AAAS Policy Alert -- July 20, 2011
On July 13 the House Appropriations Committee approved the Commerce,
Justice and Science appropriations bill
, preparing it for a House floor vote. The committee did not restore funding
beleaguered James Webb Space Telescope (JWST),
the American Astronomical Society to issue a statement calling on Congress "to support JWST to its completion and to provide strong oversight on the path
to this goal." The full committee did approve an amendment introduced by
Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA) that would provide an across-the-board cut to all CJS
agencies of 0.1% for a total of $48
and shift those funds to NOAA's
Operations, Research, and Facilities programs. The cut would mean a
reduction of $6.9 million to NSF's overall budget. The NSF
for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences did not receive any
reductions in the full committee mark, despite threats that it might. In the
language the committee calls on NSF "to establish a Cognitive and
Developmental Neuroscience crosscutting theme to guide future budget
formulation in this area, and to increase
investments in research through this theme in fiscal year 2012." The
budget for the White House
Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP)
, however, received a major cut
the Appropriations Committee, receiving only $3 million, 55% below its
current $6.6 million budget. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), who chairs the CJS
appropriations subcommittee and who is a fierce
of China, had written language into the FY 2011 spending bill that would
prohibit OSTP or NASA from engaging in joint scientific activities with China
), and he believes that OSTP had sidestepped that prohibition.
15 the full House approved the Energy and Water appropriations bill, including funding for the Department
of Energy. During floor debate the chamber passed by a vote of 214-213 an
amendment introduced by Reps. Schiff (D-CA), Bass (R-NH), and Fudge (D-OH) to
restore funding for ARPA-E to its FY 2011
level of $180 million. Additional details for the Energy and Water
appropriations and other appropriations will be forthcoming in an AAAS R&D
R&D Budget and Policy Program Website
to stay up-to-date on the latest action on the FY 2012 budget.
Other Congressional News
Senate Energy Committee Approves an Array of Bills.
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee marked-up and approved 23
bills last week. One of them (yet to be numbered)
promote the domestic development and deployment of clean energy technology.
Another (S.1067) would require the Secretary of Energy to
carry out a research, development, and demonstration program to reduce
manufacturing and construction costs relating to nuclear reactors. And a
would provide for research, development, and deployment of electric
House Bills Would Restrict EPA Regulatory Authority.
By a vote of 239-184, the House last week passed H.R.
, which would limit EPA's authority to reject state water pollution plans and
enforce stricter plans. Also, the House Energy and Commerce Committee
, which would prevent EPA from regulating coal ash as hazardous waste and
leave its regulation to the states.
House Committee to Consider Health-Related Bills.
On July 21 the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Health
plans a hearing to discuss H.R.
(Synthetic Drug Control Act of 2011), H.R. 2405 (reauthorization of the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act), and new draft legislation (not yet numbered) entitled the "Enhancing
Diseases Coordination Activities Act of 2011
." The last would give the Department of Health and Human Services new
authority to establish subcommittees on specific diseases. These would
provide summaries on the state of research and supply strategic plans
including recommendations on how to improve research, funding, cooperation,
and public engagement related to the study of those diseases.
PCAST Meeting Focuses on Patents.
On July 15 the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) met in Washington, D.C. David Kappos, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), stated that versions of patent reform legislation have been passed by both the Senate and House and are waiting to undergo reconciliation. Provisions of the legislation discussed included subjecting all patent applications to the "peer to patent" program which would put every patent application online for public comment, and provisions in th
bill that would place universities in a new category called "micro-entities,"
allowing them to receive a 75% discount on patent filing fees. Also covered
at the meeting were updates on forthcoming reports from the National
Academies on the Future of Research Universities (expected to be released by
the end of 2011) and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences' study on the
Impacts of Federal and Industry Funding of Science, Engineering, and Medicine
on American Universities (ARISE II). The Committee also heard reflections
from Vivek Kundra, the White House's outgoing Federal Chief Information
NIH Seeking Comment on Health Policy Tool.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is requesting comment from health economists, health professionals, the broader scientific community, and other stakeholders on the development of a State Health Policy Database "to support scientific research on key research questions in health economics and to facilitate applied health economics research on issues relating to health care reform." The database is intended "as a research tool that will document state-level policies in a manner that facilitates valid comparisons across states and over time." The deadline for comment is August 26.
Independent Regulatory Agencies Ordered to Review Regulations.
President Obama issued Executive Order 13579, which requires independent regulatory agencies to create a plan within 120 days that they will use to periodically review significant regulations under their purview to determine whether each should be modified, streamlined, expanded, or repealed. This Executive Order is similar to EO
13563, which applied to federal departments.
AAAS Submits Comments on NSF Merit Review Criteria.
AAAS has submitted comments in response to the National Science Board's proposed
to NSF's merit review criteria. The AAAS response raises several issues that will affect the scientific community, including the rationale for the listing of nine "national goals," the connection between those goals and merit review, the place of research integrity in evaluating proposals, and the scope of "broader impacts" that would be considered under the revisions.
Augustine to Chair Panel on NSF Antarctic Support Operations.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) announced last week that it is forming a blue ribbon panel to assess its science-support operations in Antarctica. The panel will be chaired by Norman Augustine, who led a similar review in 1997. Other members will be named later.
NOAA To Host Public Teleconference on Its Scientific Integrity
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has invited the
public to participate in a teleconference with its Assistant Administrator on
released Draft Scientific Integrity Policy
. The teleconference will be held July 28, from 1:00-2:30pm EDT. The
dial-in number is 1-800-857-9674. Final comments on the draft
policy must be submitted by August 20.
Agency Report Sees Positive Outlook for STEM Jobs and Salaries.
A report from the Commerce Department's Economics and Statistics Administration (ESA) says that in the past 10 years, growth in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) jobs was three times as fast as growth in non-STEM jobs, and that STEM workers were less likely to experience joblessness than non-STEM workers. STEM occupations are projected to grow by 17% from 2008 to 2018, compared to 9.8 % growth projected for non-STEM occupations. The report also found that STEM workers earn more on average than non-STEM workers regardless of their educational attainment.
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Ethanol Replaces Livestock Consumption as Major Use of U.S.-Grown
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) says that, for the first time, more U.S.-grown corn will be used for producing ethanol than for animal feed and related products. Approximately 40% of U.S. corn is currently used to make ethanol. It is uncertain whether that pattern would continue if a measure to eliminate the 45-cent-per-gallon tax credit for ethanol production, approved by the Senate in June, were to become law.
RAND Europe Releases Report on Alternatives to Peer Review.
Last week RAND Europe released a report, Alternatives
to Peer Review in Research Project Funding
, which presents alternatives to the traditional peer review model in order
to improve efficiency and effectiveness. Commissioned by the UK
of Health-funded Center for Policy Research in Science and Medicine,
the report highlights ways that three elements of the funding process -- the
funding strategy, expected outcome, and
-- can be altered to support a broader range of research projects.
German Law to Permit Limited Use of Genetic Testing of Human Embryos.
The German parliament has enacted
legalizing diagnosis for the purposes of testing embryos for genetic
anomalies prior to implantation in the womb as part of the in vitro
of the technique was banned in 1990, but a 2010 ruling by
the German Federal Supreme Court stated that it was permitted in some cases.
The new law is a response to that court decision.
Peru's President-Elect Sets Ambitious Goals for Science.
Peru's new president Ollanta Humala Tasso is set to take office on July 28
and has outlined an ambitious
to increase Peru's science and technology spending seven-fold to over 0.7%
of GDP. Besides calling for private sector involvement, tax incentives for
companies engaged in innovation
research, links between education and private organizations, and
increased opportunities for women, all in the name of sustainable
development, Humala targeted much of the proposed spending
the "improvement of public universities, so they can also be centres
of research." Humala's plan for a Ministry of Science and Technology has met
with criticism by the scientific
however, and as a result he has indicated some flexibility on that
proposal, saying, "The most important thing is we will boost scientific
development, and creation of technology."
People in the News. - Stephen Spielberg
, former dean of Dartmouth Medical School, has joined the Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) as deputy commissioner for medical
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Editor: Steve Nelson
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