The House increased its pace of appropriations activity in the week prior to the July 4 recess. It adopted H.R. 1493, the "budget enforcement resolution" for FY 2011, as part of the rules for considering H.R. 4899, the FY 2010 emergency supplemental appropriations bill. The budget enforcement resolution sets FY 2011 discretionary spending at $1.121 trillion, $3 billion less than the Senate figure and $7 billion less than the President's request. The resolution also contains a number of "sense of the House" provisions, including balancing the federal budget by 2015; voting on recommendations by the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform only following Senate approval; and tasking committee chairs with identifying changes in law that would reduce waste and control spending. The House also passed the emergency supplemental appropriations bill on July 1, adding to the Senate-passed version $16.2 billion of spending offset by cuts to other programs. The amended bill will be considered by the Senate after Congress returns next week.
House appropriations subcommittees have approved six of the twelve appropriation bills, with five of those approvals coming last week. In the Commerce, Justice, and Science bill, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) would receive $36 million less than the President's request, while the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the National Science Foundation (NSF) would all be funded at close to the President's request. However, subcommittee chair Alan Mollohan (D-WV) expressed concern about the lack of authorizing legislation to guide the future of NASA's human space exploration activities and made funding for that activity contingent on the enactment of authorizing legislation. The House Agriculture appropriations subcommittee also approved its bill, granting an additional $34 million over the President's request to Research, Education and Economics, which contains both the Agricultural Research Service and the National Institute for Food and Agriculture.
New Non-Profits Requesting Earmarks in Lieu of Their For-Profit Counterparts. The New York Times reported that more than $150 million in proposed earmarks is slated to go to non-profit institutions (some newly created), indirectly benefiting related for-profit companies. Although non-profit entities tied to for-profit companies for tax purposes are not a new idea, the House Democrats' ban on earmarks to for-profit companies has led to an increase in the establishment of non-profits linked to for-profit companies. Congressional earmarks to all sources totaled $16 billion last fiscal year.
Visit the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program Website to order the AAAS Report XXXV: Research and Development FY 2011 , download presentation slides or audio from the Forum, and get additional news on the FY 2011 budget.
Other Congressional News
Grassley Reports on Ghostwriting. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) has released a report on ghostwriting in medical journals, the practice in which researchers sign on as authors of scientific articles that were actually prepared by third parties supported by drug or device makers. Grassley has called on the National Institutes of Health to adopt policies to ensure the disclosure of third-party involvement in journal articles and has recommended that NIH-funded research be reported only in publications with disclosure policies.
House Committee Approves Bill to Ease Cuba Travel. On June 30 the House Agriculture Committee approved by a vote of 25-20 the Travel Restriction Reform and Export Enhancement Act (H.R. 4645) , which aims to remove existing travel restrictions to Cuba and to expand access of the U.S. agriculture sector to the Cuban market. Cooperation with Cuba is one focus of the AAAS Center for Science Diplomacy.
White House Issues New National Space Policy. On June 28 President Obama released a new National Space Policy articulating the Administration's position on the use of space in meeting civil, military, and foreign policy goals. The policy emphasizes the importance of space exploration, the use of space systems to "study, monitor and support" research on climate change, the importance of engaging in international cooperation, and the need to use space systems to "deter, defend, and... defeat" attacks against the United States.
FDA Proposes Guidelines on Agricultural Antibiotic Use. The Food and Drug Administration has released draft guidance urging farmers to stop providing non-therapeutic antibiotics to livestock. Antibiotics should only be used in cases where animal health must be protected, and not across-the-board to promote growth or for other non-medical reasons, Principal Deputy Commissioner Joshua Sharfstein said in a press conference call. Sharfstein warned that although the draft guidelines would be voluntary, the agency would consider stricter regulations if the industry fails to comply on its own.
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Yucca Mountain Debate Continues. A panel of judges at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission ruled that the Department of Energy could not withdraw its application to open a nuclear waste disposal site at Yucca Mountain. Citing the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, the judges stated: "Unless Congress directs otherwise, DOE may not single-handedly derail the legislated decision-making process." However, Congress and the Administration are unlikely to provide the funds needed to continue the application process.
Executive Order on Biomaterials Issued. Last week, President Obama signed an Executive Order on "Optimizing the Security of Biological Select Agents and Toxins in the United States." The order recognizes that "variations in, and limited coordination of, individual executive departments' and agencies' oversight, security practices, and inspections have raised concerns that the cost and complexity of compliance for those who are registered to work with [biological select agents and toxins] could discourage research or other legitimate activities." The order includes several provisions intended to reduce the complexity associated with researchers' compliance with rules on the use of such agents and toxins in experiments.
OSTP Seeks Comments on Nanotechnology Initiative. The interagency National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) issued a Request for Information (RFI) in the Federal Register on July 6, seeking public comments toward revising the NNI 2007 strategic plan. The RFI includes a series of detailed questions surrounding six broad themes: Goals and Objectives; Research Priorities; Investment; Coordination and Partnerships; Evaluation; and Policy. In addition, NNI is planning to hold a Strategic Plan Stakeholder Workshop on July 13-14. Public comments on the RFI are due August 15.
NSF Seeks Comments on Plans for Broadening Participation in STEM. The National Science Foundation (NSF) is soliciting public comments on its plans for broadening participation of undergraduates in STEM programs. Described as intended to improve the impact of NSF's initiatives toward that goal, the agency's concept paper includes preliminary proposals for consolidating various targeted programs as well as developing features to support STEM education research capacity. NSF requests input by August 1.
Commerce Department Holding University Forums on American Innovation. The U.S. Department of Commerce is holding a series of four forums to discuss the role of universities in innovation, economic development, job creation, and commercialization of federally funded research. The first forum was held June 29 at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. The remaining three are scheduled for July 8 at the University of Southern California; July 13 at the University of Michigan; and July 15 at Georgia Tech.
AAAS Expresses Concern Over Indictments Against Italian Scientists. On June 29 AAAS CEO Alan I. Leshner sent a letter to Italian President Giorgio Napolitano expressing concern over the recent indictments of six scientists and a government official because they "failed to alert the population of L'Aquila of an impending earthquake." Leshner called the charges "unfair and naïve," noting that there is "no accepted scientific method for earthquake prediction that can be reliably used to warn citizens of impending disaster."
Mann Cleared by Penn State Panel. A Pennsylvania State University panel cleared climate scientist Michael Mann in the last of four investigations that arose from e-mails hacked from the University of East Anglia. The panel found that Mann had not "seriously deviated from accepted practices within the academic community for proposing, conducting, or reporting research or other scholarly activities." Earlier investigations had cleared Mann of charges that he suppressed or falsified data, destroyed e-mail, and misused confidential information.
Supreme Court Ruling Has Implications For Patent Eligibility. While upholding a lower court's decision to reject a particular patent claim on a business method, the Supreme Court rejected the earlier reasoning that only inventions involving machinery or physical transformations are eligible for patents. The ruling does not clarify what can be patented: the majority opinion states "... the Court today is not...holding that any of the above-mentioned technologies [which included software, advanced diagnostic medicine techniques, and inventions based on linear programming, data compression, and the manipulation of digital signals] from the Information Age should or should not receive patent protection." The case (Bilski v. Kappos) has implications for patent decisions in fields such as software, medical diagnostics, and finance.
More on Cell Phones and Health. As previously reported ( Policy Alert, 6/21/10 ), San Francisco adopted an ordinance requiring retailers to display the amount of radiation emitted by each cell phone they sell. Now it is reported that immediately following its passage, CTIA (the cell phone industry association) issued a statement saying that "after 2010, it would relocate its annual three-day fall exhibition, with 68,000 exhibitors and attendees and ‘$80 million' in business, away from San Francisco." Also, on June 30 Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) announced that he will "introduce a bill calling for a new national research program to study cell phones and health."
Design and System Problems Plague Air Force Drones. Unmanned drone aircraft are a new technology enabling dangerous missions to be flown without risking pilots' lives. However, armed drones were reportedly deployed well before they had been tested adequately to identify and fix design problems that have caused 38 crashes in Afghanistan and Iraq , costing $3.7-5.0 million apiece, according to Pentagon accident reports.
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