AAAS Policy Alert -- May 25, 2011
Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND), Chair of the Senate Budget Committee, has decided to delay markup of the Senate budget resolution until bipartisan talks show results. Vice President Biden has been leading a group of House and Senate leaders, while another group, known as the "Gang of Six," includes only members of the Senate. The "Gang of Six" became the "Gang of Five" last week when Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) decided to take a "sabbatical" from the group after encountering opposition in his efforts to further reduce Medicare spending.
The House Appropriations Committee is scheduled to vote on the 302(b) allocations (i.e., allocations of spending caps for each of the appropriations subcommittees) and to mark-up both the Homeland Security and the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs appropriations bills this week. The latest draft of the 302(b) allocations includes $1.020 trillion in discretionary spending, $30.6 billion less than current FY 2011 spending and $121.8 billion less than the President's FY 2012 request. The full House is scheduled to start consideration of the Defense authorization bill this week as well.
In a speech on May 16, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke addressed government support for R&D. He said, "The Internet revolution of the 1990s was based on scientific investments made in the 1970s and 1980s, and today's widespread commercialization of biotechnology was based in part on key research findings developed in the 1950s." He added, "Governments that choose to provide support for R&D are likely to get better results if that support is stable and long-term oriented, avoiding a pattern of 'feast and famine.'" Bernanke delivered his address at a conference on "New Building Blocks for Jobs and Economic Growth" held in Washington, D.C.
Visit the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program Website to stay up-to-date on the latest action on the FY 2012 budget. The presentation slides from the 36th annual AAAS Forum on Science and Technology Policy have been posted on the Forum website . MP3 audio files of the sessions will be posted soon.
NASA Bars Chinese Press From Shuttle Launch. NASA denied Chinese journalists access to the Kennedy Space Center for the May 16 launch of space shuttle Endeavour, citing language inserted by Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) in the FY 2011 budget that prohibits NASA from hosting Chinese officials or collaborating with any Chinese government entity. The journalists work for Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency, and are considered government employees.
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U.S., India Announce Joint Energy R&D Effort. The U.S. Department of Energy and the Indian Ministry of Science and Technology have each committed $25 million over the next five years to the US- India Joint Clean Energy Research and Development Center . The money will be targeted toward research in building energy efficiency, second-generation biofuels, and solar energy. Award funds must be matched 1:1 by the grantees; universities, non-profits, government labs, and companies are eligible to apply. Proposals must be from teams with participants from both countries.
EPA Postpones Controversial Boiler Rule. EPA has announced that it will delay the effective date of its new air quality standards for boilers and commercial incinerators . EPA will accept additional public comments on these standards, which were criticized for their cost by industry and in congressional hearings, until July 15.
CDC, Zombies, and Communicating Science to the Public. On May 16 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) posted on its blog the headline, "Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse," followed by the message: "If zombies did start roaming the streets, CDC would conduct an investigation much like any other disease outbreak." The tongue-in-cheek headline preceded a serious message: individuals and communities need to be prepared for natural disasters, whatever form they might take, and the CDC was prepared to offer scientific and technical assistance as needed. The CDC campaign was designed for a young demographic that the CDC had not previously had much success in reaching, and the effort appears to have been successful . The typical CDC blog post might get between 1,000 and 3,000 hits. By the end of the day's posting, the page had 30,000; and several days later, it had accumulated nearly 1 million page views.
U.S. Department of Education Cancels Programs. The final FY 2011 budget has resulted in the cancellation of two previously-announced education programs. The Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Improvement Comprehensive Program had planned on $20 million in awards when it invited applications in March 2011. The Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Program , which funds language and area studies in Africa, East Asia, Southeast Asia, the Near East, and Central and Eastern Europe, estimated nearly $6 million for awards when it invited applications in September 2010.
Climate Change News
Report Critical of Climate Science Retracted . The journal Computational Statistics and Data Analysis has retracted a 2008 study by Edward Wegman that criticized both climate scientists and climate science due to evidence of plagiarism, as the report itself contained text from Wikipedia and textbooks. The study grew from a 2006 report by Wegman that was requested by Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), then Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and which received considerable congressional attention. A review by three plagiarism experts for USA Today concluded that the congressional report contained plagiarized text. In response to the retraction, Wegman said a student copied and pasted the work into the journal publication without acknowledgment.
California Cap and Trade Program on Hold, Appeal Issued. The California Air Resources Board has appealed a court ruling that suspended work on a cap-and-trade program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A California superior court judge has stopped the state from implementing its landmark program until it analyzes alternatives, as required by the California Environmental Quality Act.
UK Sets Stringent Climate Targets. Cabinet ministers in the United Kingdom have set greenhouse gas emissions targets through 2027, making it the only nation with legally-binding commitments past 2020. The ministers agreed to the recommendations of an independent Committee on Climate Change, which recommended that carbon emissions should be cut by 2030 by 60% compared to 1990 levels and by 2050 by 80%.
IPCC Adopts New Procedures. Members of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have added new procedures for dealing with errors, conflicts of interest, a communications strategy, and how to deal with "grey" literature from non-peer reviewed sources. Many of the new procedures align with the recommendations of the InterAcademy Council (IAC), an international group of representatives from science academies. The panel agreed with the IAC recommendation to limit the IPCC chair to one term, but the rule will not apply until the current chair's second term ends in 2014.
Australian Report: Climate Change is Real. The Australian Climate Commission, an independent government-created group that is tasked with "[providing] expert advice and information on climate change to the Australian community," released its first report. The report, which has been endorsed by both the government and the opposition, concludes: (1) climate change is real and must be acted upon very shortly in order to mitigate the impacts; (2) many of the people that attack climate science in the media lack credentials in the field; and (3) attempts to intimidate climate scientists have added to public confusion.
ElsewhereStanford Censures Five Faculty Members for Conflict of Interest.
Stanford University has taken disciplinary action
against five medical school faculty members who violated school policy by giving paid promotional speeches for drug companies. The move followed a December story by ProPublica, an investigative journalism organization, that found that Stanford and other teaching hospitals were not enforcing their own conflict-of-interest rules.Kentucky Gives Tax Incentives to Creationist Theme Park.
The Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority has voted
to grant tax incentives to Ark Encounter, a planned creationist theme park linked to the Creation Museum in northern Kentucky. The incentives allow the park to recoup 25% of its development costs.Royal Society to Study Scientific Information Sharing
. The United Kingdom's Royal Society
has launched a major study
to explore the principles, opportunities, and problems of sharing scientific information in a socially-responsible manner that reflects public values. The study group is seeking comments
from all interested stakeholders through August 5.Science Statements Released for G8 Summit.
For the upcoming G8 Summit of Heads of State and Government on May 26-27, two science-related statements were released
by thirteen national science academies, including the G8 members and those in South Africa, Brazil, India, Mexico, and Senegal. The statement, "Education for a Science-Based Global Development,"
urges governments to support science education infrastructure and international collaborations to promote "science-based global development." The "Water & Health" statement
outlines the impact of water on public health, economic development, and education and presents a five-point action plan. Research in Latin America, Led by Brazil, Continues to Grow.
Survey results issued
by the Spanish Scimago Institutions Ranking (SIR) Project on May 10 show that while research output in Latin America and the Caribbean is still below the global average, it continues to grow. The SIR survey also found that Latin American scientific output from 2005 to 2009 was dominated by Brazil, followed by Columbia, Venezuela, and Cuba.
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