciences has continued to climb. In fact, it doubled between 1998 and 2003. But over the last decade, federal support for research and development work in the physical sciences has remained essentially flat.
"The long-term result if these trends are left to run their course is not in question. The leadership in science and technology that the U.S. currently enjoys could be put at risk with negative consequences for our economy."
"The President recognizes this threat and has spoken out strongly. The future he sees is one in which this nation remains at the center of research and development and on the leading edge of technological change." "That is why he proposed the American Competitiveness Initiative [ACI] to strengthen support for research and development work in the physical sciences throughout the federal government and for mathematics and science education at all levels."
ACI AND DOE OFFICE OF SCIENCE PROGRAMS:
"The Department, through its Office of Science, already provides more than 40% of all federal support for research in the physical sciences. Next year, ACI would boost the funding for the Office of Science by $505 million, a 14.1% increase that will bring its total budget to $4.1 billion.
"We have carefully weighed the choices on what areas to give priority and we have singled out those that hold the greatest potential for significant advances. "When I joined the Department a little over a year ago, it appeared that many of our research projects had limitless timetables and lacked measurable results. I have reminded the leadership of our Office of Science that I am 67 years old. You can study the actuarial tables and agree that I might be around for another 20 years or so. I have advised my colleagues that I'd like to see tangible results from these projects in MY lifetime. So we are focusing on targeted sectors that we believe have the greatest potential. "Those sectors include supercomputers, nanotechnology, high-intensity light sources, energy from biomass and nuclear fusion. We are also increasing our support for both high-energy and nuclear physics."
"I would add that a tremendous amount of thought has gone into the requested level of funding and what can be achieved with it, particularly given these tight budgetary times. Now, more than ever, this nation cannot afford to waste taxpayers' dollars on programs that are not well-conceived or are unlikely to be effective, nor can we afford to impose unnecessary restrictions or requirements on how and where these programs should be carried out. "We have seen the unintended consequences of good intentions before when it has come to directing how and where dollars are spent. "So I hope my friends on Capitol Hill will agree with me on this point, and I look forward to working with them to ensure that we devote the necessary resources to these critical projects."
LIFE SCIENCES FUNDING:
"I know that those of you in the life sciences community may feel that your needs have not been fully addressed in next year's budget proposal. But I hope you will agree that the time has come for the physical sciences to start catching up with some of the gains your sector has achieved over the last ten years. "There are some very practical reasons for this. It is the physical sciences that give us the measurement tools that we must have to measure results in the life sciences."
"What the President hopes to see - what I hope to see - from the American Competitiveness Initiative, is not only more students studying science and mathematics at all levels and receiving better training along the way, but a steady flow of the kind of technical and scientific innovations that can spawn entire new industries. "These are the kind of industries through which we can deliver high-quality jobs to the nation and help it maintain its leadership of the world economy."
BUILDING SUPPORT FOR THE ACI:
"The President has staked out his position. Now is the time for all of you who support this initiative to let your voices be heard. "In today's budget environment there is no interest - no matter how worthy - that can look on future funding as an entitlement. A strong case must be made in Congress and the public arena.
"I am encouraged by the many statements of support that have been made from academic and business leaders for the American Competitiveness Initiative. Letters circulating in Congress in support of it have already attracted the signatures of 68 Senators and 139 House members. [See forthcoming FYI]
"That is all to the good. But I would ask those of you who care about what ACI represents to follow up and contact those members of Congress who have already committed to thank them for their support and continue to try to persuade the uncommitted to lend their support.
"Shortly after I was sworn in last year, a group representing many of our nations's leading universities met with me to discuss the need for more federal support for research and development work in the physical sciences.
"The meeting prompted one of my colleagues at the Department to recall that when he worked on Capitol Hill for a key science committee he was visited ten times by representatives of the life sciences for every one time he heard from someone advocating on behalf of the physical sciences.
"My friends, that imbalance must end. It is time for your community to step forward.
"There are now bills before Congress that embody competing approaches to strengthening science and mathematics education and supporting research and development. And I understand that there may be reasons some of you will find compelling to support those bills.
"But I would point out that the President's budget is seeking actual appropriations - real money - as opposed to simply authorizing spending, as the bills in Congress would do.
"Finally, I want you to know that I am optimistic we will succeed in this endeavor to strengthen the nation's science and technology base. We have strong leadership from the President and growing support from the public. With your help, I am certain we will achieve the same kind of success that Sputnik helped push us towards fifty years ago."