Science Policy Needs Historians

Last year, the National Academy of Sciences published an eight-volume report on the current state and future progress of physics in the United States. Even more wonderful than the achievements and prospects reported there, from the standpoint of the interested layman, is the number of apparently equally worthy projects and opportunities for the consumption of federal funds. The authors of Physics Through the 1990s do not order priorities. They endorse all the worthy proposals put forward by the

Jl Heilbron
Mar 8, 1987
Last year, the National Academy of Sciences published an eight-volume report on the current state and future progress of physics in the United States. Even more wonderful than the achievements and prospects reported there, from the standpoint of the interested layman, is the number of apparently equally worthy projects and opportunities for the consumption of federal funds.

The authors of Physics Through the 1990s do not order priorities. They endorse all the worthy proposals put forward by the many interest groups into which physicists fall. These proposals range in cost from the $6 billion supercollider, which is of central concern to the relatively small and disproportionately powerful brotherhood of high energy physicists, to a doubling over four years of the $280 million that now supports small-group research, which turns out more than 70 percent of the science doctorates in the United States.

As the report avows, physicists cannot order their...