Programs: Science and Policy
Science and Technology in Congress
On February 4, President Bush released a proposed budget of $3.1 trillion total for fiscal year (FY) 2009, including proposed increases for the three physical sciences agencies in the American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI), increases for human spacecraft development, and flat funding for biomedical research in the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The $145.4 billion request for research and development (R&D) is a $4.6 billion or 3.3 percent increase from the previous year; however, the increases for some agencies mean cuts or flat funding for other agencies that comprise the federal R&D portfolio.
The ACI would once again be the big winner among domestic programs. The National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST) laboratories, and the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Science would collectively receive $12.2 billion in the 2009 budget, a 15 percent increase over this year.
NSF’s budget of $6.9 billion would be a 14 percent increase, with increases approaching 20 percent for the Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS), engineering and computer science directorates and smaller increases for non-physical sciences directorates. DOE’s Office of Science request for $4.7 billion would be a 19 percent increase restoring funding for the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), physics, and other basic research projects hard hit by the FY 2008 final appropriation. And the NIST labs would receive a large increase, though at the cost of a proposal to eliminate the Technology Innovation Program and the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership.
In a surprising development, the Department of Defense (DOD) requests a 4 percent increase in its basic research (“6.1” account) portfolio to $1.7 billion, a 16 percent boost if earmarks in the 2008 base are excluded. DOD weapons systems development would increase dramatically by $4.5 billion or 6.9 percent to a new high of $69.0 billion, but once again there would be steep cuts in DOD’s S&T (DOD “6.1” through “6.3” plus medical research) programs because of the proposed elimination of earmarks. DOD S&T would plummet 11.7 percent to $11.7 billion, but would increase 5.6 percent if 2008 earmarks are excluded.
Nondefense R&D would increase 2.7 percent to $60.9 billion, well ahead of the 2.0 percent expected inflation rate. The increase is due to boosts for the ACI agencies and space vehicles development at NASA which helped to offset requested cuts to earmarks and other smaller nondefense R&D programs and flat funding for NIH R&D. Laying aside the ACI/space programs, the nondefense portfolio continues to be flat or declining since peaking in 2004.
Total federal support of research (basic and applied) would fall 0.5 percent or $282 million to $57.1 billion, even after taking into account the large proposed increases for physical sciences and related research in NSF, DOE, and NIST. Removing 2008 congressional earmarks from the new budget request ($1.1 billion in research earmarks for DOD alone) accounts for the cut.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) would receive exactly the same amount ($29.5 billion) in 2009 as in 2008; nearly all of NIH’s institutes and centers would also get the same budgets as this year. A number of biomedical research advocacy organizations have already decried the 2009 proposal for leaving NIH 13 percent below the 2004 funding level after adjusting for biomedical research inflation. The number of new grants, the average real size of a grant, and the expected success rate for grant competitions are all expected to fall in 2009.
NASA R&D would increase to fund the development and construction of new human spacecraft. NASA R&D, in preliminary figures, would gain 2.9 percent to $10.7 billion, but the entire increase and more would go to two big projects: finishing the International Space Station and developing the Crew Launch Vehicle and Crew Exploration Vehicle combination. As a result, NASA support of research in the physical sciences, environmental sciences, aeronautics, and other disciplines would fall once again.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) would decline 1 percent even when $369 million in 2008 R&D earmarks are not counted, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) R&D and U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) R&D also would fall 1 percent and 7 percent, respectively, because of proposed program cuts. Within the Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) R&D would fall slightly to $582 million, but after taking out 2008 earmarks the 2009 increase for core NOAA research programs would be 8 percent.
Federal homeland security-related R&D would gain 10.2 percent to $5.5 billion in FY 2009, a gain of $512 million reflecting a budget proposal that favors defense spending and homeland security over most other domestic priorities. The majority of the multi-agency portfolio remains outside the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), with the largest part in NIH for its biodefense research portfolio. NIH’s portfolio, mostly in the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), would total $1.9 billion in FY 2008 (up 1.0 percent). The largest domestic increase would be a $250 million allocation (more than double the $102 million this year) in the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) for R&D on biomedical countermeasures.
President Bush’s FY 2009 budget now goes to Congress where the R&D requests will go through the appropriations process. Democratic appropriators have reorganized appropriations jurisdictions into 12 bills, 10 of which fund some R&D. As in the past, 95 percent of the federal R&D portfolio will be appropriated through 4 appropriations bills.
-- Kei KoizumiBACK TO TOP
After much coaxing, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finally delivered a decision late December on whether it would approve a waiver to California to allow the state to regulate vehicle greenhouse gas emissions. EPA’s Administrator, Stephen L. Johnson, declared that the agency would not grant California the waiver because the state had not proven the “existence of compelling and extraordinary conditions” for enforcing restrictions other than those stipulated by the Clean Air Act.
Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chair of the Senate’s Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, held an oversight hearing in response to the December 19 decision. Many Democrats have suggested that EPA’s decision was not based on the scientific or legal recommendation made to the Administrator within his own agency. Chairwoman Boxer also introduced legislation (S. 2555) that day instructing the EPA to grant California the waiver. Twenty-one Senators have cosponsored the bill, including the two democratic presidential frontrunners, Senators Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Barack Obama (D-IL).
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) has also been actively investigating the agency’s decision. He sent letters to the EPA pressing it to release various documents related to the waiver decision, including key presentation slides made to the Administrator by his staff, which the agency has delayed doing. In response to the continuing delay, Waxman issued a subpoena on February 8 forcing the EPA to deliver the requested documentation.
Meanwhile, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and governors of 13 other states --Arizona, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington--sent a letter to the agency suggesting that its decision was “without merit.” These states have considered implementing the California standards once the waiver is granted. On January 3, California announced that it would sue the EPA to reverse the decision and was joined by 15 other states along with several environmental organizations.
-- Lina Karaoglanova and Alexis Walker
A race to the finish line between two Department of Interior agencies finally ended on February 2 with an announcement from the Minerals Management Service (MMS) stating that it would proceed with the sales of leases for oil drilling in the Chukchi Sea, off the northern coast of Alaska starting on February 6. The announcement came in spite of appeals by Members of Congress and wildlife advocates to allow the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to determine whether to protect polar bears under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) before the MMS leasing decision. Naming the polar bear an endangered species would have required additional consultations on the impacts of the leases on polar bears and their habitat in order to proceed with the lease sales.
A final FWS decision on whether the polar bear is endangered was scheduled to be issued in January, but was postponed by Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, who noted that the agency had not been able to process all the related public comments that were submitted.
Congress held two hearings this month and introduced legislation to address scheduling of the two decisions. House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming Chairman Edward Markey (D-MA) held a hearing on January 17. The hearing explored Interior’s postponement decision and its plans to start selling leases for oil drilling in key polar bear habitats. The directors of FWS and MMS testified in front of the committee, both defending their agency’s decisions and noting that the sale of the leases is not likely to significantly endanger polar bears or their habitats. Chairman Markey introduced legislation (HR 5058) at the hearing that would bar the Department from selling leases until after FWS has made a final determination on the polar bear listing.
Less than two weeks later Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer also held a hearing to address this topic, bringing the FWS director back to Capitol Hill to defend his agency’s decision. FWS Director Dale Hall noted that the ESA stipulates that the agency must first prove “proximal cause” between polar bear population decline and a specific source before acting.
Despite various arguments against the lease sales and strong urging from Congress for a final decision on the polar bear status, the Department of Interior announced that it would not wait for the FWS decision before commencing with the lease sales on February 6. Chairman Markey, whose legislation barring lease sales has not had sufficient time to make it through Congress, sent a letter to Secretary Kempthorne urging him to delay.
Other groups are also weighing in. The Department is currently being sued by an alliance of environmental activists and Alaskan Native groups for not adequately investigating the environmental consequences of the lease sales.
-- Lina Karaoglanova and Alexis Walker
At the start of a new year, lawmakers continue to seek changes in the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and its role in protecting the nation’s food and drug supply.
On the heels of multiple reports detailing the cash-strapped agency’s difficulties in overseeing food and drug safety (described in our November 2007 issue) has come yet another report, this one from a panel formed by the FDA’s science advisory board.
The report, “FDA Science and Mission at Risk,” concludes that FDA budget woes have left the agency to fall behind not only on the growing amount of tasks under its purview but also on advances in research and technology. It says the agency’s “inability to keep up with scientific advances means that American lives are at risk.”
It also pointed out that over the past two decades, Congress passed 125 laws increasing FDA’s workload; meanwhile, funding dropped back $300 million when accounting for inflation.
Twenty-three Senators from both sides of the aisle responded by asking the President to request a significant boost in the FDA’s food safety budget. They pointed out that although FDA is responsible for 80 percent of the food supply, it receives almost half of the amount of money given to the USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service, which is responsible for the other 20 percent.
Despite the slew of bad press and congressional attention for FDA, the President’s FY 2009 budget request would provide the agency with a bump of $42 million in its food safety budget to bring the total to $662 million. The science board report, in contrast, stated that even a boost of $250 million, a number touted by an FDA support coalition, “may not be sufficient.”
Four House Energy and Commerce members who have been active on the FDA front—Chairman John D. Dingell (D-MI), Bart Stupak (D-MI), who leads the oversight and investigations subcommittee, Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ), who chairs the health panel, and Henry Waxman (D-CA), who chairs the Oversight and Government Reform Committee—called the funding request “grossly inadequate.” They requested an assessment on the FDA’s funding needs from members of the same science advisory board group that issued the recent safety report.
Waxman and Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Chairman Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) had also asked the GAO to investigate the agency’s resource requirements before the White House put out its FY09 request.
“In recent years, its annual budget requests have not covered its own needs, its annual appropriations have not kept pace with inflation, and the agency has become increasingly dependent on user fees,” they wrote. (Drug companies pay user fees to support the FDA review process.)
One proposal reportedly being examined by Kennedy would employ registration fees for food companies as a way to beef up the agency’s budget.
FDA watchers in Congress did find something to smile about recently when the agency announced it was reversing a previous recommendation to close seven of its 13 food and drug inspection labs, an idea that fell under harsh rebuke from House Energy and Commerce leaders.
Lawmakers are also continuing to focus on passing a bill that would allow FDA to approve generic versions of biologic drugs. Biologics are complex drugs that are derived from natural sources (see July 2007 issue for more information).
Under a compromise forged by members of Congress last year, pharmaceutical companies would get 12 years of exclusivity on biologics before the drugs could enter the generic marketplace; that number continues to be in dispute by various special interests. The language passed the Senate HELP Committee but failed to make it into a must-pass FDA reauthorization package in September and then was shelved amid the demands of completing the appropriations process.
Now House Energy and Commerce members Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA) and Joe Barton (R-TX), the ranking Republican, have stated that they plan to introduce their own bill shortly; like the Senate bill it would include a 12-year exclusivity period. Health Subcommittee leaders Pallone and Nathan Deal (R-GA) also have their eye on the issue.
On January 28, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) launched the Nanoscale Materials Stewardship Program (NMSP). The program will be implemented under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to improve the agency’s understanding of existing nanoscale materials in the economy in the hopes that this information will lead to appropriate regulations in the future.
This unveiling comes six months after the agency submitted the program proposal and nanotechnology concept paper for public comment in 2007. The most contentious issue among stakeholders has been that the EPA does not plan to categorize nano-sized substances as new if their chemical structure is the same as existing, larger chemicals.
During the public comment period in 2007, the Agency received numerous statements of concern in regards to this policy. Many public health and environmental advocates claim that size does matter when considering toxicity of these new materials and that EPA’s approach will reduce the effectiveness of regulating and enforcing under TSCA. Despite these objections, the agency’s announcement of the NMSP shows no change in the categorization policy.
The EPA is currently calling on companies that work with nanotechnology to voluntarily participate in both the basic program and the in-depth program, which require different degrees of data submission to the EPA. The basic data program will collect data on material characterization, hazard, use, potential exposures, and risk management practices. The in-depth program will focus on data development efforts by participating firms through testing nanoscale materials.
-- Lina Karaoglanova
Regulation of Vehicle Greenhouse Gas Emissions: State and Federal Standards (RS22788)
Subsequent to denying California a waiver needed to enact state standards for greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from passenger vehicles (for more information see “EPA Denies California Waiver” above), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Johnson has claimed that the new federal fuel economy (CAFE) standards established in the 2007 energy bill will be more stringent than the California program. This CRS report compares the federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, including tighter standards enacted under the 2007 energy bill, with the greenhouse gas emission standards under California's law. Some opponents have argued that a GHG emission standard will largely be carried out through fuel economy and as such the California program amounts to a fuel economy standard in effect. Assuming California’s estimates on the fuel economy resulting from its GHG program (since the EPA has not released a technical analysis), the CRS report finds that they would exceed the stringency of the CAFE standards.
Pipelines for Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Control: Network Needs and Cost Uncertainties (RL34316)
This report investigates the requirements for CO2 pipelines associated with deployment of carbon capture and sequestration facilities. The authors contrast hypothetical pipeline scenarios for eleven major coal-fired power plants in the Midwest Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership region and use the scenarios to illustrate how different assumptions about sequestration site viability can lead to a twenty-fold difference in CO2 pipeline lengths, and thus similarly large cost differences. The report also covers some of the ramifications of longer pipelines, such as increased energy cost in areas poor in sequestration sites and increased complexity in identifying, permitting, developing, and monitoring large numbers of localized sequestration sites proposed to avoid transportation costs.
The USDA's Authority to Recall Meat and Poultry Products (RL34313)
This report provides an overview of the authority of the United States Department of Agriculture (UDSA) to regulate meat, poultry, and their products and discusses the requirements of USDA inspections and import regulations along with the USDA's role in product recalls. It addresses issues related to possible changes in recall authority and reviews proposed legislation regarding the role of the USDA in the recall process.
Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007: A Summary of Major Provisions (RL34294)
This report describes the key provisions of the enacted Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, summarizes the legislative action on the original bill (H.R. 6), and provides a summary of the provisions under each of the titles in the law. The Corporate Average Fuel Economy, Renewable Fuel Standard, Energy Efficiency Equipment Standard, and the Repeal of Oil and Gas Tax Incentives are some of the most significant provisions of the bill.
Comparison of the House and Senate 2007 Farm Bills (RL34228)
This report compares the major provisions in the House and Senate versions of the farm bill with each other and with current law. The bills include changes to commodity support and risk management policies and programs (such as direct payments, payment limits, revenue and counter-cyclical payments, crop insurance and disaster assistance, planting flexibility, and specialty crops), as well as provisions affecting conservation, bioenergy, rural development, forestry, agricultural research, competition, trade and food aid, agriculture credit, and domestic food programs and nutrition. Both the House and Senate bills also contain provisions that would make certain changes to tax laws, which are intended to offset new spending initiatives in the bill.
The DHS Directorate of Science and Technology: Key Issues for Congress (RL34356)
The Directorate of Science and Technology, the primary organization for research and development (R&D) in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), has received a great deal of criticism from Congress over the last several years. Some management changes have been made and this report describes the evolving nature of the Directorate, specifically in its mission, organization, activities. The report outlines significant remaining policy concerns, including the balance of the directorate’s programs, its priorities and how they are set, its relationships with other R&D organizations, its budgeting and financial management, its mission, its responsiveness to industry and Congress, and the establishment of metrics and goals for evaluating the directorate’s output.
Engineered Nanoscale Materials and Derivative Products: Regulatory Challenges (RL34332)
This report considers challenges in identifying the environmental, human health, and safety risks of nanoscale materials. Challenges include the wide variety of nanomaterials and applications; the lack of basic information about their properties; the lack of conventions for naming, the measurment and identification of nanomaterials; the proprietary nature of critical information; and a possible lack of clear statutory authority or appropriate regulatory framework to respond to risks. The report also identifies possible approaches for dealing with these challenges, such as increasing funding for workshops in standardization; changing the allocation of research funding among agencies or the interagency research management structure; adopting a national or international research strategy; requiring information collection; and restricting production, sale, use, or disposal of nanomaterials.
Efforts Under Way to Address Constraints on Using Antivirals and Vaccines to Forestall a Pandemic (GAO-08-92)
Antivirals and vaccines are major components of the international strategy to forestall an influenza pandemic, but GAO reports that these tactics may be constrained by uncertain effectiveness and limited availability. Antivirals will not be effective if they are used more than forty-eight hours after the onset of symptoms or if resistant strains emerge. Surveillance systems thus need to be improved to ensure that antivirals are administered in time and new antivirals are being developed to avoid problems of resistance. Vaccines are limited by the time it would take to identify the virus and develop and manufacture a vaccine in the case of an influenza pandemic—twenty to twenty-three weeks as estimated by Health and Human Services (HHS). Pre-pandemic vaccines are being developed, but not knowing what strain will cause the pandemic means that we do not know if these vaccines will be effective. Additionally, availability of antivirals and vaccines is a major issue, and may be limited by production, distribution, and administration capacity.
Increasing Globalization of Petroleum Products Markets, Tightening Refining Demand and Supply Balance, and Other Trends Have Implications for U.S. Energy Supply, Prices, and Price Volatility (GAO-08-14)
GAO has identified several problem areas for functioning of petroleum product markets. The report finds that higher and more volatile prices result from both the recent decrease in global refining capacity excesses as well as decreased U.S. inventory of petroleum products and crude oil. The report finds that petroleum markets can also suffer from plans to expand the use of biofuels blended with petroleum products because blending different levels of biofuels requires changes to petroleum blending stocks, thus decreasing their fungibility. Additionally, the report authors find the oversight of petroleum infrastructure construction problematic, as the permitting and siting process can involve as many as eleven federal agencies and a host of state and local entities. GAO has recommended that the Secretaries of Transportation and Energy coordinate with other agencies to encourage more uniform biofuel and petroleum product blending practices, conduct a study of infrastructure system adequacy, and evaluate the assignment of a lead agency to coordinate permitting of infrastructure construction.
DOE Needs to Reassess Its Program to Assist Weapons Scientists in Russia and Other Countries (GAO-08-434T)
GAO finds that the Department of Energy (DOE) has overstated the accomplishments of the Initiatives for Proliferation Prevention (IPP) program and faults the agency for not developing an exit strategy for the program. GAO recommends that DOE conduct a fundamental reassessment of the IPP, including development of a prioritization plan and exit strategy. The report authors also find that the program regularly carries over unspent funds due to lengthy review processes for paying the former Soviet weapons specialists as well as delays in implementing some IPP programs.
- DOE Has Made Important Progress and Involved Stakeholders but Needs to Update What It Expects to Achieve by Its 2015 Target (GAO-08-305)
This report covers GAO’s examination of the Hydrogen Fuel Initiative, specifically the extent to which the Department of Energy (DOE) has (1) made progress in meeting the initiative's targets, (2) worked with industry to set and meet targets, and (3) worked with other federal agencies to develop and demonstrate hydrogen technologies. The report finds that DOE has made important progress in all research and development (R&D) areas, including reducing the cost of producing hydrogen from natural gas, developing a sophisticated model to identify and optimize major elements of a projected hydrogen delivery infrastructure, increasing by 50 percent the storage capacity of hydrogen, and reducing the cost and improving the durability of fuel cells. However, the report also finds that due to technical challenges as well as hydrogen R&D budget constraints, DOE has had to push back some of its interim target dates, but it has not updated its 2006 Hydrogen Posture Plan to take into account how these changes might affect the technology readiness goals for 2015. While the report finds that DOE has worked effectively with industry as well as hydrogen R&D managers and scientists in other federal agencies, it suggests that it is too early to evaluate collaboration among senior officials at the policy level.
Science, Evolution and Creationism (ISBN-10: 0-309-10586-2)
This report first delves into the question of why evolution is important, noting that it is the foundation of modern biology and emphasizing advances in agricultural, medical, and environmental research that have been made based on evolutionary science. The report covers how tools used by scientists to improve crops as well as fight new infectious diseases have come from understandings of evolution. The report also discusses the very process of science and what distinguishes it from other ways of understanding the world. It documents the overwhelming evidence in support of biological evolution and addresses the scientific flaws of creationism and intelligent design. The report argues that science and religion address separate aspects of human experience and should not been seen as in conflict with one another. It stresses, however, that religious world-views should not be taught in science classrooms because it will confuse students about the processes, nature, and limits of science.
Knowing What Works in Health Care: A Roadmap for the Nation (ISBN-10: 0-309-11352-0)
This Institute of Medicine report notes the difficulty even for specialists in assessing health care options such as which diagnostic, treatment and prevention services work under what conditions. It recommends that Congress establish a single national assessment program to facilitate the development of standards and processes for credible, unbiased, and understandable syntheses of available evidence on clinical effectiveness. The report focuses on (1) setting priorities for evidence assessment, (2) assessing evidence through systematic review, and (3) developing evidence-based clinical practice guidelines. It notes that a national program as laid out in the report would reduce duplication of assessments and ensure that the most important topics are reviewed, while also ensuring the quality of those reviews and aiding in their proper use for clinical practice guideline development.
Review of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program's Synthesis and Assessment Product 1.3: Reanalyses of Historical Climate Data for Key Atmospheric Features: Implications for Attribution of Causes of Observed Change
The U.S. Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) is producing a series of synthesis and assessment products that address its highest priority research, observation, and decision-support needs. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the lead agency on this particular assessment product, requested that the National Research Council (NRC) conduct an independent review of the draft SAP 1.3. The NRC report finds the draft extremely useful in understanding the present level of scientific confidence and remaining uncertainties, but faults the authors for addressing an expert audience when its own prospectus identified the need to address a broader spectrum of stakeholders. The report also states that SAP 1.3 needs to better link reanalysis and attribution and should include a general description of how climate science is done and how the models, observations, and theories are related to reanalysis.
Center For American Progress
Geneticizing Disease: Implications for Racial Health Disparities
This report warns against oversimplifying the causation of disease by pin-pointing genetics alone, noting the significance of socio-economic factors in health. The authors focus on specific risks arising when race is used in investigating the basis of disease. They suggest that this may skew research by placing individuals into socially constructed, government-defined racial categories and it may contribute to the reemergence of scientific racism through an emphasis on linking genes to disease and race. The report stresses that health policy-makers must be aware that focusing on genetics alone risks shifting resources away from improving social determinants that contribute to health disparities.
Center for Strategic and International Studies, World Resources Institute
Managing the Transition to a Secure, Low-Carbon Energy Future
This report investigates the links between energy security and climate change. It identifies challenges created by the evolving and interconnected definitions and goals of the two, the variables contributing to an uncertain future, and the trade-offs and unintended consequences involved in addressing both issues. The report attempts to find a workable strategy for balancing these concerns as well as a pathway to following through with that strategy. As such, it focuses on suggestions for devising energy and climate policies that are both effective and politically viable.
Advisory Committee on Measuring Innovation in the 21st Century Economy
Innovation Measurement: Tracking the State of Innovation in the American Economy
This report was presented to the Secretary of Commerce by the Advisory Committee on Measuring Innovation in the 21st Century Economy. It suggests that the first step to improving US competitiveness is to develop the statistical capabilities to accurately measure innovation in the economy and then address areas where innovation is lacking or weak. Recommendations include: improved statistical capabilities that can better measure human capital, improved interagency data sharing, and improved leveraging of existing data. The report also suggests establishing a national innovation index that would track innovation growth in the future.
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AAAS Launches Online Resource for Science and Technology in the 2008 Election
AAAS, in partnership with the Association of American Universities and the Richard Lounsbery Foundation, has started a new Web site devoted to science and technology issues in the 2008 presidential campaign. The site features the candidates' positions on the major science and technology issues; relevant news stories and published commentaries; survey information; white papers and other reports from policy organizations; election calendars; and a listserv for individuals interested in receiving updates on science, technology, and the election.
AAAS Leadership Decries Intimidation of Scientists Who Use Animals in Research
In response to an attack by animal rights extremists who reportedly placed an incendiary device against the front door of a California researcher who uses animals in her research, AAAS reaffirmed a 29 November 2007 statement by its Board of Directors, decrying such tactics. The statement notes biomedical research is performed under strict federal, state, and institutional standards designed to ensure the humane treatment of research animals. If intimidation drives scientists from their valuable efforts and discourages young scientists from pursuing fields of inquiry that require the use of animals, medical progress will be seriously impeded."
MARK YOU CALENDAR
AAAS Annual Meeting 2008 Nears
The AAAS Annual Meeting will take place in Boston this year from February 14th to the 18th. Participants will have a chance to attend more than 150 symposia as well as plenary and topical lectures and a variety of special events. Topics will range from communicating science and technology to global health challenges.
Two key studies in Science this month raise concerns about large biofuel mandates that encourage biofuel production. The studies find that biofuel production dramatically increases CO2 emissions worldwide, as farmers attempt to take advantage of the rising demand for ethanol. Biofuels are a potential low-carbon energy source, but whether biofuels offer carbon savings depends on how they are produced.
Searchinger, T, et al., "Use of U.S. Croplands for Biofuels Increases Greenhouse Gases Through Emissions from Land Use Change," Published online February 7 2008; 10.1126/science.1151861 (Science Express Reports)
Published online February 7 2008; 10.1126/science.1152747 (Science Express Reports)