APPENDIX D SUPPLEMENTARY STATEMENT

Dr. Harold Lewis

January 10, 1997

I am uncomfortable about being forced to dissent from the committee's consensus report, but would be even more uncomfortable to accede to the temptation and pressure to sign a report that misses the mark. This is not to say anything negative about the committee chairman, for whom I have great respect—I simply seem to stand at one end of a spectrum of committee views on some important issues. The chairman was responsible for forging a consensus, and did so with patience and skill. I have often told students that to be in a minority doesn't make you wrong, but it does get you outvoted.

The committee was charged to say how basic research can help the Department of Energy (DOE), how basic research can add value to cleanup efforts, what kinds of technical challenges would benefit from basic research, what fields of research might be the most promising, and the like. It did none of this, concentrating its efforts in minute detail on micromanagement issues. The report recommends fellowships, scholarships, meetings, peer reviews, listings of publications, compilations of results, and the like—the cleanup problems require more than programmatic niceties. The Environmental Management Science Program (EMSP) is aimed at the real cleanup problems.

The program had as its origin the Appropriations Bill Conference Report of the 104th Congress, which expressed the hope that basic science research might help "to ultimately reduce cleanup costs." No other objective is mentioned, and the language makes clear that the concern is that current methods are too expensive, and are, by the way, also ineffective. This has been said by many, and is not new. It is even true. But the tasking to the committee from DOE did not list cost reduction as an objective, and the committee was left with the unenviable job of devising a set of objectives for the basic research program that is itself supposed to provide new ideas for a cleanup program pursuing its



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Building an Effective Environmental Management Science Program: Final Assessment APPENDIX D SUPPLEMENTARY STATEMENT Dr. Harold Lewis January 10, 1997 I am uncomfortable about being forced to dissent from the committee's consensus report, but would be even more uncomfortable to accede to the temptation and pressure to sign a report that misses the mark. This is not to say anything negative about the committee chairman, for whom I have great respect—I simply seem to stand at one end of a spectrum of committee views on some important issues. The chairman was responsible for forging a consensus, and did so with patience and skill. I have often told students that to be in a minority doesn't make you wrong, but it does get you outvoted. The committee was charged to say how basic research can help the Department of Energy (DOE), how basic research can add value to cleanup efforts, what kinds of technical challenges would benefit from basic research, what fields of research might be the most promising, and the like. It did none of this, concentrating its efforts in minute detail on micromanagement issues. The report recommends fellowships, scholarships, meetings, peer reviews, listings of publications, compilations of results, and the like—the cleanup problems require more than programmatic niceties. The Environmental Management Science Program (EMSP) is aimed at the real cleanup problems. The program had as its origin the Appropriations Bill Conference Report of the 104th Congress, which expressed the hope that basic science research might help "to ultimately reduce cleanup costs." No other objective is mentioned, and the language makes clear that the concern is that current methods are too expensive, and are, by the way, also ineffective. This has been said by many, and is not new. It is even true. But the tasking to the committee from DOE did not list cost reduction as an objective, and the committee was left with the unenviable job of devising a set of objectives for the basic research program that is itself supposed to provide new ideas for a cleanup program pursuing its

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Building an Effective Environmental Management Science Program: Final Assessment own unidentified objectives. The best the committee could do with this central question (which it was tasked to answer) was to recommend that the DOE develop a near-term science plan "from existing Department documents," and a long-term one by consulting with its "problem holders." Chapter 3 purports to describe how this can be done, but instead jumps into the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA), and finally recommends that "the Department develop a science plan for the EMSP." Careful reading of Chapter 3 reveals that it never says how, or offers any but procedural direction. DOE needs help on substance, not procedures. Somehow, I would have expected more from an Academy committee. This is not a trivial matter—it is central to the chance of success of EMSP. The logic that lies behind the congressional report, and appears elsewhere in many places, is that DOE has badly mismanaged this enormously expensive program, and that something has to be done to control the costs, now estimated in the hundreds of billions of dollars, over decades. The congressional love for basic research did not derive from any clear sense of how it could help, but from the foreboding (again shared by many) that the program is doomed unless something new is added. The only "something" available is basic research, which has the potential to generate useful new knowledge. The job of deciding how a basic research program could be structured to help was left to DOE (the very organization the Congress said was not paying enough attention to the subject), and DOE turned to the Academies, who are, in my view, letting them down. There is no substantive advice in this report to suggest how basic research can help, or how a program of needs-driven research can be kept basic yet applicable—there are lists of who should meet with whom, and how often. Of course the problem goes far beyond the EMSP. Basic research in support of an objective can only be directed through awareness on the part of the investigators of what those objectives are, and an appropriate system of rewards. (Technology development is different—specifications can be set and enforced.) If anyone knows the ultimate objectives of the cleanup program, that wisdom has been kept marvelously secret. How then can a directed research program spring up spontaneously in the DOE community? Directed at what? And without a compass. In the cases I know in which basic research has led to technological advances of direct benefit to the sponsors of the research it has been because the

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Building an Effective Environmental Management Science Program: Final Assessment investigators worked side by side with the potential users, and had the motivation to help. (The classic examples are the Bell Laboratories of old, the National Bureau of Standards (NBS) of old—now the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the better of the national laboratories, and so forth.) It will not be easy to direct basic research (by definition undirected) toward an objective, especially in the academic world, and some ideas from the Committee, whether or not original, would have been helpful. Lists of who should be consulted are not. Finally, the congressional direction to DOE was specifically to have the program managed by the Office of Energy Research, but DOE opted instead for a two-headed structure composed of ER and EM, the latter precisely the organization responsible for the current unsuccessful program. The first program solicitation was managed by having ER review proposals for their scientific quality (using standards not revealed to the committee—we were told who won, but not who lost), and EM for "relevance," again using secret standards. Despite many requests, the committee was not given enough information to learn the criteria used to separate the winners from the losers in the first solicitation, but clearly each office had veto power, and EM the last word. I do not see how EM can be expected to suddenly be able to judge the relevance of a basic research proposal that deals with a truly novel approach to environmental management, when there has been no evidence of that skill in the past. And novelty is what the entire program is designed to produce— incremental improvements will not cut the mustard. ("Breakthrough" is the buzzword used in the report.) In truth, I believe that the committee's acceptance of this two-headed monster comes in large measure from the view that without the power and the associated sense of ownership, EM would drag its feet, and the program would die. If that is the case, it is no basis for condoning the shotgun wedding, and it is the Secretary's job to make the appropriate adjustments. (The committee recommendation here is for a single manager, reporting to the Under Secretary, but institutionally embedded in both offices. That is an improvement over the prior stance, to simply accept the monster into the family.) I believe that research should be managed as research (as the Congress intended originally). The research might be less closely tied to the current aspirations of EM that way, but will surely not be the finest basic research if it is even partially managed by people whose immediate

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Building an Effective Environmental Management Science Program: Final Assessment objectives and career advancement considerations lead in other directions. Most specific basic research efforts do not pass a time weighted cost-benefit test-it is only in the aggregate, over the long-term, that basic research pays off in applications. Let there be no mistake: I am a working scientist, and believe deeply in the power of basic research to provide the truth that sets us free. And it is even true that sometimes that truth has revolutionary applicability to the betterment of life (we remember those cases selectively, and with pleasure). Further, I agree that an expenditure of $50 million is trivially justifiable in this context. It is a gamble that is well worth taking—I have no difference at all with the committee on this point. But as now directed it is bound to suffer from the same disease that afflicts the cleanup program itself—lack of rationale and direction. It is a pipedream to believe that the finest scientists in the country will flock to the cleanup problem just because some money is available. (Besides, DOE and the committee have acted as if it were self-evident that they should. If that is obvious, I am obtuse. There are competing values.) I think that the country, and perhaps even DOE, would have benefited from a deeper look at the rationale for EMSP, leading to a clearer view of how it should be organized and integrated into the DOE structure. Instead the committee chose an auditing approach that avoids the deep and fundamental questions, while micromanaging DOE on the others. As I read the charge to the committee, it was indeed asked some of the hard questions. It did not deliver.