Programs: Science and Policy
Science and Technology in Congress
Despite strong Republican opposition, the House approved the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 by a 262 to 150 vote on May 28. The legislation is designed to make investments in science, innovation, and education at three agencies: the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the Department of Energy's (DOE's) Office of Science. The bill puts authorized basic research funding at the three agencies on a path to double over ten years. The passage came after two failed attempts on the House floor and a variety of seldom-used House procedures, such as a motion to recommit and division of the question.
The major issue of contention over the bill was the proposed increase in spending during a time of large and growing federal budget deficits. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that the legislation would cost $86 billion, nearly $23 billion above currently appropriated levels. Republicans proposed eliminating authorizations beyond 2013, freezing funding for existing programs at current levels for 2011-2013 unless there is no budget deficit, and eliminating six new programs from the bill. Republicans also argued that the bill would put too much emphasis on technology commercialization as opposed to basic research. Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX), the ranking member of the House Science and Technology Committee, said that the Republican changes "would have saved over $40 billion and restored the original COMPETES priority of basic research."
Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN), chair of the House Science and Technology Committee, acknowledged that the federal budget deficits are serious, but argued that investment in the country's future is essential. "If we are to reverse the trend of the last 20 years, where our country's technology edge in the world has diminished, we must make the investments necessary today," he said.
With none of the amendments proposing changes to the funding levels passing, the legislation would authorize $7.48 billion for NSF in fiscal year (FY) 2011, with the authorization level rising to $10.16 billion in FY 2015. It authorizes $991 million for NIST for FY 2011, rising to $1.2 billion in FY 2015. DOE's Office of Science is authorized for $5.2 billion for FY 2011, increasing to $6.9 billion in 2015.
Key new programs and provisions include a requirement for NSF to set aside 5% of its Research and Related Activities funding for "high-risk, high-reward research;" an "Innovation Inducement Prize" program at NSF; Energy Innovation Hubs at DOE; elevation of the director of NIST to Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology; and consolidation of the ten NIST laboratories into six. Details on additional provisions in the bill can be found in the May STC newsletter.
The Senate is still holding hearings as it prepares to reauthorize COMPETES, with the Commerce, Science and Transportation panel holding its third hearing on the topic on "Innovation in America: Opportunities and Obstacles." Committee Chairman John D. Rockefeller IV (D-WV) opened the hearing by stating that the federal government needs to ensure that current programs and policies support innovation and international competitiveness. Mr. Stephen Ubl, president and CEO of Advanced Medical Technology Association, testified that commercialization of research products enables American innovations to compete in the global market for new technologies. Dr. Robert Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, agreed, and noted that in order to capitalize on the technological potential of new research, federal regulations and agencies must facilitate public-private sector partnerships that bring research products to market. Unfavorable regulatory climates, industry representatives warned, adversely affect the ability of entrepreneurs to attract private investors. Several witnesses cited the need for a national innovation and competitiveness strategy to address these challenges.
-- Joanne Carney and Rebecca Kaufman
After a slow start, the House was a flurry of appropriations activity in the week leading up to the July 4th recess. In a session that extended late into the night of July 1, the House adopted the budget enforcement resolution for FY 2011 (H.Res.1493) and passed the emergency supplemental appropriations bill (H.R. 4899). The budget enforcement resolution was adopted as part of the rules for the emergency supplemental appropriations bill. The resolution sets FY 2011 discretionary spending at $1.121 trillion, $3 billion less than the Senate resolution and $7 billion less than the President's request. The resolution also reaffirms a commitment to "pay-as-you-go" and contains a number of "sense of the House" provisions including balancing the budget by 2015, voting on Senate-approved recommendations made by the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, and tasking committee chairs with identifying changes in law that reduce waste and control spending.
The House-passed emergency supplemental appropriations bill, which provides funds for the oil spill response, adds $16.2 billion of offset domestic spending to the Senate version, including $10 billion for an Education Jobs fund, $4.95 billion for Pell Grants, and $701 million for border security. The offsets include a controversial $800 million cut in education programs that has drawn threats of a Presidential veto. Due to the amendment, the bill will be sent back to the Senate after the July 4th recess.
House appropriations subcommittees have approved six of the twelve appropriation bills: Homeland Security ($43.9 billion; +$254.5 million over the request), Commerce, Justice, and Science ($60.5 billion; -$2.7 million), Agriculture ($23.1 billion; +$26.7 million), State and Foreign Operations ($52.8 billion; -$4.0 billion), Transportation, Housing and Urban Development ($67.4 billion; -$1.3 billion), and Legislative Branch ($3.6 billion; -$336.8 million). Research and development spending in the bills was at or above the President's request in almost all cases. Science and Technology programs at the Department of Homeland Security received a $53 million increase over the President's request to $1.1 billion. In the Commerce, Justice, and Science subcommittee, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) received $36 million less than the President's request ($883 million), while the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ($5.5 billion), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration ($19.0 billion) and the National Science Foundation ($7.4 billion) were all funded at or slightly above the President's request. Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-WV), the subcommittee chair, however, expressed his concern about the lack of authorizing legislation to guide the future of NASA's human space exploration activities and made funding for that activity contingent on the enactment of authorizing legislation. Another notable change is $66.4 million within the National Science Foundation and $59.4 million within the National Aeronautics and Space Administration being transferred to education programs, echoing increases to education programs in both agencies during the finalization of last year's appropriations. R&D in the U.S. Department of Agriculture faired well with an additional $34 million over the President's request being granted to Research Education and Extension programs, which includes the Agricultural Research Service ($1.2 billion; +$19.5 million) and the National Institute for Food and Agriculture ($1.4 billion; +$14.2 million).
A full update on the appropriations process is available on the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program website.
-- Patrick Clemins
The House Homeland Security Committee is moving rapidly on new legislation that seeks to improve the security and safety of research on select agents conducted in high-containment laboratories (biosafety labs 3 and 4). The Committee introduced the Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Prevention and Preparedness Act of 2010 (H.R. 5498) on June 10, held a hearing on June 15, and then quickly proceeded to mark up and report out the bill on June 23.
Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MN), in his press release following the mark up, stated that the legislation would "for the first time – direct the Federal government to focus its resources and capabilities, in a coordinated manner, to address this unconventional emerging threat."
The bill, a revised version of an earlier attempt (H.R. 5057) to address this topic, would create a tiered system for dangerous biological agents and requires the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to lead efforts to develop security measures for the highest priority biological pathogens and toxins, which will be designated 'Tier 1' agents. The House bill is similar to legislation introduced by Senators Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Susan Collins (R-ME), chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
The new Tier 1 level would be based on intelligence and risk assessment analysis, which will occur via a National Intelligence Strategy for Countering WMDs that the bill tasks the director of national intelligence (DNI) to prepare. The DNI is in the process of creating a national intelligence strategy for biological threats and the House bill would expand that portfolio to cover other threats (e.g., nuclear) as well.
It also would require that new personnel reliability measures be implemented at institutions that conduct research on high-risk pathogens, and instructs DHS and the Select Agent Program (SAP) to harmonize security requirements and inspections for Tier 1 agents.
In addition to these measures, the House bill would authorize for the first time the federal government's Integrated Consortium of Laboratory Networks (ICLN) that was created via an interagency Memorandum of Understanding in 2005 to coordinate the ability of labs to respond to terrorism threats. The legislation also addresses community and citizen preparedness, microbial forensics, and international biosecurity issues.
At the hearing, Sally T. Beatrice, the assistant commissioner and director of the Public Health Laboratory in New York City, spoke of the positive outcomes of creating the ICLN, such as the ability to share various select agent strains and other specimens. However, she warned that resources, especially of a financial nature, are limited and that the House bill should include sustained funding for the ICLN.
Robert Kadlec, a medical doctor and former Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Biodefense Policy in the Bush Administration, applauded the members of the House Committee for creating a tiered system for biological pathogens, noting that the existing list of select agents is much too long and reflects a range of risks to homeland security.
Rep. Steve Austria (R-OH) asked the witnesses why our nation has not been successful in addressing biosecurity threats in the past and why their bill would be successful. Randall S. Murch, a biologist and adjunct professor at the Center for Technology, Security and Policy at Virginia Tech, responded that what the nation needs is not more cooperation, but less duplication and an increase in collaboration among the federal agencies: strategies which he felt the House bill would address.
Although acknowledging the importance of increased collaboration, Julie Fischer, a microbiologist and senior associate at the Henry L. Stimson Center, warned that the proverbial devil is in the details and expressed concern that pending further details about how the tiered system would be implemented and made operational, its impact to scientific research was essentially unknown.
Both bills respond to recommendations issued by the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism report, A World at Risk.
In response to the WMD Commission report, the White House issued an Executive Order (E.O. 13486) in 2008 tasking an interagency group to assess existing procedures, policies and regulations for securing laboratory safety and to issue recommendations. On July 2 it released a new Executive Order on "Optimizing the Security of Biological Select Agents and Toxins in the United States." The E.O. would require the creation of a "risk-based" tiering system for select agents and recommends "reducing the overall number of agents and toxins" on the list.
-- Joanne Carney
The Senate has defeated efforts to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating greenhouse gas emissions, but has yet to take action on climate and energy plans of its own.
By a vote of 47-53 on June 10, the Senate failed to advance a measure to prohibit the EPA from regulating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The Resolution of Disapproval (S. J. Res. 26) sponsored by Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) received support from all 41 Republicans and six Democrats. It would have nullified EPA's finding that greenhouse gases endanger human health and welfare, thereby striking EPA's authority to regulate GHG emissions. In addition to ending EPA's ability to regulate stationary sources, it would have negated new Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) and greenhouse gas emissions standards agreed to by the federal government and auto industry earlier this year.
Despite the vote and EPA's efforts to move ahead with regulating emissions, EPA might not yet be in the clear regarding its authority. Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) has introduced legislation (S. 3072) to preserve the EPA's ability to regulate emissions from vehicles but postpone the regulation of all other sources of greenhouse gases for two years to allow the Congress extra time to develop legislation. The bill is expected to be brought to the Senate floor for a vote this summer.
One of the chief arguments made by supporters of blocking EPA action is that Congress, not an agency, should set climate policy. Both President Obama and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson have made similar statements, but noted that EPA is legally obligated under the Clean Air Act (Massachusetts vs EPA) to take action in the absence of legislation.
Several bills have been introduced in the Senate to address climate change and energy policy, though a strategy for moving ahead has yet to be decided. Momentum is building for a legislative package that would address the recent BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico as well as energy and climate objectives.
Several recent pieces of legislation are vying to be included in such a package. On May 12, Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) released a draft of their much-anticipated climate change legislation, the American Power Act. The legislation seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and over 80 percent by 2050 using a combination of approaches for various sectors of the economy. The bill also includes incentives for nuclear power, carbon capture and storage, renewable energy, and offshore drilling. Clean energy R&D would receive 2% of revenue. EPA released an economic analysis of the bill that found it would have a "relatively modest impact" on consumers, with the average annual cost to households between $79 and $146. The analysis does not reflect the benefits of avoiding the effects of climate change.
Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) have introduced legislation that would cap greenhouse gas emissions then refund the proceeds to consumers. The Carbon Limits and Energy for America's Renewal (CLEAR) Act (S. 2877) is a "cap-and-dividend" approach that will auction permits to emit greenhouse gases and return the bulk of the revenue (75%) to taxpayers to offset the higher energy costs and designates 25% of the revenue for an energy and climate fund for R&D and adaptation programs.
If the Senate decides to focus on an energy bill that does not price carbon emissions, it has two choices. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee passed a comprehensive energy bill, the American Clean Energy Leadership Act of 2009, more than a year ago (see STC June 2009). The bill includes a number of provisions to encourage energy efficiency and renewable energy, including a renewable energy standard requiring electric utilities to use 15 percent renewable energy by 2021.
A more recent bill was introduced by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Minority Member Richard Lugar (R-IN) that aims to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions through increased automotive fuel efficiency, renewable fuels for cars, energy-efficient homes and commercial buildings, and nuclear power. The bill includes a "diverse" energy standard, which covers more energy sources than Bingaman's measure. The bill would waive certain pollution control regulatory requirements for coal-fired power plants in return for their early retirement by 2020.
A compromise option would be for a more limited cap on greenhouse gas emissions. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) is developing a proposal that would cap greenhouse gas emissions of the utilities sector only that appears to be gaining support.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has said he hopes to bring a clean-energy bill to the floor in July.
-- Kasey White
Scientists hope that they will be able to return the Gulf waters and environment to its prior state eventually, but in order to accomplish that they need vast amounts of baseline data. The Smithsonian does collect baseline data for the Gulf, however, Dr. Jonathan Coddington, Associate Director for Research and Collections at the Smithsonian Institute's National Museum of Natural History, testified at a House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Insular and Ocean Affairs hearing that a third of the 93,000 samples from 1,000 Gulf locations have not been categorized due to a lack of funding.
In order to develop better trajectory models to show where the oil will likely flow, scientists need to learn more about oil movement and water currents. Unfortunately, due to the lack of data, current models are unable to completely map out the flow of oil, stated David Kennedy, Acting Assistant Administrator at NOAA's National Ocean Service, at the June 15 hearing. Dr. Marcia McNutt, Director of the U.S. Geologic Survey (USGS), testified that the USGS is gathering baseline data from marshes, inland areas, and barrier islands before the oil reaches the shore. USGS will also be including data on land and animal populations in these inventories. Some data, however, will not be able to be ascertained, such as the state of the pre-leak Gulf seabed floor around the Deepwater Horizon well.
Without improved models, the government will have to rely on their current best guess method when prioritizing sites to gather data in the 10 National Park System Units and 35 Wildlife Refuge Units in the Gulf Region that potentially will be affected. Additionally, scientists intend to study the effect of berms, large man-made sand dunes built to prevent oil from reaching coastal areas, on animals and water flow.
Previous marine animal oil spill research was generally targeted towards seals and sea otters hence very little is known about the effects of an oil spill on other animals. Scientists note that research is now needed to determine how the oil's viscosity will affect the ability of animals that communicate through soundwaves such as dolphins and whales.Additionally, it is unknown which heterotrophic species (animals that eat carbon, in this case the oil) will be impacted and what the long-term effects on the environment will be. The oil leak, for example, could lead to algal blooms, which would further rob the Gulf of oxygen and create "dead zones", or it could have the opposite effect and minimize the blooms by blocking light to the ocean surface.
On June 9 at a House Science and Technology Subcommittee on Energy and Environment hearing, Douglas Helton of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) identified additional areas of needed research. He testified that there should be "new technologies for rapid and accurate detection of oil in deep water and plumes in the mid-water." He added that new research should help determine the effects of oil and dispersants "on mid-water and pelagic species, as well as research on the effects of oil on deep water corals, chemosynthetic communities (animal communities living in the deep sea on dissolved gases and benthic habitats) and benthic habitats." He stated the need to research air pollution resulting from burning oil.
Furthermore, researchers still need to determine the toxicological effects of both the oil and of the dispersant Corexit®. Scientists explained that Corexit® breaks up oil into small droplet size particles, hopefully enabling it to biodegrade more quickly, though additional research on biodegradation is necessary, testified Albert Venosa of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Once dispersants are used, oil spreads throughout the water column and penetrate boon protected areas and poison marine animals. Dr. Mitchelmore, Associate Professor at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, said at a May 21 House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Environment bipartisan meeting that dispersants expose animals to multiple chemicals and toxicologists know little about dispersants' subsurface and deep sea environmental effect. No research exists on long-term exposure to dispersants, nor are exposure levels known. If phytoplankton and zooplankton are severely affected by the dispersants, then higher level organisms could also be affected. Mitchelmore called for a 10 year monitoring program that is systemic and broad in geographic scale because many animals, such as birds, sea turtles and whales, are migratory and cross state and country boundaries.
One reason for much of the needed research is because, after an initial ramp up in funding following the 1989 Valdez oil spill, federal research for drilling safety and environmental clean up has declined. Sharon Buffington, testified at a June 9 House Science and Technology hearing that the Minerals and Management Service did not sufficiently invest in research and development (R&D) because oil companies argued that it had the technology necessary to clean up a spill multiple times bigger than the Valdez oil spill.
Other witnesses at the June 9 House Science and Technology hearing identified constraints to research. The U.S., unlike Norway and Canada, does not allow (except in extremely rare circumstances) controlled oil spills for the purpose of testing new oil cleaning devices or performing toxicity research. But paradoxically, in the U.S. most oil spill cleaning technologies are not allowed to be used to clean a spill until they are tested.
Despite the need for additional research, Rep. Cassidy (R-LA) stated in a June 15 hearing that he heard from scientists that BP is threatening them with lawsuits should they publish research germane to the leak and that BP is preventing scientists from going into marshes to collect data. In that same hearing, Dr. D'Elia of Louisiana State University acknowledged the legal burden associated with conducting and publishing research. He said that some academics are not conducting or publishing research because of the threat of litigation. Dr. D'Elia also spoke to the slow nature of receiving federal funding for research in an emergency situation such as the spill. At the same hearing, Valerie Ann Lee of Environment International Ltd, called on the government to share more raw data points, particularly from the Integrated Ocean Observing System and geoplatform.gov site.
These discussions could illuminate how some of the $500 million Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative promised by BP will be spent. In a June 17 House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing, BP CEO Tony Hayward reiterated his commitment to the fund and said that BP would make the data from the scientific findings publicly available.
-- Phillip Chalker
Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions and the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, Members expressed concern about the lack of knowledge regarding long-term effects of the chemicals in crude oil and dispersants.
Aubrey Miller of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS, part of NIH, the National Institutes of Health) testified on the potential health effects of the spill. Exposure to crude oil is known to cause headaches, nausea, and eye, skin, respiratory, and gastrointestinal irritation in the short term. While oil at the source of the spill is the most toxic, she noted that "weathered oil" farther from the spill is also hazardous when exposed to the skin or taken in through respiration. Heat stress and stroke in workers becomes a growing health concern into the summer months, and potential mental health impacts of the spill include anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. Beyond these general impacts, there is a dearth of information on the impact of oil spills; public health risks posed by dispersants used on a large scale are unknown, and little data on the human health impact of oil spills exists in peer-reviewed literature. NIH is looking to support research and partner with other agencies dispatched to the Gulf to better understand these issues.
The government has dispatched emergency health care practitioners and agency personnel to the Gulf to aid local agencies in their response efforts. The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) has established a mobile medical unit to provide care to workers and citizens impacted by the spill. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is working to inform Gulf Coast residents through its website and the 170 CDC personnel dispatched to date.
Following closure of the Gulf's fisheries, the FDA is inspecting seafood samples to monitor their safety for consumption. Mike Taylor, of the Food and Drug Administration, assured Members of Congress that although dispersants are harmful to fish, the FDA is confident that the toxins are not absorbed into seafood consumed by humans.
The spill's clean-up workers have accounted for the majority of calls to poison control centers, said John Howard of the CDC. To prevent adverse health impacts, oil spill workers have received safety training courses from NIEHS and protective gear and access to respirators from CDC. A total of 13,000 clean up workers have been rostered in training clinics to date, an effort which will enable better long-term monitoring of the health of the15,000-20,000 potentially affected workers.
All witnesses agreed that long-term surveillance of the region is necessary to evaluate the impact of oil spills on public health. Health surveillance data is being collected from poison control centers, state health departments, and health centers. Contamination data from air, sediment, and water samples will couple health trends with insight into environmental conditions. Combined with data from BP, a large body of information will be available for health research on oil spills and dispersant use. An interagency working group will spearhead the development of new, collaborative tools and funding for scientists to research the spill's health effects.
Some Members expressed concerns regarding the potential for new health issues should the spill's environmental impact worsen. Hurricanes and storms could push and dump shoreline oil inland, threatening water quality and agriculture. Additional precautions would need to be taken should the oil move up the Atlantic coast.
Following the House hearing, Reps. Henry Waxman (D-CA), Frank Pallone (D-NJ), and Bart Stupak (D-MI)—chairman of the full committee, the health subcommittee and the oversight and investigations subcommittee, respectively—sent a letter to Exxon Mobil requesting documents related to the health effects experienced by workers involved in recovery efforts for the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill.
The Institute of Medicine held a workshop June 22-23 to solicit input from the scientific community regarding the human health impact of the Gulf Oil Spill. Scientists provided insight into short-term effects of oil exposure and the anticipated long-term health issues. Panelists suggested use of a broad surveillance system to access and integrate health data from diverse sources in the Gulf.
-- Rebecca Kaufman and Erin Heath
Quick status reports to keep you up to date on recent S&T bills and hearings.
The House Science and Technology Subcommittee on Research and Science Education held a hearing on technology transfer and mechanisms to improve the process of moving research "from the lab bench to the marketplace." Subcommittee Chairman Dan Lipinski (D-IL) stated that the subcommittee will continue to analyze this subject, including a review of the Stevenson-Wydler Technology Innovation Act (P.L. 96-480) and the Government Patents Policy Act (aka the Bayh-Dole Act, P.L. 96-517).
The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affair has advanced a measure by its Chair and Ranking Minority Member, Senators Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and Susan Collins (R-ME), respectively, to strengthen and improve cybersecurity responses in the federal government and the private sector. The Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act of 2010 (S. 3480) would create an Office of Cyberspace Policy in the White House led by a Senate-confirmed director who would be charged with developing a national cybersecurity policy and strategy. Furthermore, the bill would create a National Center for Cybersecurity and Communications (NCCC) within the Department of Homeland Security to coordinate and lead federal programs and activities to implement the national cybersecurity strategy, in order to protect public and private computer and communication networks against cyber attacks.
On June 22, the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Superfund, Toxics and Environmental Health held a hearing to discuss renewing the superfund tax. Revenue from the tax is used to clean orphan sites that are left by a defunct or bankrupt company. Since the tax expired, the number of sites cleaned up annually by the Environmental Protection Agency has decreased from 80 to 20 sites. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) has introduced the Polluter Pays Reauthorization Act (S. 3164), which would reinstate the superfund tax.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing on synthetic biology May 27 after Craig Venter announced that his lab had created the first cell controlled by a synthetic genome.
On May 13, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a final rule (the "tailoring rule") that details how greenhouse gases (GHG) from stationary sources will be regulated under the Clean Air Act.
The National Institutes of Health is seeking public comment on its plan to develop a Genetic Testing Registry, a central, publicly-available source of information on genetic tests to which researchers, test developers, and manufacturers can voluntarily submit gene test information.
On June 1 the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced a new multi-agency initiative for measuring the impact of federal research and development (R&D) investments on jobs and the economy. The initiative, "Science and Technology for America's Reinvestment: Measuring the Effect of Research on Innovation, Competitiveness and Science" (STAR-METRICS), will be managed in two phases. The first phase will calculate employment generated from stimulus funds using university records, and the second phase will use a broader set of records to measure economic growth, workforce outcomes, scientific knowledge, and social outcomes.
On June 3 the Environmental Protection Agency issued a final health standard for sulfur dioxide emissions from coal-burning power plants and other industrial sources. The new rule moves from a 24-hour standard to an hourly standard of 75 parts per billion. EPA is also requiring that new monitors be set up by 2013 in populated areas that are subject to the highest concentrations of SO2. The agency hopes that the new standard will prevent 2,300 to 5,900 premature deaths and 54,000 asthma attacks a year.
The National Institutes of Health has released its draft policy on financial conflicts of interest among NIH-funded researchers. The new policy would put the onus on the institution, not the principal investigator, to determine and report financial conflicts of interest.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is seeking public comment through August 10 on its Next Generation Strategic Plan. NOAA invites comments on its mission statement, vision of the future, long-term strategic goals and five-year objectives, enterprise components and five-year objectives, and strategic partnerships.
The Food and Drug Administration plans to hold a public meeting on July 19 and 20 to discuss how it should oversee laboratory-developed tests, spurred on no doubt by the agency's recent activity challenging the direct-to-consumer sale of genetic tests.
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is seeking public comment until August 20 on a proposed "Three-Track" examination initiative that aims to provide applicants greater control over the speed with which their applications are examined. Additional details on the program are in the Federal Register.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is seeking public comment on its draft FY 2011-2015 strategic plan. The draft plan proposes five strategic goals and describes how EPA intends to achieve those goals. The public comment period closes July 30, and the final strategic plan will be released by September 30.
On June 28 President Obama released a new National Space Policy articulating the Administration's position on the use of space in meeting civil, military, and foreign policy goals. The policy emphasizes the importance of space exploration, the use of space systems to "study, monitor and support" research on climate change, the importance of engaging in international cooperation, and the need to use space systems to "deter, defend, and….defeat" attacks against the United States.
The interagency National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) issued a Request for Information (RFI) in the Federal Register on July 6, seeking public comments toward revising the NNI 2007 strategic plan. The RFI includes a series of detailed questions surrounding six broad themes: Goals and Objectives; Research Priorities; Investment; Coordination and Partnerships; Evaluation; and Policy. In addition, NNI is planning to hold a Strategic Plan Stakeholder Workshop on July 13-14. Public comments on the RFI are due August 15.
Nonstrategic Nuclear Weapons (RL32572)
Aviation and Climate Change (R40090)
- The New START Treaty: Central Limits and Key Provisions (R41219)
Evaluation of Biomarkers and Surrogate Endpoints in Chronic Disease (ISBN 978-0-309-25130-6)
Capabilities for the Future: An Assessment of NASA Laboratories for Basic Research (ISBN-13: 978-0-309-15351-5)
Advancing the Science of Climate Change (ISBN-13: 978-0-309-15460-4)
Limiting the Magnitude of Future Climate Change (ISBN-13: 978-0-309-15445-1)
Adapting to the Impacts of Climate Change (ISBN-13: 978-0-309-15455-0)
Assessment of Technologies for Improving Light Duty Vehicle Fuel Economy (ISBN-13: 978-0-309-15603-5)
Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals: Eighth Edition (ISBN-13: 978-0-309-15396-6)
Enhancing Food Safety: The Role of the Food and Drug Administration (ISBN-13: 978-0-309-15638-7)
Global Biodiversity Outlook 3
United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity
The Hartwell Paper: a new direction for climate policy after the crash of 2009
Institute for Science, Innovation and Society University of Oxford and LSE Mackinder Programme for the Study of Long Wave Events
Nuclear Energy Research and Development Roadmap
U.S. Department of Energy
A Public Health Tragedy: How Flawed CDC Data and Faulty Assunptions Endangered Childrenís Health
Majority Staff of the Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight of the Committee on Science and Technology, U.S. House of Representatives
Deleware Residents' Opinions on Climage Change and Sea Level Rise
Responsive Management National Office
Dead planet, living planet: Biodiversity and ecosystem restoration for sustainable development
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
Biomass Sustainability and Carbon Policy Study
Manomet Center for Conservation Studies
The Future of Natural Gas: An Interdisciplinary MIT Study
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
AAAS Expresses Concerns Over Indictments of Italian Scientists.
On June 29, AAAS CEO Alan I. Leshner sent a letter to Italian President Giorgio Napolitano that expressed concern over the recent indictments of six scientists and a government official because they "failed to alert the population of L'Aquila of an impending earthquake." Leshner called the charges "unfair and naïve" and noted that there is "no accepted scientific method for earthquake prediction that can be reliably used to warn citizens of impending disaster."
AAAS Board Of Directors Issues Statement on Virginia Attorney General's Investigation
The AAAS Board of Directors, in a May 18 statement, asked Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli to either justify his investigation of climate researcher Michael Mann or end it, calling it "an apparently political action" that could have a chilling effect on scientific research. The Board, while acknowledging the responsibility of state and federal officials to oversee the proper use of grant funds, said Cuccinelli's request "goes far beyond what is needed to determine financial propriety, including substantive emails with colleagues, computer codes, and the detailed data resulting from Dr. Mann's work."
AAAS Center for Science, Technology and Congress Launches Twitter Feed
To get up-to-date science policy news, follow us at http://www.twitter.com/aaas_cstc
Slides Available from Congressional Briefings
Climate Change and Agriculture: Food and Farming in a Changing Climate
AAAS cosponsored a briefing on June 16 to discuss the impacts that climate change will have on agriculture and the nation's food supply and possible adaptation measures. Slides from the briefing are available here.
Climate Change & National Security
Slides and video are available from a June 4 briefing cosponsored by AAAS that explored the national security implications of climate change to the United States and worldwide.
Climate Science: Key Questions and Answers
Slides and video are available from a May 11 briefing cosponsored by AAAS that examined which climate change science results are well understood and where key uncertainties exist. Discussion also included examination of the peer-review process, data sources, research processes, statistical analysis, and how various bodies like the IPCC conduct their studies and assessments.
Mark your Calendar:
AAAS Science and Human Rights Coalition
July 26-27, 2010
AAAS headquarters (1200 New York Avenue, NW; Washington, D.C.)
The Coalition is a network of scientific associations, professional societies, and science academies that recognize that science and scientists are vital to the realization of human rights. The meeting will begin on the evening of July 26 with a panel discussion on the right to benefit from scientific progress. On July 27, the Coalition meeting will continue with information sessions, working meetings, and training workshops on human rights issues central to the mission of the Coalition. Please register online to attend.
Scientists recently discovered that a personís subconscious feelings are linked to tactile physical feelings. Researchers gave volunteers a variety of objects to hold and then asked for their opinions about unrelated people and subjects. The study showed that the heavier an object, the more importance was attributed to interactions with others. Rougher objects led people to believe that interactions were difficult and harder objects increased someoneís rigidity in a game.
Ackerman, Joshua et al., "Incidental Haptic Sensations Influence Social Judgments and Decisions" Science 25 June 2010: Vol. 328. no. 5986, pp. 1712 - 1715.