AAAS Policy Alert -- June 9, 2011
The House continued to work on the FY 2012 appropriation bills even though the Senate is waiting for the Biden budget talks to conclude before starting on its own versions of the bills. On Thursday, the House passed the Homeland Security Appropriations bill (H.R. 2017), which cuts R&D investment at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from $712 million in FY 2011 to $416 million in FY 2012, a 41.5 percent decrease. These cuts continue a multi-year decline in DHS R&D from a high of $1.1 billion in FY 2009. The Research, Development, and Innovation subaccount suffers the deepest budget cuts with a decline from $577 million to $107 million (81.6 percent), illustrating the increased Congressional scrutiny of applied research programs.
The Agriculture appropriations bill (H.R. 2112) was reported out of the full Appropriations Committee last Tuesday and placed on the House calendar. The Agricultural Research Service is funded at $993 million, a $140 million (12.3 percent) reduction from FY 2011, excluding rescissions, and the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative is funded at $230 million, a $35 million (13.2 percent) decrease. Finally, the Defense and Energy and Water appropriations bills were marked up by their respective subcommittees last week and now move to the full Appropriations Committee.
Visit the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program Website to stay up-to-date on the latest action on the FY 2012 budget.
Public Forums, Comment Period on Ocean Policy. The National Ocean Council will host a series of 12 public listening sessions across the country over the next month to help implement the new National Policy for the Stewardship of the Ocean, our Coasts, and the Great Lakes. In addition, a month-long public comment period on the content outlines for nine strategic action plan objectives has just opened.
Other Congressional News
House Republicans Release Technology Agenda. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), chairman of the House Republican Technology Working Group, rolled out the Republican technology agenda for the 112th Congress at a June 2 press conference. The agenda includes promoting spectrum availability, protecting the U.S. from cyber attacks, protecting American intellectual property, reducing unnecessary regulation, and "examin[ing] current visa and immigration laws to make sure we attract and retain the best and brightest minds from around the world."
Cyberthreats Discussed in Congress and the Administration. The House Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittees on Technology and Innovation (T&I) and Research and Science Education (R&SE) held a joint hearing to examine federal efforts to improve cybersecurity, prepare the cybersecurity workforce, and review the 2009 Cyberspace Policy Review (President Obama's cybersecurity legislative plan). Also last week, the Pentagon announced that it would soon release plans that will categorize cyberattacks as acts of war.
House Panel Examines Social Sciences. The House Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittee on Research and Science Education held a hearing titled Social, Behavioral and Economic Science (SBE) Research: Oversight of the Need for Federal Investments and Priorities for Funding. Three of the four witnesses agreed that the government should support SBE research at the National Science Foundation (NSF), while the fourth, Diana Furchtgott-Roth, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, testified that this type of research was not appropriate for NSF, except in rare circumstances.
Comment on the above item. The Policy Alert blog is now located on AAAS's MemberCentral . Once you are logged in, click on "Blogs" and look for "Capitol Connection" in the drop-down list.
SBIR/STTR Programs Given Another Short-term Extension. Last week, President Obama signed S. 1082, which extends the authorization of the Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs through September 30, 2011. The SBIR and STTR programs have been operating under short-term extensions since 2008.
Texas Anti-Evolution Bill Fails. The Texas state legislature adjourned May 30, and with it died H.B. 2454, which never received a hearing in the House Higher Education Committee. The bill stated that an institution of higher education could not "discriminate against or penalize" a faculty member or student conducting research related to "intelligent design or other alternate theories of the origination and development of organisms."
Fracking Regulation Discussed. At a June 1 Department of Energy Advisory Panel public meeting, leading energy executives said that states, and not the federal government, should be tasked with regulating hydraulic fracturing, or 'fracking.' Also at the meeting, several natural gas industry officials, including Chevron President Gary Luquette, stated that industry needs to be more forthcoming in the disclosure of chemicals used in fracking. In related news, the New York State Attorney General filed a lawsuit against the federal government to stop the Delaware River Basin Commission from issuing regional fracking rules without completing an environmental impact assessment.
Report Finds Cell Phones Possibly Carcinogenic. The International Agency for Research on Cancer, an agency of the World Health Organization, has classified radiofrequency electromagnetic fields, such as those emitted by mobile phones, as "possibly carcinogenic." The evidence was evaluated as being limited among users of wireless telephones for glioma and acoustic neuroma, and inadequate to draw conclusions for other types of cancers. The IARC classifies agents it examines as (1) carcinogenic to humans; (2a) probably carcinogenic to humans; (2b) possibly carcinogenic to humans; (3) not classifiable as to its carcinogenicity to humans; and (4) probably not carcinogenic to humans. Of the more than 900 agents IARC has examined, only one has ever been classified as probably not carcinogenic. The National Cancer Insti tute has issued a statement noting that the IARC finding on mobile phones is "neither new research nor at odds with previous findings."
AAAS Responds to Climate Education Proposal. The Los Alamitos school district in Orange County, California, recently approved a new AP Environmental Science course, but under the condition that teachers comply with their newly-revised "controversial issues" policy, largely due to the inclusion of climate change in the class. Under the policy, teachers must include "a balance of viewpoints" on all controversial issues and come before the board once a year to prove their lesson plans are unbiased. On June 1, AAAS sent members of the Board of Directors of the School District a letter encouraging them to remove the AP class from its controversial issues policy. The letter, which included a statement on climate science by the leaders of 18 scientific societies, stated, "Although debate about policy options exists, climate change is not a scientifically-controversial topic."
Pan-African Science, Technology, Innovation Survey. The African Science and Technology Indicators Initiative (ASTII) has released "Africa Innovation Outlook 2010," a Pan-African survey of science, technology and innovation research across 19 African countries. The survey, which offers a "state-of-research" snapshot, is intended to help guide science policy. The report has six chapters, encompassing economic and human development challenges; research and development activities; bibliometric analysis of scientific output; and recommendations to address the challenges identified in it. The survey identifies key barriers to innovation as cost, domination by established enterprises, lack of information on technologies and markets, and lack of qualified staff.
People in the News. - Rosalyn Yalow, the second woman to receive the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine, died last week at the age of 89. She won the prize in 1977 for her part in the development of the technique of radioimmunoassay, which transformed diagnostic testing in labs and blood banks. - President Obama announced his intent to nominate John Bryson as U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary. Bryson is the cofounder of the Natural Resources Defense Council and former Chairman and CEO of Edison International. Bryson would replace Secretary Gary Locke, who has been nominated as Ambassador to China.
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Publisher: Alan I. Leshner
Editor: Kasey White
Contributors: Phillip Chalker, Patrick Clemins, Ed Derrick, Mark Frankel, Erin Heath, Ginger Pinholster, Gretchen Seiler, Al Teich
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.