Tackling science's distress


  • Lynn Teo Simarski


If arguments for limiting support for science continue to dominate the public discourse about science, “we will be talking our way into scientific decline,” said Frank Press, president of the National Academy of Sciences, to the academy's annual meeting on April 30. Press is the latest in a number of prominent figures on the Washington science scene, from George E. Brown, Jr. (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Science Committee, to Mary L. Good, head of the National Science Board, to take stock of the U.S. science enterprise.

Press lauded President Bush's current budget request for science, calling it the best one in recent years. The new federal budget caps, however, provide a counterweight by creating a “fixed pie” for spending. Added to this, the university science community is in severe distress, Press said, suffering from outmoded laboratories, rising costs, budget cuts, and new and expensive government regulations, among other burdens. The budget caps also force federally funded laboratories and universities to compete with each other for support.