Regional news

US science adviser

[Washington] The U.S. National Committee for Crystallographers met Washongton, D.C., November 2001.
The US National Committee for Crystallography (USNCCr) represents U.S. crystallographers within the IUCr through the National Research Council. The USNCCr maintains close ties to US professional societies while promoting international scientific cooperation.
A highlight of the November 2001 meeting of the USNCCr was the presence of Jack Marburger, Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, and White House Science Adviser. He commented on five questions addressed to him.

1) How will funding and the justification/priorities for funding in the sciences change in light of September 11th?

2) What changes can we anticipate for those who work with 'bio-hazardous' materials?

3) Concerns about support for research in the physical as well as the life sciences.

4) Openness in scientific publication and communication with peers in other countries. What can we expect in terms of restrictions in travel to meetings abroad?

5) Policies regarding patenting of crystal structures (and genes) derived from naturally occurring specimens?

Dr. Marburger impressed the committee with his knowledge of and approach to these issues. He spoke of crystallography as an 'enabling' science at the interface of many exciting fields such as drug development, proteomics, and nanomaterials. He encouraged us to work with his office to create a more informed environment to help the public appreciate how science works and benefits society. He stressed the need to better communicate the importance of not just our findings but also the role of the underlying technologies and national resources that support our successes in research. He expressed concerns about balance in funding and the need to foster the enabling technologies as well as support efforts directed towards the end-products of research. On the 'select agents' issue, he commented that it will be important to develop procedures to control the access to biohazardous materials and urged us to work with our respective institutions to create a dialogue as to how this can best be implemented. He also said that we should not anticipate much change in travel restrictions to other countries. In light of the events of 9/11, we can expect increased scrutiny of foreign visas and improved efforts to track foreign students once they are admitted into the United States. On the patent issue, he noted that it is not a scientific issue other than its possible impact to inhibit science in affected areas.

In other activities, the USNCCr voted to award a minimum of $20,000 in travel grants for young scientist to attend the Geneva IUCr meeting and allocated $5,000 in travel assistance for Latin American crystallographers to attend crystallographic schools or workshops in the US. See the website for a list of current members and more information about the USNCCr: www.sdsc.edu/Xtal/USNCCr/USNCCr.html.

Marv Hackert, Chair USNCCr