AAAS Policy Alert -- October 5, 2011
IN THIS ISSUE
The House plans a vote early this week on the Senate-passed continuing resolution (H.R.2608) to continue funding the federal government through November 18. The bill would set the overall discretionary spending level at $1.042 trillion, $1 billion less than what had been agreed upon in The Budget Control Act of 2011 (P.L.112-25), and would provide $2.65 billion in emergency disaster relief for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) with no specific offsets. The bill also extends the SBIR/STTR small business research programs. The bill is expected to pass the House this week, but already some Members are saying that a second short-term continuing resolution would not have their support.
The House Appropriations Committee released a draft Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education appropriations bill (PDF file) last week that would fund the National Institutes of Health at $31.7 billion, the level of the President's request and a $1.0 billion increase over FY 2011 (press release can be found here ). The bill does not mention the proposed new National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), but it does contain provisions on the number of grants that NIH must fund (a minimum of 9,150 across the entire NIH) and the balance between extramural and intramural support (a 90-10 split). The bill has had an unusual history. It was drafted as usual by the Labor-HHS-Education appropriations subcommittee but not brought to a vote there, since there was insufficient support in the subcommittee to pass it. However, the full Committee's leadership decided to release the draft bill to provide a starting point for negotiations with the Senate on the latter's version of the bill.
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
Potential Reporting Rules for Research Grants, and Survey of ARRA Reporting Costs . Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has introduced legislation (H.R. 2146) to extend the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) reporting requirements to other federal research grants and awards. In a related development, the Federal Demonstration Partnership (FDP), a collaborative effort between federal agencies and institutions of higher education to address issues related to the administration of federal research grants, recently issued the report of a survey on the reporting costs associated with ARRA. The executive summary of the report is accessible on the FDP website. According to the data submitted by the 100 institutions surveyed, the administrative costs totaled $91.7 million over a 4-year period, or about $7,973 per ARRA award. The report, however, also states that "A linear correlation should not be assumed to exist between the costs reported here and cost if the ARRA regulations were extended to the entire portfolio of federal awards."
Battle Over EPA Rules Ensues . The House is expected to take up the EPA Regulatory Relief Act (H.R. 2250) that would prohibit the EPA from implementing new emission standards for industrial boilers, process heaters, and incinerators. The Congressional Budget Office, however, recently issued a report (available here) (PDF file) that calculates the net cost to the federal budget to implement the bill at $1 million. According to House rules on spending, any new increases to the federal budget must be accompanied by offsets, creating the potential for more contentious debate on the House floor.
House Committee Explores Issue of Drug Shortages. A hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on September 23 revealed that drug shortages have more than tripled since 2005, critically affecting patients. Eight witnesses, including Assistant Secretary for Health Howard Koh, testified. Koh said that in 2010 there were 178 drug shortages, including cancer drugs, anesthetics, and critical care medications; 93% were considered "medically necessary." In addition, the Food and Drug Administration held a public meeting and a webinar on drug shortages last month.
Global Change Research Program Seeks Public Comments. The U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) is seeking public comment on its 2012-2021 Strategic Plan through November 29. The draft plan and submission instructions are available here.
Most States to Seek Waivers from No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Rules. As many as 45 states are expected to seek waivers from NCLB requirements that their students be proficient in math and reading by 2014, according to a Washington Post article. Under the law, school systems that fail to achieve the proficiency goal would receive sanctions (described here). State and local education officials say that the NCLB law, passed and signed in 2001 (and found here), has both unrealistic goals and unfair penalties. In a statement, U.S. Department of Education officials insisted that states will be required to establish new accountability and achievement goals to ensure that all students stay on track to graduate college- and career-ready.
CDC and APHIS Seek Comments on Revised Select Agent List. On October 3 both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) issued proposed rules in the Federal Register regarding revisions to the select agents and toxins control list. Both the CDC and APHIS revisions (CDC's found here; APHIS's found here) reflect recommendations from the Federal Experts Security Advisory Panel (FESAP) to establish a new tiered system for select agents that pose a greater national security risk, as well as recommendations to remove items that pose minimal risk from the list. Public comments are due December 2.
Survey Finds More Than 10% of Parents Fail to Comply With Vaccination Advice. The survey, published online in the journal Pediatrics on October 3, included 750 parents of children age 6 and under. The results revealed skepticism of vaccines, based upon misconceptions about their risks perpetuated online and in the media. Parents are refusing some shots and delaying others, including vaccines for chickenpox and measles-mumps-rubella. These findings are similar to those of a federal survey released in September. The Pediatrics paper was reported by the Associated Press and picked up by a number of newspapers, including the San Francisco Chronicle.
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.
International Science Body Adopts Ethical Standards Statement. At its General Assembly in September in Rome, the International Council for Science (ICSU) amended one of its existing statutes on scientific freedom to include a clause creating a "responsibility at all levels to carry out and communicate scientific work with integrity, respect, fairness, trustworthiness, and transparency, recognizing its benefits and possible harms." Further details appear in a SciDevNet article. ICSU is an international non-governmental organization those members include many scientific organizations from 140 countries as well as 30 international scientific unions.
German Ethics Council Addresses Chimeras. The German National Ethics Council recently commented on the use of human-animal chimeras in research, outlining certain practices that should not be allowed, including experiments that introduce animal material into the human germline. The council came to conclusions similar to those of a UK panel in July.
Indian Scientists Concerned About Animal Welfare Proposal. Some researchers in India are charging that a proposed animal welfare law carries unreasonably harsh penalties and includes language that is too vague. For example, the definition of animal is "any living creature other than a human being." The government could send the proposal to Parliament later this year but is also considering changes that could go into a new draft.
Pakistani Government Proposes Increased Support for Science and Technology. In a move to increase support for science and innovation, the Pakistani government recently proposed increasing research spending to 2% of the gross domestic product (GDP) by 2020, which is a substantial increase from its current level of 0.59% of GDP. According to a SciDev.net article, this represents a major policy shift. However, the ten-year "Science, Technology and Innovation Policy" plan to support scientific research and innovation still needs approval from the Ministry of Law, the Cabinet, and the Parliament. Critics of the plan, according to the article, have concerns about financing the plan, in view of the recent recession and floods, which resulted in decreased spending for government-funded programs.
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Publisher: Alan I. Leshner
Editor: Steve Nelson
Contributors: Joanne Carney, Patrick Clemins, Gwen Coat, Mark Frankel, Erin Heath, Emily Lamb, Earl Lane, Anne Poduska, Gretchen Seiler, Al Teich, Ric Weibl, Kasey White
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