AAAS Policy Alert -- July 27, 2011
Appropriations Update. Last week the Senate passed its first appropriation bill, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs . In the legislation, the Department of Veterans Affairs' main research and development (R&D) program, the Medical and Prosthetic Research program, received $581 million, $50 million more than the $531 million in the House bill and $72 million more than the President's request. On the other side of Capitol Hill, the full House will take up the Interior- Environment appropriations bill which contains a number of policy measures. The bill would ban for one year the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources, prohibit EPA from changing the definition of "navigable waterways" under the Clean Water Act, exempt certain agricultural activities from greenhouse gas reporting, and prohibit the use of funds for defining coal ash as hazardous waste and expanding storm water discharge requirements. It would also implement a House-passed bill that speeds the process of acquiring drilling permits. The bill would provide $1.054 billion for USGS (down $30 million from last year) and $755 million for EPA Science and Technology (down $71 million from FY 2011). More policy measures are likely to come in the form of amendments from the floor during debate.
In other news, the U.S. Congress failed to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration before the current extension bill expired, leading to a partial shutdown of the agency that started at midnight on July 22nd. The shutdown resulted in the furlough of 4,000 federal employees, including researchers. The FAA has been operating since 2007 under a series of short-term extensions.
As has been widely reported in national news, both branches of government have yet to reach a compromise on the debt ceiling and each congressional chamber has begun to move forward on separate debt limit plans. The Treasury has given August 2nd as the deadline before the federal government will run out of money to pay all of its obligations. AAAS will continue to monitor the progress of the negotiations and its potential impact to the R&D budget.
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
House Bars Funds for International Climate Adaptation Efforts . The House Committee on Foreign Affairs voted to prohibit the use of funds to assist developing countries adapt to climate change or transition to sources of clean energy. The Committee passed H.R. 2583, the Foreign Relations Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 , with an amendment from Rep. Connie Mack (R-FL) to prohibit the use of funds for the Global Climate Change Initiative, which is part of the United Nations' effort to help provide assistance to developing countries. The House Agriculture and Homeland Security spending bills also contain similar provisions.
Cybersecurity Bill Makes it Out of Committee. The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee passed the bipartisan Cybersecurity Enhancement Act of 2011 (H.R. 2096). The bill seeks to coordinate cybersecurity research across federal agencies, expand the research to include social and behavioral factors, authorize the National Science Foundation to support cybersecurity research in more fields (e.g., identity management and crimes against children), and provide scholarships to students pursuing a degree in a cybersecurity field. It now must be voted upon by the full House.
Commerce Issues Proposed Rule on Export Control Reform . On July 15 the Department of Commerce Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) issued a Proposed Rule in the Federal Register on revisions to the Export Administration Regulations. The Proposed Rule addresses the structure it will utilize for transferring items from the Pentagon's Munitions Control List (MCS) to the BIS Commerce Control List (CCL), new definitions for licensing policies for CCL items, and a proposed definition for "specially designed" items. Comments are due September 13, 2011.
HHS Issues Proposed Rule on Human Subjects Research . On July 26th, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) on Human Subjects Research Protections: Enhancing Protections for Research Subjects and Reducing Burden, Delay, and Ambiguity for Investigators in the Federal Register. The ANPRM states that the "expansion of human subject research into many new scientific disciplines and venues and an increase in multi-site studies have highlighted ambiguities in the current rules and have led to questions about whether the current regulatory framework is effectively keeping up with the needs of researchers and research subjects." Public comments will be accepted through September 26, 2011.
Comment on the above item. The Policy Alert blog is located on AAAS's MemberCentral . Once you are logged in, click on "Blogs" and look for Capitol Connection" in the drop-down list.
PCORI Seeking Public Comment. The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, an independent, nonprofit body established by Congress, is currently seeking public comment on what patient-centered outcomes research should entail, including reactions to the working definition that it has proposed. The deadline for comment is September 2. PCORI also announced at its recent board meeting that it will be releasing a proposal for applications for pilot grants in September.
Federal Government to Close Hundreds of Data Centers. The U.S. federal government, the largest buyer of information technology in the world, last week revealed plans to close more than one-third of its 2,000 data centers. The facilities range in size from less than 1,000 square feet to 195,000 square feet (a Department of Homeland Security center). The closures, announced by federal chief information officer Vivek Kundra, are part of a shift to cloud computing and the plan is projected to save the government billions of dollars a year.
National Science Board Meeting. The National Science Board will meet on July 28th and 29th at NSF's headquarters in Arlington, VA, to discuss a range of issues including Merit Review and STEM education. The public portions of the meeting will be webcast; a copy of the agenda can be found at: http://www.nsf.gov/nsb/meetings/2011/0728/.
NRC Releases Framework for Science Education Standards . Last week, the National Research Council released A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas, a report that recommends that some of the core content that K-12 students learn should be focused on four critical areas of science -- life sciences; physical sciences; earth and space sciences; and engineering and technology -- rather than learning a little about many subjects. The framework will be a template for education standards that will be developed by a group of states and coordinated by the non-profit Achieve, Inc.
UN Statement on Climate Change and Security . The United Nations Security Council released a statement at its July 20 meeting noting that the potential effects of climate change could "aggravate certain existing threats to international peace and security." The Council cited security implications of loss of territory caused by sea-level rise and requested that the Secretary-General ensure that future reports continue to focus on the intersection of climate change, security, and peace.
EU Launches Major Research & Innovation Programme . The European Commission has announced a funding package of nearly € 7 billion (approx. $10 billion U.S.) to promote research and innovation. The Work Programme for 2012 is its biggest-ever funding package under its Seventh Framework Programme for Research, and the grants are expected to reach more than 16,000 recipients at universities, research organizations and industry. The funds include nearly €1 billion specifically targeted to small and medium enterprises.
Venezuela 's Science Law Reform Is Met With Criticism. Last December, Venezuela approved a reform to the Organic Law of Science, Technology and Innovation, giving the government direct control over tax money previously used by companies to fund internal research projects. The government argued that the recent reform was necessary to ensure internal projects align with "social realities" and serve national goals. Scientists, however, have expressed concern with the reform, saying it threatens academic freedom, and paralyzes beneficial projects by limiting research to projects that conform strictly to government priorities rather than scientific priorities.
WWIC Issues New Report on Synthetic Biology . Last week, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars Synthetic Biology Project released its report, "Issues Arising from Synthetic Biology: What Lies Ahead?" The report highlights discussions from a November 2010 meeting of key stakeholders (i.e. biologists, policy makers, ethicists, and social scientists) on the future applications of synthetic biology; its perception by the general public; and the ethical, legal, and social implications (ELSI) of both the research and its applications. The Wilson project is now inviting public comment on ELSI issues highlighted in the report which need to be addressed and will utilize the comments received to help set priorities among issues to address in the future.
Texas School Board Votes on Science Materials. The Texas State Board of Education unanimously approved scientifically accurate supplements to high school biology textbooks last week. Materials favored by creationists were not approved. "That these supplements were adopted unanimously reflects a long overdue change in the board," said National Center for Science Education director Eugenie Scott, in reference to the board's history of casting doubt on evolution in the classroom.
Efforts to Eradicate Polio Losing Ground . The Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) released its quarterly report last week stating that the GPEI is currently behind schedule in its effort to eradicate polio by 2012. The Board, established last year to monitor the efforts of GPEI, cited the following as reasons for its conclusion: 1) Polio numbers are increasing in Pakistan; 2) reemergence of polio in 14 countries; and 3) insufficient responses to outbreaks in Africa. The Board, however, reaffirmed that the disease can still be eradicated and put forth 22 recommendations to assist in accomplishing this goal.
People in the News
E. William (Bill) Colglazier, who recently retired as the executive officer of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Research Council, has been nominated as Science and Technology Adviser to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. He succeeds AAAS President Nina Fedoroff, who left the position in 2010 to serve as the Distinguished Visiting Professor of the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia and the Evan Pugh and Willaman Life Sciences professorships at Pennsylvania State University.
Archived issues of AAAS Policy Alert can be found at http://www.aaas.org/spp/policyalert.
Publisher: Alan I. Leshner
Editor: Joanne Carney
Contributors: Phillip Chalker, Edward Derrick, Mark Frankel, Erin Heath, Tom Miotke, Anne Poduska, Gretchen Seiler, Meghan Seltzer, Al Teich, Kasey White
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.