On September 16 the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the Defense and Legislative Branch appropriations bills. The Defense bill totals $670 billion, $8.3 billion (1.2%) less than the President's request but $11.2 billion (1.7%) more than FY 2010. The bill includes $77.1 billion for Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation (RDT&E). By comparison, the Defense bill in the House, which was approved by the Defense Subcommittee, would fund RDT&E at $77.5 billion.
The Senate Appropriations Committee has only one bill (Interior) left for approval. However, no spending bills have yet made it to the Senate floor, and they are not likely to be brought up until after the November election. With this situation and with only two appropriations bills having been passed by the House, a continuing resolution (CR) is being crafted and might see floor action as early as this week. The CR needs to be passed by September 30, the end of the 2010 fiscal year, to prevent a government shutdown.
A cloture vote to proceed on the Senate Defense authorization bill will be considered on September 21 that would clear the way for votes on a number of controversial amendments (some not directly relevant to defense issues). However, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) does not expect work on the bill to be complete until the lame-duck period after elections.
Visit the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program Website for additional news on the FY 2011 budget, to order the AAAS Report XXXV: Research and Development FY 2011, or to download presentation slides or audio from the Forum.
Other Congressional News
Stem Cell Updates. Last week, the Senate Appropriations panel with jurisdiction over the National Institutes of Health held a hearing on stem cell research. It featured NIH Director Francis Collins as well as three other scientists and a patient advocate. Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) defended his 1995 amendment, known as the Dickey-Wicker Amendment, which prohibits federally funded research that destroys embryos and was the basis for Judge Lamberth's injunction on government-sponsored human embryonic stem cell research. The U.S. Appeals Court is set to hear oral arguments in the stem cell case on September 27. Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA), who spoke in favor of embryonic stem cell research at the Senate hearing, has introduced a bill that seeks to effectively overturn the injunction, although some pundits view its chances of passing before the November election as slim.
Confirmation Hearing for NSF Director. The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee postponed its Executive Session last week, which would have included a vote on the nomination of Subra Suresh to be the new NSF Director. It has been re-scheduled for this Thursday, September 23.
House Hearing on Science of Science and Innovation Policy. On September 23 the Research and Education Subcommittee of the House Science and Technology Committee will hold a hearing on the NSF Science of Science and Innovation Policy (SciSIP) program. AAAS Science and Policy Programs director Al Teich will testify.
Food Safety Bill on Hold. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) is again holding up a popular bill, this time on food safety, so Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has announced that the bill will wait until after the November election. In related news, the Union of Concerned Scientists has released a survey of more than 1,700 employees from the Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Department of Agriculture who work on food safety. Hundreds of respondents indicated that they had experienced some kind of political or corporate interference within the past year.
Joint Letter to Senate Leadership on Patent Reform. Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Jeff Sessions (R-AL) -- the chair and ranking member of the Judiciary Committee -- were joined by 23 Senators in a joint letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), urging Reid to allow the Managers' Amendment to revise the Patent Reform Act (S. 515), approved by the full Committee, to be brought to the floor for a vote. The bipartisan amendment would shift the current patent system of first-to-invent to first-to-file and reduce the number of years it takes to receive a patent.
Congressional Briefing: Policies' Effects on Women in Science. AAAS Education and Human Resources director Shirley Malcom will be a panelist at a September 23 congressional briefing, "Are State and Federal Policies Helping or Hindering Women in Science?" convened by L'Oréal USA and Discover magazine. Malcom will report the results of a survey conducted by AAAS and Science at the request of L'Oréal USA, dealing with barriers to career development reported by the 1,300 female and male scientists surveyed. The survey's findings will be covered next week.
Jane Lubchenco of NOAA to Head Study of Gulf Oil Spill. An editorial in the September 20 edition of the New York Times reported that Jane Lubchenco, director of NOAA, has been assigned by the Obama administration to conduct a "systematic effort ... to measure the amount of oil remaining in the Gulf of Mexico and its potential impact on marine life." An interim report could be ready within the next few months, the Times reported.
More Strategies Recommended for Improving K-12 STEM Education: Last week both the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) and the National Science Board (NSB) issued new reports outlining strengths and weaknesses of strategies to improve K-12 STEM education. The PCAST report, Prepare and Inspire: K-12 Education in Science, Technology, Engineering, and MATH for America's Future, offers recommendations in several theme areas: 1) Recruit and train 100,000 great STEM teachers over the next decade capable of preparing and inspiring students; 2) Recognize and reward the top 5% of the nation's STEM teachers by creating a STEM Master Teachers Corps; 3) Create 1,000 new STEM-focused schools over the next decade; 4) Support the state-led movement to ensure that the nation adopts a common baseline for what students learn in STEM; 5) Use technology to drive innovation, in part by creating an advanced research projects agency for education, modeled on Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA); and 6) Create opportunities for inspiration through individual and group experiences both within and outside of the classroom. The NSB report, Preparing the Next Generation of STEM Innovators, recommends strategies to cast a wider net to identify all types of talents and to nurture potential in all demographic categories of students.
AAAS Urges Changes to Proposed DOI Scientific Integrity Policy. AAAS issued comments on a proposed scientific integrity policy for the Department of the Interior. AAAS applauded the Department "for recognizing the importance of protecting the integrity of science," but expressed concern that the draft policy "lacks detail on how scientific information is communicated and used in the policy process."
NIH Advisory Board Recommends Merging Two Institutes. The National Institutes of Health's Scientific Management Review Board, which is charged with examining NIH's organizational structure, has voted to advise Director Francis Collins to merge two institutes: the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. If Collins agrees to the merger, Congress would have 180 days to weigh in before the merger could go forward.
People in the News. - Three more prominent scientists have been named to participate in the State Department's Science Envoys program: former NSF director and former AAAS president Rita Colwell, University of Maryland-College Park and Johns Hopkins University; Gebisa Ejeta, Purdue University; and recent AAAS Board of Directors member Alice Gast, president of Lehigh University.
- On September 16 the Senate confirmed the following nominations: Carl Wieman, to be Associate Director for Science, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy; Catherine Woteki, to be Under Secretary of Agriculture for Research, Education, and Economics; and Elisabeth Hagen, to be Under Secretary of Agriculture for Food Safety.
- Daniel M. Kammen, Director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Lab at the University of California, Berkeley and retiring chair of the AAAS Section on Societal Impacts of Science and Engineering (Section X), has been named chief technical specialist for renewable energy and energy efficiency at the World Bank.
California Ballot Initiative on Climate Change. On November 2 Californians will vote on Proposition 23, an initiative that would halt the enactment of the 2006 Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32). AB 32 requires the state to reduce greenhouse gas emission levels to 1990 levels by 2020. Proposition 23 would freeze the provisions of AB 32 until California's unemployment rate drops to 5.5% or below for four consecutive quarters, a level well below California's current unemployment rate of approximately 12%. A New York Times article provides additional background and reports that the initiative "is drawing a wave of contributions from out-of-state oil companies."
Study Shows Failure to Disclose Conflicts of Interest. According to a study conducted by the Institute on Medicine as a Profession, 25 of 32 doctors and researchers who received $1 million or more in fees from orthopedic device companies did not disclose the payments in their scientific journal articles.
U.S. Falls to Fourth in Economic Competitiveness Rankings. The World Economic Forum has released its annual Global Competitiveness Report on the competitiveness of economies around the world. Switzerland tops the overall ranking for the second year in a row, with the United States falling to fourth position, overtaken by Sweden (2nd) and Singapore (3rd). The rankings are calculated from both publicly available data and an annual survey of worldwide business leaders.
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Political Interference With Scientific Information Alleged in Canada. As a result of a new media relations process at Natural Resources Canada that went into effect this spring, that agency's scientists have been told that they need "pre-approval" from the Minister's office to speak with national and international journalists or to conduct interviews on high-profile issues. Another scientist quoted in a Postmedia News report also claims that media access to researchers is tightly controlled by Environment Canada and Health Canada.
International Agreement on Principles of Measuring Quality Graduate Education. Graduate education leaders reached agreement at the 4th Annual Strategic Leaders Global Summit, an event designed to promote best practices in measuring the quality of masters and doctoral education. The principles include a call for the development of specific quality metrics for research degrees.
Russian Plans to Close Repository. The Russian government is planning to close the Pavlovsk Experimental Station and sell the land to a developer. The station, a field genebank (meaning that its varieties are stored as living plants rather than seeds) was founded by Nikolai Vavilov in 1926 and is a unique repository for more than 5,000 distinct varieties of fruit trees and plants, most of which are extinct in nature or endangered. Ninety percent of the plants grown at Pavlovsk exist nowhere else in the world.
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