Making the Case for Physical Sciences Funding

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Publication date: 
5 May 2004

Two recent developments in Washington highlight the increased attention that is being given to the funding of physical sciences research by the federal government. Both efforts stressed the importance of physical science to the nation's energy security and economic growth.

In an unprecedented move, 55 senators signed a letter to Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Pete Domenici (R-NM) and Ranking Member Harry Reid (D-NV), urging them to increase the budget for the Department of Energy's Office of Science by 10% over that requested by the Bush Administration. With this letter, more than half of the Senate is now on record for substantially higher funding for the Office of Science. This demonstration of support for the Office of Science, which many lament is often lost within the larger DOE structure, is a significant turnaround for this office. A year ago, a similar letter had 39 signatories. Active constituent interest and diligent senatorial staff work was important in increasing the number of senators signing this letter. The American Physical Society played a very active role in this effort.

A pdf copy of the letter, with the signatures of the 55 senators, can be viewed at This letter should be a very effective tool for constituents visiting with, or writing to, their Members of Congress. The senators signing this letter were:

Akaka, Daniel (D-HI)
Alexander, Lamar (R-TN)
Baucus, Max (D-MT)
Bayh, Evan (D-IN)
Biden, Joseph (D-DE)
Bingaman, Jeff (D-NM)
Boxer, Barbara (D-CA)
Breaux, John (D-LA)
Cantwell, Maria (D-WA)
Clinton, Hillary Rodham (D-NY)
Coleman, Norm (R-MN)
Cornyn, John (R-TX)
Corzine, Jon (D-NJ)
Daschle, Thomas (D-SD)
Dayton, Mark (D-MN)
DeWine, Mike (R-OH)
Dodd, Christopher (D-CT)
Dorgan, Byron (D-ND)
Durbin, Richard (D-IL)
Edwards, John (D-NC)
Feinstein, Dianne (D-CA)
Fitzgerald, Peter (R-IL)
Graham, Bob (D-FL)
Graham, Lindsey (R-SC)
Harkin, Tom (D-IA)
Hollings, Ernest (D-SC)
Hutchison, Kay Bailey (R-TX)
Inouye, Daniel (D-HI)
Kennedy, Edward (D-MA)
Kerry, John (D-MA)
Kohl, Herbert (D-WI)
Landrieu, Mary (D-LA)
Lautenberg, Frank (D-NJ)
Leahy, Patrick (D-VT)
Levin, Carl (D-MI)
Lieberman, Joseph (D-CT)
Lincoln, Blanche (D-AR)
Lugar, Richard (R-IN)
Mikulski, Barbara (D-MD)
Murray, Patty (D-WA)
Nelson, Bill (D-FL)
Pryor, Mark (D-AR)
Reed, Jack (D-RI)
Roberts, Pat (R-KS)
Rockefeller, John (D-WV)
Santorum, Rick (R-PA)
Sarbanes, Paul (D-MD)
Schumer, Charles (D-NY)
Smith, Gordon (R-OR)
Snowe, Olympia (R-ME)
Specter, Arlen (R-PA)
Stabenow, Debbie (D-MI)
Voinovich, George (R-OH)
Warner, John (R-VA)
Wyden, Ron (D-OR)

The formation of the Task Force on the Future of American Innovation was announced at an afternoon briefing at the National Press Club on April 20. This 12-member organization, which includes the American Physical Society, will work to increase the budgets of NIST, NSF, DOE Office of Science, and DOD research accounts by 10-12% a year over the next five to seven years to reverse the decline in federal funding for basic research in the physical sciences and engineering. One of those who spoke at the press briefing was Intel CEO Craig Barrett who said, "We're here to help policymakers understand that U.S. technological leadership, innovation and jobs of tomorrow require a commitment to basic research funding today." Referring to stagnant physical sciences funding, Barrett said "let's stop flat lining." This same point was made by Deborah Wince-Smith of the Council on Competitiveness who said "This is not a Democratic or a Republican issue. This is a cause that we can all come together around and we look forward to working with policy-makers in this effort." Also speaking at this briefing were Nils Hasselmo of the Association of American Universities and Rick Smalley, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry.

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