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1996 Annual Report
AMS Committee on Science Policy


AMS Committee on Science Policy

William James Lewis, Chair

As 1996 began the U.S. government was in its second shutdown in as many months, with serious impacts on the National Science Foundation and therefore the institutions and individual mathematicians who receive NSF grant support. Moreover, there were grave concerns in the mathematical community about proposed budget cuts for FY97 and beyond. The Committee on Science Policy (CSP), with the Washington Office and AMS leaders, worked to mobilize mathematicians to encourage Congress to support NSF and science funding. For the first time, an alert to all AMS members about the situation was issued by President Cathleen Morawetz. At the January Joint Mathematics Meeting in Orlando, William Harris (Assistant Director of NSF's Mathematical and Physical Sciences Directorate) urged mathematicians to become more visible in the political process of funding for science. His speech, that of NSF Director Neal Lane to the astronomers' annual meeting, President Morawetz' alert, and advice on contacting Members of Congress were posted on the Science Policy home page on the AMS Web site. Information was e-mailed to department chairs and the network of AMS members willing to contact members of critical Congressional oversight committees.

Continuing the increased emphasis on Congressional contacts, in February CSP members Jean Taylor, James Lewis, and Sam Rankin of the Washington Office participated with other scientific societies and industry representatives in a Congressional Visits Day, developing contacts in Washington and presenting a unified message on the importance of support for science. We continue to work to increase coordination with other sciences both in monitoring and responding to Congressional developments, and in developing an ongoing and more vocal message.

At the Orlando meeting CSP organized two focus groups to provide opportunities to discuss their opinions on establishing priorities for mathematical research. D. J. Lewis, Director of NSF's Division of Mathematical Sciences, was present at these well-attended and lively discussions. CSP also invited a leading astronomer, John Bahcall, to participate in a panel discussion on establishing priorities for federal funding in the mathematical sciences. In his presentation, Bahcall described the process used by astronomers to set priorities in their discipline.

Not until April did Congress pass FY96 appropriations, by which time the FY97 budget process was in full swing. During the often contentious conclusion to the debate JPBM and the Washington Office worked together on targeted alerts to mathematicians in critical Congressional districts and states; CSP members continued to receive information on developments and requests for action at sensitive times. JPBM requested help in support of DoD funding and the Eisenhower education program; their alert was sent to CSP and our contact group, and President Morawetz wrote a letter of support to selected Members of Congress. By June we were alerting the community that action was needed in support of NSF's FY97 budget; this activity intensified and continued over the summer until the bill was passed in September. During the Presidential Election process CSP received information of interest to the community.

CSP took advantage of contacts developed during the previous months and a major portion of their May meeting was devoted to presentations on government relations from the American Chemical Society, American Institute of Physics, IBM, staff members of Congressional Science Committees and Administration (OSTP), in addition to discussions with NSF representatives on current and future developments of interest to the mathematical community.

Revision of the AMS National Policy Statement is being undertaken by the Federal Policy Agenda Subcommittee, who solicited input from the community in spring and worked to identify issues of concern to mathematicians; a draft document of their findings will be presented to CSP and, ultimately, the Council.

At the Seattle Mathfest in August CSP again organized a focus group for mathematicians to comment on NSF's recompetition for Mathematics Institutes. Although their invited speaker (Defense Secretary William Perry) was unable to attend, CSP is hopeful that a future invitation to him will bear fruit. The September CSP meeting provided a chance to reflect on the year's activities and plan strategies for increased visibility of mathematicians in the political process: proposed are 1) "grass roots" networks to function as resources for Members of Congress, 2) briefings or lectures on Capital Hill for Congressional staff, 3) identification of a "champion" for mathematics and science in Congress and 4) more visits by CSP members to their Members of Congress, both in Washington and home districts. Five-year projections of federal budgets are speculative and CSP recognizes the need for continual monitoring of the annual budget process, the provision of information at critical times to the mathematical community, and for ongoing pressure on the political process to gain improved visibility for our concerns.

CSP activities arranged for the Joint Mathematics Meetings in San Diego, January 1997, include invited addresses by Neal Lane, Director, National Science Foundation, and Congressman George E. Brown, Jr., ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Science and a long-time supporter of science. Also planned are focus groups on proposed changes to NSF's merit review criteria, support for graduate students; a panel discussion on improving public awareness of mathematics; a workshop (jointly organized with JPBM) on how to meet with Members of Congress.

Improved communication on matters of science policy is being achieved through development of the Science Policy page on the e-MATH World Wide Web site, where reports on federal budget developments, announcements, and resources are available (URL is http://www.ams.org).


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