Programs: Science and Policy
Science and Technology in Congress
The 112th Congress will feature a host of new faces, a new Republican majority in the House, and several changes in committee structures. The final tally of the November elections result in a smaller Democratic majority in the Senate (53-47 from 58-42 in the 111th Congress) and a 242-193 Republican majority in the House.
One of the most visible changes in the House is the abolishment of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. The committee, which was established by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) in early 2007 to raise the visibility of climate change and renewable energy issues, held 75 hearings during its tenure. Republicans cited a need to get rid of waste and duplication in Congress in their decision, which occurred despite a push by Committee Ranking Member James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) to continue the committee with a revised focus on investigating EPA's rulemaking. The leaders of the committee will be able to continue their interest in these issues in the new Congress. Chairman Ed Markey (D-MA) is slated to be Ranking Member on the Natural Resources Committee, while Rep. Sensenbrenner has been named vice chairman of the House Science and Technology Committee and is expected to take a lead role on investigations of climate science.
Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA), who will chair the Natural Resources Committee, made a play to extend that committee's jurisdiction over energy issues, proposing to take some of the responsibilities of the Energy and Commerce Committee. However, the leadership did not endorse the move.
Meanwhile, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce has beefed up its ability to investigate environment regulations by splitting its Energy and Environment panel in two. The Economy and Environment Subcommittee will be chaired by Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) and focus on how environmental regulations affect the economy. Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY) will chair the Energy and Power Subcommittee that will have jurisdiction over energy issues and the Clean Air Act. Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) was chosen to lead the Energy and Commerce Committee after the Republican leadership decided against giving a waiver to Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), who had reached the 3-term limit. Rep. Barton will serve as the committee's chairman emeritus and Rep. Sue Myrick (R-NC) will be the committee's vice chair. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) will serve as Ranking Member of the full committee.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee may also examine climate and energy issues, as incoming Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) has called for investigations into climate science. However, Rep. Issa recently noted that "I will have limited resources and limited time. … although this is a significant issue, it may not be the issue that first comes to my committee. A lot of it will, rightfully so, fall to the Science Committee. We are not a committee of jurisdiction on the science of it. We are about waste, fraud and abuse, and organization and cost. So probably a lot of that is going to fall to the committees of jurisdiction. "Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-NY) will be Ranking Member on the committee.
Long-time committee member Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX) will chair the House Science and Technology Committee and Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) will be Ranking Member. Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) has been announced as chairman of the Committee's Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee, but other subcommittee leaders have yet to be determined.
Shortly after being named chair, Rep. Hall announced his priorities for the committee: "Our Committee will help ensure that taxpayer dollars are invested wisely in research and development programs by providing effective oversight of existing programs and by eliminating wasteful and duplicative programs and streamlining programs where needed. I look forward to working with new and returning members on the Committee to advance domestic energy solutions that move America toward greater energy security, help guide a space exploration program that will maintain America's leadership in the world, bolster technological innovation to strengthen national and economic security, and improve science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education to promote competitiveness in the global marketplace."
Rep. Johnson has also outlined her priorities for the committee: "As Ranking Member, I would continue to advocate for STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics] education, clean energy, and for scientific research to improve the lives of all Americans….I would continue to emphasize the need to invest in basic scientific research and development to support our nation's energy independence and security, to create new technologies, industries, and jobs that will catalyze our nation's embattled middle class and fulfill a mission for the U.S. to lead the world in clean technology."
Rep. Harold Rogers (R-KY) will serve as chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee, as Republicans denied a waiver to Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA). Rep. Norman Dicks (D-WA) will serve as Ranking Member on the committee. Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX), a member of the GOP leadership team and the Steering Committee, said the committee did not see any reason to give a waiver to Reps. Barton or Lewis, who had reached the limit of a GOP rule that prevents their Members from serving in the top slot on a committee as either Chairman or Ranking Member for more than three two-year terms
-- Kasey White
On December 17, the U.S. Senate passed an amended version of the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 (H.R.5116) by unanimous consent. Four days later the House of Representatives voted 228 to 130 to approve the legislation, sending it to the President for his signature.
The legislation, which the research community had lost hope of passing so late in the closing session of the 111th Congress, was brought to the Senate floor as part of a flurry of activity at the end of the lame-duck session. Rather than take up the original Senate version (S. 3605), which would necessitate a conference between the House and Senate chambers to iron out the differences, the Senate's strategy was to amend the original House bill and toss it back for a final House vote.
The scope of the final bill was scaled down from the original House bill to ease its passage in the lame-duck session, but it still contains a number of policies relating to innovation, workforce development, and education.
The primary goal of the America COMPETES Act is to authorize increased funding over three years—from FY 2011 to FY 2013—for the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Department of Energy Office of Science (DOE/OS).
Final authorization levels were lower that those proposed in the House bill. NSF would receive $7.4 billion, $7.8 billion, and $8.3 billion; NIST would receive $919 million, $971 million, and $1.04 billion; and DOE/OS would receive $5.3 billion, $5.6 billion, and $6.0 billion over three years. In addition, the legislation would provide modest increases for the DOE Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) to $300 million, $306 million, and $312 million, respectively.
The bill authorizes the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to create an interagency working group responsible for coordinating federal standards for sharing unclassified scientific information and establishing policies for public access to scientific research supported by federal funds. It also calls on OSTP to create a new committee under the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) to coordinate federal science, technology, engineering and mathematics education programs.
For NIST, the legislation would change the Director of NIST to Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and increase the federal government's cost share for the Manufacturing Extension Program (MEP) up to 50 percent. In addition, it tasks NIST to evaluate obstacles unique to small manufacturers and to assist MEP Centers in addressing those obstacles.
For NSF, the final COMPETES bill does not support the Administration's efforts to consolidate the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Undergraduate Program, the Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation program, the Tribal Colleges and Universities Program, and Hispanic-serving institutions, but calls on the agency to continue to support them as separate programs.
In addition, the legislation tasks the agency to develop criteria for determining the broader impacts of NSF research grants that meet eight general goals (e.g., increasing diversity in STEM fields, public scientific literacy, or national security).
For DOE, the legislation also provides $25 million for Science Education Enhancement and would continue to fund the Nuclear Science Talent Program that provides competitive grants to institutions of higher education.
Although the legislation only authorizes for a three year period it does reaffirm the goal of a 10-year doubling track for the NSF, NIST and DOE/OS budgets. With the prospect of austere budgets in the near future and growing pressure to reduce the federal deficit through decreases in domestic discretionary spending, it remains to be seen if these increases will come to fruition.
AAAS funding table and charts are available at http://www.aaas.org/spp/rd/COMPETES/.
-- Joanne Carney
Congress passed the Continuing Appropriations and Surface Transportation Extensions Act, 2011 (H.R.3082) on December 21, just hours before the third continuing resolution (CR) of the FY 2011 appropriations cycle expired. This short-term extension of federal funding at FY 2010 levels through March 4, 2011, sets up a face-off in the new Congress between the newly-elected House Republican majority that is pushing for $100 billion in discretionary cuts and the Democrat-led Senate.
Congress did finalize the extension of several tax cuts. The R&D tax credit was extended until December 31, 2011 as part of the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 (H.R.4853), which was signed into law on December 17. The President has proposed a permanent and increased tax credit, but those debates will have to wait until the next Congress. H.R. 4853 also contains several renewable energy credits; it extends a $0.45/gallon ethanol blenders' tax credit, a $0.54/gallon import tariff on ethanol, the biodiesel tax credit, and the 1603 Treasury grant program, which subsidizes commercial renewable energy projects through December 31, 2011.
When the 112th Congress begins in January, much of the debate will center on how to cut federal spending. While reining in the deficit is a priority for both Democrats and Republicans, the parties have different plans on how to do so. However, both parties agree that reduced government spending will be part of that plan, and federal support for R&D will likely be subject to some of the cost-cutting measures. The bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform listed investment in "high-value research" as one of its guiding principles, while Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX), the new chairman of the House Science and Technology Committee, has promised to increase oversight of R&D programs. This could add up to cuts for specific R&D programs while the overall R&D investment is spared the worst of the budget decreases.
Summaries of congressional action on the FY 2011 budget and funding tables are posted at http://www.aaas.org/spp/rd/fy2011/.
-- Patrick Clemins
Expectations for the international climate negotiations in Cancun were far more modest than last year's Copenhagen conference, which allowed many to declare the meeting of the 190 nations that are party to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change a success. But key decisions on how to move forward on a global system to reduce emissions after the Kyoto Protocol ends in 2012 were left until next year. Delegates did, however, agree that cuts will be needed by both developed and developing countries and make progress on other significant issues.
The Cancun Agreements established a Green Climate Fund to help developing countries mitigate and adapt to climate change. Developed and developing countries will share control of the fund, which will initially have the World Bank as its trustee. Much of the funding for the Green Climate Fund's adaptation efforts will come from a "fast track finance" fund that has an initial commitment of $30 billion with a goal of growing to $100 billion by 2020, although how to raise the funds has yet to be resolved. In addition, a new framework and committee was established to promote international cooperation and action on adaptation.
Several agreements advanced to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions through technology and incentives to reduce deforestation. Governments agree to boost action to curb emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries with technological and financial support. Technology transfer mechanisms were established, including a new technology executive committee and climate technology center and network.
Progress was made in developing standards for the monitoring, reporting and verification of emissions reductions, both for developed and developing countries, which has been a sticking point between China and the United States.
The next Conference of the Parties is scheduled to take place in Durban, South Africa, from November 28 to December 9, 2011.
-- Kasey White
More than 21 months after President Obama requested them, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) released government-wide guidelines on scientific integrity. The concise (four page) document elaborates on the principles laid out by the President on March 9, 2009, and provides guidance to executive departments and agencies how to develop policies on scientific integrity.
The memorandum states that science should be free from "inappropriate political influence." To strengthen government research, the memo states that candidates should be hired "primarily" on their merits, data and research used to support policy decisions, when possible, should undergo peer review, and clear conflict of interest standards and appropriate whistle blower protections should be promulgated. Additionally, when appropriate, agencies should make scientific and technological information readily available, communicate scientific findings to the public in a clear and accurate manner, and detail assumptions, uncertainties, probabilities of outcomes, and best and worse case scenarios of scientific findings.
The memorandum continues that for media interview requests, agencies should provide an "articulate and knowledgeable spokesperson" that can portray finding in a nonpartisan and understandable manner. Also, after appropriate coordination with their immediate supervisor and public affairs office, federal scientists may speak to the media and the public about their findings and the public affairs office cannot ask or direct scientists to change their findings.
The guidelines call on agencies to establish policies that promote professional development for their scientists and engineers and encourage the publication of research in addition to the presentation of research at professional meetings. Also, the guidelines note that scientists and engineers should be allowed to be editors and editorial board members for scholarly and professional journals, serve as an officer or board member in professional societies, and receive honors and awards.
Reaction to the guidelines was mixed, as some observers felt they left too much discretion to the individual agencies. More information on how agencies plan to implement the guidelines should be available soon. Within 120 days, each department and agency is asked to report listing the actions that they have taken to ensure scientific integrity.
After months of congressional debate and delay, President Obama will soon sign major food safety legislation that will greatly expand the authority of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate food production.
The "FDA Food Safety Modernization Act" passed the House more than year ago with strong bipartisan support, and a similar bill later cleared the Senate by a vote of 73 to 25. But the day after the Senate vote, congressional leaders realized that the Senate version appeared to violate a constitutional provision that requires new taxes to originate in the House rather than the Senate. But late in the lame duck session, both the House and Senate were able to again pass the bill and send it to the president.The legislation will, for the first time, allow the FDA to issue a mandatory recall for food deemed tainted or unsafe; currently, the Administration relies on voluntary recalls. The bill also gives the FDA authority to both detain food and suspend a facility's operations should either be found to pose a health risk.
Along with this authority come specific requirements. FDA must to create a system to facilitate the tracing of any product back to its origin. Should any shipment of produce, for example, be found tainted with a harmful bacteria, the tracing system would make it simple to track down the farm from which it originated. The legislation also calls on the Secretary of HHS to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of common food contaminants as well as create a national educational program on food safety.
Though the legislation enjoyed widespread support, some critics take aim at the main issue the legislation does not address. While the FDA generally handles most food products, the absence of the Department of Agriculture (USDA) in the bills' language is notable because USDA handles meat, poultry and eggs. With many food products being processed and packaged in locations handling food under both FDA and USDA jurisdictions, overlap between the two entities becomes understandable – as do gaps.
Quick status reports to keep you up to date on recent S&T bills and hearings.
Both the House and the Senate passed S. 3036, which establishes the National Alzheimer's Project within the Department of Health and Human Services to coordinate research, treatment, and care at the national level. The bill does not fund Alzheimer's research, but it is expected to raise the visibility of the disease.
Both the House and the Senate passed the Shark Conservation Act of 2009 (H.R. 81). The bill would prevent shark finning in the Pacific. Finning is the removal a live shark's fins. Once the fins are removed, the shark is thrown back into the ocean where it is left to die. Finning also strains shark populations, many of which are endangered. The U.S. had already banned the practice off the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico Coasts. The bill tasks the Department of Commerce to identify fishing vessels from nations that do not subscribe to similar shark conservation practices. At the request of Sen. Burr (R-NC) the smooth dogfish shark fishery off North Carolina was exempted from the fining ban.
The Department of Energy (DOE) released its Critical Materials Strategy analyzing the role of 14 elements, including five rare earth metals, in the clean energy economy. The report identifies eight areas that could help reduce vulnerabilities: research and development, information-gathering, permitting for domestic production, financial assistance for domestic production and processing, stockpiling, recycling, education and diplomacy. House Science and Technology Committee Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN) welcomed the report, but recommended that prior to engaging in additional information gathering, the Department should utilize the information that the U.S. Geologic Survey has already collected.
On December 9, the Department of State issued a draft rule seeking public comments on proposed revisions to its U.S. Munitions List (USML)—which controls the export of weapons and weapons components overseas—and how the USML list could be aligned with the Commerce Control List (CCL). In the proposed revisions the State Department seeks to create a "positive list" of controlled items that reflects "objective criteria" that would narrow controlled items by precise descriptions or technical parameters (e.g., micron, wavelength) rather than utilizing the existing subjective list that reflects broad categories. Furthermore, State is suggesting that a tiered system be created for distinguishing items that should receive "stricter or more permissive levels of control" based on its ultimate destination, end-use, and end-users. Comments are due February 8, 2011.
The EPA finalized two rules related to the capture and sequestration of carbon dioxide (CCS) from sources like power plants. EPA finalized a rule establishing a new class of injection well under the authority of the Safe Drinking Water Act, designed to ensure that wells used for geologic sequestration of carbon dioxide are "appropriately sited, constructed, tested, monitored, and closed." EPA also finalized a rule on the greenhouse gas reporting requirements that will enable EPA to track the amount of carbon dioxide sequestered by these facilities.
On December 7, the National Institutes of Health's (NIH) Scientific Management Review Board (SMRB) recommended that NIH realign existing programs to create a new National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences that would focus on advancing translational sciences. The proposal is to merge select programs within the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR), and the NIH Director's Common Fund, and, potentially, the new Cures Acceleration Network (CAN). NIH plans to present realignment plans to Health and Human Services Secretary Sebelius early next year, in time to incorporate any changes into the HHS budget request. In the near term, a task force is seeking feedback as to what programs within NCRR should be merged into the new Center.
The EPA issued a November 15 memorandum providing guidance to states that they should list bodies of water that have become more acidic because of increased carbon dioxide as impaired under the Clean Water Act. The memo states that the changing ocean chemistry from acidification "is likely to negatively affect important marine species and ecosystems, including coral reefs, shellfish, and fisheries." The EPA memo stems from a legal settlement with the Center for Biological Diversity.
The EPA has announced a list of 134 chemicals that will be screened for their potential to disrupt the endocrine system, which regulates growth, metabolism, and reproduction. EPA is already screening an initial group of 67 pesticide chemicals. At the same time, EPA announced draft policies and procedures that it will follow to order testing, minimize duplicative testing, promote equitable cost-sharing, and address issues that are unique to chemicals regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act. Details on both proposals, which are open for public comment, are available on the EPA web site.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) announced that it will extend a trial program to expedite the processing of patent applications for technologies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions until December 31, 2011. Under the Green Technology Pilot Program, the first 3,000 applications pertaining to environmental quality, energy conservation, development of renewable energy, or greenhouse gas emission reduction will be advanced out of turn for examination, compressing the normal two-year waiting period for receiving a patent to 49 days.
- Energy-Water Nexus: A Better and Coordinated Understanding of Water Resources Could Help Mitigate the Impacts of Potential Oil Shale Development (GAO-11-35)
- Nuclear Weapons: National Nuclear Security Administration Needs to Ensure Continued Availability of Tritium for the Weapons Stockpile (GAO-11-100)
- Biological Laboratories: Design and Implementation Considerations for Safety Reporting Systems (GAO-10-850)
- Intellectual Property: Agencies Progress in Implementing Recent Legislation, but Enhancements Could Improve Future Plans (GAO-11-39)
- Afghanistan and Iraq: DOD Should Improve Adherence to Its Guidance on Open Pit Burning and Solid Waste Management (GAO-11-63)
- Intragovernmental Revolving Funds: NIST's Interagency Agreements and Workload Require Management Attention (GAO-11-41)
- Climate Change: A Coordinated Strategy Could Focus Federal Geoengineering Research and Inform Governance Efforts (GAO-10-903)
- Environmental Protection Agency: EPA Needs to Complete a Strategy for Its Library Network to Meet Users' Needs (GAO-10-947)
- Nuclear Commerce: Governmentwide Strategy Could Help Increase Commercial Benefits from U.S. Nuclear Cooperation Agreements with Other Countries (GAO-11-36)
- Live Animal Imports: Agencies Need Better Collaboration to Reduce the Risk of Animal-Related Diseases (GAO-11-9)
- Space Acquisitions: Challenges in Commercializing Technologies Developed under the Small Business Innovation Research Program (GAO-11-2)
- NASA: Medium Launch Transition Strategy Leverages Ongoing Investments but Is Not Without Risk (GAO-11-107)
- Monitoring Climate Change Impacts: Metrics at the Intersection of the Human and Earth Systems (ISBN-13: 978-0-309-15871-8)
- Review of the Proposal for the Gulf Long-Term Follow-Up Study: Highlights from the September 2010 Workshop: Workshop Report (ISBN-13: 978-0-309-16244-9)
- Technology for a Quieter America (ISBN-13: 978-0-309-15632-5)
- Managing University Intellectual Property in the Public Interest (ISBN-13: 978-0-309-16243-2)
- Examination of Front-of-Package Nutrition Rating Systems and Symbols: Phase I Report (ISBN-13: 978-0-309-15827-5)
- High School Dropout, Graduation, and Completion Rates: Better Data, Better Measures, Better Decisions (ISBN-13: 978-0-309-16307-1)
- Evaluation of a Site-Specific Risk Assessment for the Department of Homeland Security's Planned National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility in Manhattan, Kansas (ISBN-13: 978-0-309-16281-4)
- TRB Special Report 300 - Achieving Traffic Safety Goals in the United States: Lessons from Other Nations
- Assessment of Impediments to Interagency Collaboration on Space and Earth Science Missions (ISBN-13: 978-0-309-16350-7)
Honesty, Accountability and Trust: Fostering Research Integrity in Canada
Council of Canadian Academies
PISA 2009 Results: What Students Know and Can Do
Program for International Student Assessment (PISA)
James Webb Space Telescope (JWST)
Independent Comprehensive Review Panel (ICRP)
Zero Carbon Australia Stationary Energy Plan
The University of Melbourne Energy Research Institute
Report to the President on Accelerating the Pace of Change in Energy Technologies Through an Integrated Federal Energy Policy
President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST)
Carbon Sequestration Atlas (Atlas III)
U.S. Department of Energy
The Principal Rare Earth Elements Deposits of the United States
U.S. Geological Survey
Global Ocean Protection Present Status and Future Possibilities
International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources
Acid Rain Program 2009 Progress Reports
Environmental Protection Agency
Where Good Technologies Come From: Case Studies in American Innovation.
Economic Doctrines and Approaches to Climate Change
The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation
Realizing the Full Potential of Health Information Technology to Improve Healthcare for Americans: The Path Forward
President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST)
New Direction The Ethics of Synthetic Biology and Emerging Technologies
Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues
The Future of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
5 Gigatonnes - the gap between climate science and current climate cuts after Copenhagen?
United Nations Environment Programme
AAAS Supports the America COMPETES Act
AAAS sent letters to both the House and Senate, encouraging them to support the America COMPETES Act and later thanking them for passing it. All letters are on the AAAS website.
AAAS Center for Science, Technology and Congress Launches Twitter Feed
To get up-to-date science policy news, follow us at http://www.twitter.com/aaas_cstc
MARK YOUR CALENDAR:
MIT-AAAS Forum on Convergence
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
AAAS Auditorium (1200 New York Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C.)
9:30 to 11:30 a.m. (Registration and a continental breakfast begin at 9 a.m.)
The focus of the Forum is an MIT White Paper, The Third Revolution: The Convergence of the Life Science, Physical Sciences, and Engineering. Confirmed speakers include:
- Phillip Sharp, MIT Institute Professor and Nobel Prize winner
- Tyler Jacks, Director of the MIT David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research
- Doug Lauffenburger, Head of the MIT Bioengineering Department
- Paula Hammond, MIT Bayer Professor of Chemical Engineering
Alan Leshner, Chief Executive Officer, AAAS and Executive Publisher, Science will host the forum.
Please RSVP to Lisa Miller at email@example.com
Seminar commemorating the 50th anniversary of President Dwight D. Eisenhower's Farewell Address.
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
AAAS Auditorium (1200 New York Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C.)
4:30 to 6 p.m. (Coffee will be served beginning at 4 p.m.)
President Eisenhower's address is mainly remembered for his warning of the perils of a "military-industrial complex." Less widely known was his caution about "the danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite." This seminar will explore the historical context and current relevance of Eisenhower's worries about a "scientific-technological elite." The seminar will feature a panel of veteran science policy observers moderated by Steve Lagerfeld, editor of The Wilson Quarterly. Joining Lagerfeld on the panel will be:
- Dan Greenberg, science journalist and author of several books on science policy;
- Gregg Pascal Zachary, author of the authoritative biography of Vannevar Bush;
- William Lanouette, a journalist on science policy; and
- Dan Sarewitz, co-director of CSPO.
The seminar is being co-sponsored by AAAS and the Consortium for Science, Policy, and Outcomes (CSPO) of Arizona State University. Please RSVP by January 13 at http://www.aaas.org/spp/events.
Following the end- Cretaceous extinction approximately 65 million years ago, mammals spent 25 million years rapidly increasing in size. Fossil data show that this pattern of growth was consistent on most continents. Prior to the extinction, the majority of mammals spent the previous 140 million years weighing between 3 grams and 15 kilograms. Researchers believe that mammals, which grew to as large as 17,000 kilograms, rapidly increased in size because ecological niches became available when the larger dinosaurs died off. It appears that warmer temperatures and lack of available land were the limiting factors of mammalian growth.
Smith, Felisa A. et. al. "The Evolution of Maximum Body Size of Terrestrial Mammals." Science 26 November 2010: Vol. 330 no. 6008 pp. 1216-1219