APS Member Chris Jeffrey writes Houston Chronicle op-ed about science, innovation

APS Member Chris Jeffrey, a recent graduate of the University of Texas in Denton, recently wrote an op-ed in the Houston Chronicle, supporting the Energy Title of the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act, which would put the nation back on a path of robust scientific research and innovation.

APS joins more than 250 groups, CEOs in call for stronger investment in R&D

Scientific research has paid huge dividends to our nation in the form of innovations that include the Internet, MRI, iPhone, GPS and many more. Today, APS joined with concerned businesses and CEOs who support improved federal policies and stronger investment in research and development. Spread the word on social media. Use the hashtag #innovationimperative. Read the press release.

APS criticizes proposed 7% cut to Department of Defense Research Budget

U.S. Department of Defense research funding is responsible for equipment that keeps soldiers safe on the battlefield and technologies that have revolutionized our lives.
Read more

Capitol Hill Quarterly Newsletter Features Op-ed by U.S. Rep. Bill Foster, story on Jefferson Science Fellows

Check out the latest edition of Capitol Hill Quarterly newsletter, which features an op-ed by U.S. Rep. Bill Foster, and stories on the Jefferson Science Fellows and recent CNSF exhibit.

APS President Testifies on DHS S&T; Recommends Changes

Aronson Prez Pic

(Credit: aps.org)

APS President Sam Aronson testified today before a subcommittee of the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee on the lack of transparency with the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate, as well as its failure to seek advice from academia or non-governmental actors regarding research activities.

Aronson spoke before the Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection, and Security Technologies. Titled “Examining DHS Science and Technology Directorate’s Engagement with Academia and Industry,” the hearing included witnesses from the Homeland Security and Defense Business Council and the Security Industry Association (SIA).

Subcommittee Chairman John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, and Subcommittee Chairman and Ranking Member Cedric Richmond, D-La, asked questions pertaining to the work of the directorate. In addition, subcommittee members Curt Clawson, R-Fla, and James Langevin, D-RI, questioned witnesses on the topic.

Aronson DHS S&T

(Credit: Chris Schepis)

Here are key highlights from Aronson’s testimony:

  • The S&T Advisory Committee should be expanded to embrace a broader and more balanced membership, reflective of DHS’s diverse scientific and technological needs.
  • An expanded Advisory Committee should play a more proactive role in providing outside advice to the Under Secretary for Science and Technology.
  • The Under Secretary should make greater use of the Advisory Committee, actively seeking advice, commissioning studies and requesting assistance with long-term planning from people who are not part of his or her inner circle.
  • The Advisory Committee should conduct its work in a more transparent manner, with meetings open to the public, to the extent feasible, and unclassified documents posted on the DHS website on a timely basis so that the public and members of Congress can easily access them.
  • The charter of the Advisory Committee should be sharpened to provide a more detailed description of its scope and expected outcomes

Read Aronson’s full testimony:

“Chairman Ratcliffe, Ranking Member Richmond and members of the Subcommittee, I appreciate the opportunity to testify today on the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate and its interactions with the scientific community.

I am a nuclear physicist and currently serve as president of the American Physical Society, representing more than 50,000 physicists in universities, industry and national laboratories. From 2006 until 2012, I was director of Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), where I now direct the RIKEN BNL Research Center.

As Brookhaven’s director, I oversaw the operation of a multipurpose research institution with world-class facilities and an outstanding staff possessing broad scientific and technological expertise, spanning the life sciences, the physical sciences and engineering. Brookhaven’s portfolio extends from discovery-driven research, such as studies of the birth of the universe, to applied research, such as exploration of energy technologies and problems relevant to national and homeland security.

Although I personally have had somewhat limited direct experience with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), I have known many scientists who have attempted to engage with the DHS Science and Technology Directorate. And their experiences have been mixed, at best. Unlike other federal agencies that have research missions, DHS to the outside world suffers from a lack of transparency and a culture that that does not encourage input from our nation’s outstanding science and technology community. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Like other federal agencies with science and technology mandates, DHS has an advisory committee that is intended to help the department develop and manage its S&T portfolio. But, from all appearances, it is quite dysfunctional. Other agencies, such as the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy, with which I am very familiar, use their committees to solicit ideas, connect with the science and technology community and develop programming that help the agencies accomplish their missions. The advisory committees are broadly based scientifically, meet frequently in open sessions, provide opportunities for public commentary and make their recommendations widely known.

By contrast, the DHS S&T Advisory Committee comprises only six members drawn from a narrow, parochial community. It meets infrequently, almost always in closed session, and does not make its recommendations easily accessible to interested parties. By allowing the committee to operate in such a fashion, DHS is missing an opportunity to engage the best scientific and technical minds to help the department achieve its goals.

The department’s core missions are daunting: preventing terrorism and enhancing security; securing and managing our borders; enforcing and administering our immigration laws; safeguarding and securing cyberspace; and ensuring resilience to disasters. Each one of them requires the best science and technology the nation can muster. Collectively, they require scientific contributions from a multiplicity of disciplines. The present composition and operation of the S&T Advisory Committee is shortchanging the department and needlessly placing Americans at future risk.

What should be done?

First, the S&T Advisory Committee should be expanded to embrace a broader and more balanced membership, reflective of DHS’s diverse scientific and technological needs.

Second, an expanded Advisory Committee should play a more proactive role in providing outside advice to the Under Secretary for Science and Technology.

Third, the Under Secretary should make greater use of the Advisory Committee, actively seeking advice, commissioning studies and requesting assistance with long-term planning from people who are not part of his or her inner circle.

Fourth, the Advisory Committee should conduct its work in a more transparent manner, with meetings open to the public, to the extent feasible, and unclassified documents posted on the DHS website on a timely basis so that the public and members of Congress can easily access them.

Finally, the charter of the Advisory Committee should be sharpened to provide a more detailed description of its scope and expected outcomes.

In transforming the Advisory Committee, the DHS Science and Technology Directorate should take a cue from other federal agencies that depend on research and development in fulfilling their missions. The Department of Energy’s Office of Science and the Department of Defense provide two good examples.

The DOE Office of Science relies on six committees – comprising 15 to 24 members each – that follow procedures established by the 1972 Federal Advisory Committee Act, with each committee representing a balance of viewpoints and diversity of backgrounds. The Department of Defense relies principally on one advisory committee, the Defense Science Board (DSB) with 32 external members chosen on the basis of their preeminence in the fields of science and technology relevant to the DOD mission.

A DHS S&T Advisory Committee more robustly constituted would help the directorate maintain continuity in its programming, better capture the expertise of the nation’s research community and instill greater confidence in its work.

Thank you. I am happy to answer any questions you may have.”

A new tax policy could help more companies invest in long-term research

In his latest Roll Call column, APS Director of Public Affairs Michael S. Lubell writes about how a new tax policy could lead to more companies investing in long-term research.

Bridging the Innovation Valley of Death

Is Wall Street’s influence in corporate boardrooms killing America’s innovation future? There’s a good case to be made that it is, and that it’s getting worse. But Congress can do something about it when it rewrites the tax code.

Just a few weeks ago, the Senate Finance Committee released more than 1,400 policy recommendations it had received. There’s one more it should consider: changing the rules on capital gains and stock options. Here’s why.

In the heady days following the end of World War II as the baby boomers were just emerging on the scene, American exceptionalism was at its zenith. AT&T, Chrysler, Ford, DuPont, GE, GM, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, RCA, Texas Instruments, Westinghouse, Xerox — the list is far too long to enumerate — were not only iconic corporate names, they were also powerhouses of research and development. The transistor, the laser, power steering, xerography, color TV, large-scale integrated circuits, high-speed computers and Teflon all trace their origin to industrial R&D of that era.

Read entire column

APS President responds to America COMPETES Reauthorization Act

APS President Sam Aronson responded to the recently introduced America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015 with a letter to the House Science, Space and Technology Committee leaders, Chairman Lamar Smith and Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson, outlining the serious concerns APS has with the bill.

Press releases from both the Republicans and Democrats are available. The bill is set to be marked-up by the full committee at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, April 22, and will be live streamed.

Alabama students speak out about science funding

A group of students at University of Alabama-Birmingham recently made a video about the importance of federal science funding and how it is affecting their state. In the video, the students discuss the groundbreaking and interesting research they do, from understanding bone development in children to improving the understanding of industrial catalysis processes. Watch the video below and then tweet and share it with your friends!

The President’s FY16 budget request for DOE R&D: what you need to know

APS Director of Public Affairs Michael S. Lubell and Policy Analyst Mark Elsesser discuss the President’s FY16 budget request for the Department of Energy’s R&D programs, providing both a policy context and in-depth review of the numbers, as part of AAAS’s annual presidential budget report.

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“Star Trek” Consultant, Science Producer Communicate Value of Science during APS March Meeting

In an effort to continue a dialogue with APS membership about the critical need to communicate why scientific research is valuable to the lives of Americans, the APS Office of Public Affairs invited two television producers to discuss how popular science-based film can help underscore that message.

March Meeting Event Pic 4

In a session titled “Science Film: An Aperture into Science Advocacy,” Andre Bormanis, best known as the science consultant on the “Star Trek” series and Brandon Fibbs, a TV producer who most recently worked on the updated “Cosmos” series with Neil deGrasse Tyson, spoke to a standing-room-only crowd at the Grand Hyatt in San Antonio. Joint Quantum Institute Director of Communications Phil Schewe moderated the session discussion, and APS Vice President Laura Greene provided opening remarks.

The presenters’ key message: Storytelling can help scientists make the connection between breakthroughs in the lab and innovations that benefit the public.

Brandon F Pic

Scientists, said Fibbs, can advocate for their research by using examples in popular films. He underscored his point by showing selected clips from “Jobs,” “The Story of Louis Pasteur” and “The Imitation Game.” He stated that the public assumes many innovations come from the private sector, but they are actually products of federally funded scientific research. He added that if research disappears, the innovations that depend on the research will similarly disappear. He concluded by telling the audience that the public tends to form its opinions about science from popular films.

Andre Pic

Bormanis similarly provided examples from his own experience regarding how a well-crafted story can go a long way in making scientific research relevant to non-scientists. He urged the audience to find a connection – it can be humor or pragmatism, but it needs to be accessible to communicate science to non-scientists. He also used examples from the new “Cosmos” series to underscore his point, including the depiction of the story of astronomers William and Caroline Herschel and a personal story about how a German U-boat lens found its way into a telescope he purchased.

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