AAAS Policy Alert -- August 17, 2011
Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction Members Chosen. House and Senate leaders have chosen members of the bipartisan Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction. The committee was created in the debt ceiling compromise bill (Budget Control Act of 2011) and is charged with finding at least $1.2 trillion in savings over ten years. If successful, the country would avoid automatic across-the-board spending cuts that would reduce non-security discretionary accounts by an estimated 11 percent. House leaders have named Reps. Dave Camp (R-MI), Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), Fred Upton (R-MI), Xavier Becerra (D-CA), Jim Clyburn (D-SC), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) to the committee and Senate leaders have picked Sens. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) , Rob Portman (R-OH), Pat Toomey (R-PA), Max Baucus (D-MT), John Kerry (D-MA), and Patty Murray (D-WA). Sen. Murray and Rep. Hensarling will co-chair the 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.
OSTP Hosts Meeting on the State of Federal S&T Funding. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) hosted representatives from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), federal science agencies, and leaders of the science and technology community on August 10th to discuss how the current budget crisis might affect federal funding for science and engineering. John Holdren, director of OSTP, reaffirmed the administration's commitment to STEM education and R&D investments in future budgets, but acknowledged that the Budget Control Act of 2011 will likely affect federal support for these programs. Read more on the OSTP blog.
More Agencies Submit Scientific Integrity Guidelines. Nineteen federal agencies have submitted either draft (14) or final (5) scientific integrity policies in response to a December 2010 OSTP Memorandum outlining plans for implementing the Administration's policies on scientific integrity. Only seven of the 19 have been made public. More details can be found on the OSTP website.
NASA Reorganizes Human Space Exploration Programs. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden announced last week the creation of a Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, combining the former Space Operations and Exploration Systems mission directorates. According to NASA's press release, the new unit, to be headed by Associate Administrator Bill Gerstenmaier, will focus on "Space Station operations and human exploration beyond low Earth orbit."
Fracking Reports, Rules Issued. A federal panel tasked with identifying measures that can be taken to reduce the environmental impact and improve the safety of shale gas production using hydraulic fracturing (or "fracking") has issued its initial report. The Natural Gas Subcommittee of the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board report calls for better tracking of waste from wells, including the use of a manifest system; stricter controls on air pollution and greenhouse gases associated with drilling; reduction in the use of diesel fuel; and improved public information on drilling through the creation of a portal to share information from state and federal regulatory agencies. A final report is expected in November. In related news, the Environmental Protection Agency announced on July 28 rules to reduce air pollution from a number of oil and gas drilling methods. The rules include the first federal air-quality standard for hydraulic fracturing, calling for a 95 percent reduction in smog-forming volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions from new and modified hydraulically-fractured wells. The rules are open for public comment for 60 days.
ABA Adopts Resolution on Genetic Testing. At its Annual Meeting earlier this month, the American Bar Association adopted a resolution urging the government to "assure that predictive and diagnostic...direct-to-consumer...medical genetic testing" meet specified requirements, including that tests are reviewed and authorized by qualified health personnel; "consumers are fully informed of material information about the test and the test results, including...an explanation of what probabilities mean, in plain English;" and protections exist to safeguard the security, privacy, and confidentiality of personal health information.
AAAS Supports Draft NOAA Scientific Integrity Guidelines. AAAS issued comments supporting the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's draft Scientific Integrity Policy. In particular, AAAS commended NOAA for recognizing the value of scientific peer review, the importance of openness in research, and the ability of scientists to communicate with the media.
Kenya to Import Genetically Modified Maize. Although current laws prohibit growing genetically modified (GM) crops in Kenya, in light of drought conditions that the United Nations has stated are "the worst...in 60 years," the Kenyan government recently approved the import of GM maize from South Africa. The maize must be clearly labeled, not used as seed, and certified by the National Biosafety Authority. According to a SciDev.net article, this decision has sparked a controversy among scientists and politicians as to whether Kenya has suitable testing facilities for GM crops and if they are a necessary (and longer-term) solution to solving food security issues.
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Argentina and South Africa Form Virtual Nanotechnology Center. Science ministers from Argentina and South Africa signed an agreement last month to establish a joint virtual nanotechnology center. This center "will allow scientists to communicate more easily online, helping research groups to develop joint projects and training opportunities, and to exchange experiences about patents and intellectual property." Financing for the center has not been established, but it is anticipated that national coordinators, yet to be appointed, will identify both public funding sources and specific projects for collaboration.
U.N. Issues Report on Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment. For the first time, the developing world's financial new investment in renewable energy surpassed that of developing countries, according to "Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2011," commissioned by the United Nations Environment Program's Division of Technology, Industry, and Economics. New global financial investments reached a record $211 billion in 2010, a 32% increase from 2009.
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