Budget and Other Congressional News
The Senate and House are on recess until September 8. Before leaving for recess, the House passed all of its appropriations bills and the Senate passed four. While Senate leaders remain hopeful that they will be able to pass the other eight bills independently, there has been mention of an omnibus bill for at least some of the remaining appropriations bills due to a full Senate agenda in the fall.
FDA Issues Rules on Experimental Drugs. The FDA has published rules designed to clarify how seriously-ill patients can gain access to experimental drugs. The new rule, "Expanded Access to Investigational Drugs for Treatment Use," makes investigational drugs more widely available to patients by clarifying procedures and standards.
NIH Children's Study Receives Criticism. According to ScienceInsider, a report by the National Institutes of Health internal auditing office has suggested that staff at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) deliberately omitted certain costs in their estimate of the total budget needs of the landmark National Children's Study. The National Children's Study is intended to follow children from before birth to age 21. Several months ago NICHD officials revealed that the initial cost estimate of $3 billion over 25 years was only half of what may be needed to complete the study. The study is now on hold until a pilot is completed. Lawmakers reacted to the NIH audit report by withholding the $194 million requested by the White House for the study in the Senate NIH funding bill. Peter Scheidt, the study's longtime director, stepped down last month to become an advisor to the NICHD director.
UK Examines Science in Policy. Last month, the UK House of Commons, Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee issued Putting Science and Engineering at the Heart of Government Policy, a report that calls for a "new framework that adds transparency and rigor to the relationship between Government and the research community." The report recommends increasing the number of departments that have Science Advisory Councils, encouraging the Government to seek specialist advice early in the policy-making process, and ensuring the independence of scientific advisors.
Little Agreement During International Climate Talks. UN-led climate talks in Bonn, Germany last week showed little progress in finding common ground in advance of December's United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) session in Copenhagen. At a press conference, UNFCCC Director Yvo de Boer said that although selective progress was made, "negotiations needed to move much faster to deliver strong outcomes on areas such as adaptation, technology and building skills in developing nations."
New Evolution Education Report Shows Progress, Problems. A new report by the National Center for Science Education -- modeled on Lawrence Lerner's 2000 education report for the Fordham Foundation -- grades the treatment of evolution in state science education curricula. The good news is that there has been improvement since the Fordham report: Forty states and territories, up from 31, treat evolution in a satisfactory manner. But more work needs to be done, as states such as Texas, Louisiana and nine others received unsatisfactory marks.
Examination of China-UK Ethics. The UK Medical Research Council released a China-UK Research Ethics (CURE) Committee Report. The principal aims of the CURE committee were to analyze the guidelines for research ethics in China, examine their implementation in actual research settings, make recommendations for the management of research collaborations, and develop mutual understanding in the area of research ethics. The report found key differences between the countries in the implementation of regulations, approaches to enforcing guidelines for the conduct of research at the national level, and institutional structures that conduct ethical reviews.
People in the News
Eva Pell, Dean of the Graduate School and Senior Vice President for Research at Pennsylvania State University, has been named the Under Secretary for Science at the Smithsonian Institution. She will start in January 2010, the first non-interim director since David Evans left the position in April 2007. A biologist whose research focuses on the effects of air pollution on plants, Pell will oversee roughly 1800 staff and a $300 million annual budget while directing the Institution's research efforts.
Professor David Clary has been appointed as the first chief scientific adviser to the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). He will maintain his position as President of Magdalen College Oxford while filling the part-time role.
Note to Readers
The Policy Alert will not publish for the next two weeks and will resume publication when Congress returns from recess the week of September 8.
Publisher: Alan I. Leshner
Editor: Kasey White
Contributors: Kavita Berger, Patrick Clemins, Mark Frankel, Erin Heath, Al Teich, Ric Weibl, Brad Wible
NOTE: The AAAS Policy Alert is a newsletter provided to AAAS Members to inform them of developments in science and technology policy that may be of interest. Information in the Policy Alert is gathered from published news reports, unpublished documents, and personal communications. Although the information contained in this newsletter is regarded as reliable, it is provided only for the convenience and private use of our members. Comments and suggestions regarding the Policy Alert are welcome. Please write to firstname.lastname@example.org.