The President will release his proposed budget for FY 2011 next Monday, February 1. Agencies were initially asked to submit three different versions of their budget requests for FY 2011: (1) the level contained in last year's proposed budget for FY 2010; (2) funding at actual FY 2010 levels; and (3) a 5% decrease from FY 2010 funding levels. This supports preliminary indications that, overall, the FY 2011 budget may be flat or may even decrease from FY 2010 levels, or that some funding could be shifted within and possibly across agencies to support the President's R&D priorities, which include basic research, clean energy technology, healthcare, and homeland security. Meanwhile there are also reports that the President will propose in his January 27 State of the Union Address a three-year freeze on significant segments of domestic spending. To what extent this might affect federal R&D support will not be clear until the proposed budget is released next week.
A calendar of public budget-release events for individual agencies will be updated at the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program Website as information becomes available.
Murkowski Leads Effort to Block EPA Regulation of Greenhouse Gases. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) has introduced a Resolution of Disapproval that would prevent the EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions by blocking the agency's recent finding that greenhouse gases endanger the public's health and welfare. Thirty-five Republicans co-sponsored the measure, including Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who is working with Senators Kerry (D-MA) and Lieberman (I-CT) to develop a compromise climate bill. Co-sponsors also included three Democrats: Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Chair Blanche Lambert Lincoln (D-AR), Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE), and Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA). Graham said his support of the resolution did not preclude his efforts on a climate bill, stating, "If you vote to pre-empt the EPA – which I'm willing to do – I think there's a burden on you as a United States Senator to deal with the issue" of climate change.
Nanotech Safety Bill for FDA Introduced. Senators Mark Pryor (D-AR) and Benjamin Cardin (D-MD) have introduced the Nanotechnology Safety Act of 2010, which would establish a program at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to assess the health and safety implications of nanotechnology in everyday products and develop best practices for firms using the technologies.
NIH Stem Cell Registry at 42 and Growing. The National Institutes of Health recently approved the addition of two more stem cell lines to its registry of lines eligible for federally funded research, bringing the total to 42. The number is soon likely to grow by at least one more since the Advisory Committee to the Director voted to recommend the approval of another stem cell line from the WiCell Research Institute. This would be the first of the Bush Administration's eligible lines to be approved for the current Administration's registry. The ultimate decision rests with NIH Director Francis Collins.
White House to Look to Private Sector for Human Space Flight. The Wall Street Journal writes that the White House is set to announce in its upcoming budget proposals a plan to fund private companies to take NASA astronauts into space. "The goal," according to the article, "is to set up a multiyear, multi-billion-dollar initiative allowing private firms, including some start-ups, to compete to build and operate spacecraft capable of ferrying U.S. astronauts into orbit -- and eventually deeper into the solar system." This idea gained momentum as one of the recommendations of a task force the president appointed last year to examine the agency's human space flight activities. The panel felt that such outsourcing could save money and free NASA to pursue more ambitious goals. But the plan is likely to face pushback from certain members of Congress who are concerned about safety and shifting funds to new initiatives at the expense of programs already stretched thin.
AAAS Submits Letter to OSTP on Public Access. In response to the Office of Science and Technology Policy's (OSTP) request for information on Public Access Policies for Science and Technology Funding Agencies Across the Federal Government, AAAS submitted a letter articulating its position on public access to research articles from scholarly publishing. In the letter, AAAS states that it will "continue to experiment with different mechanisms for integrating and disseminating scientific information as the technologies of online publishing evolve. We welcome the introduction of various experimental models by other publishers in this rapidly changing environment, believing that a diversity of approaches is the best strategy for advancing science and serving the public good." AAAS also points out that direct public access to the original scientific literature should not be used as a substitute for efforts to translate important findings into terms more understandable by the general public.
2000-2009 Was Warmest Decade on Record. New global average surface temperature figures from NASA show that the decade ending in 2009 was the warmest on record and that 2009 was the second warmest year since 1880, when modern temperature measurement began.
Lawsuit Announced Over Coral Protection. The Center for Biological Diversity has announced plans to sue the National Marine Fisheries Service to force a decision on the protection of corals after the agency missed a deadline for action. The Center filed a petition to protect 83 coral species it says are threatened by global warming and more acidic waters.
Commercialization of Academic Research to be Explored. In remarks to the Ewing Marion Kaufman Foundation, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke announced plans to host a forum on the roles of universities in innovation, economic development, job creation, and commercialization of federally funded research. The February 24 forum will explore steps the Administration can take to work with universities and industry to accelerate commercialization of university R&D.
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Report on Impact of Stimulus Funding on Medical Research. On January 22 the advocacy group United for Medical Research (UMR) issued a report illustrating the impacts of research supported by NIH stimulus funds. The report, "Investing in Recovery and Discovery," highlights examples of how the $10.4 billion of NIH stimulus funding is leading to new discoveries, innovations, and jobs, and argues for the importance of investing in medical research. UMR is a coalition of universities, patient groups, life science businesses, and associations.
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Academy Recommends Revisiting Plan to Sell Off U.S. Helium Reserve. The National Research Council has issued a report calling on the federal government to reconsider its program of selling off its substantial reserve of helium. Citing negative impacts on small-scale government-funded researchers as well as other potentially damaging effects on U.S. interests, the report recommends that Congress revisit the requirement of the Helium Privatization Act of 1996 that the reserve be sold off to repay the government for its expenditures associated with accumulating the reserve. The new report contradicts an NRC report from 2000 that had found that the Act would not have substantial impact on helium users.
Academy Says More R&D Needed on Near-Earth Objects. Another report by the National Research Council suggests that despite the real threat that comets or asteroids could collide with the Earth, researchers are still years away from being able to detect, let alone find ways to avoid, such "near-Earth objects" that are at least 140 meters in diameter. The report committee recommends further research and development that could improve detection and mitigation of NEO threats.
Education Funders List STEM Subjects and Access to College Among Top Priorities. STEM curriculum, college access, and student success were among the highest priorities of more than 140 education grant-making organizations, according to Benchmarking 2009, an annual report by Grantmakers for Education that highlights trends, priorities, and concerns of the educational philanthropy community.
Copenhagen Accord Deadline Approaching. January 31, 2010 is the deadline under the Copenhagen Accord for major economies to register their greenhouse gases mitigation commitments. China, Brazil, South Africa, and India announced that they will disclose the voluntary steps they will take to help reduce global warming by the deadline.
International Issues Emerge Over Coal Plant. The New York Times reports that the Federated States of Micronesia has asked the Czech Republic - over 7,000 miles away - to decommission a coal-fired power plant rather than retrofit it because greenhouse gases from the plant contribute to climate change, which threatens the existence of the Pacific island nation.
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