SLUO Members Go to Washington
April 28–May 1, a group of 49 volunteers from the user organizations of SLAC, Fermilab and the U.S. LHC team traveled to Washington D.C. The scientists visited more than 200 congressional offices and met with the leaderships of the National Science Foundation Physics Division, the Department of Energy Office of Science, as well as with the President's Office of Management and Budget. They brought a message of thanks to Congress, for this year's attention to basic research in the physical sciences in both the federal budget and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. They also brought a message about the importance of science to the nation and the role of particle and astrophysics in the U.S. scientific portfolio. The visits aimed to raise the visibility of basic research efforts at DOE and NSF, as well as encourage Congress to continue on the path of growth for the science investment.
In return, the participants received several messages to be transmitted back to the user communities.
First, science is still central to the U.S. as a whole. Science agencies are viewed as critical to the nation's future, and needing greater and more stable investment. However, there is still not as much recognition for the work of the DOE's Office of Science as for other agencies; basic research, support for universities, and other such responsibilities are still not widely associated with the DOE.
Another important message from Congress was the need for scientists to increase educational and outreach efforts, with specific mention of the DOE and the particle physics community. Many members of Congress were pleased with the quality and the level of the message brought into their offices during this trip, and want to see more of this kind of input from the wider community, with emphasis on descriptions that illustrate the context of the science in a broadly appealing way.
This year is clearly a pivotal one for science, as recognition of the importance of basic and applied research led to increases in science budgets. In his April 27 speech to the National Academy of Sciences, President Obama laid out a vision of renewed commitment to science in the U.S. He noted, “I believe it is not in our character, American character, to follow—but to lead. And it is time for us to lead once again. I am here today to set this goal: we will devote more than 3 percent of our GDP to research and development."
For the scientific community to help inform the national course of science investment requires ongoing conversation about how scientific research impacts education, knowledge, innovation, industry and technology, and how it remains a keystone of U.S. competitiveness and economic vitality now and into the future.
—Steve Sekula and Lisa Kaufman on behalf of the SLUO team