Professor Ernest J. Moniz has resigned as the associate director for science of the President's Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), effective January 31, and he will return to MIT as the head of the Department of Physics on February 3.
Professor Moniz, 51, was appointed by President Clinton in 1995 after working with his predecessor, Professor M.R.C. Greenwood of the University of California at Davis, and presidential science adviser John H. Gibbons on the administration's 1994 science policy report, "Science in the National Interest."
Reflecting on his first experience in public service, Professor Moniz said, "In many ways, it was much better than I expected. I was particularly impressed by the quality, the commitment and the extraordinary hard work done by my colleagues on the Presidential staff."
In an atmosphere that placed a premium on deficit reduction through reduced spending, Professor Moniz was gratified to be able to play a role in maintaining federal support for scientific research. About $40 billion was earmarked to develop new knowledge and technologies in the last budget, and he expects a similar amount to be allocated in the budget that will be proposed next month by the President. Of the total, basic research in the areas of physical, life and social sciences receives about $15 billion.
"We've done quite a respectable job in sustaining the scientific investment," he said.
In addition to playing a role in the budget process, Professor Moniz helped formulate principles on which scientific grants will be judged in the future, and he helped advance procedures to deal with research misconduct. He also worked on education standards in science and math for students from kindergarten through high school, strengthened the partnership between the federal government and research universities, and reviewed the US research program in Antarctica.
Noting that working in the White House was "intense, demanding and yet very fulfilling," Professor Moniz said, "I'm looking forward to getting back into the academic environment."
Would he accept another government post in the future?
"Maybe, after a rest, if it were the right opportunity,"said Professor Moniz, who joined the MIT faculty as an assistant professor of physics in 1973 and was named department head in 1991. He received the BS in physics from Boston College in 1966 and the PhD in theoretical physics from Stanford in 1971.
"MIT has a tradition of public service," he said. "I was pleased to become a part of that tradition."
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on January 15, 1997.