Conference reports for appropriation bills continued to move through Congress last week. On October 15 the House agreed to the Homeland Security (H.R.2892) conference report (see 10/14/09 Policy Alert for details), and the Senate agreed to the Energy and Water Development (H.R.3183) conference report (see 10/7/09 Policy Alert). The Senate still has to agree to the Homeland Security report, but the Energy and Water Development bill will now head to the President for signing. This week the Senate will likely continue debate on its version of the Commerce, Science, Justice and Related Agencies (H.R.2847) appropriations bill and will begin debate on the Homeland Security conference report. For an update on the current status of appropriations, see the AAAS R&D Budget Web site.
On October 8 the House agreed to the Defense (H.R.2647) authorization conference report. The bill would authorize up to $79.3 billion for DOD's Research, Development, Test and Evaluation (RDT&E). For purposes of comparison, this is $801 million more than Senate Defense appropriations bill but $986 million less than the House bill (yet to be conferenced). Authorizations, of course, do not provide budgets, but do set the ranges for them.
NSF Report on Federal R&D Support to Universities. The federal government remains the largest source of academic R&D funding, but its share has dropped from 64 % in FY 2005 to 60 % in FY 2008, according to a new report from the National Science Foundation. The top five universities in federal R&D funding for FY 2008: Johns Hopkins University ($1.68 billion including JHU's Applied Physics Laboratory); University of California, San Francisco ($885 million); University of Wisconsin, Madison ($882 million); University of Michigan, all campuses ($876 million); University of California, Los Angeles ($871 million). The institutions constituting the top five have remained the same since FY 2004.
Other Congressional News
U.S. Falling Behind in Green Technology? At a recent hearing before the House Energy & Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection, chaired by Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL), experts from industry, academia, and government testified that the U.S. is "falling behind other countries in developing and manufacturing green technologies," and that this trend will continue unless the federal government provides greater incentives and changes in trade laws. According to one public policy think tank, the U.S.'s trade balance in green technologies "fell from a $12 billion surplus in 1997 to an $8.9 billion deficit in 2008."
House S&T Committee Approves Solar Technology Bill. The House Committee on Science and Technology has approved H.R. 3585, the Solar Technology Roadmap Act, and the bill will next be considered by the full House. Sponsored by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), the bill would establish a Solar Technology Roadmap Committee to advise the Secretary of Energy and set research, development, and demonstration objectives. The bill would authorize $350 million for FY 2011, ramping up to $550 million in 2015. In related news, the 2009 DOE Solar Decathlon, a university demonstration program intended to attract attention to solar technologies, ended last week on the National Mall. In the competition to design, build, and live in attractive, energy-efficient, solar-powered homes, 15 of 20 solar-powered homes were negative in net metering, generating more energy than they used.
Climate Change to Figure in Defense Review and Intelligence Operations. The Department of Defense's (DOD) next Quadrennial Defense Review, to be completed in February 2010, will analyze the impact of climate change on national security for the first time, according to DOD officials. The analysis will focus on the indirect impacts of climate change on the stability of other countries as well as DOD's role in mitigating and adapting to climate change. In addition, the Central Intelligence Agency has announced plans to create a Center on Climate Change and National Security to provide research and analytical support for policymakers on issues relating to the impact of climate change on global political, economic, and social stability.
GAO Finds Little Redundancy in NASA Projects. In response to a directive in the NASA Authorization Act of 2008, the Government Accountability Office has released a report examining whether NASA's work, particularly in higher education, aeronautics, and climate research, duplicates efforts by other agencies. GAO investigators found nothing to suggest such redundancies.
Smithsonian to Open Evolution Hall. The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History announced last week that it will open a new hall on human evolution called the Hall of Human Origins on March 17, 2010 -- a century from the day the museum opened. The space will be named for donor David H. Koch, a chemical engineer and executive vice president of Koch Industries Inc. Another major funder is physicist Peter Buck, co-founder of Subway restaurants. Buck gave $15 million to fund continuing research and to begin new education programs. To assist with public engagement aspects of the exhibit, the museum has appointed a Broader Social Impacts Committee.
Medical Journal Editors Adopt Standard COI Form. Editors at top medical journals--including The Lancet, The Journal of the American Medical Association, and The New England Journal of Medicine--have agreed to adopt a new standard disclosure form for conflicts of interest. The form originates from the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors. It requires authors to document a wide range of potential financial conflicts for themselves and their close family members stretching back three years, as well as "relevant non-financial associations."
UNESCO Report Compares S&T Capacities of Developing and Developed Nations. The UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) last week released findings from its third survey of statistics on science and technology (S&T), a study conducted every two years. It focuses on national measures of expenditures on R&D, as well as human resources devoted to R&D, to "reveal global and regional trends in the allocation of R&D resources." Although developing nations have made significant increases in both their R&D spending and their R&D workforces (see details at the linked material), their numbers are still dwarfed by those of the developed nations. Also, the developing/developed nation comparisons must be interpreted cautiously, since the former's figures are dominated by trends in just a few of the larger and faster-growing developing nations. China alone accounted for 39% of R&D expenditures and 53% of researchers among developing nations.
Women's Progress in Australian Science Reportedly Stalled. The progress of women in science in Australia has slowed in the past 15 years, according to a new report from the Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies. The report found persistent structural barriers, with women clustered in lower levels of responsibility, even in fields such as the biological sciences where they are well represented. In nearly every category, female professional scientists earn less than their male counterparts. The report also found that significant numbers of women continue to report discrimination and harassment. It urged changes in the organizational culture of Australia's scientific institutions and asked major research funding agencies to do a better job reporting on gender data.
Publisher: Alan I. Leshner
Editor: Steve Nelson
Contributors: Patrick Clemins, Mark Frankel, Erin Heath, Barbara Jasny, Earl Lane, Al Teich, Jamie Wheeler, Kasey White, 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.