« PrécédentContinuer »
continue its leadership role in scientific research. But it must not be allowed to jeopardize support for individual investigators at universities in many other important fields of physics.
The issue of balanced support for research in physics has
always been an important matter to the physics community. The members of the American Physical Society, about 50% of whom are in the academic sector and 50% in government and industrial laboratories, are strongly committed to the proposition that
basic research in all the productive subfields of physics be
maintained at a level that is commensurate with demonstrated need. It would be a serious mistake to let our preoccupation with one or a few large facilities overshadow the bulk of successful physics research. We must move forward at the frontier of science in all promising directions, and we are pleased that the President's proposed budget for 1991 recognizes this imperative.
We are well aware of the severe limitations arising from the need to put the country's budgetary house in order. Indeed, physicists, especially at the universities, have labored under these limitations for some time, and physics in the United States has during the past few years steadily lost ground by comparison with our more aggressive scientific colleagues and competitors in Europe and in Japan. It is no longer feasible to aspire to be
Number One in every area of physics or indeed of any science. Nor is there, in the international cooperative enterprise that characterizes science, a need to excel in everything. But, it
would be irresponsible for us not to build on our existing strength, or to fail to support basic research in areas that are demonstrably central to the scientific and technological culture in which we all have chosen to live. It is crucial to appreciate that much of our economic vitality today is the result of investment in basic research in the past decades. If we fail to sustain basic research today, we cannot hope to maintain our national vitality in the decades to come.
It is a fact that while total civilian and defense R & D
obligations by the federal government have risen over the years in many categories, our basic research capabilities have actually sagged to a lower level in many areas, and this must c
concern all of us.
The plight of the scientific infrastructure in the
universities and the loss of momentum in the materials science
programs in national laboratories are just two well-established
illustrations of this pervasive problem.
It should not be surprising that the cost of doing good
basic research has escalated.
superconducting technologies, microelectronic technologies and many other advances, feed back into the scientific research
system that created them and make it more sophisticated as well
as more expensive.
The ssc would be unimaginable without all of these technologies. It may in turn produce some useful technological spin-offs, although this potential at times has been overstated and should not be used as a justification for the ssc. It should be built only if we can convince ourselves and our representatives of its fundamental scientific merit as a tool for exploring the world of subatomic particles. In this regard, it resembles the Hubble Space Telescope that carries with it our
hopes for a deeper understanding of the structure of the
Those who are responsible not only for balancing the budget but also for balancing research needs might be tempted to think of reaching both goals by either stretching out the construction of the SSC and perhaps other large facilities, while maintaining the support of less conspicuous research programs at an acceptable level, or conversely, by keeping the SSC on a timely schedule but deferring other important projects for a few years. In our view, both of these approaches are flawed, since they
ignore fundamental realities.
Basic research programs are not
amenable to a "spigot" technique that allows one to turn the flow
of interesting and useful results on and off at will.
find a better way to reconcile the finiteness of the country's
resources for basic research with the need to remain the world
leader in science and technology.
The American Physical Society urges that the science budget be regarded as a necessary investment to keep us in a leadership position over the long haul into the next century.
I thank you for your attention, and I shall be glad to answer questions.
Eugen Merzbacher is Kenan Professor of Physics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Ris research area is quantum mechanics and its applications to atoms and nuclei, and university-level physics education. He is also a Principal Investigator on a Department of Energy grant in support of basic physics research at the Triangle Universities Nuclear Laboratory (TŪNL) facility at Duke University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and North Carolina State University.
William F. Brinkman, a condensed-matter physicist and Executive Director of Physics Research at AT&T Bell Laboratories and former chairman of the Physics Survey Committee which produced the 1986 report, PHYSICS THROUGH THE 1990s, under the auspices of the National Research Council. He also served on the recent Doß High Energy Advisory Panel subgroup, chaired by Sidney s. Drell, which evaluated the redesigning requirements of the SSC.
Leon Lederman, an experimental high-energy physicist, Nobel Laureate, Professor at the University of Chicago, former Director of Fermilab and President-elect of the American Association for the Advancement of Science; and
Andrew Sessler, an expert on the physics of particle beams, staff member at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory and formerly its Director.