Leadership Support for Proposed Earmark Bans. This week, Republicans in both chambers of Congress will vote on resolutions to ban earmark requests as a sign of fiscal discipline within the Republican Caucus. On Monday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) reversed his earlier position and announced his intention to support the resolution championed by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), while in the House, Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) echoed his support for the ban. Given the growing support among leaders in both chambers, the resolutions -- which are not legally binding -- have a good chance of passing. Additionally, in a weekend address, President Obama signaled his support for banning congressional earmarks. According to Taxpayers for Common Sense, there were 9,499 congressional earmarks in FY 2010 totaling $15.9 billion, 1.2 percent of the total discretionary budget and 0.4 percent of total government spending.
Fiscal Commission Releases Preliminary Proposal. On November 10, the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, created by President Obama, released a proposal to reduce the deficit below the goal of 3 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2015 set by the President. The proposal includes a number of spending cuts to both discretionary and mandatory programs totaling $250 billion in potential savings along with 3 options for major tax reform. The Commission's suggested discretionary cuts include a number of R&D-related programs; for example, reducing the Department of Defense's Research, Development, Test & Evaluation (RDT&E) program budget by 10 percent ($7 billion in FY 2015), canceling the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership, cutting fossil fuel research, eliminating private sector funding for spaceflight, and reducing Smithsonian and National Park Service funding.
Visit the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program Website, for the status of the FY 2011 R&D appropriations.
Other Congressional News
Congress Returns for Lame Duck Session. The 111th Congress returns this week for a lame duck session and a range of legislative priorities to address before the end of the year, including a defense authorization bill, the new START Treaty, and extension of tax cuts that are due to expire in December. Both chambers will also vote this week on the key Republican and Democrat leadership positions for the 112th Congress. Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) is expected to be elected Speaker of the House and Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) is expected to retain his position as Senate Majority Leader.
House S&T Committee Leadership for Next Year. Last week, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) formally announced her interest in serving as ranking member of the House Science and Technology Committee. In her press release she stated that she "would continue to advocate for STEM education, clean energy, and for scientific research to improve the lives of all Americans."
AAAS Webinar on Midterm Election. Several members of the AAAS Policy Alert team participated in a webinar on the outcomes of the 2010 midterm elections and what they mean for science. The webinar is archived on the AAAS MemberCentral web site (AAAS member login required).
NIH Director Talks About Impact of Potential Budget Cuts. If the incoming Republican-majority in the House of Representatives were to succeed in their push to roll back agency funding to FY 2008 levels, the impact would be a historic low in the success rate of applicants for National Institutes of Health grants, according to NIH Director Francis Collins. Collins noted in a recent speech that were the NIH budget to receive such a reduction the success rate for grant proposals would be cut in half, from the current 20 percent to 10 percent. AAAS estimates a 9 percent cut in R&D if the pledge were to be enacted into law.
Bioethics Commission Meeting on Synthetic Biology. The Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues will hold a meeting on November 16-17 in Atlanta to discuss the implications of synthetic biology and ways that the federal government can "maximize benefits while reducing risks" associated with the field. The bioethics commission is expected to submit a set of recommendations to the President by December 15, 2010.
EPA Industry Rules and State Guidance for GHG Emissions. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized regulations for the petroleum and natural gas industries to report their greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), including methane and carbon dioxide. Beginning January 1, 2011, facilities that emit more than 25,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent a year are required to monitor and report all GHG emissions to the EPA. Separately, the agency published a set of guidance documents to assist state agencies with the permitting process for other industries that are large emitters of GHGs and planning to build new facilities or make major modifications to existing ones. The new guidance allows the state permitting agencies to determine on a case-by-case basis what technology options industries may use to reduce carbon emissions of large stationary sources.
IG Report Criticizes Administration's Gulf Oil Spill Estimates. A report, first obtained by The Associated Press, reveals that the White House edited a drilling safety report in a manner that made it falsely appear that the deep-water drilling "moratorium recommendation had been peer reviewed" and approved by scientists and experts. It had not, and after one of the outside scientists complained, the Interior Department promptly issued an apology. Interior officials told the inspector general that they did not deliberately make changes to cause confusion.
Science Content Low in Media Coverage of Climate Summit. In an analysis of more than 400 print news articles from 12 countries written about the 2009 UN Summit on Climate Change in Copenhagen, the Oxford University's Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism's media study, found that less than 10 percent of news articles about the Summit dealt with the science of climate change, with the Western press more frequently citing the opinions of climate change skeptics.
Ties to Drug Companies Still Prevalent Among Doctors. A recent study published in Archives of Internal Medicine shows that physicians' ties to drug companies are still prevalent, even after a push in recent years to cut down on such connections. The number of doctors reporting relationships with drug companies went from 94 percent in 2004 to 84 percent in 2009. The most common relationships involved free samples of drugs, food and beverages, although reimbursement for continuing education and meetings, as well as speaking or consulting fees, also occurred.
New "Open Doors" Report Shows Gains in Foreign Student Enrollment. The Institute of International Education's (IIE) annual report, Open Doors, stated that the number of international students at U.S. colleges and universities increased 3 percent to 690,923 during the 2009/10 academic year. According to the report the growth was mostly due to a 30 percent increase in Chinese student enrollment across all disciplines and academic levels. Although business is the number one field of study for foreign students, engineering is second and increased 7 percent in foreign student enrollment, followed by math and computer science.
Louisiana Textbook Council Recommends Books Containing Evolution. On November 12, a Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) advisory committee recommended high school biology textbooks that contain strong treatment of evolution. Following passage of the anti-evolution Louisiana Science Education Act in 2008, state science education advocates feared the BESE council would vote to include disclaimers in textbooks that cast doubt on evolution or provisions on intelligent design -- particularly since two lawmakers serving on the council were the act's chief sponsors. Though the two lawmakers did vote against the books, an 8-4 majority voted for the books' approval. The BESE will have a final vote during its December 7-9 meeting.
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AAAS Webinar on STEM Education. Join us for a free webinar on "STEM Education: Fostering Future Innovators" for AAAS members only, Friday, November 19 at 12 noon, EST. A panel of K-12 and higher education practitioners, moderated by AAAS's Daryl Chubin, will share insights on three innovative programs and discuss potential national impacts. Register on AAAS MemberCentral. This webinar will be archived on MemberCentral following the live webcast.
People In The News
Lisa Heinzerling, EPA Assistant Administrator for Policy, Economics, and Innovation, will leave the agency at the end of 2010 and return to her position on the faculty of the Georgetown University Law Center.
Archived issues of AAAS Policy Alert can be found at http://www.aaas.org/spp/policyalert
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Editor: Joanne Carney
Contributors: Patrick Clemins, Erin Heath, Earl Lane, Stephen Nelson, Stephanie Pals, Gretchen Seiler, Al Teich, Richard Weibl, Kasey White
NOTE: The AAAS Policy Alert is a newsletter provided to AAAS Members to inform them of developments in science and technology policy that may be of interest. Information in the Policy Alert is gathered from published news reports, unpublished documents, and personal communications. Although the information contained in this newsletter is regarded as reliable, it is provided only for the convenience and private use of our members. Comments and suggestions regarding the Policy Alert are welcome. Please write to email@example.com.