"Occasional Papers" Make the Case for DOE Science

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Publication date: 
24 January 2003

As noted in FYI #5, while funding for science agencies such as NIH and NSF has grown over the past decade, the budget of DOE's Office of Science has remained essentially flat. Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL) has already reintroduced a bill (H.R. 34) in the 108th Congress that would strengthen the role of science within DOE and increase the Office of Science budget more than 60 percent by FY 2007. This effort died at the end of the last Congress, and will need strong support in this Congress for there to be a chance for its incorporation into a larger energy policy bill this year. House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) and Ranking Minority Member Ralph Hall (D-TX) have also introduced a bill, H.R. 238, to authorize funding increases in DOE's Office of Science Programs in FY 2003-2007. Specific amounts in this bill, "The Energy Research, Development, Demonstration and Commercial Application Act of 2003," are authorized for the fusion energy program, spallation neutron source, nanoscale science, and advanced scientific computing.

For those who wish to make the case to a Member of Congress for the research supported by the Office of Science, a new tool is available. Under Director Ray Orbach, the Office has developed a series of short, easily-understandable 1-2 page "Occasional Papers" that each describe an important area of research or emphasis for the Office, the challenges and opportunities in that area, and proposed future directions. Nine Occasional Papers are currently available in pdf format on the Office of Science web site at http://www.science.doe.gov/feature/occasional_papers/Occ-Papers-frontpage.htm. They can be printed and used for talking points or hand-outs in making the case for strengthening scientific research at DOE. The Office's web site also includes recent highlights from each of its programs.

According to the web site, the Occasional Papers illustrate "just a sampling of the exciting and diverse research activities sponsored by the...Office of Science and performed in national laboratories, universities, and the private sector.... The Office of Science blends cutting-edge research and innovative problem solving to stay at the forefront of scientific discovery. The papers in this book illustrate how these inseparable elements of scientific research work together to achieve new insights that translate into a greater understanding of nature and matter, improved medical devices, energy efficient cars and appliances, and a host of other innovations that improve our economy, national security, and quality of life."

The nine Occasional Papers are listed below, with a brief explanation of each:

The Challenge and Promise of Scientific Computing: "In the last decade, the power of computation - our ability to model and simulate experiments that we have not conducted in a laboratory - has become so great that it must now be considered a third pillar, along with theory and experiment, in the triad of tools used for scientific discovery," the paper says. It addresses steps the U.S. can take to regain world leadership in scientific computing capability.

Building a 21st Century Workforce: Noting that "Our Nation is failing to produce both a scientifically literate citizenry and the kind of workforce we will need in the 21st Century," this paper discusses opportunities to utilize DOE's national laboratories as a resource for teachers and students.

The Beauty of Nanoscale Science: This paper describes the potential of nanotechnology and the role of the Office of Science in developing instruments, tools and computers to enhance manipulation of materials at the atomic and molecular level.

Using Nature's Own Toolkit to Clean up the Environment: The "remarkable ability of microbes to survive in extreme environments can be used to solve some of our most intractable problems, including cleanup of sites contaminated with radionuclides." According to this paper, "Our challenge is to figure out how to get microbes to work for us."

Dark Energy - the Mystery that Dominates the Universe: "Recently, scientists sponsored by the Office of Science found that, contrary to all previous understanding, the expansion of the universe was accelerating; some force was pushing galaxies apart at ever increasing speed." This paper describes the search for this dark energy.

Bringing a Star to Earth: The challenges of harnessing fusion - the engine that powers stars - for use on Earth are discussed in this paper.

Biotechnology for Energy Security: The Office of Science "is now seeking to exploit" the biotechnology revolution "to use plants, microbes, and microbial communities to produce energy, remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and clean up hazardous waste."

Facilities for Scientific Discovery: The Office of Science "is steward to 10 of our Nation's most valuable research facilities." These national laboratories "perform cutting-edge, state-of-the-art research in physics, materials sciences, chemistry, plasma science, plant sciences, biology, computation, environmental cleanup, and climate change," but significant modernization is needed. The paper proposes a 10-year infrastructure modernization plan.

Scientific Foundations for Countering Terrorism: This paper describes how the Office can contribute to counterterrorism efforts: "The Office of Science has exceptionally strong national laboratory and university programs in research that can provide technologies to detect, prevent, protect against, and respond to terrorism."

AIP has also produced a series of 16 hand-outs supporting federal research funding, entitled "Physics Success Stories," for use when meeting with Members of Congress. Each describes a billion-dollar industry built on federally-funded physics research, including the initial federal investment and the economic impact of the resulting technology. Topics available include: medical imaging, lasers, global positioning system, environment, new materials, telecommunications, computers, consumer goods, national defense, transportation, energy efficiency, medical physics, liquid crystals, acoustics, the Internet, and astrophysics. The Physics Success Stories can be viewed at http://www.aip.org/success/ or, for use as hand-outs, glossy hard copies are available at no charge upon request. Please send us your US mailing address and specify the topics desired.

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