On October 8 Congress finished work on the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies (H.R.2997)
appropriation bill when the conference report was agreed to by the
Senate. The House had agreed to the report the previous day. The
President has yet to sign the bill. It would provide increases for
R&D spending in the Department of Agriculture, including $1.3
billion for the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), a 6.3% increase
over FY 2009, and $808 million for the new National Institute of Food
and Agriculture (NIFA; formerly CSREES), a 12.2% increase over FY 2009.
The Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI; formerly NRI), part
of NIFA, would receive a large increase of $61 million (30.3%) over FY
On October 7 the conference report summary for the Homeland Security
appropriations bill was released. Science and Technology at the
Department of Homeland Security would receive a total budget of $1.0
billion, $74 million more than in FY 2009, but the Domestic Nuclear
Detection Office (DNDO) would see its budget decrease to $383 million,
$131 million less than FY 2009. The bill still must be passed by both
the House and Senate.
The full Senate passed its version of the Defense (H.R.3326)
appropriations bill on October 6. The Senate version would provide less
than the House for RDT&E (research, development, test, and
evaluation) programs – $78.5 billion instead of $80.2 billion. The
biggest discrepancy between the two bills in terms of R&D spending
is in the Navy RDT&E appropriation, with the House appropriating
$20.2 billion, $1.0 billion more than the Senate. The Navy programs of
greatest contention are the VH-71A Executive Helicopter (House: $485
million; Senate: $30 million) and the Joint Strike Fighter (House: $2.0
billion; Senate: $1.7 billion) where the development of an alternative
engine for the aircraft has been the subject of much debate.
This week the full Senate continues consideration of the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (H.R.2847) appropriations bill, which has also been the subject of some debate. President Obama released a statement
on October 5 expressing concern over the Senate funding levels for the
National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Standards and
Technology, which together, the White House says, are "more than $200
million" below the President's request. The White House statement
appears to be based upon the Senate Appropriations Committee's figures
for (a) total NSF funding, which at $6.92 billion is $128 million below
the request; (b) NIST labs, which at $520.3 million is $14.3 million
below the request; and (c) what the White House statement termed
"non-priority project funds" (i.e., earmarks) totaling $58 million for
NIST as a whole, which the White House believes "could be channeled to
reduce this shortfall." Additionally, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) introduced
an amendment which would eliminate funding for NSF's Political Science Program.
For update on the current status of appropriations, see the AAAS R&D Budget Web site.
Congressional Authorizers Critical of DOD Basic Research.
Last week the House and Senate agreed on the defense authorization bill
(H.R. 2467), a key piece of legislation that provides a framework for
defense spending levels for appropriators to follow. Accompanying the
bill is a conference report
that cites a defense study critical of the Pentagon's basic research
program. The "S&T for National Security" study, conducted by the
independent science advisory group known as JASON, is quoted as stating
that defense basic research programs are "broken" and that "throwing
more money at the problems will not fix them." The House and Senate
conferees further note in the conference report that they will monitor
the Department of Defense's (DOD) response to the JASON report before
authorizing any additional increases to DOD basic research accounts.
Department of Education Announces Innovation Fund. The $650 million Investment in Innovation
fund, which is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act
(ARRA), will support local efforts to start or expand research-based
innovative programs that help close the achievement gap among schools
and improve outcomes for students. Only individual school districts or
groups of school districts may apply for the funds. Nonprofits,
colleges and universities, companies, and other stakeholders may join
as partners and supporters of the projects. Grant recipients will be
required to match federal funds with public or private dollars.
DARPA Seeks to Mend Fences With Universities. R&D funding to
universities from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)
declined significantly during the Bush Administration. As the agency
moved toward more classified work, strains appeared in DARPA's
longstanding partnership with academia. In an effort to restore the
relationship, DARPA director Regina Dugan, appointed by President Obama
last July, has been visiting leading universities
and meeting with faculty to talk about their concerns and DARPA's
plans. DARPA may face financial difficulties, however, due to a
potential cut of about $350 million included in the Senate version of
the defense appropriations bill.
White House Calls for Agency Plans to Reduce Emissions. A new Executive Order
signed by President Obama on October 5 provides government agencies 90
days to develop plans for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases from
their vehicles and facilities. In addition to instructing agencies to
set 2020 targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the order sets
targets for water efficiency, energy efficiency, and recycling. "As the
largest consumer of energy in the U.S. economy, the federal government
can and should lead by example when it comes to creating innovative
ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase energy efficiency,
conserve water, reduce waste, and use environmentally-responsible
products and technologies," said President Obama.
Patent Office Rescinds Proposed Changes in Regulations. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) rescinded regulations
that had been proposed by the Bush administration but not yet
implemented. Intended to improve efficiency of processing and reduce a
backlog of applications at PTO, the proposed rules would have limited
the number of claims per application and the number of times an
application could be resubmitted. The PTO also announced that it will
file a motion to dismiss a court decision in a case that was brought to
ensure that the proposed rules would not take effect.
People in the News. - Ruth Kirschstein, MD died last
week. She was the first female director of an Institute at NIH (the
National Institute of General Medical Sciences) and served as NIH
Deputy Director and Acting Director during her career. In 2002, the
U.S. Congress renamed the National Research Service Awards in her honor.
Evolution Education News. The Louisiana state school board
has approved a policy for dealing with complaints related to the
Louisiana Science Education Act, a law enacted last year that raised
concerns about opening the door to teaching creationism in public
school science classrooms. Although the state's Education Department
had recommended that the board name three reviewers to deal with
complaints, the school board instead decided on five reviewers: two
from the Education Department, one from the complainant, one from the
school, and one from the publisher of the challenged materials. The
Louisiana Coalition for Science disapproves
of the switch, saying the board "ignored the recommendations of science
education professionals." In other news, the Massachusetts House held a
hearing last week on a "religious viewpoints bill."
The bill would require school districts to create policies allowing the
expression of religious views in class assignments and school events.
Although the bill does not mention evolution, one of the bill's
sponsors, Elizabeth Poirier, commented to the Cape Cod Times that the bill has the potential to let creationism into science classes.
Little Progress During Climate Talks in Bangkok. Two weeks of
climate talks in Bangkok, Thailand, did little to advance negotiations
that will culminate in December in Copenhagen. Key differences exist
between developed and developing countries, with many developing
nations objecting to proposals by the United States and others to
overhaul the structure of the Kyoto Protocol.
EU Board Calls for Increasing Scientific Research. The first report
of the European Commission's European Research Area Board (ERAB) called
for a renaissance in research and development (R&D) spending among
EU nations. In Preparing Europe for a New Renaissance,
the board members urged countries to boost R&D spending to 5
percent of gross domestic product (GDP) by the year 2030 and to triple
spending on higher education.
UK, California Each Propose Greater Role for Industry in Science Education. A 2009 report from the Confederation of British Industry
states that "two-thirds of [S&T] UK firms believed the content of
STEM degrees was not relevant to their needs." The report argues that
STEM education "would improve if industry provided, for example,
increased input on course content and more work-experience
opportunities." Meanwhile, the California legislature has passed a bill
titled the "California Stem Cell and Biotechnology Education and Workforce Development Act of 2009,"
requiring "the state education department to incorporate stem-cell and
biotech curricula into the public schools." The bill is in part a
response to a 2008 report that projected a "scarcity of trained lab
professionals" in the state.
Publisher::Alan I. Leshner
Editor: Steve Nelson
Contributors: Kavita Berger, Joanne Carney, Patrick
Clemins, Mark Frankel, Erin Heath, Earl Lane, Al Teich, Ric Weibl,
Kasey White, Brad Wible
NOTE: The AAAS Policy Alert is a newsletter provided to AAAS Members
toinform them of developments in science and technology policy that
maybe of interest. Information in the Policy Alert is gathered
frompublished news reports, unpublished documents, and
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