Programs: Science and Policy
S&T Newsletter: April 2007
Bills to encourage innovation and boost U.S. competitiveness, which have engendered broad bipartisan support for several years, moved in both chambers of Congress in recent weeks. On April 24, the House of Representatives passed “10,000 Teachers, 10 Million Minds Science and Math Scholarship Act” (H.R. 362) promoting science education and “Sowing the Seeds through Science and Engineering Research Act” (H.R. 363) that would award research grants to young investigators. Across the Capitol, the Senate passed the “America COMPETES Act” (S. 761), which would increase funding for research and education programs at a number of agencies that contribute to nondefense research and development (R&D).
H.R. 362, which passed 389-22, authorizes over $600 million over five years to the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship program for college students studying math and science who would like to pursue a teaching career. Eligible students would receive annual scholarships of $10,000 but are obligated to commit to teaching at elementary or secondary schools for four years upon graduation.
The bill also requires that the NSF Director establish a national panel of experts “to identify, collect, and recommend” K-12 math and science teaching materials that have proven effective.
The Sowing the Seeds Act passed 397-20 in the House and would allow NSF to provide grants worth up to $80,000 a year to scientists and engineering researchers in the early stages of their careers.
To complement these initiatives, the House Science and Technology Committee introduced, marked up and reported out two bills reauthorizing NSF and the National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST). Both the NSF (H.R. 1867) and NIST (H.R. 1868) bills would put the agencies on a doubling track by increasing funding over three years. NSF would receive a total of $21 billion over FY 2008-2010, of which $16.4 billion would go towards research and $2.8 billion towards education programs.
In an effort to support early-career scientists, the NSF bill creates a grant program for new investigators who have not been awarded an NSF grant but received high marks for their proposals. The legislation also requires institutions to provide training on research misconduct for undergraduates and other students, and would make individuals ineligible for NSF funding if they failed to comply with the NSF policy for sharing research data (subject to the Director’s judgment).
In addition to authorizing $2.5 billion in overall funding, the NIST reauthorization bill would rename the beleaguered Advanced Technology Program to the “Technology Innovation Program” (TIP) and allow national laboratories and universities to develop partnerships with industry and compete for program grants. ATP was cut in the FY 2008 budget request released by the White House and the newly revamped TIP program would be authorized at $400 million in the NIST bill.
This legislative package is part of the House innovation strategy to move separate bills forward, each of which addresses a facet of U.S. competitiveness.
In comparison to the House’s legislative approach, the Senate strategy is to push for one comprehensive bill, similar to last year’s Protecting America’s Competitive Edge (PACE) legislation. The same week the House took up its innovation bills, the Senate passed by a vote of 88-8 the COMPETES Act, the pithy title for the America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science Act. The bill would double the NSF budget by FY 2011, put the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Science on a doubling track in ten years, and boost research at NIST laboratories. NSF, DOE and NIST are also slated for increases as part of the Administration’s American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI) in its budget request for FY 2008.
In addition, the Senate legislation would create an Advanced Research Projects Authority-Energy (ARPA-E) at DOE, similar to the successful DARPA program at the Department of Defense. The COMPETES Act also directs NASA to fund basic research and NOAA to promote leadership in ocean and atmospheric research and education, but does not specify authorized amounts for funding those agencies.
Bolstering federal research investments to spur innovation is just one of the approaches that the Senate bill takes. Like the House, S. 761 also expands funding for the Noyce Scholarship Program and invests in a range of education programs. However, the COMPETES Act also funds a host of other agency education programs that the House bills do not. For example, it funds grants for teaching training, Math Now programs, and foreign language education.
At the time of writing this article, the NSF bill was scheduled to go to the House floor for a vote where it was expected to pass. The NIST reauthorization bill was also slated for a floor vote, but was pulled from the schedule at the last minute. [Editor's Note: The NSF bill passed the House on May 2 and the NIST bill passed the following day.]
When the House innovation portfolio is finally complete the next step for the U.S. Congress is to conference the Senate’s single measure with the House’s multi-prong approach. A job made more difficult given the fact that the Senate bill includes provisions that the House does not address and vice versa. If both chambers accomplish that task, it still remains to be seen whether appropriators will find the money to fund the authorized increases. Complicating matters further is a Statement of Administration Policy from the White House on the three innovations bills that have been passed expressing concern over “dramatic increases” in authorized funding levels for certain programs while reinforcing its support for the general goals of improving the nation’s competitive stance.
-- Joanne Carney
In the midst of a landmark Supreme Court decision and release of an international report on the current and projected impacts of climate change, Congress has continued to hold hearings and examine new legislation in an attempt to determine how best to address climate change. Though most of the legislation introduced uses a cap-and-trade program to limit greenhouse gas emissions, the idea of a carbon tax has received renewed attention.
Rep. Peter Stark (D-CA), a long-time supporter of carbon taxes, introduced the “Save Our Climate Act” on April 26. The bill would levy a tax of $10 per ton of carbon content on coal, petroleum and natural gas at the point where they are initially removed from the ground or imported into the United States. The tax will increase by $10 each year, freezing when a mandated report by the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Energy determines that carbon dioxide emissions have decreased by 80 percent from 1990 levels.
Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) brought the issue of a carbon tax to the presidential campaign trail in April. The centerpiece of Dodd’s energy proposal, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050, is a “Corporate Carbon Tax” that would produce $50 billion annually in revenues to fund research, development and production of renewable energy technologies. Dodd said he supports cap-and-trade systems, as do many of the other presidential candidates, but in combination with a tax.
Though economists have touted the efficiency of a carbon tax, few in Congress are willing to support a new tax of any kind. In addition, many environmentalists prefer the certainty on the level of emissions provided by cap and trade. Under such a system, industries are given a limited amount of emissions and must buy credits from other companies if that limit is exceeded.
Businesses, too, appear to favor a cap-and-trade system, though how it should be structured is still under debate. In a February 28 House Ways and Means Committee hearing, Pew Center on Global Climate Change President Eileen Claussen said that many industry representatives prefer a cap-and-trade system because carbon prices are set by the market, in contrast to tax prices set by the government. Leaders from the utility industry – who will be heavily affected by climate change policy – also supported an economy-wide national cap and trade program during a March 20 House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality hearing. Witnesses stressed the need for meaningful timelines that depend on technological availability and recommended that most of the reductions take place down the road. They agreed that a cap-and-trade system should contain a limit on the price of emissions, known as a “safety valve,” a feature opposed by many environmentalists.
Other recommendations for the structure of a cap-and trade program came from hearings by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and House Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality. In these hearings, lessons from existing programs, including the European Trading Scheme for greenhouse gases and the U.S. acid rain program, focused on key themes such as keeping a system simple, transparent, long-term, and accountable. In more specific terms, witnesses discussed the impact of how allowances are distributed, including who receives the permits, whether they are provided by auction or gratis, and how baseline levels are calculated, on the distribution of the cost. Witnesses from both programs also agreed that unrestricted trading and the ability to transfer credits across time periods (“banking” of allowances) cuts down on price volatility.
Those in favor of cap-and-trade programs have several new proposals to consider. Senators Carper (D-DE) and Alexander (R-TN) introduced two similar multi-pollutant bills that deal with emissions from power plants in mid-April. Both bills have similar goals for reducing emissions of mercury, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxide. Though the two Senators had cosponsored a similar bill last session, they disagreed on how to establish baselines for emissions. Carper's bill bases credits on how much energy is produced, while Alexander focuses on the amount of fuel historically put into the power plant.
Carper's bill, the "Clean Air Planning Act of 2007" (CAPA), limits carbon dioxide emissions from power plants to 2006 levels by 2012, to 2001 levels by 2015, and then reduces them 1 percent annually from 2016 to 2019 and 1.5 percent annually starting in 2020. Carper's bill would phase in a system where some pollution credits would be auctioned, with a full move to an auction-based system by 2036. CAPA would provide incentives to bring new clean-coal technologies online. It also allows companies to purchase "offsets" of their emissions from other sectors of the economy, with large projections for agricultural offsets.
Alexander’s “Clean Air/Climate Change Act of 2007” differs in its allocation of permits, with 75 percent of the allowance allocated based on historical emissions and 25 percent sold in an auction. The bill would freeze emissions at the 2006 level starting in 2011 and go down gradually to 1.5 billion metric tons in 2025.
In the House, more than 120 Members joined Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) to introduce H.R. 1590, the “Safe Climate Act of 2007” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. The bill establishes an economy-wide national cap-and-trade system that would effectively freeze greenhouse gas emissions in 2010; cut emissions by roughly 2 percent a year until reaching 1990 levels by 2020; then cut emissions by 5 percent a year after 2020. Proceeds from auctioning of allowances would be dedicated to supporting new energy technology research and development, compensating consumers for increases in energy costs, providing transition assistance for affected workers, and adaptation projects.
Meanwhile, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is examining how the recent Supreme Court decision that the EPA has the authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles will affect the discussions. Committee Chair Boxer (D-CA) made strident efforts in an April 24 hearing to evoke a commitment from the EPA towards enactment of its newly-clarified authority. In a veritable cross-examination of EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson, Sen. Boxer was joined by several Committee members in haranguing the EPA’s slowness to act on emission regulations, while others supported the EPA’s deliberations on a “complex issue” that requires careful, thorough evaluation. Mr. Johnson stated that the EPA has been evaluating the implications of the court ruling since the day it was handed down, and they plan to act upon it “expeditiously but responsibly.”
Witnesses at an April 17 House Science and Technology hearing spoke about the complementary nature of mitigation policies such as those described above and adaptation. The committee heard from six of the authors of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group II report Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability on the challenges posed by climate change to food security, coastal regions, and water resources. Dr. Shardul Agrawala testified that climate policy is not a choice between adaptation and mitigation. He explained, “Even the most stringent mitigation efforts cannot avoid further impacts of climate change in the next few decades, which makes adaptation essential, particularly in addressing near term impacts. On the other hand, unmitigated climate change would, in the long term exceed the capacity of natural, managed, and human systems to adapt.” Therefore, he testified, adaptation to climate change is necessary, but not sufficient.
--- Kasey White, Kim Popendorf, Lina Karaoglanova
Climate Change and National Security
“Climate change poses a serious threat to America's national security” was a key finding of a high-profile report by 11 retired military officers and the subject of congressional hearings, legislation, and international meetings.
The House Select Committee on Global Warming and Energy Independence held its inaugural hearing on April 18 on the geopolitical implications of dependence on foreign oil and climate change. Though some Members of Congress had questioned the establishment of the committee, there was broad bipartisan agreement across committee members that reducing dependence on foreign oil was needed. Former CIA Director James Woolsey testified that steps to address climate change are very similar to those that will alleviate dependence on foreign oil, a sentiment echoed by Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope.
The committee heard from General Gordon Sullivan, who served as chair of the Military Advisory Board, which recently released a report entitled National Security and the Threat of Climate Change. The report found that climate change will act “as a threat multiplier for instability in some of the most volatile regions of the world.” The report highlighted key sources of tension arising from sea level rise and drought, with a corresponding lack of food security and mass migrations. Sullivan called the combination of these threats in areas with weak governments “a petri dish for terror and instability.”
Sullivan reiterated the report’s recommendation for the United States to commit to a stronger role to help stabilize climate change and engage in partnerships to help less developed countries build capacity to address climate impacts. He also recommended that the consequences of climate change be fully integrated into national security and defense strategies and that the Department of Defense adopt innovative energy efficiency technologies.
H.R. 1961, the Global Climate Change Security Oversight Act, introduced the day of the hearing by Committee Chair Ed Markey (D-MA), addressed one of the recommendations of the report: to conduct a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that assesses the security implications of global warming on the United States and its military. This legislation, which is a companion to S. 1018 introduced by Senators Durbin (D-IL) and Hagel (R-NE), would also fund research by the Department of Defense into the consequences of global warming for U.S. military operations.
Climate and security was also the focus of international negotiations that week, as the United Nations Security Council addressed climate change for the first time during its April 17 meeting. Most of the discussion centered on the appropriateness of the venue to address the issue and no official positions were issued.
--- Kasey White
As America nears the 2008 election season, problematic experiences with electronic voting technology from years past are fueling discussions of what needs to be done to improve the country’s voting system. Implementation of electronic voting technology intended to improve voter accessibility has in some cases compromised voter system security and accountability. The Help America Vote Act of 2002 was enacted to alleviate these setbacks and established the bipartisan Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to develop standards for electronic voting and assist state and local officials implement the new technology and standards.
In a House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee hearing on April 18, panelists discussed the costs and benefits of electronic voting technologies such as direct recording electronic (DRE) systems and optical scan systems. While most witnesses agreed that DREs provide an unprecedented level of voter accessibility, they also acknowledged that the systems increase security risks because they do not produce auditable paper trails as do paper ballots and optical scan machines.
Randolph Hite, Director, GAO Information Technology Architecture and Systems, testified that voting systems depend on multiple elements, including technology, all levels of government, and a significant human role. He warned against the assumption that technology alone is responsible for the problem the country’s voting system faces.
A popular legislative solution being pursued on Capitol Hill is to require all voting technologies to produce a paper trail that would lend itself to auditing. Representative Rush Holt’s (D-NJ) bill, Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2007 (H.R. 811), would mandate voter-verified permanent paper ballots. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) and Bill Nelson (D-FL) have also introduced legislation addressing this issue (S.737 and S. 559, respectively) and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) is expected to introduce a related bill as well.
Some state and local officials, however, have expressed serious reservations about implementing what they consider an extensive transformation so close to the next election. Election officials argue that states will not have sufficient time to institute changes required by Congress before the presidential primaries in February. Many are also troubled by the investments that will be lost if relatively new technology is replaced, as well as the significant amount of funds that will be required for new technologies, alterations, and training.
In related news, reports of possible interference and politicization of a research study called the EAC’s bipartisan status into question this month. On April 11, the New York Times reported that the EAC had modified a report conducted by a team of consultants exploring the frequency of voter fraud and intimidation in federal elections.
The original voter fraud and intimidation report commissioned by the EAC, “Voting Fraud and Voter Intimidation,” did not find evidence of rampant voter fraud. The final version released months later by the EAC, “Election Crimes: An Initial Review and Recommendations for Future Study,” suggested that the pervasiveness of voter fraud is still under considerable debate. Congressman Jose Serrano (D-NY), chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee responsible for the EAC budget, said, “I’m concerned if changes were made to the report on voter fraud because of partisan bias rather than impartial analysis. When you read the draft report side-by-side with the final version, it is clear that important conclusions of the experts who wrote the draft report were excluded from the final product…”
The EAC’s actions were also called into question when it decided not to adopt a report about voter identification laws and voter turnout prepared by Rutgers and Ohio State Universities under a $560,000 EAC contract. The EAC cited concerns over the study’s methodology for their decision.
Some Members of Congress have expressed their concern about alleged mismanagement of this taxpayer-funded project. As a preemptive action, Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Chair of the House Administration Subcommittee on Elections, requested all versions of any overdue reports be supplied to her office by April 16. Other Members who have voiced their concerns include Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Representatives Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) and Jose Serrano (D-NY).
The EAC chair has issued a formal request for the Inspector General to conduct an independent study of the commission’s “contracting procedures.” As part of its investigation, the IG is to identify the individuals involved in the editing and collaboration in finalizing the reports including collaborations with “political entities.”
--- Lina Karaoglanova
Several years after the completion of two landmark reports on the oceans, comprehensive ocean policy legislation finally received hearings in the House, but it is not ready to sail through just yet. Though most Members and witnesses supported more coordinated management of the oceans at the March 29 and April 26 Resources Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, and Oceans hearings, many expressed concern about possible negative, unintended consequences of the bill’s provisions.
H.R. 21, the Oceans Conservation, Education, and National Strategy for the 21st Century Act (OCEANS-21), was introduced on the first day of the 110th Congress by Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA) and other members of the House Oceans Caucus. During the March hearing, Admiral James Watkins, chair of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, noted that this is the only bill to establish a national ocean policy. The legislation, which has been introduced several times previously, seeks to establish a National Oceans Adviser for the president and federal advisory bodies on ocean policy, as well as codify a Committee on Ocean Policy and a Council of Advisors on Oceans Policy. The bill calls for improved federal agency coordination of ocean resources, support of regional ocean governance, and establishment of an ocean trust fund. Rep. Farr noted that the bill does not address fisheries or marine mammals, as they are covered by existing legislation.
The bill would also codify the functions of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA): a key recommendation of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy and Pew Oceans Commission. OCEANS-21 creates an Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and makes that person the Administrator of NOAA. It requires NOAA to maintain the National Weather Service; programs to protect, maintain, and restore the health and sustainability of coastal, ocean, and Great Lakes resources; the Office of Education; and a Science Advisory Board. At the hearings, Administration officials noted authorizing NOAA was one of their priorities as well and they planned to deliver legislation on this topic to the Congress soon. Their proposal will join H.R. 250, a bill similar to one that passed the House in the waning days of the 109th Congress reintroduced by Rep. Vern Ehlers (R-MI) early this session.
At the hearing, some witnesses expressed concern about the provisions in OCEANS-21 that would judge federal actions by whether they would “significantly harm” the health of a marine ecosystem or “significantly impede” restoration. They feared this language would make federal agencies vulnerable to lawsuits and add another layer of review that would make it more difficult for scientists to undertake research. Witnesses also questioned possible conflicts between provisions in the bill that establish regional partnerships and the fishery councils that were codified during last year’s reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens fisheries bill.
On the Senate side, the Senate Commerce Committee easily passed a similarly-titled bill, the Ocean and Coastal Exploration and NOAA Act (OCEAN ACT, S.39), by voice vote on February 13. The legislation, sponsored by Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK), is similar to a bill passed by the Senate last year. It authorizes just over $1 billion for ocean exploration, research and mapping over the next decade. Highlights include interdisciplinary ocean voyages to survey little known areas of the marine environment, development of new undersea technologies, and a focus on ocean exploration in deep sea regions, the location of historic shipwrecks and submerged sites, and public education programs. The bill now awaits consideration by the full Senate.
--- Kasey White
As expected, the Senate passed two stem cell bills on April 11. S. 5, the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, is this year’s version of the bill Bush vetoed last year. It passed with a vote of 63-34. S. 5 supporters were hoping to win a symbolic victory by securing a veto-proof majority in the Senate. But even with the three non-voting Democrats—Sens. Christopher Dodd (CN), Mary Landrieu (LA), and Tim Johnson (SD)—the bill would only have 66 Senate supporters, one shy of the two-thirds vote necessary for a veto override. The President has vowed not to budge on his decision to veto the bill.
The prospects for S. 30, an alternate put forth by Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Norm Coleman (R-MN), are brighter. Coleman and Isakson combined their separate bills into a measure, the Hope Offered through Principled and Ethical Stem Cell Research Act or HOPE Act, that would encourage research to create new stem cell lines without destroying human embryos. This research is already eligible for NIH funding and therefore the bill breaks no new ground. If it makes it way through the House, Bush plans to accept this measure, which passes the Senate with a vote of 70-28.
--- Erin Heath
On April 25 the House overwhelmingly passed H.R. 493, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), with a vote of 420-3. Introduced by Reps. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) and Judy Biggert (R-IL), the bill protects personal genetic information held by insurers and employers. It would bar employers from making employee status decisions based on genetic information and prohibit insurers from using genetic information to discriminate against healthy individuals with genetic predispositions to certain diseases. For scientists, public fear of genetic discrimination directly impacts recruitment for research and clinical trials.
In recent sessions, GINA has gotten past the Senate but met its end in the House. This is not surprising as it had to pass through three committees: Education and Labor, Ways and Means, and Energy and Commerce. In the absence of federal regulation, states have moved forward on the issue; 41 states prohibit health insurance discrimination and 34 states protect their citizens in the workplace.
This year House Members were able to forge compromises on issues such as the inclusion of fetuses and embryos in the provisions. Now in the Senate, where it would certainly garner the necessary votes, GINA has hit a snag. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), a medical doctor, has reportedly placed a hold on the bill. Should GINA pass the Senate and land on the President’s desk—an effort 12 years in the making—President Bush has indicated that he would sign the measure into law.
--- Erin Heath and Lina Karaoglanova
Greenhouse Gas Reductions: California Action and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RL33962)
This report outlines California’s actions to reduce greenhouse gases, including the passage of two major climate change statutes establishing a statewide cap on greenhouse gases and limiting coal-generated electricity in the state. The report also discusses the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a coalition of eight northeast and mid-Atlantic states that is creating a cap-and-trade system focused on power plant carbon emissions. RGGI will take effect in January 2009, capping emissions at 121 million metric tons by 2014. Industry leaders have raised concerns about the hurdles they face from this patchwork policy of uncoordinated state actions. The report suggests that lessons learned from RGGI and California endeavors could be useful to Congress if it decided to consider a federally-mandated system of greenhouse gas reductions.
- Polar Bears: Proposed Listing Under the Endangered Species Act (RL33941)
The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has proposed listing polar bears as a threatened species under ESA, acknowledging the increasing threats to their existence. This report examines the debate on the effects of climate change on the species’ population decline. Many scientists agree that the warming of the climate is shrinking the Arctic sea ice on which Polar Bears depend. Nevertheless, the issue is controversial as some argue that listing is premature because there is little evidence to suggest that the Arctic ice will disappear completely and polar bears have survived warming periods in the past.
Climate Change: Financial Risks to Federal and Private Insurers in Coming Decades are Potentially Significant (GAO-07-285)
This report concludes that increased weather-related events, such as flooding and drought, are likely due to climate change. Increased severe and frequent weather patterns in conjunction with population growth in hazard-prone areas can be expected to result in amplified insurance liabilities. The report reveals that private insurers have begun including climate change in their strategic planning, assessing long-term effects on industry profits. In contrast, the GAO found that federal insurance plans have neglected to take climate change into account when creating their strategic analyses. The report suggests that the federal insurance programs should begin incorporating climate change in their strategic planning in order to alleviate possible future fiscal imbalances.
- Elections: All Levels of Government Are Needed to Address Electronic Voting System Challenges (GAO-07-741T)
This report examines America’s voting systems, acknowledging that they are complex processes built on interactions between technologies, people and varying levels of government that require management throughout their life cycles. The report points out a myriad of issues that reduce the security and reliability of electronic voting technologies, including inadequate or vague voting system standards, design flaws, underdeveloped security controls, inadequate testing and management. The report recommends more comprehensive definitions of system standards, more effective integration of people and technology, more careful enforcement of system security rules and improved system performance measurements. The GAO recognizes the diffuse nature of the voting systems in America and recommends that the EAC act as a leader for all levels of government to improve electronic voting systems.
- NASA: Issues Surrounding the Transition from the Space Shuttle to the Next Generation of Human Space Flight Systems (GAO-07-595T)
This report examines NASA’s progress as it attempts to transition from the Space Shuttle program to the Administration’s vision of a new generation of human space flight systems and identifies key obstacles likely to arise during the transition. These obstacles include maintaining a viable workforce, effectively managing systems development, managing the supplier base, continuing to support the International Space Station, adequately managing property and equipment, ensuring adequate environmental remediation and transforming its business and financial systems to serve the new agency goals. While NASA already has many of the necessary systems that will allow the agency to make the transition, the GAO suggests that extra attention be given to oversight and implementation to reduce risks of going over budget and missing target timelines as it has historically been prone to do.
- Legislative Branch: Energy Audits Are Key to Strategy for Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GAO-07-516)
This study examines the legislative branch’s carbon emissions, finding that Congress and its various agencies emitted about 316,000 tons of greenhouse gases in 2006. Emissions in 2006 represent a 4 percent increase from several years prior. The GAO recommends that the branch conduct comprehensive energy audits to assess potential areas where energy efficiency and renewable energy projects can be established. Projects the report recommends include the purchase of energy efficient appliances and fuel efficient or alternative fuel vehicles.
Improved Data Needed on New Businesses to Track Changing Economy (ISBN-13: 978-0-309-10492-0)
This study finds the government’s business data systems are inadequately measuring economic trends in today’s global economy. A failure to properly assess economic trends impedes on policymakers' ability to craft legislation that will encourage technological innovation as well as other advances. The report notes that the federal government has conventionally catalogued statistical data systems based on mature and larger businesses. The study suggests government agencies should collect additional data from a variety of sources on smaller scale and younger businesses, especially those in innovative and fast growing sectors. The report also recommends taking advantage of all data sources and agencies to create a comprehensive interagency business data system.
- Earth Materials and Health: Research Priorities for Earth Science and Public Health
This report suggests that the study of interactions between earth materials and human health has not been a priority for the United States since its peak in the 1960s. The lack of research into this interdisciplinary field has made it difficult for scientists to address a variety of environmental health problems. This study outlines research priorities for this area, focusing on human exposure pathways. The report recommends that research should be conducted to improve our understanding of the sources, transport, bioavailabilty and impact of earth materials. Better understanding of risk-based hazard mitigation under existing and future climates and health risks due to disturbances of terrestrial systems should also be under investigation. The report stresses the role of agency collaboration and synergy in interdisciplinary research.
Council of Graduate Schools
Graduate Education: The Backbone of American Competitiveness and Innovation
This report calls for "increased collaboration between government, higher education, and the business community to strengthen U.S. competitiveness and national security through increased support for graduate education." It outlines specific recommendations for universities, business leaders, and policymakers to implement in order to attract more students from a diverse population to pursue graduate education.
- Department of Energy
The Carbon Sequestration Atlas of the United States and Canada
This report discusses carbon capture and sequestration technologies and the DOE’s Carbon Sequestration Program. The report outlines American and Canadian sources of carbon dioxide as well as potential carbon sinks. It also addresses the National Carbon Sequestration Database and Geographic Information System, an online database system that provides in-depth regional information on carbon dioxide sources and identifies potential carbon sequestration sites.
- National Wildlife Federation and Environmental Defense
America’s Flood Risk is Heating Up
This report identifies flaws in the federal flood-control programs and recommends policy reforms for improvements. The report claims that government flood-control programs inadvertently lead to increased flood damage because they often misdirect funding to inappropriate projects and create incentives for people to settle in flood-prone areas. The report argues that the system’s current insurance rates do not reflect actual risks, which fail to motivate individuals to populate less flood-risky areas.
- AAAS Nuclear Weapons Complex Assessment Committee
The United States Nuclear Weapons Program: The Role of the Reliable Replacement Warhead
This study examines the possible role the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) might play in the future of the United States nuclear weapons program. The authors concluded that most of the anticipated benefits of the proposed Reliable Replacement Warhead program—more easily maintained nuclear weapons with enhanced performance margins, improved safety and security properties, and greater ease of manufacture—would occur in the long term subsequent to modernization of the weapons production complex.
- CNA Corporation
National Security and the Threat of Climate Change
This report by 11 former senior military officers report found that climate change “poses a serious threat to America’s national security” and will act “as a threat multiplier for instability in some of the most volatile regions of the world.” The report recommends that the United States commit to a stronger role to help stabilize climate changes. It also recommended that the national security consequences of climate change be fully integrated into national security and defense strategies.
- AAAS Project on Science and
Intellectual Property in the Public Interest
Effects of Intellectual Property Protections on the Conduct of Scientific Research: A Four-Country Study
This study assesses the experience of scientists and other professionals in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, and Japan in acquiring, using, or creating intellectual property (IP). This study arose out of concerns over the effects of IP protections on the conduct of scientific research and how those effects might differ between national IP regimes.
- Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Working Group II
Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability
This report surveys the scientific literature to produce a consensus report on the state of the science on current and projected impacts of climate change. The report examines impacts on regions and sectors, and evaluates the ability of society to adapt to these changes. Key vulnerabilities include effects on poor populations, particularly from changes in water resources and agriculture, and coastal regions.
AAAS Board Releases Statement on "The Crisis in Earth Observation from Space"
The AAAS Board of Directors released a statement on April 30 that “The network of satellites upon which the United States and the world have relied for indispensable observations of Earth from space is in jeopardy” due to budget constraints and a shift in priorities. AAAS joined the authors of a National Research Council study in calling for the restoration of key NOAA satellites; acceleration of NASA’s current launch schedule to “shrink data gaps;” and support for the 17 highest-priority new Earth-observation missions for the 2010-2020 time period. .
AAAS Supports Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act
AAAS CEO Alan Leshner sent a letter to Members of the Senate, urging support for a bill to expand the current federal policy to permit researchers to gain greater access to new embryonic stem cell lines on April 9, followed several days later by a note thanking supporters for the bill's passage.
MARK YOUR CALENDAR
AAAS Forum on Science and Technology Policy
May 3, 2007 8:00 AM - May 4, 2007 3:30 PM
Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center
1300 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20004
This year's program will include sessions on the budgetary and policy context for research and development in 2008, states' expanding roles in science and technology, building capacity in developing nations, surveillance and privacy, pharmaceutical and biotechnology R&D, and sequestered research. Keynote speakers include John H. Marburger, III, Director, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy; Rear Admiral Jay M. Cohen, USN (Ret.), Under Secretary for Science and Technology, U.S. Department of Homeland Security; and Sherwood Boehlert, Public Policy Scholar, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars; former Chairman, House Committee on Science. For an up-to-date agenda, fees, and online registration materials, please visit the forum website.
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An international team of scientists found a group of rocks in Greenland that formed as the sea floor split apart 3.8 billion years ago, making it the oldest known chunk of the Earth's crust. It is the earliest known remnants of plate tectonics, the large-scale movement of Earth's crust - indicating that this process began shortly after formation of the Earth.
Furnes, Harald, et al., "A Vestige of Earth's Oldest Ophiolite," 23 March 2007, Science, pp. 1704-1707.
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