As reported last week, the Senate Budget Committee passed its version of the budget resolution (S.CON.RES. 60) on April 22nd, but the full Senate has been busy with the financial reform bill and has not yet acted on it. House Democrats continue to negotiate within their ranks to try to reach a compromise for their budget resolution. The moderate-conservative Blue Dog Democrats want to cut non-security discretionary spending by 2 percent each year for the next three years and then freeze those funding levels for an additional two years. However, the Congressional Progressive and Black Caucuses are opposed to this plan over concerns that it would result in cuts to social programs, especially Medicare, Medicaid, and other healthcare entitlements. Despite the recent strong support for R&D investment in Congress, R&D increases for many agencies could be targeted if Members continue to push for a reduction in discretionary spending.
The tables, appendices, and first chapter of the AAAS Report XXXV: Research & Development FY 2011
are posted online and the print version will be released at our 35th Annual Forum on Science and Technology Policy
May 13-14, 2010. 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.
House Committee Passes Innovation Bill. On April 28th, the House Science and Technology Committee voted 29 to 8 to pass an Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute to the America COMPETES Act (H.R. 5116) which would reauthorize funding and programs for the National Science Foundation (NSF), DOE Office of Science, and the National Institutes of Technology (NIST). During the marathon mark up, the committee debated almost 60 amendments, of which 32 were passed. The most important amendment was one introduced by Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN) that reduced the spending levels authorized to each of the three agencies over a five year period, although research within the agencies would still see a doubling over 10 years. The AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Programs has prepared detailed tables of the authorized funding levels for each agency. Other important elements of the legislation include the creation of an interagency committee under the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) within the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to coordinate science and math education. It would also require the OSTP to create an interagency working group to coordinate federal science agency research and policies related to public access to and the dissemination of the results of federally supported research.
House to Consider S&T Resolutions. This week the House of Representatives will consider resolutions to recognize a number of key science and technology related events, including the 60th Anniversary of the NSF (H.Res. 1307), National Lab Day (H.Res. 1213), 50th Anniversary of the Laser (H.Res. 1310), 50th Anniversary of the world's first meteorological satellite launched by NASA (H.Res. 1231), and the 400th anniversary of Galileo's first use of a telescope for astronomical observation (H.Res. 1269).
Grassley Targets CDC. Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), a top congressional watchdog on the issue of financial conflicts of interest in science and medicine, has sent a letter to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden to inquire what CDC is doing to police conflicts of interest. The letter was prompted by a December report by the Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General that revealed a significant number of potential conflicts of interest among advisory committee members that went unidentified or unresolved by the agency. CDC responded in a press statement saying it would respond promptly but that it has already adopted some of the report's recommendations.
Business and Food Industry Groups Shun BPA Ban. Major business and food industry groups are balking at a proposed amendment to the major food safety bill soon to come up for a Senate vote. The amendment, sought by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), would ban bisphenol A (BPA), an additive to many plastic food and drink containers that has been linked to health concerns. Several agencies are currently investigating BPA's safety, and the groups say the amendment would undermine the efforts of those agencies.
Collins Testifies on NIH Budget. National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins testified on the NIH budget before House appropriators last week. He discussed both health and economic benefits of biomedical research. At one point, Appropriations Chairman Dave Obey (D-WI) asked Collins if the $10.4 billion NIH received from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act had been a positive thing, given that the agency is now reaching the end of the two-year stimulus funds. Despite the "stresses" NIH faces in FY 2011, Collins responded, "it was worth every bit of it."
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Innovation Challenge Announced. The Commerce Department, National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation have announced a $12 million "i6 challenge" competition to stimulate innovation. Commerce will award up to $1 million to six teams with "innovative ideas to drive technology commercialization and entrepreneurship," and NIH and NSF will award up to $6 million total to Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grantees associated with the winning teams. The application deadline is July 15.
NIH Approves Widely Used Stem Cell Lines. The National Institutes of Health approved 13 additional stem cell lines, bringing the total number of lines eligible for federally-funded experiments to 64. Four of the newcomers are Bush-era stem cell lines from Wisconsin's WiCell Research Institute, including two widely-used lines, H7 and H9. Director Francis Collins announced that stem cell lines responsible for 89 percent of related scientific publications from 1999 to 2008 have been approved under the new guidelines, which he said should provide "reassurance" to researchers concerned about continuing their work under the new rules.
FDA Tackles Medical Devices Used at Home. The Food and Drug Administration is holding a public meeting on May 24 to address issues connected with the increased home use of medical devices, many of which were originally approved for use in medical settings. FDA plans to establish guidelines for manufacturers, develop a labeling repository and post-market procedures for tracking adverse events, and partner with home health accrediting bodies to support safe use.
DOE Announces New Solar and Water Programs.
Federal Government Approves First Offshore Wind Farm. On April 28, the federal government approved the first offshore wind farm in the United States. The Cape Wind project, off the coast of Cape Cod in Massachusetts, will be comprised of 130 windmills in Nantucket Sound and will begin producing energy by the end of 2012. Average expected production will be roughly 170 megawatts, or almost 75 percent of the demand for Cape Cod and the Islands of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket. The decade-long debate over the project may not yet be over, as opponents have already announced their intention to challenge the decision in court.
The U.S. Department of Energy has announced
that it will invest more than $200 million over the next five years to expand and accelerate the development, commercialization, and use of solar and water power technologies. The bulk of the funding will go to a photovoltaic manufacturing initiative, photovoltaic supply chain development, and marine and hydrokinetic technologies.
New Education Resource Released. On April 28, AAAS, through its Center for Advancing Science and Engineering Capacity, released a first of its kind handbook, Navigating a Complex Landscape to Foster Greater Faculty and Student Diversity in Higher Education. The handbook was produced in collaboration with the Association of American Universities and offers in-depth, cross referenced legal resources to assist universities in developing strategies that are both effective and legally sustainable in diversifying STEM (and other) students and faculty.
Australia Suspends Carbon Emissions Trading Plan. On April 27, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced that his government had put its emissions trading proposal on hold. The proposed system aimed to cut the country's emissions by 5 percent of 2000 levels by the year 2020. Mr. Rudd cited conflicts with the Senate and uncertainty over a successor to the Kyoto Protocol as reasons for the suspension. He said his government will re-visit the issue when Kyoto expires in 2012.
AAAS to Co-sponsor Briefing on the Haitian Earthquake. On May 6, AAAS will co-sponsor a briefing for congressional staff that will cover earthquake research and prediction in Haiti and the Caribbean, potential future seismic activity, risk mitigation, and the prospect of early warning systems.
Vatican Supports Stem Cell Research. The Vatican and the University of Maryland have entered into a partnership to be known as the International Intestinal Stem Cell Consortium for research on the potential therapeutic value of adult stem cells. The Vatican is reported to have agreed to provide $2.7 million to support the effort. While the Catholic Church has been an outspoken opponent of embryonic stem cell research, it has joined with those who have advocated the use of adult stem cells as a promising alternative.
AAAS-AAU-APLU Issue Report on Biosecurity. Last week, AAAS, the Association of American Universities (AAU) and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) released a report on how to minimize biosecurity and biosafety risks in academic laboratories, including high-containment labs, while promoting education and research. The report, Competing Responsibilities?: Addressing the Security Risks of Biological Research in Academia, is the result of a two-day meeting convened earlier this year by AAAS.
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