The Politics of Science

Every year, once a year, scientists who conduct research at the “Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC)”:http://www.slac.stanford.edu and the “Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (FNAL)”:http://www.fnal.gov travel to Washington DC to lobby on behalf of particle physics and the physical sciences. This is a banner year for this visit, because the “President has endorsed a plan, much like those proposed by industry, academia, and the Congress”:http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/01/20060131-5.html, which intends to make a targeted investment in three agencies – the “National Science Foundation”:http://www.nsf.gov, the “Department of Energy”:http://www.energy.gov, and the “National Institute of Standard and Technology (NIST)”:http://www.nist.gov/ – to boost support for the physical sciences.

The SLAC and Fermilab user communities have for years now made this trip to Washington to speak about our science, explain the connections between science, government, and society, and to ask for the support of Congress for particles physics and the physical sciences. This week, we return for our annual visit to make a marathon, two-day suite of personal visits to Congressional offices. While the Congress is clearly supportive of the physical sciences – it is they who, for years, have argued our investment in them is stagnant even while the opportunities of science multiply – we hope to thank them and encourage them not to be shy about accepting this victory. For the first time in over a decade, the physical sciences have a Presidential budget request that **begins** with an increase well above inflation, rather than a flat or declining request. Last year, Congress worked hard to turn the proposed large cuts in the NSF and DOE science budgets into smaller cuts. This year, while we can hope for the best – that each agency gets the requested increase – we know that there are trade-offs and we just hope to stress the important of science to America.