Programs: Science and Policy
S&T Newsletter: December 2005
FY06 Appropriations Complete
On December 30, nearly three months into the fiscal year, President Bush signed the last two FY 2006 appropriations bills into law, bringing the FY 2006 appropriations process to a close. In the FY 2006 R&D appropriations wrap-up report now available on the AAAS R&D website, AAAS estimates that the federal R&D portfolio totals $134.8 billion in 2006, a $2.2 billion or 1.7 percent increase. But 97 percent of the increase goes to just two areas: defense weapons development and human space exploration technologies. Funding for all other federal R&D programs collectively will barely increase, and will fall nearly 2 percent after adjusting for inflation. Leaving out large federal investments in development, congressional appropriations for basic and applied research total $57.0 billion, an increase of $1.0 billion or 1.8 percent over 2005. But NASA applied research on human space flight technologies accounts for a majority of the increase, leaving most agency research portfolios with modest increases falling short of inflation, or cuts.
Many flagship federal science agencies have disappointing budgets in 2006: the National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget falls for the first time in 36 years; the National Science Foundation (NSF) wins a small increase but has less in real terms for its research portfolio than in any of the last three years; the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science budget declines, and despite big increases in development funding the Department of Defense (DOD)'s basic research funding declines. For several measures of the federal R&D investment, final FY 2006 appropriations represent another year on a downward slope from the highs of a few years ago. For trend after trend, big increases leading up to 2003 flattened out more recently, and now funding is headed down in real terms.
A full summary of R&D funding is available in the updated Status of FY 2006 Appropriations page on the web site. The January S&T newsletter will detail the final appropriations bills.
Senators Urge U.S. Involvement in Climate Negotiations
Negotiations on international climate policy took place at the 11th annual United Nations Climate Change Conference in Montreal. This meeting, held from November 26- December 10, was both the eleventh session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 11) and the first meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (MOP 1) since the Protocol's entry into force.
A bipartisan group of 24 Senators wrote to President Bush on December 5 “to remind the Administration of its continuing legal obligation to participate in the COP negotiations in a constructive way that will aid in meeting the agreed-upon goals of ‘preventing dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.” The letter also cited the “Sense of the Senate resolution” of June 22 to illustrate that the Senate intends to require “at some future date, a program of mandatory greenhouse gas limits and incentives” for the United States.
In the end, the United States – along with a broad coalition of more than 200 nations – committed to future talks about a voluntary program to reduce emissions. This "open and nonbinding" dialogue would not lead to any "new commitments" to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions associated with climate change.
These voluntary agreements are in addition to more binding future actions discussed by parties to the Kyoto Protocol. They agreed to form a working group that will begin talks for future actions by developed countries to curb greenhouse gases once the Protocol expires in 2012.
The parties to the Kyoto Protocol concluded with agreements on mechanisms to implement the Kyoto Protocol. These procedures, known as the “Marrakesh Accords” after the meeting in which they were drafted, include implementing the Clean Development Mechanism, which allows industrialized countries to receive credits for their investments in sustainable development projects in developing countries, and a Joint Implementation program, which allows developed countries credit for reductions they make in other participating developed countries. A compliance regime for the Protocol was also established.
Adaptation to the impacts of climate change was a major focus of the discussions. Parties adopted a 5 year program on adaptation and created an Adaptation Fund that will support adaptation measures in developing countries.
At the close of the meeting, the Kenyan delegation announced its intent to hold the next round of negotiations (COP 12, COP/MOP 2) in Nairobi next year.
-- Kasey White
NASA Authorization Bill Into Law
In the early morning hours of December 22nd, the U.S. Senate approved the conference report for S. 1281, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2005, sending the bill to President Bush who signed it into law on December 30. The House had earlier passed the bill by voice vote on December 17. The bill authorizes about $17.9 billion for NASA in fiscal year 2007 and about $18.7 billion in fiscal year 2008 - significantly more than provided for the outyears in the Administration's fiscal year 2006 budget request.
Passage of the authorization bill became precarious when Sen. Jim Talent (R-MO) placed a hold on the measure in objection to NASA’s cancellation of a hypersonic vehicle program that would have benefited his state. Sen. Talent later agreed to release his hold allowing the two-year authorization to be sent to the President for signature.
The bill endorses President Bush's Vision for Space Exploration to the moon and Mars. It states that NASA should return Americans to the Moon no later than 2020 and launch the Crew Exploration Vehicle as close to 2010 as possible; however, it provides no timetable for Mars exploration, stating that humans should “land on and return from Mars and other destinations on a timetable that is technically and fiscally possible.”
The bill directs NASA to carry out programs in human space flight, aeronautics, space science, earth science and microgravity research. It endorses a Shuttle mission to the Hubble Space Telescope if it can be accomplished safely and designates the U.S. portion of the ISS as a "national laboratory."
In response to concerns expressed by Members of the House Science Committee about NASA’s portfolio balance, the bill changes NASA's budget structure to separate funding for human space flight and NASA's science, aeronautics and education activities. It also puts in new reporting requirements and cost controls that would require Congressional action if cost overruns on a project exceed set levels. The bill requires multi-year plans for aeronautics, science, facilities and workforce, and prevents layoffs before March 16, 2007.
-- Kasey White
Undergraduate STEM Scholarships Included in Reconciliation Bill
Among its many deficit-reducing provisions, the Budget Reconciliation bill, S. 1932, creates a new undergraduate scholarship program for math, science and engineering majors. The bill authorizes and appropriates $5.5 billion over the next five years although the fate of this bill is unclear, as it faces another vote in the House due to changes made during the Senate passage of the bill.
The National Science and Math Action to Retain Talent (SMART) Grant program is available to third- and fourth- year students studying science, mathematics, technology, engineering, or languages important to national security. Students must be eligible for Pell grants, and the awards are worth $4,000 for each of two years. The same pool of money also provides “Academic Competitiveness Grant” scholarships, worth $750 for first-year undergraduates and $1,300 in the second year, for Pell-eligible students who have completed a rigorous high school curriculum, as defined by their state. Both scholarships are administered through the Department of Education.
A similarly named, but unconnected, program exists within the Department of Defense (DOD). The year-old Science, Mathematics and Research for Transformation (SMART) Defense Scholarship Program pays the full tuition and living expenses of students majoring in defense-related fields in exchange for the students’ commitment to work in a DOD laboratory after graduation. The FY 2006 defense appropriations bill provides $10.3 million for the defense SMART program, which will support approximately 50 students.
Education advocates, while welcoming the emphasis placed on STEM education and academic rigor by the creation of the new scholarships in the reconciliation bill, expressed concern that these grants would be available only to a small number of students, and would not necessarily go to the neediest students. They also pointed out that the reconciliation bill eliminates billions of dollars in student aid, and that Pell grants have not increased in four years.
By the time that Congress returns from its winter recess, three sets of innovation legislation will have been introduced. All of the bills seek to improve the United State’s ability to compete economically with other nations, but the methods used to achieve this purpose vary, in part because they are drawn from the recommendations of two different reports.
Senators Joe Lieberman (D-CT) and John Ensign (R-NV) introduced legislation on December 15 to implement a series of recommendations outlined in the "National Innovation Initiative" report published by the Council on Competitiveness. The legislation has more than 20 cosponsors, including Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), who plan to introduce a separate bill focused on competitiveness in late January (see below)
The legislation, which is divided into five titles, nearly doubles National Science Foundation funding (NSF), encourages federal agencies to allocate 3% of research and development budgets to high-risk research, makes the Research and Experimentation tax credit permanent, and establishes a President’s Council on Innovation. It increases the number of NSF graduate research fellowships by 250, expands funding for similar fellowships in the Department of Defense by $45 million a year for five years, and creates a traineeship program for defense-related research. It funds Professional Science Master’s Degree programs ($20 million for FY 2007), increases funding for university Tech Talent programs that encourage undergraduates to major in STEM fields, and expands DOD SMART scholarships by $41.3 million a year for 5 years. It also establishes 3 Pilot Test Beds of Excellence on innovative manufacturing practices (allocated at $300 million total FY 2007-2011), authorizes $300 million towards a range of DOD manufacturing R&D programs, and includes a “Sense of the Congress” statement that patent reform is needed in order to accelerate innovation.
A package of legislation sponsored by Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN), Ranking Member on the House Science Committee, is based on the recommendations of the National Academies report entitled “Rising Above the Gathering Storm.” H.R. 4434 authorizes $85 million in FY 2007, increasing to $690 million in FY 2011, to create 10,000 new 4-year scholarships administered by the National Science Foundation for undergraduate science, math and engineering students who commit to becoming science or math teachers. The bill also increases support for NSF and DOE summer institutes for math and science teachers, funds the creation of master’s degree programs for STEM teachers, creates a program to train science and math teachers to teach Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses, and includes programs to develop, identify and distribute K-12 science and math teaching materials. H.R. 4435 creates an Advanced Research Projects Agency in the Department of Energy (ARPA-E) with the goal of reducing the United State’s use of imported energy by 20 percent within 10 years by supporting high-risk, basic and translational research. The bill authorizes $300 million for ARPA-E in FY 2007, increasing to $915 million by FY 2012. According to a press release, a third bill, H.R.4596, increases federal funding for basic research in the physical sciences, mathematics and engineering by 10 percent per year; provides 5,000 new graduate fellowships per year in math, sciences and engineering; creates 200 new grants per year for early-career researchers, each worth $500,000 over five years; and provides funding for federal and university laboratories.
In addition, Senators Pete Domenici (R-NM), Bingaman, and Alexander met with President Bush in December to discuss the National Academies Report, which was originally requested by Senators Bingaman and Alexander. The three senators and Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) expect to introduce legislation based on the report’s recommendations by the middle of January.
Speeding up the process between basic biomedical research and the development of new therapies and diagnostics to treat diseases has been a topic of importance among policy makers for years. However, in the post-doubling years of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and amidst growing concerns over bioterrorism and naturally occurring pandemics, two proposals have surfaced to bridge the so-called “ Valley of Death” between federal government investments in basic research and private-sector development of commercially viable products.
The first, introduced by Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), chairman of the Bioterrorism and Public Health Preparedness Subcommittee, is the Biodefense and Pandemic Vaccine and Drug Development Act of 2005 (S. 1873). The second proposal, introduced by Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT), is the American Center for Cures Act of 2005 (S. 2104) introduced in mid-December.
Both bills attempt to create an agile institution that could respond to pandemics, bioterror threats, emerging infectious diseases, and vaccine development.
The Burr proposal specifically springs from the Project Bioshield Act of 2004 signed by President Bush. That bill invested $5.6 billion over 10 years towards the procurement of medical countermeasures. The Burr Bioshield II bill, which was reported out of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee one week after it was introduced, would devote $1 billion of that initial investment to create a Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Agency (BARDA) within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) but separate from the NIH. BARDA—modeled after the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)—would invest in applied research and development (R&D) of “qualified countermeasures or qualified pandemic or epidemic product(s)”
The Lieberman proposal stems from a concept he first introduced in 2000 to establish an American Center for Cures (ACC) within the NIH. With an initial price tag of $5 billion, the Cures bill would create a new Director of Cures to run the Center and be responsible for formulating a strategic plan that sets priorities based on disease burden and research potential, in addition to investing in multidisciplinary research and development (R&D).
Just like the Burr concept, Lieberman proposes to establish a DARPA-like entity called the Health Advanced Projects Agency (HARPA) to manage a portfolio of high-risk “research opportunities free from bureaucratic impediments.” According to summary language it would be authorized at a minimum of $2.5 billion annually to conduct basic and applied research and “advance the development, testing, evaluation, prototyping and deployment of critical health products.”
Both bills also would allow for the establishment of Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDC) to focus on specific medical countermeasures, whether in cooperation with industry or academia.
The Burr and Lieberman bills also encourage flexible hiring practices, reducing red tape, and implementing policies that encourage private-sector development of countermeasures into commercial products.
The Burr proposal, however, was met with some heavy criticism over its flexible rules, especially a provision that would provide BARDA a blanket exemption from the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA). A number of government oversight groups decried the provision noting that not even the military or intelligence organizations have a total exemption. Sen. Burr has since agreed to rework the language into a new version of the bill that is to be introduced early this year.
The Cures bill plans to move the NIH Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs to a new ACC Office of Bioscientific Enterprise Development. It also will shift the Office of Technology Transfer—which currently resides in the NIH Office of the Director—to the new Center and expand its authority.
In addition to marketing to potential industrial partners and setting licensing policies, the Office of Technology Transfer now would be responsible for tracking NIH intramural research to ensure that it is non-duplicative as well as identifying scientific opportunities for extramural research investments. This mapping exercise is to be shared with a new Cures Council, an advisory board to the Center, co-chaired by both the ACC and NIH Directors.
Both the Burr and Lieberman bills came on the heels of a separate White House strategy to address a potential avian pandemic that does not involve the creation of a new government entity. Furthermore, the Bush plan has already received an initial investment of $4.8 billion. Given that the NIH budget has fallen for the first time in thirty-six years, both bills will be watched closely in the second session of the 109 th Congress by a biomedical research community wary of endeavors that might siphon off more funds from basic life science research.
--Joanne P. Carney
The Elementary and Secondary Education Act, commonly known as the No Child Left Behind Act, requires states to annually test their students and meet goals based on math, reading and science standards set by each state. The law also requires that a sample of 4 th and 8 th graders in every state take the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in mathematics and reading every other year, and that the tests be administered to twelfth graders every four years. However, student performance on state tests does not correlate with the NAEP math and reading results released this fall, leading observers to wonder why state tests, and the standards upon which they are based, vary so widely.
The next set of NAEP science results will be available in spring 2006. To understand how standards differ, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute examined science standards in forty-nine states and the District of Columbia. ( Iowa does not publish science standards.) According to “The State of State Science Standards 2005,” nineteen states’ standards are commendable, but fifteen states lack meaningful standards. Although most states have changed their standards since 2000, when the Fordham Institute last conducted a survey, the number of states with excellent science standards has remained the same while the number of states with inadequate standards has increased by two.
The report discusses how standards could be improved, and gives examples of states, including California, Massachusetts, and South Carolina, whose standards could serve as models. The most common problems include science standards that are vague, excessively long and confusing.. Many standards expect students to learn unrealistically large amounts of material, while others overemphasize “hands-on” learning at the expense of content. The treatment of different fields of science is not equal: standards relevant to biology are generally of higher quality in comparison to chemistry. These mistakes could be fixed by better editing and greater involvement of working scientists.
The authors of “The State of State Science Standards 2005” are particularly concerned that many states either ignore or deliberately discredit evolution in their standards. According to the report, because evolution is the fundamental underlying principle of biology, “a disturbing and dangerous trend in recent years, in response to religious and political pressures, is the effort to water down the treatment of evolution.” Twenty states receive grades of A or B for their treatment of evolution, seventeen states receive Cs or Ds, and twelve states receive Fs. Kansas, which recently redefined science in its standards in order to encourage the teaching of Intelligent Design, is given a grade of F-.
The Pennsylvania Kitzmiller vs Dover case had not yet concluded when “The State of State Science Standards 2005” was published, but its results may motivate states to reexamine their standards. The Kizmiller case originated when Dover, PA parents sued the Dover Area School Board, which required biology teachers to read a statement to their classes that discredited evolution and encouraged students to learn about Intelligent Design (ID). In his ruling, released on December 20, Judge John E. Jones III concluded that ID is based in religion, not science, and it is therefore unconstitutional to teach ID in a public school science classroom.
Judge Jones noted the religious nature of ID is shown by the fact that early drafts of “Of Pandas and People,” the ID textbook that the board’s statement recommended to Dover ninth graders, initially used the word “creationism” everywhere that the final book uses “Intelligent Design.” He also established that ID is not scientific because it relies on supernatural intervention, while science is defined as the study of measurable and testable phenomenon. Finally, Judge Jones says that “ID’s backers have sought to avoid scientific scrutiny. . . by advocating that the controversy, but not ID itself, should be taught in science class. This tactic is at best disingenuous, and at worse a canard. The goal of the ID movement is not to encourage critical thought, but to foment a revolution which would supplant evolutionary theory with ID.”
Judge Jones’ opinion is available online.
-- Laura Pomerance
CONGRESSIONAL RESEARCH SERVICE
Arsenic in Drinking Water: Recent Regulatory Developments and Issues (RS20672)
In 1996, Congress directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to issue a new standard for arsenic in drinking water. In the final rule, published on January 22, 2001 EPA set the standard at 10 ppb and gave water systems until January 23, 2006 to comply. This report reviews subsequent EPA and congressional actions to help communities comply with the new rule by early 2006, including proposals to provide more regulatory flexibility and financial assistance.
Combating Terrorism: The Challenge of Measuring Effectiveness (RL33160)
This report is designed to assist congressional policymakers evaluating progress in the nation’s efforts to combat terrorism. The report notes that as terrorism is a complex multidimensional phenomenon, effective responses to terrorism may need to take into account the evolving goals, strategies, tactics and operating environment of different terrorist groups. Although terrorism’s complex web of characteristics — along with the inherent secrecy and compartmentalization of both terrorist organizations and government responses — limit available data, the formulation of practical, useful measurement criteria appear both tractable and ready to be addressed.
Federal Efforts to Improve Security and Reliability of Electronic Voting Systems Are Under Way, but Key Activities Need to Be Completed (GAO-05-956)
The Election Assistance Commission (EAC) began operations in 2004 to help improve state and local administration of federal elections, particularly the use of electronic voting systems. While electronic voting systems hold promise for improving the election process, numerous entities have raised concerns about their security and reliability. EAC has led efforts to (1) draft changes to existing federal voluntary standards for voting systems, including provisions addressing security and reliability; (2) develop a process for certifying voting systems; (3) establish a program to accredit independent laboratories to test electronic voting systems; and (4) develop a library and clearinghouse for information on state and local elections and systems. However, it is too early for these actions to have a significant effect in the 2006 federal election cycle and it is unclear when their results will be available to assist state and local election officials.
Polar-Orbiting Operational Environmental Satellites: Technical Problems, Cost Increases, and Schedule Delays Trigger Need for Difficult Trade-off Decisions, GAO-06-249T
The National Polar-Orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) will provide data and imagery critical to map and monitor changes in weather, climate, the oceans, and the environment. This state-of-the-art satellite system will be used by weather forecasters, climatologists, and the military. GAO found that the NPOESS program has experienced continued schedule delays, cost increases, and technical challenges. As a result of expected program cost growth, the Executive Committee is evaluating options such as removing a key sensor from the first satellite, delaying launches of the first two satellites, and not launching a preliminary risk-reduction satellite. All of these options impact the program's cost, schedule, and the system users who rely on this data --although the full extent of that impact is not clear.
These reports are currently only available on the NAS website, but hard copies will be available shortly.
Polar Icebreaker Roles and U.S. Future Needs: A Preliminary Assessment (ISBN 0309100690)
This interim report from the National Research Council found that the age and condition of the U.S. Coast Guard's two polar icebreakers are jeopardizing national security and scientific research in the Arctic and Antarctic. The report recommends that the United States maintain year-round icebreaking capability in the Arctic to support defense, search-and-rescue, research activities, and economic interests and that at least one heavy icebreaker be under U.S. control to clear a channel in Antarctica so that supplies can be brought to American research stations there. The committee's final report, expected to be released next summer, will examine the type and number of icebreaking ships that the United States requires in the long term.
Science in NASA's Vision for Space Exploration (ISBN 030909593X)
In January 2004, President Bush announced a new space policy directed at human and robotic exploration of space. This report presents guiding principles for selecting science missions that enhance and support the exploration program, such as using both robotic spacecraft and human spaceflight, conducting research to resolve fundamental engineering and science challenges for long-duration human exploration missions, and recognizing that properly-executed exploration can contribute to scientific understanding. The report recognizes two different types of science in the context of the exploration initiative: that which will be enabled by human exploration and that which will enable human exploration and notes these must be treated differently. Separate NRC reviews of strategic roadmaps that NASA is developing to implement the policy will be carried out.
BACK TO TOP
AAAS Encourages Action on Innovation
AAAS President Gilbert S. Omenn sent a letter on December 9 encouraging the White House and Congress to take strong steps to sustain American innovation potential by investing in high-risk, breakthrough research and by improving science education at all levels. He outlined four sets of actions that AAAS endorses from recent reports: Enhance budgets for fundamental research; Invest in a far better-prepared, better-educated domestic workforce; Improve accessibility and receptivity to international students, scientists and engineers; and Create and expand incentives for innovation. The letter is available on-line.
MARK YOUR CALENDAR
Tuesday, 10 JANUARY 2006
Robert Rosner, Director, Argonne National Laboratory
"The Role of the National Labs Today"
7:45 am Continental Breakfast, 8:30 talk
AAAS Auditorium, 1200 New York Avenue, NW
On behalf of AAAS and the Washington Science Policy Alliance (WSPA), we are pleased to invite you to a breakfast seminar with Dr. Robert Rosner, the director of Argonne National Laboratory, on "The Role of the National Labs Today." Dr. Rosner, who became director of Argonne National Laboratory in April 2005, will discuss the present and future of the laboratory system and its role within DOE, the federal government, and the scientific enterprise. Robert Rosner is an internationally known astrophysicist. Prior to assuming the directorship of ANL, he had served as chief scientist at the lab from 2002.
Additional information on this event and WSPA is available on-line.
Tuesday, 10 JANUARY 2006
A Conversation with Richard Garwin
6:30PM Reception, 7:30PM Program
AAAS Auditorium, 1200 New York Avenue, NW
From inventing the hydrogen bomb to studying superconductivity, physicist Richard Garwin has long tackled tough problems to help improve many dimensions of our national security. Few scientists have been as active for so long and as productive in so many fields.
AAAS’s Center for Science, Technology & Security Policy invites you to join us for an evening of conversation with Dr. Garwin in which we will explore his roles in the nuclear weapons design community, his efforts in arms control, his studies of the future of energy supplies, and many other topics. For more information and to RSVP, visit the website