AAAS Policy Alert -- April 27, 2011
R&D in the FY 2011 Full-Year Continuing Resolution. AAAS's preliminary analysis of R&D in the recently enacted FY 2011 continuing resolution indicates that non-defense R&D was spared the worst of the $38.5 billion in cuts. The Department of Defense RDT&E program will face a 5.4 percent cut to $75.9 billion, close to the President's requested FY 2012 funding level. The National Institutes of Health's R&D investment for FY 2011 will fall 1.1 percent to $29.9 billion with most of the cuts spread across the Institutes with the exception of a $50 million (50.1 percent) cut to the Buildings and Facilities account. The overall budget for the Department of Energy's (DOE) applied research energy programs will decrease, but $180 million for ARPA-E, its first appropriation since the Recovery Act, will temper that decrease. The FY 2011 R&D investment for DOE is projected to be $10.7 billion, a 1.6 percent decrease. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) will likely see its R&D spending grow in FY 2011 due to a healthy increase in the Science Directorate's budget of 10.0 percent to $4.9 billion. NASA's estimated R&D investment for FY 2011 is $9.9 billion, a 6.5 percent increase over FY 2010. The National Science Foundation's R&D investment for FY 2011 is estimated at $5.3 billion, a 1.3 percent decrease, and NSF's Education and Human Resources (EHR) account mirrored that overall trend with a final budget of $861 million, a 1.3 percent ($12 million) decrease from FY 2010. The Department of Agriculture is facing a 10.4 percent cut in R&D spending, projected to be $2.3 billion in FY 2011 not counting $230 million in rescissions for the Agricultural Research Service's Buildings and Facilities account.
Visit the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program Website for more details on FY 2011, to stay up-to-date on the latest action on the FY 2012 budget, and to register for the annual AAAS Forum on Science & Technology Policy on May 5-6 at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, DC.
Other Congressional News
Report on China's Science and Technology Capacity. The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, created by Congress in 2000 to assess the impact of bilateral trade between U.S. and China on U.S. national security, released a report that assesses China's emergence as a science and technology powerhouse in the global economy. The report analyzes three S&T sectors -- semiconductors, nuclear energy, and nanotechnology -- and notes that China's low-cost manufacturing capabilities, export promotion strategy, and "shrewd appropriation" of international technologies have contributed to its technological success.
Update on OSTP Scientific Integrity Guidelines. Thirty executive branch departments, agencies and offices have responded to OSTP Director John Holdren's December 17, 2010 call for progress reports on their scientific integrity policies, according to an OSTP blog post. Six of the responding agencies submitted draft or completed policies for comment. The OSTP posting did not identify the agencies. However, the Interior Department has issued a final policy and NOAA has circulated a draft to its employees.
FDA Extends Comment Period on Genetic Tests for Consumers. The Food and Drug Administration has extended the public comment period to May 2, 2011, on its request for input from "interested stakeholders" on the "scientific issues" related to direct-to-consumer genetic tests. The announcement and details for commenting are posted at http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2011/pdf/2011-7708.pdf.
EPA Releases Greenhouse Gas Figures. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has released the 16th annual U.S. greenhouse gas inventory. It shows overall emissions in 2009 decreased by 6.1 percent from the previous year. The decline was attributed to a decrease in fuel and electricity consumption across all U.S. economic sectors. Total emissions of the six main greenhouse gases were equivalent to 6,633 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, the second lowest level since 1990.
NASA Awards Contracts for Commercial Launch Technologies. On April 18 NASA announced awards totaling $269 million to four companies -- Boeing, Blue Origin, SpaceX and Sierra Nevada Corporation -- to develop space transportation technologies with the ultimate goal of building an operational vehicle capable of delivering crew and cargo to the International Space Station. After the final space shuttle missions are completed later this year, the U.S. plans to use Russian Soyuz vehicles to service the space station until commercial vehicles are available.
ARPA-E Includes Rare-Earth Minerals in Fourth Round of Funding. On April 20 the Department of Energy's (DOE) Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA-E) announced its fourth round of funding opportunities in five key technology areas including $30 million for research on alternatives to rare-earth minerals that could be used in electric vehicle motors and wind turbines. Other areas include advanced biofuels, thermal energy storage, solar power electronics, and electric grid controls.
DOE Issues Solar Power Loan Guarantee. On April 18 DOE announced that it would provide a $2.1 billion loan guarantee to Solar Trust of America for construction of the Blythe Solar Power Project, a solar thermal plant covering over 7,000 acres in the Mojave Dessert that is expected to generate 1,000 megawatts. The project, approved by the California Energy Commission and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, will also set aside an additional 7,000 acres as protected land.
Plans for Oil Spill Research Announced. The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GRI) Research Board held a press conference in Washington, DC on April 25, with its chair, Rita Colwell of the University of Maryland, to release its Request for Proposals for the remaining $450 million of its $500 million fund. In May 2010, an initial $50 million allocation went to four research institutes and the NIH, but no money has been spent since then. An April 24 article in The Washington Post quotes a number of scientists who expressed frustration at the delay in distributing the funds, which the Post says has been caused by disagreements over how much influence BP would exert over the research. The independent GRI and research funds were established by BP to address the impacts of the Deep Horizon oil spill. Meanwhile, Natural Resource Trustees for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill announced last week that "BP has agreed to provide $1 billion toward early restoration projects in the Gulf of Mexico to address injuries to natural resources caused by the spill."
Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments on GHG Regulation. On April 19, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments to determine whether states can use public nuisance laws to curtail greenhouse emissions in other states. While no one questioned the science behind greenhouse gases and climate change, the Justices noted that regulation of greenhouse gases was a task better suited to EPA than the judicial system. The plaintiffs (six states and New York City) argued that until EPA acts, this should be a matter for the courts.
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Scientists Push Back on Anti-Evolution Bills. In Louisiana, Baton Rouge high school senior Zack Kopplin has mobilized a collection of scientists, including 42 Nobel laureates, to support legislation introduced by State Senator Karen Carter Peterson (SB 70) to repeal the 2008 Louisiana Science Education Act. The LSEA singles out certain scientific theories, including evolution and global warming, as controversial, and allows teachers to use supplemental materials to help students "critique" the theories. Meanwhile, in Tennessee, state senator Bo Watson, chief sponsor of a bill (SB 893) similar to the Louisiana bill, decided last week to table his bill, almost certainly postponing the chance of action on it until next year. He said he decided to defer the bill in part because of concerns he had heard from local scientists.
EU Progress Report on STEM Education and Training. The European Commission (EC) released a new report, co-authored by the Joint Research Center, highlighting recent progress in STEM education and training. The report found that while EU countries have increased their output of STEM graduates by 37 percent (surpassing a previous target of 15 percent set in 2003), progress is still needed to improve reading literacy skills, reduce drop-out rates, and increase secondary education completion.
New EU Science and Society Website. The European Commission has launched a new website to foster better communication among scientists, policy-makers and the general public on the role of science in society. The website is part of the MASIS project, "Monitoring Policy and Research Activities on Science and Society in Europe." It includes national reports on science-in-society policy and research activities in 27 member states and 11 associated countries.
New Saudi Arabia Research Center for Vector Borne Diseases. On April 4, 2011, Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Health along with the UK-based Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and the Innovative Vector Control Consortium, signed an agreement to begin to develop innovative ways to combat vector borne diseases such as dengue and malaria. With an eye towards building national and regional science and technology capacity, the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Health has already allocated US$5.5 million for seed funding for the project. The center is expected to open in 2012.
Plan for Texas Nuclear Reactors Becomes Victim of Fukushima. NRG Energy, a wholesale power generation company based in Princeton, NJ, announced on April 19 that it was abandoning plans to build two nuclear reactors in South Texas and writing off its $331 million investment. The project, in which Toshiba was a partner, was on the fence prior to the Japanese nuclear accident, but according to Charles A. Zielinski, former chairman of the New York State Public Service Commission, who was quoted in The New York Times, "Fukushima pushed it over." Plans for other U.S. reactors have also been called into question by the situation in Japan.
, a neuroscientist and former vice chancellor of the Australian National University, has been named chief scientist for the Australian government. He replaces Penny Sackett, who resigned halfway through her five-year term.
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