AAAS Policy Alert -- June 2, 2011
The Senate voted on four different proposed FY 2012 budgets last week -- those by House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI), President Obama, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), and Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA). All proposals failed as expected, with none garnering even 50% of the vote, much less the 60 votes needed for passage. Senate Budget Committee Chair Kent Conrad (D-ND) has made it clear that he is waiting for the bipartisan budget discussions headed by Vice President Biden to finish before introducing a budget proposal. Biden has said that the talks have identified around $1 trillion in spending cuts over the next 10 years so far. The group's goal is $4 trillion.
The House is proceeding nonetheless with considering FY 2012 appropriations, beginning June 1 with floor deliberation of the Homeland Security appropriations bill, followed by the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs bill. The bills will be considered under an open rule, allowing Members to offer an unlimited number of amendments. The Appropriations Committee bill proposes funding for the Science and Technology Directorate of the Department of Homeland Security at $539 million, a $289 million (34.8%) cut from FY 2011 levels. The Agriculture bill is scheduled to be marked up by the full Appropriations committee on May 31. The House bill's proposed funding for the Agricultural Research Service is $993 million, a $140 million (12.3%) cut from the FY 2011 level, and proposed funding for the National Institute of Food and Agriculture is $1,020 million, a $195 million (16.0%) cut. Finally, the House passed the FY 2012 Defense Authorization bill last week. Funding authorized for Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation totals $76.0 billion, a $65 million (0.1%) increase over FY 2011.
Visit the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program Website to stay up-to-date on the latest action on the FY 2012 budget and to download the audio and PowerPoint slides from the presentations at the 36th annual AAAS Forum on Science and Technology Policy.
Other Congressional News
Energy Bills Advance. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee reported out five energy policy bills during a May 26 mark-up. The bills would promote marine and hydrokinetic renewable energy R&D (S. 630), provide a framework for long-term geological storage of carbon dioxide (S. 699), encourage technology to capture CO2 using direct air capture (S. 757), request an analysis of the impact of energy development and production on water resources (bill not yet numbered), and protect the power system and electric infrastructure against cyber security threats and vulnerabilities (bill not yet numbered).
Senator Issues Report Critical of NSF. On May 26 Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) issued a report charging "waste, fraud, duplication, and mismanagement" of research, administration of budgets, and other activities at the National Science Foundation (NSF). The report, "The National Science Foundation: Under the Microscope," identifies a number of social, behavioral, and economic science research grants as examples of so-called federal government "waste." NSF's SBE Directorate programs will also be the subject of a hearing before the Research and Science Education Subcommittee of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee scheduled for June 2.Bipartisan Bills on Critical Materials Introduced in House and Senate.
A bipartisan group of 17 Senators, led by Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), last week introduced S.1113, The Critical Materials Policy Act of 2011
, aimed at maintaining U.S. access to materials, such as rare earths, critical to a wide range of high-tech devices. A similar bill, H.R. 2011, The National Strategic and Critical Minerals Policy Act of 2011
, was introduced in the House last week by Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) with a group of 20 cosponsors from both parties. A hearing
on the House bill has been scheduled for June 3.
FDA Sued to Stop Use of Antibiotics in Animal Feed. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), and two other groups have filed suit against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to force the agency to ban farmers from using antibiotics routinely in livestock feed to make the animals grow faster. The groups, whose position is backed by the American Medical Association, are concerned that such widespread use is promoting the development of antibiotic-resistant "superbugs." The FDA had issued voluntary guidance to farmers last year, but the practice has continued. FDA Seeks Comments on Draft Financial Disclosure Guidance.
The FDA has invited public comment
, due by July 25, on its Draft Guidance for Clinical Investigators, Industry, and FDA Staff: Financial Disclosure by Clinical Investigators. The guidance
provides "FDA's responses to the most frequently asked questions regarding financial disclosure by clinical investigators."
Climate Change News
UVA Agrees to Release Documents. The University of Virginia has agreed to supply materials related to the work of former University climate scientist Michael Mann that were requested under Virginia's freedom-of-information laws by The American Tradition Institute's Environmental Law Center. In an agreement filed in court last week, the university agreed to turn over all required records within 90 days. The public records request is separate from a similar demand by Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R), which UVA continues to fight. A May 29 Washington Post editorial termed ATI's actions "harassing climate-change researchers" and charged that its underlying motives were clearly political. AAAS released a Board Statement criticizing the Cuccinelli request a year ago.
New Jersey Leaves RGGI. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R) announced plans to pull the state out of the Northeastern Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a 10-state effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions via a cap-and-trade program. At a press conference announcing the move, Christie reiterated his support for climate science, but said the decision to leave RGGI was due to the program's failure to curb emissions, and he noted that New Jersey is on a path to meet its 2020 greenhouse gas reduction goals without participating in the program.
World CO2 Reaches Record High in 2010. Energy-related emissions of heat-trapping carbon dioxide reached 30.6 billion metric tons in 2010, the highest ever recorded, according to the International Energy Agency. After a dip in 2009 caused by the global financial crisis, emissions in 2010 jumped 5% above the previous record of 29.3 billion tons in 2008. Fatih Birol, chief economist at the IEA, said the increase "represents a serious setback to our hopes of limiting the global rise in temperature to no more than 2 degrees C."
Maryland Funds Stem Cell Research Projects. The Maryland Stem Cell Research Commission announced that it has funded 36 new projects (out of 180 applications) for FY 2011, for a total of $10.4 million. Preference was given to proposals focusing on "advancing regenerative medicine."
Bill to Repeal Anti-Evolution Law Shelved in Louisiana. On May 26 the Louisiana Senate Education Committee voted 5-1 to shelve SB 70, a bill that would have repealed the anti-evolution Louisiana Science Education Act. The act, which became law in 2008, designates evolution as "controversial," along with "the origins of life, global warming, and human cloning," and allows teachers to use supplemental materials beyond the approved science textbooks to help students "analyze" and "critique" evolution.
Fellowships Created for Pursuing New S&T Projects. The Thiel Foundation has created a fellowship program for individuals under twenty who will use the term of the fellowship (two years) focusing their time and energy "to advance the frontiers of knowledge, shake up staid industries, and change the world." One stipulation of the fellowship is that recipients cannot be enrolled in school during the period of their fellowship and must forgo other employment or educational enrollment during the fellowship period. The first winners were recently announced. Each of the 24 winners receives $100,000 and mentoring to pursue innovative scientific and technical projects, learn entrepreneurship, and begin to build technology companies.
Scientists Indicted for Failing to Predict Earthquake. Seven scientists and other experts, including the president of Italy's National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV), were indicted on manslaughter charges for not warning residents before an earthquake that killed more than 300 people in central Italy on April 6, 2009. The trial of the members of the Great Risks commission will begin on September 20. The defendants have been accused of giving "inexact, incomplete and contradictory information" about whether smaller tremors in L'Aquila in the months before the quake should have constituted grounds for a quake warning. Defense lawyers contend that earthquakes cannot be predicted, a position echoed in a letter from AAAS CEO Alan Leshner condemning the charges, written last summer when the scientists were placed under investigation.
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Japan, Germany Eye Shift to Renewable Energy Sources. Among the impacts of the Fukushima Daiichi reactor accident is a growing sense among leaders in Japan and Germany that their nations should scale back commitments to nuclear energy and urgently seek alternative sources. In a speech last week, Japan's Prime Minister Naoto Kan set a number of ambitious targets: reducing the cost of solar power to one-third of its current price by 2020 and one-sixth by 2030, and doubling the share of renewable sources to 20% within a decade. German Chancellor Angela Merkel went further, announcing on May 30 that Germany would shut down all 17 of its nuclear power plants by 2022, while shifting towards renewable sources.
Impasse over Decision to Destroy Smallpox. At this year's World Health Assembly, the World Health Organization agreed to defer until 2014 the decision on when to destroy the last known stocks of the live smallpox virus. Debate over the remaining stocks has been occurring since 1986. The U.S. and Russia want to continue to study the virus in case the virus returns, possibly in a biological weapon, while other nations want to destroy it immediately to prevent an accidental release.
U.K. Announces Green Infrastructure Expansion. Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, stated that a UK Green Investment Bank will begin operating in 2012. This would be the first national bank solely dedicated to a green economy. Initially the bank will receive £3 billion, which could catalyze an additional £15 billion by 2014-2015.
Egypt Plans "Science City." In the midst of the current turmoil, the Egyptian government has announced its intention to create a science city in the area northwest of Cairo. The plans include establishing a university and an institute for science and technology. As a next step, the Egyptian cabinet will create a board of trustees to draft policies for the city. The initiative follows a proposal made in 2000 by Dr. Ahmed Zewail, Nobel laureate and professor at Cal Tech, currently one of the U.S. Science Envoys.
People in the News. On May 26 the Senate confirmed the nomination of Cora Marrett to be Deputy Director of the National Science Foundation.
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Publisher: Alan I. Leshner
Editor: Steve Nelson
Contributors: Joanne Carney, Phillip Chalker, Patrick Clemins, Ed Derrick, Mark Frankel, Erin Heath, Earl Lane, Anne Poduska, Gretchen Seiler, Al Teich, Ric Weibl, Kasey White
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