House Democratic leaders continue to negotiate on a FY 2011 budget resolution. Moderate Democrats would like to see a spending plan which cuts nondefense discretionary spending by two percent for three consecutive years and then freezes nondefense discretionary spending for an additional two years while liberal Democrats would like a spending plan closer to the President's three year freeze. A less comprehensive deeming resolution -- which acts as a proxy resolution that allows the chamber to move on the budget and set discretionary spending levels -- is also under consideration.
Meanwhile, the House Armed Services Committee is scheduled to mark up the FY 2011 defense authorization bill on Wednesday, May 19 and the House leadership hopes to finish its version of a supplemental defense appropriations bill by the Memorial Day recess.
Presentations from the 35th Annual AAAS Forum on Science and Technology Policy
will be posted online this week. Visit the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program Website
to download or order the AAAS Report XXXV: Research and Development FY 2011
, download presentations from the Forum, and get additional news on the FY 2011 budget.
Other Congressional News
House Fails to Pass COMPETES Act. The America COMPETES Act (H.R. 5116), was pulled from the House floor on May 13th after a motion to send the bill back to committee (aka motion to recommit) passed the chamber by a 292:126 vote. The primary effect of the motion would have been to reduce the overall spending levels authorized for the National Science Foundation (NSF), Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The motion, however, included a provision that would require the NSF not to pay the salaries of employees disciplined for viewing pornography on government computers, which led many Democrats to vote in favor of the motion. Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-MI), who is retiring this year, was the only Republican to vote against the motion. The House leadership has rescheduled a vote on COMPETES for this week.
House to Vote on Narrow Patent Reform Bill. In a sign that House-Senate negotiations have stalled over a comprehensive patent reform bill, the House has planned to vote this week on a narrower bill (unnumbered) to give the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office authority to set or adjust fees. The new measure aims to boost revenue to help the agency cope with patent backlogs.
Climate Bill Introduced. On May 12, Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) released a draft of their much-anticipated climate change legislation, the American Power Act, at a press conference that promoted how the bill can enhance job creation and energy independence. The legislation seeks to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and over 80 percent by 2050 using a combination of approaches for various sectors of the economy. The bill also includes incentives for nuclear power, carbon capture and storage, renewable energy, and offshore drilling and would refund most of the revenue created by the bill back to consumers.
Coburn Introduces Legislation on Earmarks. Last week Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) introduced bipartisan legislation to create a centralized, publicly available database on all "congressionally directed spending items" including earmarks in appropriation and authorization bills. The main difference between Coburn's plan and other transparency-in-earmark proposals is that his bill would include all earmark requests regardless of whether the earmark is submitted into legislation and funded through appropriations.
Joint Economic Committee Paper on Basic Research.
On May 13th, the Joint Economic Committee issued a paper on the importance of investing in basic research. The report, The Pivotal Role of Government Investment in Basic Research,
argues that "[t]he federal government is best positioned to take on the risks of funding basic research projects" and should "increase its expenditures on basic research significantly." Separately last week, the Science Coalition
, a group representing research universities, released a report
identifying 100 companies, including Google and Genentech, as examples of success stories which came about because of federal funding for basic research.
New ARPA-E Awards. The Department of Energy has announced awards in the second round of ARPA-E funding in three areas: electrofuels; batteries for electrical energy storage in transportation; and innovative materials and processes for advanced carbon capture. A total of 37 awards to small businesses, universities, national labs and large corporations were made, amounting to $106 million.
Administration Announces Federal Cybersecurity Event. The Obama administration is developing a cybersecurity R&D agenda aimed at improving the trustworthiness of cyberspace. Toward that end, the NSF, in coordination with the Department of Homeland Security and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy is holding an event on May 19 to discuss government investments in research and economic incentives for cybersecurity. In preparation for the event, NSF issued a Federal Register notice on May 13 seeking public comments on the research agenda. (The meeting will be available via Webcast.)
Nominations Sought for CER Board. The government is accepting nominations now until June 30 for the board that will oversee the nonprofit Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, the comparative effectiveness research (CER) center formed by the recent health care reform bill.
EPA Issues Greenhouse Gas Emissions Rule. On May 13, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a final rule that outlines how greenhouse gases (GHG) from stationary sources will be regulated under the Clean Air Act. The rule, known as the "tailoring rule" for its modifications to the Clean Air Act requirements, outlines when facilities will require permits to increase GHG emissions.
Department of Education and ESEA Reauthorization. As the Congress continues to conduct hearings on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the Department of Education released its research documents that support the department's rationale for the blueprint submitted by the White House. A discussion of the importance of STEM education falls under the section entitled A Complete Education.
Government Holding Patent Backlog Workshop. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Federal Trade Commission, and Justice Department will hold a public workshop May 26 on the impacts of patent and competition policy on innovation.
New Biofuel Source?
The USDA approved
program to test genetically-engineered eucalyptus trees across seven southern states. The test aims to determine if the modified trees can withstand cold weather and become a new source for wood, pulp, and biofuels.
New U.K. Government Names Science Officials. The new Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government in the U.K. has named David Willetts MP as Minister of State for Universities and Science in the Department of Business Innovation and Skills. The new Secretary of State for Business Innovation and Skills is Vince Cable MP. Cable has been deputy leader and acting leader of the Liberal Democrats. According to The Guardian, Conservative responses to ten science policy questions posed to the party in late April, "tick[ed] (nearly) all the right boxes."
NASA Losing Ground on Basic Research. A National Research Council study concludes that NASA missions are being jeopardized by a significant decline in the agency's basic research capabilities. Deferred maintenance and old equipment are serious problems at the space agency's major facilities.
Select Agent Research Less Efficient. A new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences indicates that research on select agents, or agents that can be used as biological weapons, has become much less efficient -- meaning that the same amount of funding now produces significantly fewer papers than it did prior to 2002, the year Congress passed the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act and the year after passage of the USA PATRIOT Act.
National Lab Day Officially Launched. National Lab Day, an initiative to encourage scientists, engineers, and other professionals to do hands-on learning activities in K-12 classes, was officially launched last week with the help of top Obama administration officials. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco, White House science advisor John Holdren and others visited D.C.-area schools.
Drug Store Chain Announces, then Delays Sale of Genetic Test.
Walgreens, the largest drug store chain in the United States with over 7,500 stores, reported last week that it would sell a home genetic test by Pathway Genomics designed to assess disease risk, but soon announced that it was delaying the product's introduction at the behest of the Food and Drug Administration, which is examining whether the test needs to first gain agency approval. Similar genetic tests have been sold online for years.
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People In The News
- The Senate confirmed Dr. Larry Robinson to serve as assistant secretary for conservation and management at the Department of Commerce, a new position that will oversee NOAA's environmental policy. Robinson was the vice president for research and a professor in the Environmental Sciences Institute at Florida A&M University, and has served as director of the NOAA Environmental Cooperative Science Center headquartered at FAMU since 2001.
- General Keith B. Alexander, director of the National Security Agency, has been confirmed by the Senate to head the U.S. Cyber Command, an armed forces sub-unified command with a mission to coordinate computer-network defense and direct U.S. operations to defend against cyber-attacks.
- The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee is scheduled to hold a nomination hearing on Thursday for Nobel Prize winning physicist Dr. Carl Wieman as the Associate Director for Science at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
- On May 17, President Obama announced the nomination of Harold Varmus, former NIH director and current President of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, as the director of the National Cancer Institute.
- On April 22, President Obama announced his nomination of Dr. Catherine Woteki, who currently serves as the Global Director of Scientific Affairs for Mars, Inc., to be Under Secretary of Agriculture for Research, Education and Economics.
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