The Senate Budget Committee approved its budget resolution for FY 2011 on April 22. It provides $4 billion dollars less than the President's overall proposed budget, with most cuts coming from international programs. Following the Senate committee's action, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) expressed optimism about the House passing its budget resolution, saying he hoped it could be approved before Memorial Day.
NASA administrator Charles Bolden, Jr. testified before the Senate Appropriations Committee for the first time since the President's speech at the Kennedy Space Center on the FY 2011 NASA budget proposal. Senators continued to criticize the proposal, citing safety concerns associated with moving to a commercial launch industry, the loss of jobs at current Constellation program facilities, and the underutilization of technologies already developed under the Constellation program.
The tables and first chapter of the AAAS Report XXXV: Research & Development FY 2011
were posted online this week, and the print version will be released at the 35th annual AAAS Forum on Science and Technology Policy
, May 13-14. Visit the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program Website
to download or order the report, register for the Forum, and get additional news on the FY 2011 budget.
Other Congressional News
Climate Bill Delayed. The much-anticipated release of the "tri-partisan" climate bill by Senators Kerry (D-MA), Graham (R-SC), and Lieberman (I-CT) was delayed when Graham withdrew his support for the measure over the weekend. Graham cited Majority Leader Harry Reid's (D-NV) decision to place immigration reform on the Senate calendar ahead of the climate legislation as a key factor in his decision to withdraw.
Coming Up This Week in the House: - On April 28 the House Science and Technology Committee is scheduled to mark-up the America COMPETES bill (H.R. 5116), which would reauthorize funding and programs for the National Science Foundation (NSF), DOE's Office of Science, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
- This week the House is set to take up legislation (S. 3253) that would extend authorization of the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program and other programs of the Small Business Administration through July 31, 2010.
- On April 28 the House Foreign Affairs Committee is scheduled to mark up the Global Science Program for Security, Competitiveness, and Diplomacy Act of 2010 (H.R. 4801) which would establish research grants to address global challenges and international collaboration, especially between the U.S. and Muslim nations.
Carbon Capture and Storage Draws Attention. On April 20, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources held a hearing to discuss several bills designed to promote carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology. The most significant of these, a discussion draft by Senators Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and George Voinovich (R-OH), would authorize $850 million in expenditures over 15 years to promote the adoption of CCS in coal-burning power plants. Other bills, introduced by Senators Robert Casey (D-PA) and John Barrasso (R-WY) respectively, would promote basic research on CCS and clarify the ownership of underground space used for CCS.
Black Carbon, Climate, and Air Quality. Researchers are increasingly aware that, in addition to their polluting effects, black carbon and other short-lived airborne particles play a significant role in global climate change. On April 29, AAAS will co-sponsor a congressional briefing that will examine the impacts of these pollutants on climate and human health, and the implications for federal policy.
Administration Supports Latest Patent Reform Compromise.
In a letter
to Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Ranking Member Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Commerce Secretary Gary Locke expressed the Administration's support for the recent patent reform compromise announced by these two and other key Senators. The new draft bill
includes alterations to the language dealing with challenges to patents, raising the threshold for initiating the re-examination of patents and limiting the arguments third-party challengers to a patent can make in court.
OSTP/OMB Policy Streamlines Progress-Report System. On April 23 the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued a memorandum on standardized Research Performance Progress Reports for federal grantees, to be universally applied across federal agencies so that "researchers spend less time managing paperwork and forms" and more time on research. Details of the new standards are posted on the NSF web site, and federal agencies have nine months to post implementation plans.
Gates Calls for Easing Limits on Exports. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has called for an overhaul of the nation's export control system. The current system, much of which dates from the end of the Cold War, "does not serve our 21st-century security needs or our economic interests," Gates said.
Interagency Group Details Research Needs for Climate Change Impacts on Human Health. A federal working group has released a report highlighting 11 categories of disease and other health impacts of climate change. It seeks to provide a starting point for the coordination of federal research on the topic.
NIH and NSF Seek to Bridge Sciences Through New Grant Program. The National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation have announced two new grant programs related to biomedicine and the interface of the life and physical sciences. The first deadline is May 18.
FDA Announces Changes for Advisory Committees. The Food and Drug Administration has issued draft guidelines aimed at enhancing transparency in its advisory committees. Currently, members of FDA advisory committees can seek conflict-of-interest waivers, disclosing to the agency if they work with a sponsor or competitor of a drug or device under FDA review. Under the new guidelines, they would have to go further, revealing publicly the names of the relevant companies and how much money is involved. Public comment on the guidelines will be accepted for 60 days.
The agency also announced changes to the way its expert panels review and discuss data during hearings on medical devices
under review for pre-market approval. Instead of voting on the approvability of applications, panels will now vote on device safety and effectiveness and its risks versus benefits. There are also technical changes in the panels' voting methods to encourage that each member's votes be made independently of each other, while the results of the vote will still be public.
ASU Settles Dispute With American Indian Tribe on DNA Research. A long-running dispute between the Havasupai Indians, who live at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, and Arizona State University has been settled with the university agreeing to pay $700,000, provide other assistance to the tribe, and return blood samples taken over the past two decades. The dispute centered on an ASU researcher's use of the samples, which the subjects believed had been taken to study the reasons for their unusually high rate of diabetes, for research on other genes potentially related to schizophrenia, metabolic disorders, and alcoholism, as well as studies of the geographic origins of the tribe. The case raises important issues about the meaning of "informed consent" in DNA research.
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AAU Welcomes Georgia Tech. The Association of American Universities (AAU) has invited the Georgia Institute of Technology to become a member, bringing AAU membership to 63. The association is an invitation-only group whose member universities are selected on the basis of the breadth and quality of their research and graduate programs, among other qualities. Georgia Tech is the first new AAU member in nine years.
Legislative Updates from the States. The Michigan Senate has passed a bill that critics say creates barriers to stem cell researchers in the state, muddying definitions and increasing reporting requirements for research facilities involved in such research. The bill is likely to face strong opposition in the House. Meanwhile, a Kentucky bill that would have allowed teachers to use supplemental materials to "critique" issues like evolution and global warming failed to make it out of committee before the adjournment of the legislature on April 15. And finally, the Wisconsin State Assembly has named Lactococcus lactis, a type of bacteria used to make cheddar and other popular cheeses, the official state microbe. Wisconsin is thought to be the first state to adopt a microbe as its own.
International Collaborative Projects Launch Web Portal and Newsletter. Two new projects, BILAT‑USA and Link2US, funded in part by the European Union Seventh Framework Programme, have just launched a new web portal as the main information platform on EU‑U.S. Cooperation in Science and Technology. They have also introduced their first e-newsletter (link to subscribe). The Link2US project is coordinated by Tom Wang of AAAS, while the BILAT-USA project is being coordinated by Sabine Herlitschka, Director of the European and International Programmes (EIP) Division at the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG).
U.K. Seeks Comments on Regulation of Medical Research. The United Kingdom Academy of Medical Sciences has been commissioned by the government to conduct an independent review of the "regulation and governance of medical research," concentrating primarily on research involving human subjects. The Academy is to identify barriers, reporting requirements, data collection, and costs, and is to make recommendations for reducing complexity and bureaucracy. Public comments are due by June 1.
People in the News. - Christine W. McEntee, Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer of the American Institute of Architects, has been named Executive Director of the American Geophysical Union.
- The White House announced plans to nominate Catherine Woteki as Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Woteki is global director for scientific affairs at Mars, Inc. and previously served as undersecretary for food safety and deputy undersecretary for research in the Clinton administration and as dean of agriculture at Iowa State University. She replaces Rajiv Shah, who was recently named Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development.
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