AAAS Policy Alert -- September 21, 2011
IN THIS ISSUE
The Senate Appropriations Committee approved its FY 2012 appropriations bills for Commerce, Justice and Science; Defense; Financial Services; and Legislative Branch on September 15. The Commerce, Justice and Science bill (details of which can be found here) provides $680 million for the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST), 9.3% ($70 million) less than FY 2011 and 3.0% ($21 million) less than the House; $675 million in R&D for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 2.4% ($16 million) more than FY 2011 and 12.8% ($77 million) more than the House; $17.9 billion for National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), 2.8% ($509 million) less than FY 2011 but 6.7% ($1.1 billion) more than the House; and $6.7 billion for the National Science Foundation (NSF), 2.4% ($162 million) less than FY 2011 and the House, which would fund the NSF at the same level as FY 2011. The Defense bill provides $74.9 billion (not including Overseas Contingency Operations) for Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation (RDT&E), 0.1% ($98 million) less than FY 2011 but 2.5% ($1.85 billion) more than the House. (The Defense bill details can be found here.) While the Senate set its overall discretionary spending figure at just 2.3% ($23 billion) higher than the House, that fact masks some sharp differences between the House and Senate on funding levels for many specific programs (NASA being just one example). Those differences could lead to contentious conference negotiations.
It appears virtually certain that Congress will not finish all its FY 2012 appropriations by October 1, the start of the new fiscal year. Therefore, a continuing resolution (H.J.Res.79) (details found here) was introduced in the House on September 14 that would fund the federal government through November 18 at a total level of $1.043 trillion in discretionary spending, the same level as the agreed-upon discretionary spending cap in The Budget Control Act of 2011 (P.L.112-25) (click here for details of the Act). This level would amount to a 1.41% cut across most discretionary accounts.
Letter Sent to Capitol Hill on the Value of R&D. On August 30 AAAS joined a coalition of scientific and educational institutions in sending a letter (PDF file) to members of Congress highlighting the critical role of research and development. According to the letter, "Slashing science funding in order to reduce the national debt not only adversely affects immediate innovation, but will also stifle future economic growth and jeopardize our national security."
Report Calls for Additional Energy R&D Funding. The American Energy Innovation Council, which consists mainly of technology industry leaders, released a new report, Catalyzing American Ingenuity, that highlights the need for an active government role in energy innovation, recommends ways to improve the effectiveness of government innovation programs, and highlights options to pay for energy innovation investments. The Council is part of the Bipartisan Policy Center. The report can be found here.
Visit the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program Website to stay up-to-date on the latest congressional action on the FY 2012 budget.
OTHER CONGRESSIONAL NEWS
More Efforts to Block EPA Regulations Emerge in Senate. As the House continues to vote to delay or de-fund EPA regulations, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is attempting to use a resolution of disapproval (the text of which can be found here) (PDF file) under the Congressional Review Act to stop EPA's recently-issued cross-state air pollution rule. Under the little-used Congressional Review Act, Congress can block recent rules with a simple-majority vote. If passed by the House and Senate, the resolution would still require the President's signature to take effect, which seems unlikely.
GAO Finds Limited Progress by Agencies in Investigating Antibiotics in Agriculture. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has released a report on agency activities related to the agricultural use of antibiotics. It found that although the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have been collecting data on this issue, the data do not yet provide a sufficient picture, and a more detailed approach is needed. A summary of the report, with a link to the full document, can be found here.
White House, Universities Highlight Programs for Commercializing Research. On September 16 in a ceremony accompanying his signing into law the America Invents Act, President Obama announced a series of efforts to help American entrepreneurs and businesses and to promote commercialization of university research. Among the measures announced: development of a National Bioeconomy Blueprint "to address national challenges in health, food, energy, and the environment;" the launch of the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences at NIH, plus new tools to speed up licensing of inventions developed by researchers at NIH and FDA to start-up companies; an initiative, joined by Association of American Universities, the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities, and 135 university leaders, to encourage university-industry collaborations; and developing university endowments focused on lab-to-market innovations. A summary White House press release, providing additional details of each measure, appears here.
EPA Releases Environmental Justice Strategy. EPA released Plan EJ 2014, a roadmap that will help EPA integrate environmental justice into the Agency's programs, policies, and activities. The goals of the plan are to protect human health in communities affected by pollution; empower communities to take action to improve their health and environment; and establish partnerships with local, state, tribal, and federal organizations to achieve healthy and sustainable communities. An outline of the EPA plan, with links to further details, can be found here.
FDA Releases Plan for Rare Diseases. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released a draft five-year plan that includes ways to address rare diseases. Part of the plan involves training biotech companies on drug development for rare diseases and increasing outreach to the rare-disease community. FDA will hold a public meeting on the plan on October 14. More information, with a link to the full plan, can be found here.
AAU Launches Undergraduate Education Initiative. The Association of American Universities (AAU) is undertaking a five-year initiative (details to be found here) to improve teaching and learning by encouraging incorporation of the latest research into science and math pedagogy at its member institutions. AAU will work with experts to find ways to encourage faculty members and departments to employ new teaching techniques in the classroom. The 61 AAU universities (the list of which can be found here) receive more than 50% of all federal funding for university-based research, and award 17% of the nation's total undergraduate degrees.
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.
NAS Report on Sustainability at EPA. The National Academy of Sciences released a report commissioned by the Environmental Protection Agency that provides a framework and a set of assessment tools for incorporating sustainability into the Agency's culture and decision-making process. The report (which can be found here) represents a broadening of the EPA's existing risk-assessment paradigm, to focus on maximizing benefits in reducing risk as well as preventing future disasters. The next step for the NAS is a new report titled Sustainability Linkages in the Federal Government, which will identify new opportunities for collaboration on sustainability issues among federal agencies.
Report Urges Advancing Science and Education Capacity-Building in Haiti. Increasing science and science education capacity should play an important role in rebuilding Haiti following that nation's January 2010 earthquake, according to a report recently released by AAAS, the University of Puerto Rico-Río Piedras, the University of Idaho, and the Association of American Geographers. Science for Haiti: A Report on Advancing Haitian Science and Science Education Capacity describes the results of a workshop that convened scientists, policy makers, and science educators from Haiti and across the globe. Recommendations included establishing a national science and technology plan and providing community gathering places to train educators in quality science instruction. A press release, with a link to the full report, can be found on the AAAS website.
South Korea Renews Stem Cell Research Support. According to a BBC report (found here), the President of South Korea, Lee Myung-bak, has announced the intention to revitalize stem cell research in the country. The program includes funding of $89 million, easing of regulations, and establishing a state stem cell bank. Five years ago stem cell research in South Korea suffered a setback after a scandal in which a scientist's claim to have made human embryonic stem cells from cloned human embryos was discovered to have been falsified.
Kenyan Scientists Debate Their Role in GM Controversy. SciDevNet reports that a debate is underway in Kenya over the role of scientists in that country's importation of genetically modified (GM) foods. Kenya's agriculture secretary is urging researchers to join the debate on GM foods, arguing that "by keeping quiet, scientists are putting the public at risk of being misled by politicians." The Secretary, a plant pathologist by training, declared that "We [scientists] must no longer be cowed into silence as our people face starvation year in, year out while politicians make wild allegations." However, the managing trustee of the Center for Science and Technology Innovation in Kenya has cautioned that "It is not that Kenya lacks scientists that can give advice, but when there are vested interests, like in the GM maize importation, then we do not need to get involved." The SciDevNet article can be found here.
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