Senate Releases CR Proposal. After passing a two-week continuing resolution (CR) last week that extends funding at FY 2010 levels through March 18 for most of the federal government, Congress begins negotiations on funding for the remainder of FY 2011. The Senate released its proposal on March 4 as an alternative to the far more stringent House-passed CR proposal, H.R.1. The Senate proposal totals $1.079 trillion in discretionary spending, $51 billion less than the President's FY 2011 request and $51 billion more than H.R. 1. The Senate proposal contains higher funding than does H.R. 1 for many major R&D agencies: the National Institutes of Health (House: $29.5 billion for NIH overall, Senate: $31.2 billion); NASA (House: $18.4 billion, Senate: $18.5 billion); the National Science Foundation (House: $6.57 billion, Senate: $6.85 billion); the Department of Energy's Office of Science (House: $4.0 billion, Senate: $4.7 billion); and DOE's Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy program (House: $1.5 billion, Senate: $1.9 billion).
Looking ahead at the next two weeks, it is expected that Congress will have to pass at least one additional short-term CR (through mid-April) before negotiations on the rest of FY 2011 are finished. Both sides have said that they would like to resolve the FY 2011 budget expeditiously and avoid a government shutdown. However, a few House Republicans have said that a number of short-term CRs through the end of FY 2011, each with an additional set of funding cuts, would be an acceptable resolution to the FY 2011 negotiations.
Visit the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program Website to stay up-to-date on the latest action on the FY 2011 and FY 2012 budgets.
Other Congressional News
More Bills to Block EPA Climate Regulation Introduced. A bill to block EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions was introduced last week in the Senate by Environment and Public Works Committee Ranking Member James Inhofe (R-OK) and in the House by Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY). Both bills include Democratic co-sponsors.
Congressional Concern Over "Fracking." House Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Edward Markey (D-MA) and Rush Holt (D-NJ), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, sent EPA Administrator Jackson a letter stating their concern about, and requesting information regarding, the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing and its associated waste. The letter comes in the wake of The New York Times series on hydraulic fracturing, known colloquially as "fracking."
Senate Commerce Committee to Hold Nomination Hearings . On March 10 the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will hold a nomination hearing for Philip E. Coyle III to be Associate Director of National Security and International Affairs at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP); Frances M.D. Gullandto be a Member of the Marine Mammal Commission, and Kathryn D. Sullivan, former member of the AAAS Board of Directors, to be Assistant Secretary of Commerce (for Environmental Observation and Prediction) at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Senate to Vote on Patent Bill. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) filed a cloture motion on the Patent Reform Act of 2011 (S. 23), currently under debate by the full Senate. Earlier, Senators had agreed to an amendment offered by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) that would end the diversion of money from the Patent Office (PTO) to other programs. It is expected that the additional funds will enable PTO to reduce the patent approval backlog. Senators rejected an amendment offered by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) that would have stripped the bill of its first-to-file system, the method used in most countries, and inserted first-to-invent, the system currently used in the U.S.
AAAS Issues Book on Navigating Congress. AAAS recently published the third edition of Working With Congress, a manual designed to bridge the gap between the mutually dependent cultures of science and government. The first two chapters of the book provide background on congressional organization and the legislative process, while Chapter 3 discusses in detail the communication strategies that scientists and engineers can utilize and includes a list of the top ten rules for working with Congress.
Changes to White House Energy and Climate Office . The staff of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy, until recently headed by Carol Browner, is being brought under the Domestic Policy Council. Heather Zichal, deputy assistant to the president for energy and climate change policy, will lead the policy development work. Zichal, who had been working under Browner in the White House, previously served as legislative director for Reps. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Rush Holt (D-NJ), as well as Sen. John Kerry (D-MA).
Bioethics Commission Seeks Comments on Human Research Protection, Creates International Research Panel. On March 2 the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues issued a request for public comments on federal and international standards related to the issue of human subjects in federally supported research. The Commission stated that it is seeking comments on the following issues: "the existing standards for protecting human subjects, both domestically and internationally; how the current system of global research works in practice; and the ethical and social justice issues that emerge from the current research system." Comments are due by May 2.
The Commission has also announced the appointment of an International Research Panel to consider the effectiveness of current federal rules and international standards governing research involving human subjects. The Panel, which plans to meet three times, will submit a report to the Commission covering the following matters: (a) the dominant norms, and competing alternatives, driving the ethics of medical research in different global regions outside of the U.S.; (b) the conflicts, if any, between U.S. norms and international standards; (c) the challenges facing researchers conducting U.S.-funded research in global settings; and (d) how best to address any major differences in regional norms for medical research.
Determining the Health Impacts of the Gulf Oil Spill . NIH has launched the GuLF STUDY (Gulf Long-term Follow-up Study), an investigation of 55,000 Gulf oil spill cleanup workers and volunteers that will last up to 10 years, in order to learn of the spill's effects on human health.
NSB Task Force Seeks Feedback on NSF's Merit Review Criteria. Through its Merit Review Task Force, the National Science Board is undertaking a thorough review of NSF's two merit review criteria for assessing research proposals (Intellectual Merit and Broad Impacts) and seeks comments from "a wide variety of stakeholder groups." Comments will be accepted through March 15.
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NIH Seeks Comments on Laboratory Animals Guide. NIH requests public comments on (1) its adoption of the 8th edition of the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals (Guide) as a basis for evaluating institutional programs receiving or proposing to receive Public Health Service (PHS) support for activities involving animals; and (2) NIH's proposed implementation plan, if the agency decides to adopt the 8th edition of the Guide.
USGS Seeks Public Comment on Science Strategies . The United States Geological Survey (USGS) is requesting public input on three of its six science strategies: Energy and Minerals , Global Change , and Ecosystems . The strategies will used in setting priorities and implementation planning for future research activities at the agency, which was reorganized in 2010.
Aquaculture Comments Sought . NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is seeking public comment through April 11 on a draft national aquaculture policy. Nearly half the fish consumed worldwide are produced by aquaculture, or fish farming, and a significant portion of future increases in the global seafood supply will come from aquaculture. The draft policy provides guidance for NOAA's actions regarding the development of all forms of marine aquaculture, from shellfish farming and habitat restoration to the culture of marine fish and algae on land and offshore.
Oklahoma Bill Would Ban Embryonic Stem Cell Research . On February 23 the Public Health Committee of the Oklahoma House of Representatives passed a bill that would ban embryonic stem cell research in that state. The legislation (H.B. 1442) would make it illegal to create embryonic stem cell lines that would result in the destruction of a human embryo. It would also make it a misdemeanor crime to "buy, sell, receive, or otherwise transfer" a human embryo with the intent of creating new stem cell lines. The legislation is now set to go to the full House of Representatives for a vote. No similar bill has yet been introduced in the Senate.
Tennessee Legislature Considers Anti-Evolution Bill. On March 2 the Tennessee House of Representatives' General Subcommittee on Education held its second hearing to discuss House Bill 368, which asserts that global warming and evolution are controversial and would allow teachers to teach the strengths and weaknesses of the subjects (see Feb. 24 Policy Alert). A vote was initially scheduled for Feb. 22, but was postponed so committee members could receive information on the science pertaining to evolution and global warming. AAAS provided comments. The bill was not voted upon, and a third hearing has been scheduled for March 16. In related news, a similar bill in the Oklahoma legislature, Senate Bill 554, died in committee (see the Jan. 24 Policy Alert).
Brazil Cuts 2011 Science Budget by 23%. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff recently vetoed the Ministry of Science and Technology's 2011 budget. This veto essentially cut the proposed budget 23% (from US$4.9 billion to US$3.84 billion) and the result is 18% below the ministry's 2010 budget. While general budget cuts by Rouseff were said to be expected, many, including the Brazilian Academy of Sciences, had hoped that the increases to science and technology under former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva would continue into 2011.
Gates Foundation and UK Development Agency to Fund R&D Benefiting Small Farmers. The Department for International Development of the United Kingdom (the UK counterpart to the U.S. Agency for International Development – USAID) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have announced a coordinated effort to support agricultural research projects to help small farmers increase their yields and outcomes. The combined investment will top $100 million over the next five years. Funding will support efforts that put new technologies into the hands of small farmers, such as new seeds and low-cost diagnostic tools; advance existing efforts to help small farmers manage crop disease and grow more nutritious crops; and support agricultural research that promotes cutting-edge scientific innovations. A significant part of the investment is going to Cornell University to continue its work to develop wheat varieties that are resistant to emerging strains of stem rust disease.
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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.