AAAS Policy Alert -- November 16, 2011
IN THIS ISSUE
Conferees Finalize CJS-AG-Transportation "Minibus". Late Monday evening the House and Senate conferees passed the final conference report (see report language) for the Commerce/Justice/Science (CJS), Transportation, and Agriculture "minibus" appropriations package. Included in the conference report is language to extend funding for the federal government via another continuing resolution through December 16, 2011. Both chambers are expected to vote on the final package on Friday, November 18, the day the current continuing resolution is set to expire. Highlights (see detailed summary) include funding NSF at $7 billion ($173 million above FY 2011); funding NASA at $17.8 billion ($648 million below FY 2011) and funding for the James Webb Space Telescope. NIST would receive $751 million ($33 million above FY 2011) and continued support for the Manufacturing Extension Program. NOAA would receive $4.9 billion ($306 million above FY 2011) and funding would continue to support the Joint Polar Satellite System, but the package would not provide funding for NOAA to establish a new Climate Service program. The conference agreement would provide $2.5 billion for the Agricultural Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (a decrease of $53 million from FY 2011), as well as $820 million for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).
Separately,the Senate voted last week to begin consideration of a second "minibus" that will include Energy-Water (H.R. 2354), Financial Services (S. 1573), and State-Foreign Operations (S. 1601). The current status of all appropriations bills is summarized in a table on Thomas, the Library of Congress website.
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 Fails in Effort to Block EPA Rule. The Senate defeated efforts to block EPA's "good neighbor" rule, which mandates that power plants in 28 states reduce air pollution that affects air quality in downwind states. The Senate also defeated a Resolution of Disapproval, a rarely-used procedure used to overturn recently-issued regulations, sponsored by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). The House voted to delay the rule in September and will continue to examine EPA rules this week, with the Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittee on Energy and Environment holding a hearing on Thursday entitled "Fostering Quality Science at EPA."
New NSF Grant Program for Transformative Research. On November 9 NSF announced a new grant funding program called "Creative Research Awards for Transformative Interdisciplinary Ventures" (CREATIV) that will select awardees through a new grant award mechanism. Applicants must get initial approval from two NSF program managers before submitting proposals. NSF will then determine final awards in 2-3 months, about half the time of the traditional review process. The pilot program, funded through the NSF Integrated Support Promoting Interdisciplinary Research and Education (INSPIRE) initiative, is aimed specifically at supporting innovative and interdisciplinary studies and will represent nearly two percent of NSF's research budget.
DHS Proposal to Regulate Ammonium Nitrate. The Department of Homeland Security is considering regulating the sale and transfer of ammonium nitrate to reduce the risk of its use in terrorist activities. The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking is available on the Federal Register website and public comments are due by December 1, 2011.
DOE Fracking Report Finalized. The Secretary of Energy Advisory Board (SEAB), tasked with reviewing environmental issues in the production of shale gas by hydraulic fracturing (i.e., fracking), is holding a meeting on November 14 to discuss its findings before submitting its final report to the Secretary of Energy. The subcommittee has concluded that there is a risk of serious environmental consequences (see press release) but does note the positive actions that are planned, by the Administration, state governments, industry, and public interest groups to reduce the environmental impact. However, progress to date is less than the subcommittee hoped.
State Announces Policy Fulbright Fellowships. On November 7 the U.S. State Department announced that it would offer a new Fulbright fellowship for the 2012-2013 academic year that is to focus on public policy. The new Fellowship is to support masters and Ph.D. students to conduct research in policy areas such as public health, energy, and economic development. Applications are being accepted this month.
NIST Seeks Comments on Cloud Computing. At the beginning of November, the National Institute of Standards and Technology released a draft roadmap for cloud computing that was created with the goal of encouraging the adoption of cloud computing among federal agencies and to "improve the information available to decision makers and facilitate the continued development of the cloud computing model." Public comments are due December 2. See the press release here and the draft roadmap here.
MIT Grad Students Launch "Stand with Science" Campaign. A group of MIT grad students launched a website encouraging students to sign to a letter to the U.S. Congress that asks it "to preserve the indispensable investments in science and engineering research that will drive our nation's prosperity for generations." The "Stand with Science" Campaign also features a video and allows signatories to contribute a brief statement. Over 5,400 signatures have been added to the letter.
New Report Published on Economic Impact of Medical Research. A report commissioned by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) says that federal- and state-funded research conducted at U.S. medical schools and teaching hospitals in 2009 added nearly $45 billion to the nation's economy. The study was conducted by the consulting firm Tripp Umbach.
AAMC Issues Report on SBE Contributions to Medical Research. In another report, titled Behavioral and Social Science Foundations for Future Physicians, AAMC makes a case for how the behavioral and social sciences "prepare medical school graduates for comprehensive, patient-centered practice and provide the conceptual framework needed to address complex societal problems that have direct bearing on health and health-care disparities." A link to AAMC Publications can be found here: https://members.aamc.org/eweb/DynamicPage.aspx?webcode=PubHome
Supreme Court Hears Arguments on Police Use of GPS Technology. The U.S. Supreme Court recently heard arguments in the case of United States v. Jones on the constitutional limits on police use of new technology. The government argues that law enforcement personnel have the right to use a GPS to track the movements of a private vehicle without a warrant because the driver has no reasonable expectation of a right to privacy while in public. The other side of the argument is that the Fourth Amendment's provisions regarding search and seizure should protect citizens against such intrusions of privacy and require a warrant. The case will likely be decided late next spring.
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Mississippi Voters Reject "Personhood" Measure. Last week Mississippi voters rejected an amendment to the state constitution that would have legally defined "personhood" as beginning at fertilization, thereby outlawing all forms of abortion. The measure failed 58 to 42 percent.
Climate Change Doubt Common Among Students. According to a poll of science teachers conducted by the National Science Teachers Association, 82 percent of respondents reported that they had faced skepticism by students about climate change. Furthermore, 54 percent had faced such skepticism from parents and 26 percent from administrators.
Three Gorges Dam Not a Cause of Climate Change, Report Says. A recently released report by the China Academy of Social Sciences concludes that The Three Gorges Dam, which some had blamed for a severe drought in its area, has not caused climate change. Rather, according to the Chinese Xinhua news service, extreme weather conditions were caused by abnormal atmospheric circulation and air temperature due to changes in ocean temperature and snow conditions at the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. The study was reported online in the English edition of Xinhua and in The New York Times.
EU Considers Increasing Infrastructure Funding. The European Parliament will meet on November 22nd to discuss plans to increase investment in research infrastructure. The proposal under consideration would push member countries to spend one third of their regional funding on research infrastructure, which would provide an additional €120 billion for research under Horizon 2020, the EU's new common strategic framework for research for 2014-2020.
Australian Senate Passes Carbon Tax. On November 8th the Australian Senate approved the Clean Energy Act, which will require the country's 500 largest carbon-emitting companies to pay a $23.80 per ton tax on carbon emissions. The tax is significantly higher than those from similar schemes, such as in the EU, where the price is between $8.70 and $12.60 per ton. The vote to pass the bill was close with 36 votes in favor and 32 against. The act will take effect on July 1, 2012.
Data Initiatives Launched in US and EU. The EU Commission recently launched the EUDAT Project an initiative to target the challenge of data proliferation in Europe's science research communities. The project, co-funded by Framework Programme 7, will contribute to the production of a collaborative data infrastructure. It includes 25 European partners and is being coordinated by CSC-IT Center for Science in Finland. Meanwhile in the US, the NSF Directorate for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences (SBE) has released a Dear Colleague letter requesting proposals for workshops that identify and develop data, models and tools that take advantage of digital technologies and datasets to advance science communication, to advance measurements of scientific activity, and to inform policy.
NASA News. Two Cornell University faculty members have been named to top roles within NASA. Mason Peck, an associate professor in the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, has been named NASA's chief technologist and will serve as the agency's principal advocate on matters concerning technology policy and programs. Steven Squyres, a professor of astronomy and scientific principal investigator for the Mars Exploration Rover mission, has been named chairman of the NASA Advisory Council. The council consists of experts from various fields who offer guidance and policy advice to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.
DOE News. Steven Koonin announced on November 8th that he will leave his post as Undersecretary for Science in the Department of Energy (DOE) on November 18. Following his departure from DOE he will take a position at the Science & Technology Policy Institute, a unit of the Institute for Defense Analyses.
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Publisher: Alan I. Leshner
Editor: Joanne Carney
Contributors: Ed Derrick, Mark Frankel, Erin Heath, Emily Lamb, Earl Lane, Steve Nelson, Anne Poduska, Gretchen Seiler, Al Teich, Kasey White, Brad Wible
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 email@example.com.