Programs: Science and Policy
S&T Newsletter: February 2006
FY 2007 Budget Proposes Gains in Defense, Space, and Physical Sciences R&D, Cuts in Other Programs
On February 6, President Bush released his proposed budget for fiscal year (FY) 2007. The new budget proposes substantial increases for key physical sciences and engineering programs as part of an "American Competitiveness Initiative" that was first previewed in the President's State of the Union address as a response to a growing wave of concern about the state of U.S. innovation. The three favored agencies of the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) laboratories in Commerce would receive substantial budget increases after years of flat or declining funding. DOE would also benefit from the President's "American Energy Initiative" with large increases in its energy R&D portfolio.
The overall federal investment in research and development (R&D) would increase to $137 billion, but in a repeat of the past budgets the continuing Administration priorities of weapons development and space exploration technologies development would take up the entire increase and more, leaving declining funding for the remainder of the R&D portfolio.
The federal basic and applied research investment (excluding development) would decline 3.4 percent to $54.7 billion, meaning increases for physical sciences and related research in DOE, NSF, and NIST would be more than offset by cuts in the research investments of other agencies. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget would be flat for the second year in a row and would fund less than 1 out of every 5 grant applications; the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), despite being a major sponsor of physical sciences research, would see its research funding fall to offset a big increase in development of new space vehicles.
The large increases for physical sciences and engineering research are not enough to keep the federal investment in basic and applied research (excluding development) from declining for the third year in a row after peaking in 2004.
The AAAS Preliminary Analysis of R&D in the FY 2007 Budget is now available on the AAAS R&D web site. The analysis is a preview of the forthcoming AAAS R&D report. More tables, charts, and continually updated materials on R&D in the FY 2007 budget are also available and will be expanded in coming weeks with detailed agency updates.
The AAAS/Congressional Research and Development Caucus briefing on March 9 will provide additional information on the budget.
Senators Release White Paper on Climate Policy
In a marked change to the usual congressional debate over the science of climate change, Senators Pete Domenici (R-NM) and Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), chair and ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, released a white paper that raises key issues surrounding the structure of a mandatory market-based greenhouse gas regulatory program. The Senators are seeking comments on the document that will frame the discussion at a climate change conference that will be held April 4.
The white paper raises the overarching question of who is to be regulated in a mandatory system and where in the greenhouse gas “life-cycle” those regulations occur. The white paper explores differences in costs and effectiveness in regulating upstream (closer to energy producers and suppliers) versus downstream (the point of emissions). The paper also examines whether some allowances should be allocated for free to mitigate costs or if they should be all be sold by auction.
The white paper also highlights the importance of research and development of low-carbon energy technologies and adaptation assistance, exploring the use of permit revenue to fund such activities.
The white paper concludes by raising questions about the United States’ role relative to other international actions. It asks if a system should be compliant with other cap-and-trade systems being implemented elsewhere (e.g. European Union). It also notes that “climate change is a global environmental problem that requires action by all major emitting countries.” Should the United States take some action and then make further steps contingent on actions of other nations?
Responses to the white paper are due by March 13. The committee website has detailed submission guidelines.
-- Kasey White
Though the myriad of innovation initiatives vary in how they will advance America’s competitiveness, they share common themes of increasing investment in research and strengthening education. Given growing concern over our nations dependence on foreign oil and the emphasis on energy security in the President’s State of the Union, the topic of new energy resources has become closely linked to the competitiveness arena, and a number of the legislative proposals focus on energy security as well.
As detailed in a white paper released by the Office of Science and Technology Policy, ACI advocates doubling, over ten years, research funding at the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the Department of Energy’s Office of Science and increasing basic and applied research funding in the Department of Defense (DOD). ACI would make the Research and Development tax credit permanent and create Career Advancement Accounts of up to $3,000 for workers beginning, changing, or advancing within a career.
While the emphasis on basic research funding was welcome news to the research community, it was the President’s science and mathematics education initiative that garnered the initial interest on Capitol Hill.
A few days after the release of the Administration’s budget request, Senators questioned Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings about the academic components of ACI at a February 9 hearing held by the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
According to Secretary Spellings the core elements of the White House plan include training 70,000 existing teachers over the next five years to teach Advanced Placement/International Baccalaureate classes in math, science and foreign languages. An Adjunct Teacher Corps also would be created to train 30,000 science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) professionals over 10 years to serve as part-time science and math teachers. In addition, the department plans to establish a National Math Panel, modeled on the National Reading Panel, to identify best teaching practices, and the Math Now program to provide primary school teachers specialized training in mathematics. The program would also offer middle-school teachers remedial math education tools that can be targeted for struggling students.
When asked why ACI places more emphasis on math rather than science education, Spellings described the Department of Education’s philosophy as “math now, science next.” She said that conducting research on how children learn math is currently the single most important step towards improving math and science education. However, the Bush proposal recommends that science testing be included in the evaluation for Adequate Yearly Progress that schools must meet under the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act when it is reauthorized next year. Spellings added that emphasis on science would increase in the future.
Protecting America’s Competitive Edge
In the Senate, just five days before the President unveiled the ACI, the Protecting America’s Competitive Edge (PACE) Acts, based on the recommendations of the National Academies “Rising Above the Gathering Storm” report, were introduced by Senators Pete Domenici (R-NM), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD). PACE is a package of three bills, each aligned with the jurisdiction of a committee with oversight of a specific theme – energy, education, and finance. Each bill already has more than 50 cosponsors.
The bills (S. 2197, S. 2198, and S. 2199) reflect many of the same initiatives outlined in the President’s initiative, for example, PACE would nearly double the NSF and DOE’s Office of Science R&D budgets, increase defense basic research funding, and train teachers to teach AP and IP science and math classes. In addition, the legislation provides scholarships to students majoring in science, technology, engineering and math fields or who are preparing to teach these subjects at the K-12 level; awards grants to encourage university STEM departments to partner with departments of education to train future teachers; establishes summer programs and part-time masters’ degree programs for existing teachers; and creates a clearinghouse for effective curriculum materials. The bills double and make permanent the current R&D tax credit and create new visas for students and workers in STEM fields.
The PACE-Energy bill also proposes creating an Advanced Research Projects Authority- Energy (ARPA-E), which is modeled on the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), to support ground-breaking energy research. Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) introduced a stand-alone bill, known as the `Advanced Research Projects Energy Act (ARPA-E) Act' (S. 2196), at the end of January.
The PACE bills complement the National Innovation Act (S. 2109) introduced in December by Senators John Ensign (R-NV) and Joe Lieberman (D-CT) to implement a series of recommendations included on the National Innovation Initiative report published by the Council on Competitiveness.
Whereas Senate innovation legislation has involved bipartisan support, House innovation agendas are split along party lines, with the Democratic and Republican leaderships each developing proposals.
The House Democratic leadership’s legislation was introduced in December by Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN). Gordon’s three-bill package (H.R. 4434, 4435, 4596) includes scholarships for math and science teachers, curriculum development, and professional development programs for teachers. The legislation increases federal funding for basic research in the physical sciences, mathematics and engineering by 10 percent per year; provides more fellowships for graduate students and grants for early-career researchers; increases funding for federal and university laboratories and creates an ARPA-E.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) introducing legislation identical to the bill supported by Senators Ensign and Lieberman; however, the bill currently does not have cosponsors.
House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) and Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) have indicated that they will soon introduce a Republican innovation legislative package. Given the similarities that exist between the ACI proposal, and the Senate and House bills that have been introduced to date, the Republican proposal will likely mirror many elements already outlined.
In addition, staff of the House Committee on Science have indicated that they intend to examine all of the budget and legislative proposals and prioritize their components and produce a balanced budget and appropriations package.
For More Information:
ASTRA, The Alliance for Science & Technology Research in America, innovation proposal table
-- Laura Pomerance
CONGRESSIONAL RESEARCH SERVICE
Renewable Energy: Tax Credit, Budget, and Electricity Production Issues (IB10041)
Recent events have brought a new emphasis to the role that renewable energy may play in producing electricity, displacing fossil fuel use, and curbing demand for power transmission equipment. This report reviews the historical role of renewables and examines provisions in recent appropriations bills and the Energy Policy Act that encourage the production and use of renewables.
Higher Education Tax Credits: Test An Economic Analysis (RL32507)
This report provides analysis of the education tax credit program, which was first introduced in 1997 and has cost approximately $4.6 billion a year in lost tax revenue. Tax credits are not proven to be efficient in increasing enrollment; however, they can be beneficial in making college costs more affordable. Though higher income households are more likely to benefit from education credits, the credits provide needed relief for the middle class, many of whom may not qualify for any other source of financial aid.
Drinking Water: EPA Should Strengthen Ongoing Efforts to Ensure That Consumers Are Protected from Lead Contamination (GAO-06-148)
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), states, and local water systems share responsibility for providing safe drinking water. Lead typically enters tap water as a result of the corrosion of lead in the water lines or household plumbing. EPA's data suggest that the number of drinking water systems with elevated lead levels has dropped significantly since testing began in the early 1990s, but this data is limited and questionable. It appears that few schools and child care facilities have tested their water for lead and no focal point exists to collect and analyze test results. Thus, the pervasiveness of lead contamination in the drinking water at schools and child care facilities is unclear.
Nuclear Weapons: NNSA Needs to Refine and More Effectively Manage Its New Approach for Assessing and Certifying Nuclear Weapons (GAO-06-261)
In 1992, the United States began a unilateral moratorium on the testing of nuclear weapons. To compensate for the lack of testing, the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) developed the Stockpile Stewardship Program to assess and certify the safety and reliability of the nation's nuclear stockpile without nuclear testing. In 2001, NNSA's weapons laboratories began developing what is intended to be a common framework for a new methodology for assessing and certifying the safety and reliability of the nuclear stockpile without nuclear testing. GAO evaluated this new methodology, known as "quantification of margins and uncertainties,” and found several deficiencies in NNSA's management of the implementation of this new methodology.
These reports are currently only available on the NAS website, but hard copies will be available shortly.
Globalization, Biosecurity, and the Future of the Life Sciences (ISBN 0309100321)
This report by the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine recommends multidisciplinary measures to reduce the growing risk that new advances in biomedical research will be misused. The committee noted that full implementation of its recommendations would not guarantee the peaceful use of biomedical discoveries, and recommended that steps be taken to strengthen America's public health infrastructure and better coordinate federal, state, and local public health agencies.
Going the Distance? The Safe Transport of Spent Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Radioactive Waste in the United States (ISBN 0309100046)
This NRC report concluded that there are no fundamental technical barriers to the safe transport of spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste. The committee examined two types of radiological risks -- those arising from normal transport and those from accidents during shipping – and found those risks are well-understood and generally low. The committee strongly endorsed DOE's decision to ship spent fuel and high-level waste to Yucca Mountain using mostly trains rather than trucks, particularly the use of "dedicated" trains, which would carry no other freight. The committee recommended a separate, independent study of the security of such shipments against malevolent acts, as they were unable to make this examination.
Toxicity Testing for Assessment of Environmental Agents: Interim Report (ISBN 0309100925)
This report, requested by the Environmental Protection Agency, is the first of two that the committee was asked to conduct to assess and advance current approaches to toxicity testing and assessment undertaken to meet regulatory data needs. This report provides an overview of established and newly developed toxicity-testing methods and strategies. The second report, to be released later this year, will focus on a long-range vision and strategic plan to advance the practices of toxicity testing and human health risk assessment of environmental contaminants.
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AAAS Submits Comments on Proposed Changes to EPA's Toxics Release Inventory
AAAS submitted comments on January 12 expressing concern that the Toxics Release Inventory Burden Reduction Proposed Rule would create a loss of data that "would compromise environmental and public health research, eliminating critical data for research in many communities and creating a discontinuous data set for those analyzing long-term trends." AAAS noted, "It also would, in turn, negatively affect both policymakers and the public who depend on this research for their own decisionmaking." The letter is available on-line.
AAAS Board Approved New Statement Supporting Evolution
The AAAS Board of Directors issued a statement on February 19 strongly denounced legislation and policies that would undermine the teaching of evolution and "deprive students of the education they need to be informed and productive citizens in an increasingly technological, global community." The Board stated, "Evolution is one of the most robust and widely accepted principles of modern science," reconfirming its October 18, 2002 statement, as well as the December 2005 ruling of federal District Court Judge John E. Jones III, who found that intelligent design is based on religion, not science. The statement is available on-line.
MARK YOUR CALENDAR
Alignment of Ethics, Science and State: An International Perspective on Embryonic Stem Cell Policy
March 1, 2006, 8:00 - 10:30 am, light breakfast provided
American Association for the Advancement of Science
1200 New York Avenue, NW, Washington DC
The American Association for the Advancement of Science, The British Embassy and The Phoebe R. Berman Bioethics Institute at the Johns Hopkins University present a Panel Discussion "Alignment of Ethics, Science and State: An International Perspective on Embryonic Stem Cell Policy." The panelists include:
Dr. Peter Donovan, Stem Cell Research Center at University of California, Irvine
Professor Ruth Faden, Executive Director, The Phoebe R. Berman Bioethics Institute, The Johns Hopkins University
Dr. Anne McLaren, Wellcome Principal Research Associate, Cambridge University, United Kingdom
Dr. Alan Leshner, AAAS Chief Executive Officer (Moderator)
The panel will discuss these questions: What is the current international landscape for regulation and ethical oversight of embryonic stem cell research? How does international variation in regulation of embryonic stem cell research affect international collaboration and the progress of the science? Is a global oversight structure necessary for the responsible advancement of embryonic stem cell research? Is such a policy and oversight structure feasible?
Additional information is available on the WSPA website.
Overview of the
FY 2007 Research & Development Budget
AAAS/Congressional Research and Development Caucus
Thursday, March 9, 2006, 12:00 Noon to 1:30 PM
345 Cannon House Office Building (Cannon Caucus Room)
This event will feature remarks by Representative Judy Biggert (R- IL) and Representative Rush Holt (D - NJ), Co-Chairs of the Congressional Research and Development Caucus. Al Teich, Director of the AAAS Science and Policy Programs, will provide an overview of the policy environment and Kei Koizumi, Director of the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program will provide analysis of the FY2007 budget request.
Additional information, including how to RSVP, is available on the Caucus website.
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Identifying the public health threat: For what are we looking?
March 13, 2006, 2:00pm
This seminar, featuring Lonnie King, is the first of four in a series sponsored by Security for a New Century, in partnership with the Center for Science, Technology, and Security Policy at the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The series will focus on public health preparedness for and emergency response to natural biological events or intentional bioterrorist acts. Additional information on the series is available on the AAAS website.
2006 AAAS Forum on Science and Technology Policy
Thursday and Friday April 20-21, 2006
Washington Court Hotel, Washington, DC
Registration is now open for the 2006 AAAS Forum on Science and Technology Policy (formerly the "AAAS Colloquium") that is held in Washington each spring to provide a forum for discussion and debate about budget and other policy issues facing the S&T community. The 2006 Forum features sessions on the budgetary and policy context for research and development in 2007; achieving energy security; avian flu and other global health threats; science and technology and homeland security; the global innovation challenge, and responses by U.S. industry and policymakers; and protecting the integrity of science.
The Forum web site now offers online registration for the meeting and features the latest version of the 2006 Forum program. It will be updated continually.
Greenland Glaciers Melting Faster
The amount of ice that Greenland's glaciers dump into the Atlantic Ocean has almost doubled in the last five years because glaciers are moving faster, according to a new study. Rising surface air temperatures appear to be triggering the increases in glacier speed in the southern half of Greenland. The warmer temperatures increase the amount of melt water reaching the glacier-rock interface where it serves as a lubricant that eases glaciers' march to the ocean. The authors of the paper noted that this finding could mean that the models now used to predict Greenland's ice loss and contribution to sea level rise are inadequate because they do not account for changes in the speed of outlet glaciers that flow into the sea.
February 17, 2006, Science
Spontaneous Understanding of Geometry
A recent series of experiments addressed a much-discussed and debated question amongst psychologist and philosophers: how does language influence thought? The study found that children and adults from an isolated Amazonian indigene group, the Mundurukú, showed that they understood and could use a variety of concepts of geometry even though they do not have words for these concepts. The work suggests that conceptual principles of geometry are inherently present in the minds of the Mundurukú, even though they lack the words for geometrical terms and concepts.
19 January 2006, Science
What Makes a Song a Hit?
Researchers recently set up a website where people could listen to and download unknown songs by unknown bands to determine why are some songs more popular than others. Participants in one group were given only song titles and band names as their guide, while other groups could also see how many times each song had already been downloaded. The researchers found that popular songs were more popular (and unpopular songs less popular) in the groups where participants had access to other people's opinions; but which particular songs became very popular was less predictable. Web-based experiments like this one can help sociologists understand the relationship between individual and group behavior.
13 February 2006, Science