Good Neighbor Policy
by Mike Perricone
In chairing the Energy Subcommittee of the House Committee on Science,Congresswoman Judy Biggert of the 13th District in Illinois has moved to the forefront of efforts to reshape national priorities in basic research funding — including the work at Argonne National Laboratory in her home district,and at Fermilab a few miles to the west.
During the 107th Congress in July 2002, Rep.Biggert introduced HR 5270,the Energy and Science Research Investment Act,which would increase the budget for the Department of Energy ’s Office of Science by 60 percent in four years,to more than $5.3 billion.In addition,the act restructures DOE by elevating the Director of the Office of Science to the level of Assistant Secretary of Science,and creates an Undersecretary for Energy Research and Science.
As chair of the Energy Subcommittee,appointed on February 10,Biggert now leads the panel with jurisdiction over the federal government ’s civilian energy and science research,development and commercialization activities.Biggert re-introduced the Energy and Science Research Investment Act as HR 34 for the 108th Congress,and she sees the restructuring as critical to the future of research.
“It is my hope that this reorganization will improve the integration and coordination of DOE’s basic science and applied energy research programs by vesting authority for all such programs with the new Under Secretary,” Biggert told FERMINEWS .“The bill also establishes an overall science advisory board,consisting of the chairs of the advisory panels for each of the Office ’s programs,to give guidance to the new Assistant Secretary in prioritizing and coordinating research within the Office of Science.”
Biggert,who has also introduced bills to strengthen elementary education in science and math,has a growing bipartisan list of cosponsors from coast to coast for the Energy and Science Research Investment Act.Currently numbering 74 co-sponsors,the list includes Reps.Vern Ehlers of Michigan and Rush Holt of New Jersey,the two physicists in Congress;and seven members of the Illinois delegation,Reps.Bobby Rush (1st),Bill Lipinski (3rd), Danny Davis (7th),Jerry Weller (11th),Jerry Costello (12th),Tim Johnson (15th)and John Shimkus (19th).
Biggert’s proposal for funding increases in the Office of Science,and her support for a substantial increase in funding for the physical sciences, preceded a report released in late August of 2002 by the President ’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST).The council,chaired by Georgia Institute of Technology president G.Wayne Clough,recommended that R&D funding for the physical sciences and engineering should be brought to parity with the life sciences over the next five budget cycles.
“PCAST ’s recommendation was based on the fact that,just a little over thirty years ago,support for the three major areas of research –namely the physical and environmental sciences,life sciences, and engineering –was equally balanced,”Biggert said.“Today,the life sciences receive 48 percent of federal R & D funding compared to the physical sciences ’11 percent and engineering ’s 15 percent.
“Even a simple imbalance could have long-term implications for both the life and the physical sciences,”Biggert continued.“Already,Ph.D. candidates are choosing life sciences over physical sciences.As the PCAST report points out,‘It is widely understood and acknowledged that the interdependencies of the various disciplines require that all advance together.’This is one of the major reasons why I introduced legislation in the 107th Congress,and again in the 108th Congress,to significantly increase funding for the DOE Office of Science,the nation ’s primary supporter of research in the physical sciences and high energy physics.”
Fermilab is located in the 14th Congressional District of Illinois,represented by Speaker of the House of Representatives J.Dennis Hastert,Jr. Rep.Biggert ’s selection to chair the Energy Subcommittee was well received at Fermilab, and at Universities Research Association,Inc.,the consortium of universities operating the laboratory under contract for the DOE Office of Science.
“We respect and admire Congresswoman Biggert ’s record of leadership,especially in the areas of science research and science education,”said Fred Bernthal,President of Universities Research Association,Inc.“She has worked very hard recently to redress the long-standing problem of inadequate funding for DOE ’s Office of Science. We congratulate her on this new assignment,and we look forward to working with her as the new Chair of the Subcommittee on Energy.”
Fermilab Director Michael Witherell noted that an authorization bill for the National Science Foundation,similar to HR 34,led to the start of significant increases in appropriations at NSF. He also pointed out that Illinois is a national center of science research —and research funding.
“Congresswoman Biggert’s appointment recognizes the fact that she has been the leading member of Congress on the issue of support for the Office of Science in the Department of Energy,our funding agency,”Witherell said.“It ’s not widely recognized that 20%of DOE Office of Science funding comes to the State of Illinois,mostly for Argonne National Laboratory and for Fermilab.Illinois has one of the biggest stakes of all the states in the Office of Science.I think that ’s part of what led Congress- woman Biggert to become interested in this issue. In other areas of research and development,the state of Illinois ’share of federal funding is more typically four or five percent.”
Already familiar with the Argonne program, Biggert also has a sound understanding of Fermilab’s research mission.She stressed her intention to maintain an active interest in the lab and its future.
“At no time in its history has Fermilab contributed more to the world ’s understanding of particle physics than it is contributing today,”Rep.Biggert said.“Between operating the highest-energy particle accelerator,conducting leading neutrino experiments,and helping to design and develop the next-generation accelerator,Fermilab is the place every high-energy physicist wants to be. Illinois and the U.S.are proud of the lab ’s role in global physics research.
“Fermilab is the place where ‘big ideas ’are conceived,tested,implemented in experiments, and interpreted for the public,”she continued. “The lab seeks answers to fundamental questions about the universe.I support Fermilab ’s pursuit of the most ambitious course —not just for Illinois, but for the U.S.high-energy physics community ’s rightful place among the leading thinkers of the world.There is little doubt that the mysteries of the universe can only be addressed by a robust program of frontier science.As Chairman of the Energy Subcommittee of the House Science Committee,I will be working with my colleagues from Illinois and elsewhere in Congress to support and enhance the role of science at the Department of Energy.”
Biggert also emphasized the importance of scientists participating in the political process.
“It is my goal to have these provisions incorporated into a comprehensive energy bill when it moves through Congress this year,”Biggert said “But to be successful,I need to demonstrate that broad, bipartisan support exists for the funding levels and management changes contained in HR 34. That requires as many cosponsors as possible. The bill already has 74 cosponsors,but there are 435 members of the House. This is where [physicists] can help. Tell your colleagues across the country to write,call,and urge their Representatives to cosponsor HR 34.Spread the word that a robust high-energy physics program at the DOE requires a robust Office of Science,and that HR 34 guarantees both.”
|last modified 3/07/2003 email Fermilab|