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Government Concentrates

January 3, 2005 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 83, Issue 1

Researchers awarded millions of hours on DOE supercomputer

Research projects in chemistry, molecular dynamics and proteomics, and astrophysics were awarded 6.5 million hours of supercomputing time in a competition organized by the Department of Energy, department officials announced last week. The researchers will gain free access to DOE's Office of Science supercomputer at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The announcement marks the second year of the national competition, and the awards amount to 15% of the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center's annual resources. The chemical science project received 2.5 million processor hours and went to Sandia National Laboratories researchers who are studying three-dimensional combustion simulations of flames in systems where fuel and oxygen are not premixed: jet engines and fuel-injected internal combustion engines. University of Washington researchers received 2 million processor hours to help create a repository of molecular dynamics structures for protein folds, which include unfolding pathways. Astrophysicists at the University of Chicago were awarded 2 million computer hours to simulate magneto-rotational instability and turbulent angular momentum transport to help understand conditions in newly born stars and black holes. Some 23 proposals seeking a total of 28 million computer hours were received by DOE.

Peer review guidelines finalized

The White House has issued final guidelines on peer review of influential government scientific reports such as risk assessments. The guidelines, which stirred much controversy when proposed in late 2003, lay out the circumstances for when peer review is required of federal scientific reports. They also address how federal departments are to select qualified experts, ensure that the experts are independent of agency influence, and evaluate reviewers' possible financial conflicts of interest. Among the refinements in the final version is clarification that researchers who are awarded federal grants through competitive processes are generally eligible to serve as peer reviewers for the grant-giving agency. In addition, the guidelines exempt from peer review certain types of information, including urgent findings about health or safety, such as determinations that a prescription drug could cause health problems. The guidelines, released by the White House Office of Management & Budget on Dec. 17, 2004, are available at

NSF publishes state profiles for R&D

The Division of Science Resources Statistics at NSF has put on the Internet state profiles for science and engineering employment and spending. Most of the data are for 2001, with some data on graduate students and on federal and private R&D expenditures for 2002. Rankings and totals are presented for the 50 states; Washington, D.C.; and Puerto Rico. The information for each state includes the population, total federal expenditures, federal R&D obligations, industry and academic R&D spending, number of Small Business Innovation Research awards, and patents issued. The data show that California overwhelmingly is where the most science was done, with the most Ph.D. scientists, the most new doctorates awarded, and the most money spent on R&D. Following California in the numbers of scientists and engineers are New York, Texas, and Massachusetts. The complete state-specific information is on the Web at

EPA lists areas with unhealthy air

Some 95 million U.S. residents live in areas that do not meet EPA's health standard for fine particulate matter, the agency has announced. Those areas are in California, the Northeast, the Midwest, the South, and the District of Columbia, according to EPA. Fine particulate matter of 2.5-m diameter or smaller is linked to respiratory and cardiac problems. States that do not meet the national standard for fine particulate matter must submit plans to EPA by 2008 outlining what they will do to achieve compliance with that clean air benchmark. Those efforts are likely to target coal-fired power plants, which are a major source of fine particulates. Environmental groups, however, have criticized EPA's actions, saying the agency omitted from its so-called nonattainment list many areas with large power plants, thus deflecting the need for tighter regulation of these facilities' emissions. Nat Mund of the Sierra Club adds, "The health problems caused by soot will not be solved unless states get help from the federal government to curb the pollution coming from America's oldest and dirtiest coal-fired power plants."


  • The Government Accountability Office issued a report (GAO-05-34) that criticizes NASA for not having believable cost estimates for a space shuttle flight to repair the Hubble Space Telescope. GAO says the estimate it was given of $1.7 billion to $2.4 billion lacked documentation and sufficient detail.

  • The U.S. Army Chemical Materials Agency has announced destruction of 33% of the nation's stored chemical agents. It says it has destroyed more than 42% of U.S. chemical weapons munitions and 10,503 tons of stored chemical agents, representing one-third of the total chemical stockpile.

  • A new strategic plan for the $1 billion National Nanotechnology Initiative has been released. Its main goals are to have a world-class R&D program, facilitate evolution of new technologies into products, improve education resources, and support safe development of nanotechnology. The plan is available at

  • President George W. Bush has established a Cabinet-level Committee on Ocean Policy to provide advice and implement policies concerning the oceans. Among other functions, the committee is to "use science in establishment of policy on ocean-related matters."


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