AAAS Policy Alert -- October 19, 2011
IN THIS ISSUE
The Senate Appropriations Committee released the draft text for its Interior and Environment appropriations bill on October 14. The bill would fund Interior's U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) at $1.064 billion, $20 million (1.8%) less than FY 2011, but $10 million more than the House bill. EPA's Science and Technology account would receive $809 million, $4 million (0.5%) less than last year, but $54 million more than the House. The Senate began considering a "minibus" appropriations bill consisting of the Agriculture (H.R. 2112); Commerce, Justice and Science (S.1572); and Transportation and Housing and Urban Development (S.1596) bills on October 17.
NIH has issued a notice about how it will operate under the current continuing resolution which funds the government through November 18. It "will issue non-competing research grant awards at a level below that indicated on the most recent Notice of Award (generally up to 90 percent of the previously committed level)." This is consistent with NIH practice over the past several years. In related NIH news, ScienceInsider has reported that an early agency estimate puts the FY 2011 success rate for research grant proposals at 17.4%, an all-time low.
Recommendations from other congressional committees to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (the "Super Committee) were due October 14. The letter (PDF file) from the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee includes 15 pages of recommendations, which "prioritize R&D programs that protect our national security and leadership, allow private investors and the marketplace to thrive without undue Federal influence, and have the most potential for sustained long-term growth." Democrats from 16 House Committees submitted their own plans, independent of the majority leadership, stressing a balance between job creation and deficit reduction. Reps. Rush Holt (D-NJ) and David Price (D-NC) issued a Dear Colleague letter urging support for basic scientific research, which they sent to the Joint Committee while also urging their House colleagues to sign on to the letter.
Although the deadline has passed for Members of Congress to submit comments, the Deficit Reduction Committee is still seeking suggestions from the public and has set up a website for that purpose. The Committee must submit its proposals to the full Congress by November 23.
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
House Majority Leader Speaks in Support of Research. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) spoke on the importance of research and retaining skilled foreign graduate students in STEM fields at a Washington, DC event hosted by Harvard University, according to an article in the Harvard Gazette. In an unofficial transcript compiled by Bloomberg News, Cantor stated, "I don't think there's any question, we ought to put a priority on research in this country. Washington does a lot of things that perhaps we ought to reexamine and [conclude] it ought not be doing anymore, but one thing that I think the country expects is leadership in research, because it has a huge leverage effect [on] our quality of life, in what we can do in productivity."
GAO Report Says OSTP-China Talks Broke Law. The U.S. Government Accountability Office concluded that the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy broke the law by holding science meetings with China. The GAO report, requested by Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), concluded that the U.S.-China Dialogue on Innovation Policy and the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue held in Washington, D.C., in May 2011, violated stipulations in a 2011 appropriations bill that prohibited use of federal money for scientific exchanges with China. OSTP does not deny spending roughly $3500 on the events, but argues that the law is an "unconstitutional infringement on the President's constitutional prerogatives in foreign affairs."
Presidential Council Issues Interim Report on Jobs, Competitiveness. The President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness has released an interim report entitled "Taking Action, Building Confidence." (PDF file) The report groups its recommendations into five initiatives: (1) investing in infrastructure and energy development; (2) encouraging entrepreneurship and accelerating the number and scale of young, small businesses and high-growth firms; (3) fostering within-U.S. investment, both from foreign firms and from multinational corporations headquartered in the U.S.; (4) simplifying regulatory review and streamlining project approvals; and (5) ensuring U.S. talent to fill existing job openings as well as to boost future job creation. The Council plans to address the major factors underpinning national competitiveness in its year-end report.
USCIS Announces "Entrepreneurs in Residence" Initiative. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Alejandro Mayorkas has announced an initiative for "Entrepreneurs in Residence" to collaborate with the private sector to strengthen the agency's policies and practices regarding immigrant investors, entrepreneurs, and workers with specialized skills, knowledge, or abilities (press release found here). The initiative builds upon USCIS's August announcement of efforts to promote startup enterprises and spur job creation, including enhancements to the EB-5 immigrant investor visa program.
USPTO Announces Hearings, Invites Comments on Features of Patent Reform Law. The U.S. Patent and Trade Office (USPTO) has announced public hearings and is requesting comments on the America Invents Act's expansion of prior user rights and on how the government might help small businesses in international patenting. The hearing on prior user rights will be held Oct. 25 in Alexandria, VA (see Federal Register notice for details). Hearings on international patent protection for small businesses will be held Oct. 27 in Alexandria, VA and Nov. 1 at the University of Southern California (see Federal Register notice for details). Hearings will be webcast. Stakeholders wishing to participate in a hearing should contact the USPTO no less than one week earlier than the hearing. Written comments may be submitted up to Nov. 8 for both topics.
USPTO Requests Comments on Intellectual Property Enforcement in China. The USPTO is requesting public input on China's patent enforcement system (see Federal Register notice for details). Topics for discussion include: (1) acquisition and enforcement of utility model and design patents; (2) evidence collection and preservation in Chinese courts; (3) obtaining damages and injunctions; (4) enforceability of court orders; and (5) administrative patent enforcement. Based on the comments received, the USPTO intends to produce a report that details the patent enforcement landscape in China and identifies any challenges faced by U.S. innovators, together with recommendations for improving the system. The deadline for receiving written comments is November 4.
PCORI, FDA News. The independent Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) is seeking merit reviewers for its pilot grants program. It has put out the request to scientists as well as patients and stakeholders. In other health news, the FDA's Risk Communication Advisory Committee is holding a public meeting November 17-18. The committee will consider issues related to the communication of risks and benefits on prescription drug promotional labeling and print advertising.
NASA, NRO, Air Force Set Criteria for Certifying New Expendable Launch Vehicles. NASA, the National Reconnaissance Office, and the US Air Force have signed an agreement to establish clear criteria for certifying commercial providers of new expendable launch vehicles to be used for national security and civil space missions. The new strategy recognizes that mission-unique requirements from each of the three agencies may result in different certification approaches to mitigate launch risk. The document provides a common framework and language among the agencies for communicating expectations to new launch service providers. More details are found here.
NASA, Private Firm Announce ISS Student Experiment Contest. A new global contest has been announced for students to design experiments to be performed on the International Space Station (ISS). Students aged 14 to 18 years can submit experiments in life sciences or physics with submissions due December 7 (rules and information about submissions found here). The contest is administered by Space Adventures, Ltd, with support from NASA. The public will be able to vote on finalists beginning January 3, 2012. Six regional finalists will get a flight on a Zero-G aircraft. Two global winners will be announced in March 2012. In addition to having their experiments conducted on the ISS, global winners will receive a trip to either Tokyo to witness the launch of the carrier rocket or to Moscow (when they turn age 18) to take part in a seven-day cosmonaut training course.
Texas Environmental Agency Accused of Censoring Article. Publication of a report on the state of Galveston Bay commissioned by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) is being held up by a dispute over TCEQ's deletion of references to climate change in an article intended to be part of the report. According to an item in the Houston Chronicle, several sections of the article, including one on the rise in ocean level in Galveston Bay, were deleted by TCEQ without explanation. The article's author, John Anderson, Maurice Ewing Professor of Oceanography at Rice University, as well as the editor and co-editor of the report have asked TCEQ to remove their names from the published version.
Florida Governor Wants to Increase Funding for University S&T Programs by Shifting Money from Anthropology. In an interview with the Sarasota Herald Tribune and a subsequent radio interview (both reported online on Inside Higher Ed), Governor Rick Scott stated that he wants taxpayer money "to go to degrees where people can get jobs in this state." Speaking of anthropology, he noted, "It's a great degree if people want to get it. But we don't need them here." The governor's remarks follow attacks on social and behavioral science degree programs, including psychology and political science, by other Republican leaders including the soon-to-be-president of the Florida Senate, Don Gaetz.
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Royal Society Report Proposes a World Nuclear Forum. The Royal Society recently released a report calling for a "World Nuclear Forum" to address issues such as non-proliferation, nuclear governance, and cradle-to-grave care of nuclear fuel. According to "Fuel cycle stewardship in a nuclear renaissance", 43 countries currently have nuclear power reactors under construction. Taking an international approach to fuel disposal and storage "may become increasingly important since it is unclear if every nuclear power programme will have the suitable geology and resources to construct and operate a geological disposal facility nationally." In addition to outlining best practices for nuclear power programs, specific recommendations for the U.K. are also provided.
Russian Scientists Stage Protest Against Bureaucracy. More than five hundred Russian scientists demonstrated against a funding freeze and bureaucratic restrictions on research in a rally in Moscow's Pushkin Square on October 13. The rally was organized by the trade union of the Russian Academy of Sciences and several other organizations. Demonstrators complained that their work is being stifled by "bureaucratic delay, rampant cronyism," and the reluctance of older scientists to retire because their pensions are so small. For more details see coverage in The Washington Post, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and ScienceInsider.
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Editor: Steve Nelson
Contributors: Joanne Carney, Patrick Clemins, Ed Derrick, Mark Frankel, Erin Heath, Earl Lane, Anne Poduska, Gretchen Seiler, Al Teich, Kasey White, Brad Wible
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