A budget resolution for FY 2011 is still under negotiation in the House. Progress has been slow, however, since legislators are reluctant to act on what promises to be a tight budget before the November elections. The House is nearing action on the FY 2010 supplemental appropriations bill, H.R. 4899. The bill contains $33.5 billion for the Department of Defense, including $274 million for Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation (RDT&E). It is uncertain whether the House will mark-up its own original bill or amend the Senate-passed version, but the bill is on the House floor calendar for possible action this week.
OMB Memos Call for Budget and Program Cuts. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) director Peter Orszag issued a memo on June 8 directing heads of all non-defense departments and agencies to reduce their fiscal year (FY) 2012 budget requests, to be submitted to OMB in September, by five percent. (The baseline for the cut is the FY 2012 budget projection that was submitted as part of the FY 2011 budget request.) The memo further requests that agencies seek to eliminate low-priority and duplicative programs rather than making across-the-board cuts. In a related move, Orszag issued a separate memo directing all non-defense departments and agencies to create a list of low-impact programs to be submitted to OMB along with their FY 2012 budget request.
Industrial Leaders Call for Tripling Federal Energy R&D. A small group of top business executives including Bill Gates of Microsoft; Jeff Immelt, chairman and CEO of General Electric; and Norm Augustine, former CEO of Lockheed Martin has called on the federal government to more than triple its investment on energy R&D. Noting that the U.S. cannot reach current emission reduction goals with present technology or today's political environment, Gates declared that the nation needs "an immense breakthrough" in energy technology and that the only way to get such a breakthrough is to invest much more money in the problem. The report, which compares the $5 billion that the federal government invests annually in energy R&D with NIH's $30 billion budget and the $80 billion spent on military R&D, is backed up by an appendix with detailed recommendations on where to focus the increased spending.
Audio of presentations at the 35th Annual AAAS Forum on Science and Technology Policy
is now posted online in addition to the presentation slides. Also, all 27 chapters from the AAAS Report XXXV: Research and Development FY 2011
are available for download. Visit the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program Website
to order the AAAS Report XXXV: Research and Development FY 2011
, download Forum presentation slides or audio, and get additional news on the FY 2011 budget.
Other Congressional News
Senate Barely Defeats Effort to Overturn EPA's Endangerment Finding. By a vote of 47-53, the Senate failed to advance a measure to prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The Resolution of Disapproval (S. J. Res. 26) sponsored by Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) received support from all 41 Republicans and six Democrats. It would have nullified EPA's finding that greenhouse gases endanger human health and welfare, thereby striking EPA's authority to regulate GHG emissions.
House Committee to Review Technology Transfer Bills. The House Science and Technology Committee's Subcommittee on Research and Science Education held a hearing last week on technology transfer and mechanisms to improve the process of moving research "from the lab bench to the marketplace." Subcommittee Chairman Dan Lipinski (D-IL) stated that the subcommittee will continue to analyze this subject, including a review of the Stevenson-Wydler Technology Innovation Act (P.L. 96-480) and the Government Patents Policy Act (aka the Bayh-Dole Act, P.L. 96-517).
Cybersecurity Bill Introduced. Senators Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and Susan Collins (R-ME), Chairman and Ranking Minority Member, respectively, of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, introduced a bill to strengthen and improve cybersecurity responses in both the federal government and the private sector. The Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act of 2010 (S. 3480) would create an Office of Cyberspace Policy in the White House led by a Senate-confirmed director who would be charged with developing a national cybersecurity policy and strategy. Furthermore, the bill would create a National Center for Cybersecurity and Communications (NCCC) within the Department of Homeland Security to coordinate and lead federal programs and activities to implement the national cybersecurity strategy, in order to protect public and private computer and communication networks against cyber attacks. Climate Change and Agriculture Congressional Briefings.
AAAS will co-sponsor two congressional briefings
on June 16 featuring leading scientists who will discuss the impacts of climate change on agriculture and the nation's food supply and lay out potential adaptation options.
NIH Considers Changes in Conflict-of-Interest Policy. The National Institutes of Health is currently seeking comments on proposed revisions to its conflict-of-interest policy, even as conflicts of interest continue to make news. The latest incident again involves psychiatrist Charles Nemeroff, who lost NIH funding after failing to disclose significant financial conflicts while at Emory University. Nemeroff subsequently took a job at the University of Miami; the penalties, however, did not move with him from Emory. At a meeting of his Advisory Committee last week, NIH Director Francis Collins said NIH would look into ways to address such situations in the future.
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NASA Budget Shortfall Leads to Suspension of Constellation Programs. Last week NASA Administrator Charles Bolden notified Congress that NASA is facing a $991 million shortfall for FY 2010 after taking contract termination liability costs into account, and the agency will stop funding the Ares I first stage and reduce funding of other Constellation programs. While this action directly contradicts a provision in the FY 2010 omnibus appropriations bill which prohibits NASA from terminating any element of the Constellation program, NASA has justified the cuts using the Anti-Deficiency Act, interpreting the act to require contractors to withhold funds to cover contract termination costs. A bill, S.3180, introduced by Sen. LeMieux (R-FL) on March 25, would specifically bar the use of the Anti-Deficiency Act as a basis for terminating Constellation contracts, but this bill has been stalled in the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation since its introduction.
FDA Warns Commercial Genetic Test Firms. The FDA has sent letters to five companies (23andMe, Navigenics, DeCodeGenetics, Illumina, and Knome) involved in direct-to-consumer genetic tests or in the sequencing or DNA scanning required for such tests. The letters indicate that the products are to be considered devices and, as such, require pre-market regulatory approval. Opponents of regulating the personal genomics industry have argued that the tests merely provide information or were only being offered by single laboratories and thus should be immune from regulation.
IOM Releases Food Safety Report. The Institute of Medicine and National Research Council have released a report on food safety, saying the Food and Drug Administration is hampered by limited resources and a "piecemeal approach" to gathering and using risk data. The report recommends a risk-based approach where resources are put toward the areas of the food chain that have the greatest potential for problems. The report also recommends that Congress pass legislation like the food safety bill approved by the House and currently awaiting a Senate vote.
GAO Report Highlights Shortcomings of Environmental Satellites. The recent GAO report Environmental Satellites: Strategy Needed to Sustain Critical Climate and Space Weather Measurements highlights gaps in future environmental satellite capability and warns that "[w]ithout a strategy for continuing environmental measurements over the coming decades and a means for implementing it, agencies will continue to independently pursue their immediate priorities on an ad hoc basis, the economic benefits of a coordinated approach to investments in earth observation may be lost, and our nation's ability to understand climate change may be limited." Google to Host Patent and Trademark Office Database.
The AAAS Board of Directors issued a 2007 statement on the need for a robust system of earth observing systems.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) and Google have entered into a two-year agreement to make patent and trademark data available in bulk form free to the public and at no cost to the government. This is intended to be a temporary arrangement while the PTO contracts out the building of a database that will make this information available in electronic machine-readable form.
Two Anti-evolution Bills Fail in South Carolina. As the South Carolina legislature adjourned on June 3, two anti-evolution bills officially failed to pass the committee stage. Both bills were sponsored in the state Senate by perennial evolution challenger Michael Fair. One was a typical "academic freedom"-style bill; the other would have required the state to maintain religious neutrality in curricula with respect to the "origins of mankind."
NAPA Seeks Comments on National Climate Service. The National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) is analyzing options for structuring a National Climate Service within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). As part of the study, NAPA is seeking input and dialogue from June 14 through 27 on how to best engage stakeholders.
Analogue to IPCC for Biodiversity and Ecosystems Approved. Representatives from 90 countries have joined together to approve the formation of an Intergovernmental Science Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) by the UN General Assembly. IPBES will carry out high-quality peer reviews of the science on biodiversity and ecosystems to provide gold standard reports to governments and will outline policy options and responses making sense of reports and assessments conducted by United Nations bodies, research centers, universities, and others as they relate to biodiversity and ecosystem services.
Saudi Arabian and Chinese Team Announces Sequencing of Arabian Camel Genome. Researchers from China's Beijing Genome Institute and Saudi Arabia's King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) have announced that they have sequenced and analyzed the genome of the Arabian camel, Camelus dromedarius. This builds on work recently reported by the KACST researchers in PLoS ONE, where they had sequenced and annotated C. dromedarius expressed sequence tags.
Stem Cell Therapy News. The International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) has launched a website to provide individuals with information to help them evaluate stem cell treatments and the facilities that offer them, wherever in the world they may be. In related news, Costa Rica is cracking down on stem cell tourism. It has ordered its largest stem cell clinic to stop offering treatments, arguing that there is no evidence the treatments work or are safe for patients.
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