AAAS Policy Alert -- June 15, 2011
Budget Update. The House was in recess last week, but has returned, and its floor schedule for this week includes finishing up the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs appropriations bill by Monday or Tuesday before moving on to the Agriculture appropriations bill. Vice President Biden will bring his group of budget negotiators together at least three times this week to attempt to accelerate the process and arrive at an agreement for raising the debt ceiling. The group's goal is to reach agreement in July, but House Speaker Boehner (R-OH) has said that he would like to see a deal by the end of June and feels that the negotiations "could be going quicker." Visit the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program Website to stay up-to-date on the latest action on the FY 2012 budget.
Other Congressional News
Ros-Lehtinen Introduces Export Control Reform Bill. On June 3, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, introduced legislation to reform the U.S. export control system. The Export Administration Renewal Act (H.R. 2122 ) is a counter to the bill introduced by ranking member Howard Berman (D-CA) last month ( H.R. 2004 ) which would establish an interagency group to coordinate and manage oversight of a flexible export system. The legislation introduced by Ros-Lehtinen focuses on criminal penalties and establishes a "presumption of denial" for exports to China of items on the Pentagon's Munitions Control List.
Committee Leaders Express Dissenting Views on Patent Reform. In a letter to House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX), Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) and Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) wrote that they do not support the patent reform bill's provision that would allow the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to keep user fees as opposed to returning the fees to the U.S. Treasury. The Congressmen believe it would limit Congress's oversight of the Office by circumventing the appropriations process. The patent reform bill may be brought to the House floor this week.
House Appropriations Bill Bars DHS Adaptation Efforts. The Department of Homeland Security spending bill includes an amendment sponsored by Rep. John Carter (R-TX) to prohibit the agency from participating in the Administration's Interagency Task Force on Climate Change Adaptation. Carter cited redundancy because the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also have climate programs.
Upton Calls for Dropping Amendment on Antibiotics in Agriculture. House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) has requested that an amendment to the appropriations bill for the Food and Drug Administration be scrapped; the amendment aims to prevent FDA from regulating antibiotics use in livestock, but FDA officials are reportedly concerned that the amendment is so broadly written that it would affect agency regulation in an array of other areas.
NIH Provides Details on NCATS Budget. In a letter to Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius provides details on the proposed budget realignment for the new National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) at NIH. Apart from $100 million from the Cures Acceleration Network, most of the funding for NCATS comes from abolishing the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR) and redistributing the programs formerly in NCRR throughout the Institutes. Of the $1.3 billion in funds originally proposed for NCRR in FY 2012, $553 million would move to NCATS, with the $480 million Clinical and Translational Science Award program being the largest program in that transfer. Comparative Medicine, which includes the National Primate Research Centers, would move to the Office of the Director, and the Institutional Development Awards and the Biotechnology Research Resources Program would move to the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS). Of the original NCRR funds, $347 million would be transferred to NIGMS while $303 million would go to the Office of Director.
Yucca Mountain Site Back on the Table. Despite the Administration's efforts to shut down the work at the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste disposal site, the House subcommittee draft of the Energy and Water Appropriations bill provides $25 million for the project, as well as an additional $10 million to continue the license application process, and prohibits the use of funds to cancel the program. A report released Friday by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) inspector general is critical of the decision to shut down the Yucca Mountain Site and states that NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko "was not forthcoming with the other Commissioners about his intent to stop work" on the site. Jaczko is scheduled to testify before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on June 16.
DOD Issues Memo on Indirect Cost Cap for Basic Research Grants. On June 3, the Pentagon's Undersecretary for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics issued a memo on its plans for implementing removal of the 35% cap on indirect cost charges for basic research grants that has been in effect for the past few years. The cap was removed in the FY 2011 continuing resolution.
NOAA Announces New Aquaculture Guidelines. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued the final version of its new aquaculture policy on June 9. The policy, which officials stressed is consistent with the government's dietary guidelines that call on Americans to double the amount of seafood they consume, is intended to boost production by opening federal waters outside the states' three-mile limit to fish farming. It applies fishery management laws designed to govern fishing in the wild to aquaculture, an approach that has been criticized by environmental groups.
Administration Releases Smart Grid Report. The National Science and Technology Council released "A Policy Framework for the 21st Century Grid: Enabling Our Secure Energy Future." The report reasons that a smart grid could incorporate more renewable energy and empower consumers to reduce their energy use. The report also calls for enhanced cyber protection for the grid.
Climate Change News
Climate Comments Sought. The Fish and Wildlife Service, NOAA and other partners are seeking public comments through July 1 to inform a draft National Fish, Wildlife, and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy . Also, the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) is seeking comments on a draft National Action Plan: Priorities for Managing Freshwater Resources in a Changing Climate. CEQ will accept comments on the plan through July 15.
NASA Launches New Climate Satellite. The Argentine-built SAC-D satellite launched by NASA on June 10 into a polar orbit carries the Aquarius sensor designed to map the salinity patterns in the Earth's oceans by bouncing microwaves off the surface of the water. The data will provide clues to circulation patterns, rainfall, and evaporation. The spacecraft, to which Brazil, Canada, France, and Italy also contributed, also carries cameras and sensors that will monitor sea ice, forest fires, and space debris.
UK Official: Climate Change Unnecessary in Science Curriculum. Schools in the United Kingdom should not be obliged to teach five- to 16-year olds about climate change, says the head of a government review of the national curriculum. In an interview with The Guardian, Tim Oates said the curriculum should be taken back to its core, including teaching algebra at an earlier age. Whether to discuss topics such as climate change should be left to the schools, he said. Climate change has been part of the national curriculum since 1995.
Australian Universities Move to Protect Climate Researchers. Over the past several months at least a dozen climate scientists at four Australian universities have received messages threatening them and, in some cases, their families, with death or violence. Although such incidents have been taking place for some time, they have intensified in recent months and authorities are taking them seriously. Protective measures include removing the names of the researchers from directories and signs on office doors and only allowing students and visitors with appointments to see the researchers. An informal survey of U.S. climate researchers by The Chronicle of Higher Education indicates that, while some have received e-mails that are "not nice," none have received threats similar to those of their Australian colleagues.
Supreme Court Rules Against Universities and Federal Government in Patent Case. The Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in Stanford v. Roche that the Bayh-Dole Act does not prevent inventors from having first claim to a patent, thus retaining the right to transfer patent ownership to a third party. In the case, Stanford unsuccessfully argued that the Act guaranteed the rights to inventions made as part of federally sponsored research projects to the federal government or to the university or institution that received the federal funding. The ruling could cast doubt on past patent claims by universities made under the Act, unless the inventor had made an explicit assignment of rights. AAAS signed onto an amicus brief in support of Stanford's position.
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Wisconsin Legislature Moves to Protect Animal Researchers. Legislators in Wisconsin included a motion in a budget bill that will exempt colleges and universities in the state from statutes pertaining to crimes against animals as long as the scientists are "engaged in bona fide scientific research." The legislators' actions follow unsuccessful attempts on the part of animal rights groups to instigate criminal proceedings against scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for violating state statutes. The full legislature is expected to pass the bill with this clause intact and send it on to Governor Scott Walker for his signature.
New Jersey to Reduce Renewable Energy Target. New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie announced that as part of an overhaul of the state's 10-year master energy plan (noted in the May 31 Policy Alert), the state would reduce the amount of energy obtained from renewable sources by 2021 to 22.5 percent, down from 30 percent. The state will hold public hearings before the plan is finalized.
Studies Point to Importance of Funding All Types of Stem Cell Research. Researchers from the University of Michigan, Stanford University and the Mayo Clinic recently analyzed more than 2,000 stem cell papers and found that human embryonic stem cell research has not been replaced by research on induced pluripotent stem cells, which are adult cells induced to have qualities found in embryonic stem cells. Rather, the two cells types were deemed to be complementary, and the researchers concluded that any disruption in federal funding would hurt stem cell research overall.
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