Programs: Science and Policy
Science and Technology in Congress
After several weeks of delay while leaders worked to gain enough votes, the House Energy and Commerce Committee passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act (H.R. 2454) by a 33-25 vote on May 21. Despite four long days of mark up of more than 90 amendments, the bill remained predominately similar to a consensus version released by Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Energy and Environment Subcommittee Chair Ed Markey (D-MA) on May 15.
The bill contains several changes from an earlier draft (See April STC Newsletter), notably reducing the greenhouse gas emissions goal in 2020 from 20 to 17 percent below 2005 levels and lowering a renewable electricity standard from 25 percent in 2025 to 20 percent, with a quarter of that total allowable from increased efficiency measures. The bill keeps the general structure of a cap-and-trade program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 83% in 2050.
Details on how emission allowances and revenues would be distributed were eagerly awaited, and the plan reflects compromises made to gain the support of key Democrats on the committee and address concerns about the effect of the bill on the economy. In the beginning, most allowances will be given to industry, with utilities receiving 35 percent of the free permits and trade-vulnerable industries such as steel, cement and glass receiving 15 percent. Other allowances will go to states; energy efficiency and clean energy programs, including Clean Energy Innovation Centers at research institutes; domestic and international adaptation efforts; and programs to prevent deforestation. Initially, 15 percent of the allowances will be auctioned and the revenue will be distributed to low and moderate-income households. Over time, the amount of permits auctioned will increase.
Among the amendments approved by the committee was a measure by Chairman Emeritus John Dingell (D-MI) to create a Clean Energy Deployment Administration within the Department of Energy to oversee loan guarantees for companies to deploy energy technologies, including advanced nuclear plants. The committee also agreed to an amendment by Rep. Betty Sutton (D-OH) providing vouchers for consumers who trade in vehicles for more fuel-efficient models. This "cash for clunkers" provision may also move as a separate bill.
The committee rejected on a party-line vote an amendment by Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) to have the bill cease to take effect if China and India do not adopt at least equally stringent greenhouse gas emissions standards within a year. However, the committee approved a measure by Rep. John Shadegg (R-AZ) requiring an annual report to Congress detailing if China and India have adopted greenhouse gas emission standards similar to those in the bill.
Eight other committees, notably Ways and Means and Agriculture, have claimed jurisdiction over the measure, making it difficult for the bill to swiftly move to the House floor. Nonetheless, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) has stated he expects the bill to be on the floor before the Independence Day recess.
-- Kasey White
On April 17 NIH released its draft guidelines on federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research, just over a month after President Obama signed an executive order expanding federal support for the research (see STC March 2009).
According to the guidelines, NIH would permit funding for research on stem cells derived from donated embryos leftover from fertility treatments, provided that certain conditions are met, such as the voluntary informed consent of donors. Because provisions in annual appropriations bills prevent NIH from funding the destruction or creation of embryos, the actual derivation of the cells must be done in the private sector. NIH would continue to fund research on adult stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells, which are adult cells that have been directed by scientists to take on properties of embryonic stem cells. Unlike adult stem cells, embryonic stem cells can become virtually any cell in the body.
However, NIH does not plan to fund research on embryos created specifically for research or on stem cells derived by research cloning techniques or by parthenogenesis (a method that uses unfertilized egg cells). Acting Director Raynard Kington justified the approach by stating that the method approved by NIH has broad public support.
Scientists appeared to be divided in their opinions of the new rules, with some applauding the guidelines as a step forward and others disappointed that they did not allow funding for enough types of research. Obama's executive order mandates that NIH periodically revisit the guidelines.
The guidelines also would require strict informed consent provisions that appear to be modeled largely on the NIH guidelines from 2000 and guidelines devised by the National Academies in 2005. Donors cannot receive money or other incentives for their embryos, and the decision to donate must be free of influence of researchers and separate from the decision to seek fertility treatments. Researchers and their institutions must provide documentation for several requirements, including that the donor was aware of all options for use of the embryos, that the donor understood what would occur to the embryos in research, and that the donor was not able to direct use of the stem cells to any particular individual's medical care.
Though virtually all science organizations recognize the importance of informed consent rules, the fact that the specific requirements for the documentation of informed consent have changed over the years has made many groups nervous about the eligibility of stem cell lines employed in ongoing studies. AAAS, the International Society for Stem Cell Research and other groups have asked NIH to "grandfather in" stem cell lines that met the ethical requirements in place at the time of their derivation, including the lines that were eligible for funding under the Bush Administration policy.
NIH accepted public comments until May 26 and plans to finalize the guidelines this summer. Once the guidelines are in place, the agency can begin to fund new embryonic stem cell research proposals.
-- Erin Heath
Several months after releasing a broad budget outline, the Obama Administration released the full FY 2010 budget request and analytical perspectives on May 11. According to analysis by the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), the Administration's budget request for R&D in FY 2010 would total $147.6 billion, an increase of 0.4 percent compared to the FY 2009 estimate, excluding stimulus funding in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Overall, non-defense R&D would increase 3.6 percent for a total of $63.9 billion, whereas defense R&D would decline 2 percent to $83.8 billion. Funding for basic research would increase 3.4 percent to $30.9 billion in FY 2010 while applied research would decrease 2.2 percent for a total request of $28.139 billion.
Agencies slated for significant R&D increases above the FY 2009 estimate (not including ARRA funds) include NASA (with $11.4 billion of R&D requested, a 10 percent increase); National Science Foundation ($5.3 billion of R&D requested, a 9.4 percent increase); National Institute of Standards and Technology ($637 million of R&D requested, a 15.8 percent increase); and Department of Education ($384 million of R&D requested, a 18.9 percent increase). Agencies that would receive cuts to their R&D portfolio include the Department of Defense ($79.7 billion, a 2.4 percent decrease), USDA ($2.3 billion, a 6.32 percent decrease), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ($644 million, an 8 percent decrease).
Cross cutting initiatives include the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI), which would receive $1.6 billion, a decline of about 1 percent, after receiving $140 million in Recovery Act funding. Networking and Information Technology R&D (NITRD) would see a 1.1 percent bump to a total of $3.9 billion for FY 2010. The Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) would receive $2.0 billion for FY 2010, an increase of $46 million over FY 2009, slightly more than 2 percent.
National Science Foundation (NSF). NSF's would receive another significant increase in FY 2010, growing 8.5 percent to $7.1 billion. Of that amount $5.3 billion would go towards R&D programs, a $455 million (9.4 percent) increase above the current year estimate. NSF’s Research and Related Activities (R&RA) programs would grow 10.6 percent for a total of $5.7 billion. All R&RA Directorates would receive increases between 6.7 percent (U.S. Arctic Research) to 12.6 percent (Geosciences). The Education and Human Resources (EHR) program would grow 1.5 percent to a total of $858 million. A priority for the Obama Administration in the NSF budget request is to triple the number of NSF Graduate Research Fellowships (GRF) by FY 2013, hence GRF would grow 6 percent to $122 million in the FY 2010 request.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The total NASA budget would increase by $904 million, or 5 percent, to $18.7 billion. The R&D share is $11.4 billion (a 10 percent increase), although the Science Directorate would see a cut of $26 million (-0.6 percent) in FY 2010 for a total budget of $4.5 billion. The Aeronautics Directorate, meanwhile, would receive a modest increase of $7 million (1.4%) above the current year, growing to $500 million. Overall, the Exploration Directorate would receive a $458 million increase (13 percent) to almost $4 billion, almost all of which goes toward the Constellation Systems program. NASA plans to submit an updated budget request for the directorate later this summer after completion of a panel review of NASA's human space flight activities.
Department of Energy (DOE). In its budget proposal for FY 2010, DOE's R&D portfolio ($10.74 billion) would receive slightly more than 40 percent of the overall DOE budget, in comparison to a 32 percent share of the total DOE budget in FY 2009.
The Office of Science would receive $4.9 billion, which represents an increase of 3.5 percent. All major areas of research at the Office of Science would see increases, with the largest changes in Advanced Scientific Computing Research ($409 million, an 11 percent increase) Nuclear Physics ($552 million, a 7.8 percent increase) and basic energy sciences ($1.7 billion, a 7.2 percent increase). Meanwhile, the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) would receive $10 million for FY 2010, after receiving $400 million from the ARRA and $15 million in the final FY 2009 omnibus appropriations.
DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) would see a substantial increase in its funding for R&D, increasing by $570 million to a total of just over $2 billion, a 39.4 percent increase over the 2009 enacted level. The only programs at EERE that would see decreases in funding for 2010 are water power, with a 25 percent drop to $30 million, and research on hydrogen fuel technology, which will not be funded for 2010.
Fossil energy programs would see a 29.5 percent cut from 2009 levels for a total request of $618 million. The cut comes on the heels of a significant boost of $3.4 billion to fossil energy R&D in the ARRA. Nuclear energy R&D would also receive a large cut in funding, nearly 22 percent from the enacted 2009 level for a total request of $403 million. The budget would also eliminate all funding for the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository and redirect funding for the repository program to studying alternatives to the Yucca Mountain site.
National Institutes of Health (NIH). The total budget request for NIH is almost $31 billion, of which $30.2 is slated for intramural and extramural R&D, a 1.5 percent increase over the FY 2009 enacted level. A key priority of the Administration is a proposal to double funding for cancer research over eight years. The FY 2010 budget request includes a 6 percent increase for cancer research over the FY 2009 level to reach $6 billion. However, this increase in funding is institute-wide and not limited to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), which would see an increase of $181 million to $5.2 billion, a change of 3.6 percent. Another Administration priority is research into the causes and treatments for autism spectrum disorders, which would receive $141 million for FY 2010 as part of a $211 million initiative across the entire Department of Health and Human Services. The NIH Common Fund, which provides financial resources for projects involving more than one institute at NIH on crosscutting and other interdisciplinary work, would see a 1.5 percent bump in funding for FY 2010 for a total of $549 million. The largest single increase within the Common Fund is for high-risk research, or what NIH refers to as "Transformative R01s," which would receive a 23 percent boost to $190 million.
Cuts in funding would be few and limited mostly to the Office of the Director, which would see about 5 percent less funding for 2010. The largest cuts are for the Re-engineering the Clinical Research Enterprise initiative, which would drop nearly 50 percent to $42.5 million, and the Molecular Libraries and Imaging programs, which would drop 4.2 percent to $107 million.
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). At NIST, the FY 2010 budget request would boost overall funding by slightly more than $27 million for a total of $846 million, a 3.3 percent increase over the FY 2009 enacted level. The core programs at NIST, which include Scientific and Technical Research and Services and Construction of Research Facilities, would receive a 15 percent increase to $652 million with congressional projects excluded. The Industrial Technology Services (ITS) programs would see an 11 percent boost to just under $195 million. Within ITS, the Technology Innovation Program would receive a 7.5 percent increase for a total of almost $70 million, and the Manufacturing Extension Partnership program would receive almost $125 million, a 13 percent increase.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NOAA's FY 2010 request is $4.484 billion, a 2.5 percent increase over the current year level, with the bulk of the increase going to increased satellite capabilities and fisheries activities. Of that amount, $568 million would go to R&D with increases slated for initiatives on ocean acidification, drought early warning, models for decadal climate predictions, and priorities in the Ocean Research Priorities Plan. NOAA officials said that decreases from FY09 omnibus levels in the research and climate, ocean and coast, and program support categories reflect reductions in facilities that received stimulus funding and removal of congressional earmarks.
Department of Defense (DOD). DOD's R&D portfolio would decrease $1.9 billion in FY 2010 to $79.7 billion due to the proposed cancellation of a number of weapon programs. DOD’s basic research (6.1 account) would remain at the FY 2009 enacted levels for a total request of $1.8 billion in FY 2010, while applied research (6.2 account) would decrease to $4.25 billion in FY 2010. Medical Research programs at DOD would also decrease, dropping 32 percent for a total request of $613 million in FY 2010.
Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The DHS R&D portfolio would increase $29 million for a total request of $1.1 billion. The department's Science and Technology Directorate would receive an overall boost of approximately 4 percent to $968 million for FY 2010.
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Overall, funding for R&D at USDA would decrease from its FY 2009 enacted level, falling 6.2 percent to $2.3 billion. OSTP, however, notes that the decrease is due to congressional projects that will not continue in FY 2010. Specific areas of R&D at USDA that will see the largest funding increases include biomass R&D, which would jump 40 percent to $28 million, and research on organic agriculture, which would rise by 11 percent to $20 million. Other increases include $13 million more for research on childhood obesity and $9 million more for research on agricultural adaptations to climate change. Forest and rangeland research will increase by $6 million to a total of $302 million and the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative will remain level at $202 million.
Department of the Interior. At the Department of the Interior, R&D activities would receive $730 million for FY 2010, an increase of 5.5 percent over the FY 2009 enacted level. The largest portion of this total is accounted for by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), which would receive a 6.4 percent increase in its R&D funding for a FY 2010 total of $649 million. Global Change Science would receive $58.2 million, 43 percent higher than in FY 2009 and more than double that of FY 2008.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). After years of declining budgets, the EPA would see a 34 percent increase over FY 2009 levels for a total budget request of $10.5 billion. Much of the increase would go to state activities supporting clean drinking water and wastewater, two priorities that also received much of EPA's stimulus spending. EPA's R&D portfolio would increase 339 million (7 percent) for a total of $619 million.
Department of Transportation (DOT). For FY 2010, R&D funding at DOT would total $939 million, a $26 million (3 percent) increase over the FY 2009 enacted level. Within DOT, the Engineering, Research, and Development Fund at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) would rise 5.3 percent to $180 million and funding for vehicle safety research and highway safety R&D at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) would rise by 1.7 percent to $237 million.
-- Lucas Adin, Joanne Carney, and Phillip Chalker
As an energy and climate bill took center stage in the House (H.R.2454), EPA announced plans to implement provisions in the 2007 energy bill. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 expanded a renewable fuels mandate to require 36 billion gallons of renewable fuels to be produced by 2022.
In the bill, lawmakers included standards for greenhouse gas reductions that biofuels must meet to count toward the target: corn-based ethanol from new facilities must reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent below those released from gasoline, advanced biofuels and biodiesel must reduce emissions by 50 percent, and cellulosic biofuels by 60 percent. Ethanol and biodiesel plants that are already operating or under construction will be grandfathered in and do not have to meet this standard. Congress directed EPA to determine the greenhouse gas emissions of the fuels, using a lifecycle analysis that includes both the direct emissions of the biofuels as well as indirect impacts of land use change from biofuel production.
On May 5, EPA released a proposed rule for public comment that presents a plan for meeting the target and analyzes greenhouse gas reductions of various biofuels. EPA conducted the analysis under several scenarios, using 30 year and 100 year time horizons and zero and two percent discount rates. The propoesed rule seeks feedback on which scenario to use. In general, the 100-year horizon is more favorable to biofuels, as most of the emissions from clearing land occur in the beginning and therefore become less important over a longer time frame. In the 30-year case, very few types of corn ethanol plants met the 20 percent reduction standard, while all but one reached it under a 100-year scenario. Switchgrass and corn stover ethanol reduced emissions more than 100 percent under both scenarios.
A May 6 House Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation, Credit, Energy and Research hearing served as a sounding board for the proposal. Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN), chairman of the Agriculture Committee, attend the hearing to voice his displeasure with the proposed standards. Peterson has since introduced legislation (H.R. 2409) with Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK) to repeal the energy bill provisions that required EPA to include indirect land use effects in their calculations. Peterson's bill got support from many in the renewable fuels industry who testified at a May 21 hearing and questioned the science and modeling behind indirect emissions analysis. Subcommittee Ranking Member Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) agreed and asked why the new model did not undergo peer review. EPA officials noted that EPA will peer-review the lifecycle analysis during the public comment period.
The House Small Business Subcommittee on Regulations and Healthcare also examined the proposal during a May 21 hearing. During questioning from Chair Kathy Dahlkemper (D-PA) on the merits of including international indirect impacts in the analysis, Ms. Margo Oge
Director of EPA's Office of Transportation and Air Quality, cited the large impacts of these processes. Oge noted that indirect impacts are the most significant greenhouse gas emission factor in lifecycle analysis, and the most significant of those occurs internationally. For biodiesel, she said, 70 percent of emissions are from international indirect factors.
Debate over the rule spilled over into discussions on the American Clean Energy and Security Act. Chairman Peterson has called for the bill to come to the Agriculture Committee and threatened to withhold his support, and that of other members of his committee, until the issues are resolved. During the Energy and Commerce Committee mark up, an amendment proposed by Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE) that would have directed EPA to not consider international indirect land use was defeated.
-- Kasey White and Phillip Chalker
Change is coming to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). In addition to the President's FY 2010 budget request of $18.7 billion, the White House announced it would organize a review of NASA's human space flight activities. Two weeks later, on May 23, President Obama named Gen. Charles Bolden as his pick to lead NASA, along with former NASA official and Obama campaign adviser Lori Garver as NASA's deputy administrator. Both positions require Senate confirmation. Bolden, who flew four times on the space shuttle, would be the second astronaut at the helm of the agency and the first African American.
The May 7 announcement of a NASA review came from White House Science Advisor John Holdren during a briefing about the Administration's budget priorities for science and technology. The independent review commission will be chaired by Norm Augustine, a former chief executive at Lockheed Martin who led a NASA review in 1990 and was also behind the much-discussed "Rising Above the Gathering Storm" report on American competitiveness released by the National Academies in 2005. NASA Acting Administrator Christopher Scolese will name the other members of the panel in consultation with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
The review panel plans to assess how best to support use of the International Space Station and missions to the Moon and other destinations, how to stimulate commercial space flight capabilities, and how best to fit NASA exploration activities into the agency's budget. Also, the panel will assess the amount of R&D and complementary robotic activity needed for human space flight and evaluate opportunities for missions extending International Space Station operations beyond 2016. It will present its findings by August 2009.
Soon after the announcement, Acting Administrator Scolese testified at three congressional hearings in as many days. (Senate Appropriations Committee - Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Subcommittee - May 21; Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation - Science and Space Subcommittee - May 21; House Committee on Science - May 19)and Technology Fresh on the minds of many legislators is the five-year gap that NASA anticipates between next year's scheduled retirement of the space shuttle program and the advent of a new human spaceflight vehicle. In the Interim, the agency is planning eight more shuttle missions following the recent one geared toward the repair of the Hubble space telescope. Congressional members were skeptical that NASA would be able to meet their goal of completing all eight missions by September 2010. After the completion of the eight flights, the Russian Soyuz vessel will transport astronauts to and from the International Space Station until at least 2015. "There is no Plan B," Scolese said, noting that in addition to its standard transportation capabilities, the Soyuz could function as an escape vehicle if necessary. As for workforce concerns, Scolese expressed confidence that much of the staff working on the shuttle program could be shifted to tasks such as those related to the new human launch vehicle.
-- Erin Heath and Phillip Chalker
The House Science and Technology Subcommittee on Energy and Environment amended then passed a draft bill that would create a National Climate Service within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on May 13.
The National Climate Service Act of 2009 (H.R. 2407), sponsored by Science and Technology Committee Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN), would expand NOAA's delivery of climate-oriented services, defined by the National Research Council as "the timely production and delivery of useful climate data, information and knowledge to decision makers." The office is envisioned as a single point of federal contact for data collection, information exchange, climate forecasting, and adaptation assistance.
The service would collaborate with other agencies as well as state, local, and tribal governments, research organizations, and the private sector. The bill establishes a network of regional and local facilities to enhance collaboration, including the six preexisting Regional Climate Centers, facilities run by the National Weather Service, and other NOAA programs.
At a May 5 hearing on the proposal, NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco spoke of the need for an integrated national effort on climate services. However, several concerns were raised by committee members and witnesses over the current proposal. One of the key concerns from multiple witnesses was the extent to which the new office would actively and effectively engage local stakeholders to ensure end-users' needs are met with usable or "actionable" information. Some expressed fear that the new office would utilize a top-down approach without adequate legislative guidance.
Also at issue is whether the new office would duplicate the climate services work already being done by other NOAA offices, including the National Weather Service and the Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments (RISA) program. To address these concerns, Mr. Richard J. Hirn, representing the National Weather Service Employees Organization, advocated a plan to reconfigure the National Weather Service to include a Climate Service.
These and similar concerns led subcommittee members at the recent markup to question whether NOAA possesses the capacity to take on the additional the offices and duties of a new climate service. The subcommittee approved amendments establishing a level of transparency on models and data quality; requiring a survey of current climate service recipients and users; and mandating the presentation of an implementation plan to Congress by the NOAA Administrator.
An earlier version of the bill had authorized $2 billion over five years to fund the service, but the authorization has been stripped from the current version. The full Science and Technology Committee scheduled a markup on the bill for June 3. The bill may also be incorporated into the broader American Clean Energy and Security Act, which also has provisions (Section 452) to establish a National Climate Service "to develop climate information, data, forecasts, and warnings at national and regional scales, and to distribute information related to climate impacts to State, local, and tribal governments and the public to facilitate the development and implementation of strategies to reduce society’s vulnerability to climate variability and change."
-- Matt Hourihan
Committees in both the House and Senate have advanced legislation that addresses the important role that science plays in promoting international cooperation.
In the House, the Research and Education Subcommittee of the House Science and Technology Committee passed the International Science and Technology Cooperation Act of 2009 (H.R. 1736) in April. The bill, introduced by Rep. Brian Baird (D-WA) would establish an interagency committee as part of the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) within the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to coordinate international science and technology activities among federal research agencies including the Department of State. A similar committee, called the Committee on International Science, Engineering and Technology (CISET), existed during the Clinton Administration but became inactive and was never resurrected.
While no Senate version has yet to be introduced to recreate CISET, Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) introduced legislation (S. 838) that would authorize the Department of State to utilize science envoys "to promote the advancement of science and technology throughout the world." Although the bill does not explicitly define "science envoys," Lugar, said in a statement accompanying the bill's introduction that "these envoys will be recognized world leaders in their fields of expertise and will demonstrate that the United States is serious about engaging other nations in issues of mutual benefit and concern in science and research." The bill also allows the Secretary of State to establish or expand existing programs to increase the number of educational and cultural exchange activities involving the science, medicine, research, and academic sectors. On May 5 the Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously approved the bill.
-- Joanne Carney and Kasey White
Quick status reports to keep you up to date on recent S&T bills and hearings.
On May 14, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on the Department of Energy Carbon Capture and Sequestration Program Amendments Act of 2009 (S. 1013). The bill, which would allow the Energy Secretary to assume control of long-term carbon storage sites, lays out funding for ten large-scale CCS demonstration projects and establishes requirements for science-based site maintenance and monitoring.
The House has passed a bill (H.R. 1256) that would give the Food and Drug Administration authority to regulate tobacco products, and the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee passed its version on May 20. If the Senate version of the bill (S. 982) gets through the full Senate, where some tobacco-state senators stand ready to oppose it, President Obama intends to sign it.
The House of Representatives passed H.R. 1145, the National Water Research and Development Initiative Act, on April 23 by a vote of 413 to 10. Sponsored by Science and Technology Committee Chair Bart Gordon (D-TN), the bill would coordinate national research and development efforts on water.
On Earth Day, the House of Representatives approved H.R. 957, the Green Energy Education Act of 2009, by a vote of 411-6. The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), authorizes the Department of Energy (DOE) to partner with the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop graduate education energy projects. A similar version of the bill passed the House in the 110th Congress, but stalled in the Senate.
The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee passed the "Weather Mitigation Research and Development Policy Authorization Act of 2009,” a bill by Ranking Member Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX). S. 601 would establish a Weather Mitigation Research Office in the National Science Foundation.
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passed a climate bill cosponsored by Chair Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Ranking Member James Inhofe (R-OK) on May 14. The Black Carbon Emissions Bill (S. 849) requires the EPA to study the climate and health-related impacts of black carbon and to identify the most effective control strategies for the pollutant, a contributor to global warming that is emitted from diesel engines and burning wood.
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The National Institutes of Health held a public meeting April 20 to gather input on regulations to expand ClinicalTrials.gov. Written comments are due June 22.
The Government Accountability Office testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee investigations panel March 26 about a sting operation involving institutional review boards, which oversee research on human subjects. GAO investigators made up a fake medical study to see how closely for-profit IRBs would evaluate it; though two companies rejected it, one company greenlighted the faked study design. Federal investigators also successfully registered a fictional IRB with the Department of Health and Human Services.
The Office for Human Research Protections has released guidance for investigators and institutional review boards on how they might be affected by the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, which became law last year.
The National Institutes of Health is examining its financial conflict of interest policies following a number of high-profile incidents involving extramural researchers. The public comment period will last until July 7.
The Obama Administration announced on May 19 new national fuel standards that match standards proposed by the state of California. During the previous Administration, California had been denied a waiver from the Clean Air Act to implement the standards and had filed suit to overturn the decision. The new standards, which begin in model year 2012, require an average fuel economy standard of 35.5 mpg in 2016 – ahead of the 2020 deadline included in the CAFE law passed by Congress in 2007.
EPA has issued the first list of pesticides to be screened for potentially disrupting the endocrine system, which regulates growth, metabolism, and reproduction. The 67 pesticides on the list were selected for having a high potential for human exposure through food and water, presence in the home, or agricultural pesticide application.
On April 14, EPA issued a Federal Register notice requesting information on ocean acidification, the changing of ocean chemistry from increases in carbon dioxide that affects coral reefs and other marine organisms. In response to a lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity, EPA is trying to determine whether changes are needed to the water quality criteria under the Clean Water Act. Comments are due June 15, 2009.
FDA Regulation of Follow-On Biologics (RL34045)
NASA: Assessments of Selected Large-Scale Projects. (GAO-09-306SP)
- Opportunities in Neuroscience for Future Army Applications (ISBN-13: 978-0-309-13825-3)
Shellfish Mariculture in Drakes Estero, Point Reyes National Seashore, California (ISBN-13: 978-0-309-13898-7)
Conflict of Interest in Medical Research, Education, and Practice (ISBN-13: 978-0-309-13868-0)
Liquid Transportation Fuels from Coal and Biomass: Technological Status, Costs, and Environmental Impacts (ISBN-13: 978-0-309-13879-6)
Potential Impacts of Climate Change in the United States
Congressional Budget Office
Biological Safety Training as a Component of Personnel Reliability
American Association for the Advancement of Science
- Saving America’s Future: A Challenge to the American People
The Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress
AAAS has been tracking presidential nominees who are expected to influence science and science policy. To follow these nominees please go to
On May 20, AAAS commented on the National Institutes of Health Guidelines for Human Stem Cell Research, published in the Federal Register on April 23, 2009.
AAAS, on May 13, responded to the Office of Science and Technology Policy's (OSTP) request for public comment on the Presidential Memo on Scientific Integrity published in the Federal Register on April 23, 2009.
- AAAS sent letters to Secretaries Salazar and Locke thanking them for restoring the interagency consultation process of the Endangered Species Act. (May 5, 2009)
Mark Your Calendar:
PERSONALIZED MEDICINE: Planning for the Future
June 1-2, 2009
AAAS Headquarters, 1200 New York Ave., NW, Washington, DC
AAAS and the Food and Drug Law Institute are convening a two-day colloquium on personalized medicine. The colloquium will address the scientific discoveries, clinical applications, and regulatory changes that are necessary to develop new personalized treatments and their companion diagnostics.
What citizens know that scientists don't: Environmental justice and the challenge of 'local knowledge'
June 16, 2009 • 4:30-6:00 pm
Revelle Conference Room, AAAS Headquarters, 1200 New York Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20005
Dr. Gwen Ottinger will speak about her research that examines citizens' engagement with science, especially in the environmental justice movement, as a way of understanding the construction of scientific authority and expertise. The seminar is part of a series co-hosted by the American Association for the Advancement of Science Archives and the Chemical Heritage Foundation's Center for Contemporary History and Policy that explores social, institutional, and intellectual histories of contemporary policy problems that are interwoven with developments in science and technology. To RSVP, contact Amy Crumpton [firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-326-6791].
Scientists have made spider silk, which is already tougher and lighter than steel, even stronger by combining it with small amounts of various nano-metals. In strengthening the spider silk, some nano-particles coated the surface of the silk while others penetrated the fibers and integrated within its protein structure. This new stretchy, yet strong material could serve various purposes; ranging from surgical thread to acting as an arterial wall.
Lee, Seung-Mo Lee et al., "Greatly Increased Toughness of Infiltrated Spider Silk" Science 24 April 2009: Vol. 324. no. 5926, p. 488.