Congress passed a Continuing Resolution (CR) just after midnight on Thursday, September 30, to extend federal government funding through December 3, 2010. The Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011 (H.R.3081), funded most programs at current FY 2010 levels, but funding for some programs was modified. For example, the Weapons Activities program of DOE's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) received its requested $624 million (9.8%) increase for FY 2011, bringing the program's total budget to $7.0 billion including projected R&D spending of $2.7 billion (a 1.4% increase). Allowing for the Thanksgiving recess, the CR gives Congress approximately two weeks to finish work on the FY 2011 budget once legislators return after elections, but other legislative priorities will likely push action on the budget back to mid- to late-December or into January, in which case another CR will be needed to keep the government in business.
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
Congress Passes NASA Authorization Bill. Although the House Science and Technology Committee released compromise language for the NASA Reauthorization bill last week, the House passed the original Senate version (S.3729) the evening of Sept. 29, sending the bill to the President for his signature. The bill as passed authorizes NASA funding for three years; extends the life of the International Space Station by five years to 2020; lays out a transition to commercial cargo and crew services for near-earth orbit; funds an additional Shuttle mission; and invests in a heavy-lift vehicle program that will make use of expertise from the Constellation and Shuttle programs. The bill contains many of the initiatives included in the controversial NASA budget request, but in general implements them at a more cautious pace.
House Passes Critical Materials Bill. On Sept. 29 the House passed H.R. 6160, the Rare Earths and Critical Materials Revitalization Act of 2010. The bill would create the Rare Earth Materials Program within the Department of Energy, to quantify U.S. stocks of rare earth metals and find new ways to collect, utilize, reduce, reuse, and recycle these metals. In related news, the Senate Energy and Natural Resource Committee's Subcommittee on Energy held a hearing on rare earth metals. Senators agreed that disruptions to trade with China, which provides 97% of the world's rare earth metals, would affect national security, and currently the U.S. manufacturing sector does not have the expertise to process the metals.
Grassley Wants Witnesses to Disclose Conflicts of Interest. The Senate's conflict-of-interest watchdog, Charles Grassley (R-IA), has introduced legislation to amend Senate rules to require witnesses in Senate hearings to disclose potential conflicts of interest.
Bioethics Council to Examine Human Research Ethics. Following the U.S. government's apology for a flawed federal study in Guatemala in the 1940s in which subjects were infected with sexually transmitted diseases, the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues plans to convene a body of international experts to examine effective methods for ensuring the ethical conduct of human subjects research.
Salazar Establishes DOI Policy on Scientific Integrity. Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar announced last week a department-wide policy on scientific integrity. The policy supersedes the proposed Scientific Integrity Policy published by the DOI in the Federal Register on August 31, 2010. That original proposal was highly criticized, a factor that led Salazar to withdraw it and issue a revised policy. Among other things, the policy states that the department "will not tolerate misconduct in the performance of scientific activities or in the application of the products of scientific activity to decision making." Specific rules to implement the policy must still be developed.
NIST Reorganizes Around Missions. The National Institute of Standards and Technology has realigned its laboratories from the discipline-based structure of the past two decades to a structure organized around the agency's missions. The realignment is intended to "allow more day-to-day operational decisions to be made by the major laboratory units" and to improve the agency's interdisciplinary research capabilities. A description of the new structure and its rationale, including organization charts, can be found on NIST's web site.
SBA Ranks Nations on Entrepreneurship. A report from the Small Business Administration's Office of Advocacy measures the performance of 71 countries against what it defines as the Global Entrepreneurship and Development Index, which incorporates multiple individual and institutional variables. The U.S. ranked third overall, after Denmark (1) and Canada (2). The U.S. was found to be first in the aspirations sub-index, but lagged in the entrepreneurial attitudes and activities sub-indices. The authors state that the findings should serve more as an eye-opener than as a cause for alarm.
FDA Issues Final Rule on Clinical Trials. The Food and Drug Administration has issued a final rule stating the safety information that must be reported during clinical trials of investigational drugs and biologics (drugs made from a living organism or its products). The new information required includes any findings from studies that suggest a serious risk to trial participants.
White House Launches Web Site for Posing and Solving Major Problems. The White House has launched an aggregate point called Challenge.gov for government agencies to post challenging problems and invite the public to submit solutions in return for prestige and prizes. The intent is to spur innovation and solve problems by focusing on results. Over 20 agencies have posted challenges.
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Appeals Court Extends Stay on Stem Cell Injunction; Research Can Proceed for Now. A day after hearing oral arguments in the case that resulted in an injunction on federally funded human embryonic stem cell research, a U.S. Appeals Court extended its stay on the injunction while the appeals process goes forward, meaning that the research can proceed again for the time being. In other news, scientists at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute have devised a novel way to create induced pluripotent stem cells, which appear to take on the properties of embryonic stem cells but do not result in the destruction of an embryo. Although the technique needs to be replicated elsewhere and examined further, scientists in the field have called it a major development.
NRC Releases Report on Research-Doctorate Programs. The National Research Council has released the long-awaited report "A Data-Based Assessment of Research-Doctorate Programs in the United States." The NRC is making available both a descriptive report and a comprehensive data table containing data on characteristics and ranges of rankings for over 5000 programs in 62 fields at 212 institutions collected for the 2005-2006 academic year. The data cover such characteristics as faculty publications, grants, and awards; student GRE scores, financial support, and employment outcomes; and program size, time to degree, and faculty composition.
Leshner Column on Museums in Science-Religion Dialogue Draws Numerous Comments. A Huffington Post column on the role of science museums in promoting civil dialogue on religion and science by AAAS CEO Alan Leshner has generated over 300 comments (as of noon Oct. 4) following its publication on the morning of Oct. 2. Leshner cites the success of the new Smithsonian David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins in engaging visitors coming from different worldviews to think about human origins and understand evolution.
VA Attorney General's Second Climate Scientist Investigation. On Oct. 4 Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli filed another subpoena demanding documents from the University of Virginia related to climate scientist Michael Mann's research while at UVA. Mann is currently at Penn State. Cuccinelli, a climate change skeptic, claims Mann abused tax dollars by releasing climate change research that "contained false information" as well as unsubstantiated and/or misleading claims. An Albemarle County judge overturned an earlier subpoena by Cuccinelli because the AG did not have the authority to investigate federal grants and because he did not adequately explain why he believed fraud was committed. Cuccinelli's new subpoena is limited to one state grant, but he also plans to appeal the judge's earlier ruling. AAAS spoke out against the original subpoena.
Former DNI Says U.S. Unprepared for Cyberattack. Mike McConnell, former Director of National Intelligence and former director of the National Security Agency (NSA), said last week that the United States is unprepared for a cyberattack and must overhaul its defenses. "The warnings are over," McConnell told a Washington Ideas Forum at the Newseum. A large-scale attack on the nation's computer systems "could happen tomorrow," he said, with a global economic impact surpassing that of the 9/11 attacks.
International Initiative to Reduce Methane. Nearly forty countries launched a new Global Methane Initiative that aims to reduce emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change and also has human health, environmental, and economic impacts. The United States is pledging $50 million over the next five years to the Global Methane Initiative and is seeking similar pledges from other developed countries to support implementing methane emissions reduction projects and technologies. EPA estimates that an enhanced global effort to reduce methane emissions could reduce more than 1.5 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent -- about the same as the annual emissions from more than 280 million cars.
International Statement of Research Integrity Issued. Following the 2nd World Conference on Research Integrity in Singapore last July, which involved nearly 350 people from 51 countries and which was co-sponsored by AAAS, a "Singapore Statement of Research Integrity" has been issued "as a global guide to the responsible conduct of research." The Statement includes four basic principles of research integrity and fourteen responsibilities of scientists, covering such topics as authorship, peer review, public communication, and broad social considerations of conducting and applying research.
Singapore Announces Boost in R&D Support. The Singapore government is committing S$16.1 billion (US $12.2 billion) to support research, innovation and enterprise in the next five years. This represents a 20% increase over the amount committed in the previous five years. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong says that Singapore's long-term aim is to be among the most research-intensive, innovative, and entrepreneurial economies in the world.
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