October 14, 2001

Washington, DC

Present: J. Ahearne, S. Berry, R. Cahn, C. Davis, J. Doyle, W. Edelstein, W. Evenson, W. Frazer, M. Goldman, L. Gronlund, A. Herzog, F. Lamb, M. Sarachik, L. Schwartz, G. Trilling, J. Tsang

Absent: H. Birnbaum, H. DeWitt, L. Krauss, M. Riordan, R. Saxon, I. Schuller

Guest: Philip Hammer, Chair, Forum on Physics and Society

APS Staff: J. Franz, M. Lubell, F. Slakey, D. Victoria


  • January 20, 2002
  • April 7, 2002

Announcements, Minutes: The minutes of April 1, 2001 were approved with minor changes. It will be posted on the APS web site. Frazer informed the committee about a letter from Trilling to Lake Barrett, DOE, on the subject of Yucca Mountain being developed as a repository for radioactive waste. Mr. Barret had requested an opinion from APS on the subject; Trilling, on behalf of APS, declined to comment on the suitability of the site, but did recommend (citing an APS Statement) that if the Secretary finds the site suitable, that he recommend the site to the President.

Update on NMD study: The group met for the first time in July 2001, and has scheduled a series of meetings through January. The report is expected to be released in March 2002.

FPS Liaison Member Proposal: Hammer, representing the FPS, requested POPA's endorsement of a proposal to amend APS Bylaws in order to have up to three FPS members included on POPA. The Council would modify its nomination and election procedure to maintain the current size of POPA. FPS appointees would have a three-year membership. FPS believes that these appointments would benefit both groups by increasing communication and cooperation between the groups.

Report of Committee on Energy and Environment: Schwartz and Lubell drafted together a commentary in response to Cheney's report on energy. It was presented to the Council; they decided not to act on it for now.

Nuclear Energy Report: Ahearne presented a report on nuclear energy, requested by POPA, that he drafted with the assistance of a group of experts. The report gives a short historical background, analyzes issues of security and nuclear waste, and describes new designs developed. Following Ahearne's presentation, POPA discussed whether the report should be accepted, posted on the web, and presented at the next E. Board meeting. It was suggested that the report could be modified to be useful not only to the membership, the initial intended target, but to other groups. Also, a paragraph or "preamble" should be added at the beginning to express POPA's endorsement of the report, its purpose, intended audience and current status. Slakey suggested that the report be presented in the next meeting on climate change at the American Institute of Chemical Engineers.

ACTION: The report was approved, with modification suggested, as a POPA report. During the following two weeks, the energy committee will consider any suggestions emailed to them by members, and once the changes are incorporated, there will be a final vote by email. Ahearne has the decisive word on which changes will be incorporated.

Energy Efficiency and Renewables Report: After Edelstein presented his report, members discussed the options of publishing the report --on FPS, Physics Today or the web-- as a way to incite discussion in this subject. Other options mentioned were to have it revised by experts on the field to make it a formal report, and/or to adjust it so it responds to current political issues.

ACTION: The motion to publish and set it on the web was passed, although not as a POPA Report. Energy subcommittee will gather opinions on what can be done to turn this initial paper into a more comprehensive report, and will contact experts that could help with the process. Schwartz will organize this procedure.

Global Climate Change: Slakey gave a review of the climate change lobbying activities. The E. Board requested a recommendation from POPA on whether APS should be continuing to fund the program. The committee found the Climate Focus bulletin highly informative and recommended that the bulletin be posted on the APS' web site, and that a procedure for email subscription be set up.

ACTION: The committee voted unanimously to recommend the renewal of the climate change program.

Letter to Dr. D. Basting: Trilling requested advice from the committee on the letter replying to D. Basting's, president of the German Physics Society, on the issue of CO2.

ACTION: Trilling will write the letter to Basting.

Washington Report: After September 11, the Congressional leadership met with the White House to come to an agreement on an overall discretionary Senate and House spending figure for FY02. The House proposed a $679 billion budget, the Senate's was $686 billion; they agreed on $686. The FY02 for science may have an increase of at least 5%, some agencies getting more, some less. NIH allocations are double its budget and NSF numbers are reasonable. In any case, the numbers for science look promising, contrary to what was originally predicted last spring. The FY03 looks gloomy; shortfall in federal revenue, the war with Afghanistan, and overestimated economic growth anticipate a 5% to 10% budget cut compared to the FY02 budget. The Administration will begin implementing the new management plan, consisting of "efficiency guidelines" for various agencies. At DOE, the guidelines may be implemented next year to the applied research program, not to the basic research program. They are aimed at improving efficiency and applicability by 10% in programs such as enhanced fossil fuel production, improved energy efficiency, and the reductions in pollution. Programs that don't reach this 10% goal will be eliminated or reduced. The Administration has asked the science community to urge Congress to cut down on science earmarks. That is unlikely to happen.


Physics and the Public: Goldman and Cahn are gathering information for a course on science and the public, with four possible subject areas identified: science and pseudoscience, energy and the environment, science and public policy, and risk assessment. Cahn requested advice as to set the boundaries for the project. A prototype web site is under development at www.colorado.edu/physics/APAS4800

ACTION: The chair proposed that the request for advice be sent to members by email.

FPS Liaison Member Proposal: The request from FPS liaison proposal was discussed in executive session. FPS requested a three members appointment to the POPA committee, while other proposals were to have either two or just one member from FPS be appointed.

ACTION: POPA voted unanimously to recommend an amendment that will appoint one FPS member to POPA, for a period of three years. The stipulation for having the past POPA chair as a member of FPS will be enforced.

Earlier in the meeting, Franz presented a proposal to have the losing candidate for vice-chair for POPA to be appointed as a member of POPA. The proposal was rejected.

The meeting adjourned at 3:00 pm.