Don’t Stifle Science

The U.S. House Appropriations Committee recently approved its FY 2012 Energy & Water Development Bill, which includes troubling language requiring the Office of Science’s Basic Energy Sciences (BES) program to cut $25 million for so-called “lowest-performing awards.”

Michael S. Lubell, director of public affairs for APS, said the language “stifles scientific discovery” and is an attempt to apply the goals of Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) to BES.

Lubell explained that BES funds long-term scientific research whereas projects at ARPA-E are focused on short-term goals. For example, a BES program would involve understanding the process of combustion, but an ARPA-E program would focus on building a better combustible engine.

He added that the language in the bill reflects an inability of the U.S. Department of Energy to effectively communicate the difference between the programs to the public and members of Congress. Additionally, he said it reflects a belief among the public, according to recent polling results, that the U.S. could do a better job in spending its federal dollars.

Lubell said it’s important to give scientists the latitude to pursue research, which has led to unforeseen innovations that have transformed the lives of all Americans.

“Don’t put blinders on scientists. You want them to be able to see the most spectacular discoveries,” Lubell said.

He added that APS would fight to have the objectionable language remove from the bill. Before the legislation becomes law, the full House and Senate must approve the bill.

Further reading: ScienceInsider

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