Lamont Weekly Report, July 29, 2011

The chaos on Capitol Hill should remind us that we're not insulated from the national discussion (if you could call it that - I have doubts) on when and how we should invest in our future. The old maxim that we can't apply science unless the science is there to apply holds more than ever. So we continue to track the budget bills in Congress in as much detail as we can. The House started the process and, not surprisingly, set a low target for federal agency funding. This is ahistorical trend, amplified by the current political rhetoric. If the Senate follows recent practice, it will boost science funding relative to the House mark. The House and Senate bills are reconciled in conference before the final appropriations language is sent back to both houses for the floor vote; that is where the real work occurs. Every once in a while, some member throws a monkey wrench into the works. This time, the House member carrying the water for the authorization of an important hazard reduction program had to resign because of...well, you know.

This afternoon marks a transition point and a sensitive time for our colleagues in the IRI. Sadly, many are leaving because of externally imposed budget constraints. Several have found positions at Lamont, the EI, and Columbia, or have gone elsewhere. The IRI itself has gone through a major reorganization and planning effort. Whatever the future holds for those who are leaving us, they have been, and will remain, our colleagues in the pursuit of the best science and the development of critical applications. Some parts of our world have changed - indeed, some people are alive - because of what they have done.

Barb Charbonnet and I had an engrossing and fruitful conversation this week with one of the younger members of our Advisory Board. He's part of a certain cohort that's not waiting for government action on climate change and is, instead, testing new ideas in the world of real economies. And there is a direct path between the production of our kind of knowledge and these real-world experiments. I suspect youth is a factor here; perhaps all our legislative bodies need is a generational shift in their demographies. If there are more like him, and there must be, there's reason for optimism.

We've had discussions this week in OMG and Excom about future educational strategies at Lamont, particularly in the realm of professional masters programs. There's consensus that we should move forward, together with the EI, on developing a way for Lamonters to participate in the design and delivery of these programs in a way that makes sense for us. I will work with the Associate Directors over the next few weeks to develop an approach. We will also discuss how K-12 activities fit into a broader strategy.

Pat Malone, a stalwart of the Core Lab, is retiring after a quarter-century of service. (That's "real" time, Pat, not Columbia time.) Our best wishes go out to Pat and her husband, Richard, as they explore the next phase of their lives. Bon voyage!