AAAS Policy Alert -- November 9, 2011
IN THIS ISSUE
Senate Passes First Budget "Minibus." After returning from a week-long recess, on November 1 the Senate voted 69-30 to pass the Commerce/Justice/Science (CJS), Transportation, and Agriculture "minibus" appropriations package (see press release here). Shortly thereafter, on November 3, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) announced that the two chambers would hold a joint Conference Committee hearing that same week to begin ironing out differences between them on funding levels and paving the way for final passage. (House conferees are listed here.) There are notable differences between the House and Senate funding levels for a number of the agencies under the CJS bill. For example, the Senate bill provides more funding for NASA and NOAA, but less funding for NSF and NIST, as compared with the House bill (see AAAS summary table here)(PDF file). The announcement spurs hope that additional minibus bills will succeed as well. The Senate is expected to take up a second minibus bill this week that would include the appropriation bills for Energy-Water (H.R. 2354), Financial Services (S. 1573), and State-Foreign Operations (S. 1601). The current status of all appropriations bills is summarized graphically on Thomas, the congressional website.
Update on Deficit Committee Hearings. Last week the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction heard testimony from past bipartisan deficit commission chairs, former Senator Alan Simpson (R-WY) and Erskine Bowles, former Chief of Staff to President Clinton. In their written statement (PDF file) the former commissioners stated that, "We have to protect our nation's most important investments, like education, infrastructure, and high value-added research. We need to make these investments in a fiscally responsible manner by taking our limited resources and using them more wisely." (Selected video portions of the hearing can be found here.) Also last week, AAAS submitted a letter (PDF file) signed by nearly 70 scientific and engineering societies and universities that urged the Deficit Committee to preserve R&D spending "as an area of U.S. investment too critical to be cut."
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
Senate Committee Approves Bill on Health of Coastal Waters. On November 2 the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation approved several bills, including the Harmful Algal Blooms and Hypoxia Research and Control Amendments Act of 2011 (S 1701), which calls for a national strategy and implementation plan to address harmful algal blooms and hypoxia (inadequate oxygen supply to cells and tissues). Similar legislation (H.R.2484) was approved by the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee in July.
PCAST Hears Comments on Agencies' Scientific Integrity Policies and Other Matters. The President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) met on November 2 and heard the findings of a National Research Council (NRC) report on wireless technology policy options; suggestions from the American Chemical Society on fostering innovation and creating jobs in the chemical industry; and an update on the implementation of recommendations from the National Nanotechnology Initiative (PDF file). PCAST also heard public comments about the lack of transparency of federal agencies' scientific integrity policies required by a March 2009 Presidential memorandum. Although that memorandum emphasized that scientific integrity in federal agencies is an Administration priority, concerns have been raised by some about the Administration's and agencies' uses of science for particular policies. Most recently, on October 18, Senators David Vitter (R-LA) and Jim Inhofe (R-OK), together with Rep. Darrel Issa (R-CA), submitted a letter to John Holdren, director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and Co-Chair of PCAST, requesting an explanation for "faulty science being used as the justification for policies and increased regulations that will destroy jobs and harm our economy." The letter listed examples from the Departments of the Interior and Energy, EPA, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. On October 31 Holdren announced a December 17 deadline for federal agencies to submit their final draft policies on scientific integrity to OSTP.
OSTP Seeks Comments on Public Access to Data and Results of Federally-Funded Research. On November 4 OSTP issued two separate Requests for Information (RFI) seeking recommendations for (1) ensuring "broad public access to the peer-reviewed scholarly publications," and (2) ensuring "long-term stewardship and encouraging broad public access to unclassified digital data" that results from federally funded research.Comments regarding public access to scholarly publications are due January 2, 2012; comments on access to digital data are due January 12, 2012.
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2010 Saw Record Increase in Global CO2 Emissions. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) calculated that global emissions for carbon dioxide increased by 6% in 2010, the largest jump on record. The increase was attributed, in part, to increased travel and manufacturing worldwide, as well as a global shift to using more coal and less natural gas. The increase is greater than the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) worst-case scenario projections, which estimate global temperatures rising between 4 and 11 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century.
FDA Report, White House Executive Order Address Drug Approvals and Shortages. The Food and Drug Administration approved 35 new drugs in FY 2011 - its second highest annual total in the past ten years, according to an agency report (PDF file) released last week. Twenty-four of these drugs were approved in the US before they were approved in any other country. Sixteen of the drugs were approved under the agency's "priority review" program for drugs that may offer major advances in treatment. Priority reviews carry a six-month target period for review. The FDA report was released at nearly the same time that the White House issued an Executive Order (EO) directing the FDA to take action to reduce prescription drug shortages through expedited review and improved reporting. (See the White House press release here and the EO here.) The FDA was also directed to work with the Department of Justice to examine whether shortages have led to illegal price-gouging or stockpiling. Drug shortages have more than tripled since 2005.
Report Documents Theft of U.S. Economic Information and Technology. China and Russia are the most aggressive collectors of U.S. economic information and technology via cyber espionage, according to a new report to Congress from the Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive. The report, "Foreign Spies Stealing U.S. Economic Secrets in Cyberspace," (PDF file) says a broad array of federal agencies, private companies, universities, and other institutions have been targeted by hackers from many countries, both adversaries and partners of the United States. But the report notes bluntly that "Chinese actors are the world's most active and persistent perpetrators of economic espionage."
Mann, UVA Win in Circuit Court Ruling. In the ongoing legal battle between climate scientist Michael Mann and his former employer, the University of Virginia (UVA), on the one hand, and critics challenging the evidence for human-generated climate change, on the other, Judge Gaylord Finch of the Prince William County Circuit Court in Virginia last week granted a petition from UVA to reconsider its earlier decision to share Mann's e-mails with the American Tradition Institute, an industry-funded organization that has promoted skepticism about the role of human behavior in climate change. ATI had sought to force UVA to release Mann's e-mails, and the University initially decided to allow ATI lawyers have access to the e-mails before making them public, a move that drew widespread criticism from scientists. The judge also granted a petition from Mann, now a professor at Penn State University, to join the lawsuit against ATI, a decision that allows Mann to have a voice in UVA's decisions about which e-mails should be released, according to an article in The Guardian.
Kauffman Foundation Announces Program to Increase Global Entrepreneurship. The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation has announced the creation of the Kauffman Global Partners Network, which is aimed at helping spur entrepreneurship in countries around the world. Network partners will be able to draw on the Foundation's research and expertise to design a variety of programs that attract and support entrepreneurs. Applications (due December 5) must demonstrate the proposer's ability to secure funding to support programs to foster global startups in their countries; to provide visas for visiting or resident entrepreneurs; and to provide a secure and supportive environment. The press release and link to applications can be found here. The Foundation's initiative complements the "Entrepreneurs in Residence" program announced recently by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and reported in the October 17 Policy Alert.
China Achieves Successful Docking of Spacecraft. China has achieved another milestone in its space program with the successful docking of the Shenzhou 8 capsule with the Tiangong 1 module last week, according to a New York Times article. China thus becomes the third country to complete an unmanned docking between spacecraft. Future plans for the Chinese space program include lunar exploration and launch of its own space station. The Chinese space program has been developed largely independently. U.S. law limits this country's cooperation with China.
WIPO Announces Program to Address Neglected Tropical Diseases. The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) has launched a new initiative called "Re:Search" to provide free access to research on medicines, vaccines, and diagnostics, based on patents and research held by a consortium of eight major global pharmaceutical companies, the U.S. National Institutes of Health, and many non-profit research organizations, for research and development related to neglected tropical diseases, malaria, and tuberculosis. Although the intellectual property will be made available to scientists from any country, users of the IP must agree to license any commercial products on a royalty-free basis in, or to, the 49 least-developed countries. A press release provides additional details.
Report to Canadian Government Seeks to Promote Business R&D. A panel charged with advising the Canadian government on promoting business R&D has delivered its report, "Innovation Canada: A Call to Action." (PDF file) Noting that business innovation in Canada lags behind other highly developed countries and that business R&D spending has been falling since 2006, the panel provides a set of recommendations for the government, including creating an Industrial Research and Innovation Council; simplifying the Scientific Research and Experimental Development tax credit program while making a more complete set of direct support initiatives available to small and medium-sized enterprises; transforming the institutes of the National Research Council; and increasing access to risk capital for high-growth innovation firms.
Archived issues of AAAS Policy Alert can be found at http://www.aaas.org/spp/policyalert.
Publisher: Alan I. Leshner
Editor: Steve Nelson
Contributors: Joanne Carney, Ed Derrick, Mark Frankel, Erin Heath, Emily Lamb, Earl Lane, Anne Poduska, Gretchen Seiler, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.