As is customary this time of year, agencies have begun
congressional testimony on their FY 2011 budgets. On March 10 National
Science Foundation Director Arden Bement, Jr. testified before the
House Science and Technology Committee's Subcommittee on Research and
Science Education, highlighting several priorities in NSF's proposed
$7.4 billion budget (an increase of 8.0% over FY 2010). These included
contributions to the National Innovation Strategy, with investments in
next-generation information and communications technology and
innovation-based entrepreneurship; increased funding for workforce
development, including the Graduate Research Fellowship (GRF) and the
Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) programs; and support for
broadening participation, including a new consolidated program for
undergraduate institutions. Coverage of other significant R&D
agencies will be provided as their congressional hearings take place.
House Duels Over Earmark
Moratorium. On March 10 House Appropriations
Chairman David Obey (D-WI) unveiled a plan
to ban all
congressionally-directed projects (aka earmarks) in the FY 2011 budget
that would go to for-profit companies. The proposal, approved by House
Democratic leaders, would also require an audit of approximately 5% of
all earmarks to non-profit institutions in order to ensure that the
earmarked funds are being used for "[their] intended purpose and to
prevent for-profits from masquerading as non-profits." The following
day House Republican leaders upped the ante by announcing a plan,
adopted by the Republican Conference, for an across-the-board ban on
all earmarks whether going to for-profit or non-profit entities.
Reaction from the Senate has been guarded so far.
For up-to-date news
on the FY 2011 budget, visit the AAAS
R&D Budget and Policy Program
Website. Detailed coverage of the major R&D funding agencies
historical trends will appear in the AAAS
Report XXXV: Research and
Development FY 2011, to be published in April 2010.
Stem Cell Research: One Year
Later. This week marks one year
after President Obama issued the executive order lifting his
predecessor's limits on federal funding of human embryonic stem cell
research. The Washington Post
has an article
detailing new challenges.
Some scientists remain in "limbo" while waiting to see if the lines
they are working on will be approved for federally funded experiments
under the new system. Meanwhile, Representatives Diana DeGette (D-CO)
and Mike Castle (R-DE) have again introduced a bill, HR 4808,
to codify some of the Obama policies into law.
Bill Introduced. The Engineering Education for Innovation Act,
to strengthen engineering education in K-12 schools, was recently
introduced in the House (H.R.4709)
by Representative Paul Tonko (D-NY)
and in the Senate (S.3043)
by Senators Ted Kaufman (D-DE), Kirsten
Gillibrand, (D-NY) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME). The bill would implement
many of the recommendations of the recent National Academy of
Engineering report Engineering
in K-12 Education: Understanding the
Status and Improving the Prospects.
House Bill on Global Science and
Diplomacy Introduced. Last week House Foreign Affairs Committee
Chairman Howard L. Berman (D-CA) and Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE)
introduced the Global
Science Program for Security, Competitiveness,
and Diplomacy Act (H.R.
4801). The legislation would authorize, among
other things, the creation of a grant program for U.S. and foreign
scientists to encourage research cooperation between universities among
eligible countries. Eligible countries allowed to compete for the
grants include developing nations, Middle East countries, and those
with a majority Muslim population. The bill also promotes efforts to
support nuclear nonproliferation and would formalize the State
Department's Science Envoy and Science Diplomacy Fellows program.
Although no specific funding levels are authorized for the Global
Science Program, the legislation authorizes the State Department and
the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to develop and
promulgate guidelines for the solicitation of proposals which the
National Science Foundation would evaluate through peer-review panels
in collaboration with the State Department.
MIT Engineering Dean to be
Nominee for NSF Director? Although
there has been no official announcement yet, sources including AAAS's ScienceInsider
report that Subra Suresh, dean of MIT's School of
Engineering, is expected to be nominated to be the next Director of the
National Science Foundation, replacing Arden Bement, Jr., who is stepping
down June 1 to head a new global research institute at Purdue
NIH Announces Diversity Award.
The National Institutes of
Health has announced
a $10 million stimulus grant program to go toward "highly innovative"
approaches to promoting diversity within the
biomedical research workforce.
Education Department Seeks
Technology Plan. The U.S. Department of Education is seeking
comments on its proposed National Education Technology Plan (NETP) to
promote technology that will transform teaching and learning. The NETP
is built around five organizing themes: Learning, Assessment, Teaching,
Infrastructure, and Productivity, and identifies "grand challenge
problems" that it recommends be addressed through a coordinated
Federal Court Panel Rejects
Thimerosal-Autism Link. On March 12 a
federal panel, established by and within the U.S. Federal Court of
Claims specifically to hear claims of injury caused by vaccines, ruled
in three separate
cases that thimerosal, an additive in vaccines that
contains mercury, does not cause autism -- a ruling consistent with
current scientific consensus. More than 5,000 parents have filed claims
seeking compensation based on an alleged link between thimerosal in
vaccines and autism. While the recent ruling by the panel will
essentially deny all those claims, the parents can appeal to a higher
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Nearly One-Third of Faculty
Salaries Dropped in Past Year.
On March 8
the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources
on recent faculty salaries
. Approximately 21% of
faculty members who work at the 502 private institutions and 320
publication institutions studied received no increase in fiscal year
2009-2010, and salaries actually decreased for 32.6%. The only faculty
who, on average, saw real increases were those working at private,
doctorate-granting institutions. Among science and engineering fields,
engineering professors earned the highest salaries, with an average of
IPCC Investigation Announced.
The United Nations announced
that the InterAcademy
, the global association of national
science academies, will assess the policies and procedures of the Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change
. The review will focus on
standards for future assessments, rather than on the few
highly-publicized errors in the comprehensive Fourth Assessment Report.
The report is expected to be completed this summer.
India, China Join
China and India -- two leading greenhouse gas
formally signed on to the Copenhagen Accord, the international climate
change agreement reached last December. They join more than 100 nations
that aim to limit global temperature rise to 2°C, although the
Accord does not commit nations to any binding steps to reach that goal.
In related news, India announced plans to levy a tax on coal and to
create a National Clean Energy Fund for renewable energy projects.
Israeli Education Official Backs
Off Anti-Evolution Stance.
scientist in Israel's Education Ministry, Gavriel Avital, has backed
away from his public statements questioning the science behind climate
change and evolution. The ministry has released a
Avital promises to follow the ministry's policies and "act accordingly
in the context of my position as chief scientist."
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