President's FY 2012 Budget Request. President Obama released his FY 2012 Budget Request on Feb. 14. Total federal spending for FY 2012 is estimated at $3.7 trillion, down $90 billion from FY 2011, with a projected $1.1 trillion deficit, also lower than the FY 2011 request by $544 billion. The President's budget contains $147.9 billion in R&D investment, $722 million (0.5%) higher than FY 2010 (the last fiscal year with an enacted budget). Clean energy R&D, the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), and research funding (basic and applied) were the clear R&D priorities in the budget request. R&D in the energy programs at the Department of Energy (DOE) would increase by $1.1 billion (or 43.7%) to $3.5 billion; funding for the USGCRP would increase by $446 million (or 20.4%) to $2.6 billion; and basic and applied research across all government agencies would increase by $6.9 billion (or 11.6%) to $66.1 billion.
The National Science Foundation (NSF), DOE's Office of Science, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) -- all part of the President's Plan for Science and Innovation -- would continue on their multi-year budget-doubling track. NSF is proposed to receive $7.8 billion, a $895 million (or 13.0%) increase over FY 2010. R&D within NSF would increase by $875 million (or 16.1%) to $6.3 billion. DOE's Office of Science would receive $5.4 billion, a $452 million (or 9.1%) increase, including an increase of $412 million (or 9.1%) to $4.9 billion in R&D. NIST would be slated to receive $1.0 billion, a $141 million (or 16.3%) increase. NIST R&D would increase by $284 million (or 48.3%) to $872 million. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) received a $38.1 billion request, with the increase of $745 million (or 2.4%) below the rate of inflation. NIH's total would remain below its real-dollar budget peak of 2004.
The biggest cuts in R&D in the FY 2012 budget request are in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), with a $461 million (or 17.7%) reduction to $2.15 billion; the Department of Defense (DOD), with a $4.0 billion (or 4.9%) cut to $76.6 billion; and the Department of Veterans Affairs, with a $144 million (12.4%) cut to $1.0 billion. The majority of the cuts in USDA are eliminations of earmarks and the cancellation of un-obligated funds for buildings and facilities at the Agricultural Research Service (approximately $300 million), but R&D funding for the new National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) was also cut by about $100 million. Most of the reductions at DOD are for late-stage development projects.
For more information about the agency budget requests as it becomes available, see the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program Website.
Department of Energy R&D. Clean energy technology is clearly one of the President's priorities in the FY 2012 budget. Included in the $2.15 billion increase proposed for R&D at DOE is $550 million for the Advanced Projects Research Agency -- Energy (ARPA-E) and funds to increase the number of Energy Innovation Hubs from the current three to six. Small modular nuclear reactor development programs would also receive $500 million over the next five years, with $97 million proposed for FY 2012. Finally, the budget request includes $36 billion in additional loan guarantee authority for nuclear power plant projects. R&D Funding Gap Between President's Request and House CR.
the House introduced a full-year continuing resolution (CR), H.R.1, which represents the House leadership's plan for $100 billion in discretionary spending cuts in FY 2011. Overall, the President's FY 2012 request totals $7.4 billion more (12.5%) in non-defense R&D investment than the CR. Some of the bigger discrepancies are in funding for energy R&D, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Science Foundation. A table detailing the differences
is available at the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Website
Other Congressional News
House Science Committee Organizes, Adopts Oversight Plan. The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee held an organizing hearing on Feb. 10 to establish subcommittee membership, approve committee rules, and adopt an oversight plan for topics under the committee's jurisdiction for the 112th Congress. In his opening remarks, Chairman Ralph Hall (R-TX) stated, "Smart investments in research and development, coupled with proper business and tax incentives, can spur innovation and allow American businesses to flourish." However, he also emphasized that increasing federal spending does not necessarily automatically lead to innovation and that the committee would also seek to eliminate "wasteful, duplicative, and ineffective programs" in order to better prioritize research funding.
Climate Science Day on Capitol Hill. On Thursday, Feb. 17, forty climate scientists representing many disciplines will come to Washington to meet with approximately 100 members of Congress. AAAS joined with ten other scientific societies to host the event, which aims to increase the dialogue between scientists and policymakers on climate change, particularly for newly-elected members.
White House Releases Innovation Strategy. The White House has released its Strategy for American Innovation, an updated version of the strategy released in September 2009. The report calls for, among other things, patent reform, the accelerated development of clean energy technologies, the promotion of Startup America (see the Jan. 31 Policy Alert), and improvements in K-12 education through such programs as Advanced Research Projects Agency -- Education (ARPA-ED), Race to the Top, and Change the Equation.
Developments on Patent Reform and Protection. On Feb. 8 the President issued an Executive Order to establish two intellectual property enforcement advisory committees. They are charged with "the effective and efficient enforcement of laws protecting copyrights, patents, trademarks, trade secrets, and other forms of intellectual property, both in the United States and abroad." Both committees will help coordinate an interagency Joint Strategic Plan. On Feb. 9 the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued supplementary guidelines to improve patent quality by requiring applications to "distinctly claim the invention so that the public is clearly informed of the patent rights granted." The guidelines are availab le for comment. In related news, the Senate Judiciary Committee on Feb. 3 approved by a 15-0 vote the Patent Reform Act of 2011 (S.23). The bill would establish the "first-inventor-to-file" principle, the standard that is widely used in the rest of the world.
Research and Development on the Web. The National Health Council, with input from NIH, created an online database to which researchers can submit unfunded NIH peer-reviewed proposals. Voluntary health agencies will be able to search the database to find proposals to fund. In related news, the federal government launched a beta version of The R&D Dashboard. The website, which is seeking feedback from users, provides a look at federal investments in R&D and the resulting outputs.
AAAS, Other Associations Comment on Export Control Guidelines. AAAS, in partnership with the Association of American Universities (AAU), the Council on Governmental Relations (COGR), and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), submitted a joint letter in response to requests for comment from the Department of State, which implements export controls on weapons and military technologies, and the Department of Commerce, which implements controls on "dual-use" technologies that are commercial in nature but could be used for military purposes. The societies supported the Administration's goals of clarifying the export control process by instituting a tiered system in which items subject to control are defined in terms of objective criteria, rather than in terms of their intended use. They also emphasized the importance of ensuring that export control lists are reviewed and updated on an ongoing basis. The letter, signed by the respective society presidents, was filed with the Commerce and State Departments on Feb. 7.
ORI Releases Interactive Video on Research Misconduct. The U.S. Office of Research Integrity has just released a new interactive movie on the Web and as a DVD. The Lab: Avoiding Research Misconduct is intended to help researchers avoid making bad decisions that could lead to misconduct allegations. The movie takes place in a lab setting and highlights the stresses faced by scientists through the actions of four main characters, stopping at key decision points to allow viewers to take on the roles of the actors in deciding how best to proceed. An ORI web site provides more information as well as a link to the movie.
Agriculture Department Approves GM Corn for Ethanol. Following decisions to permit planting of genetically modified (GM) alfalfa and GM sugar beets announced during the past two weeks, USDA has approved a new type of GM corn for commercial growing. According to an article in The New York Times , the corn, developed by Syngenta and called Enogen, "contains a microbial gene that causes it to produce an enzyme that breaks down corn starch into sugar," the initial step in ethanol production. Syngenta claims that Enogen will increase output while making the production process more resource-efficient. Critics, who include not just environmental groups but also the millers association, are concerned that the modified corn could cross-pollinate with corn grown for food and negatively affect its quality.
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European Union Releases Green Paper on Strategic Framework for Funding. On Feb. 9 the European Commission (EC) announced a Green Paper that proposes major changes to EU funding for research and innovation. Proposed changes would be introduced into the next EU budget (2013) and include changes intended to increase scientific and economic impact, provide better value for funding invested, and make participation simpler. Part of this process could potentially include streamlining the current Framework Programme for research, the European Institute of Innovation and Technology, and the Competitiveness and Innovation Programme. The purpose of this streamlining would be to avoid the duplication of research efforts across these programs. Those interested can comment on the paper until May 20, 2011, via a variety of methods including the online questionnaire, blog, or written submissions.
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