AAAS Policy Alert -- January 19, 2012
IN THIS ISSUE
Administration Seeks Authority to Reorganize Government, Starts with Commerce and Trade. In an effort to improve the efficiency of the federal bureaucracy, the Administration last week unveiled a new proposal to consolidate several agencies focused on economic development and trade into a single new department. The agencies tapped for collection into the new department include some in the Department of Commerce, like the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST), the Patent and Trademark Office, and the Census Bureau; others include the Small Business Administration (SBA), the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and several trade agencies such as the Export-Import Bank. As part of this reorganization, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) would shift from the Commerce Department to the Department of the Interior. NOAA currently accounts for nearly half of Commerce's research budget, with NIST accounting for most of the other half. The Administration argues that Interior, which already houses the U.S. Geological Survey, is a more logical place for NOAA than Commerce, but some are already objecting to the proposed move.
As the first step of his plan, the President announced that he is elevating the SBA to Cabinet level. The SBA, which coordinates the SBIR and STTR programs, was a Cabinet-level agency during the Clinton Administration. The SBA elevation is achieved through executive order, but the rest of the plan would require Congress to restore the executive authority to undertake such large-scale restructurings. Presidents have not had this authority since the Reagan Administration. If Congress were to grant this authority - not a certainty at this point - it could open the door for further reorganization later.
Data and analyses of the final figures for R&D in FY 2012 are available at the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program Website.
OTHER CONGRESSIONAL NEWS
"Online Piracy" Bills Prompt Wikipedia One-Day Shutdown. On January 18, Wikipedia blacked-out its English version for 24 hours in protest against proposed legislation, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the U.S. House of Representatives, and PROTECTIP (PIPA) in the U.S. Senate. A public announcement from Wikipedia administrators stated: "If passed, this legislation will harm the free and open Internet and bring about new tools for censorship of international websites inside the United States." Proponents of the legislation argue that it would expand the ability of U.S. law enforcement and copyright holders to fight online trafficking in copyrighted intellectual property and counterfeit goods. Opponents contend that it would violate the First Amendment and cripple the Internet. A summary of the legislation and the controversy surrounding it can be found here.
Comment on the above item. Policy Alert blog entries are located on AAAS's MemberCentral. Once you are logged in, click on "Blogs" and look for "Capitol Connection" in the drop-down list.
NSB Releases Report on Merit Review Criteria. The National Science Board has released a report on the NSF merit review criteria for research proposals. The report (PDF file) is the culmination of a thorough review by the NSB Task Force on Merit Review to determine whether the two-criteria merit review system, instituted in 1997 and used by NSF to evaluate all proposals, remains appropriate. The NSB does not recommend changing the criteria. It does, however, refine the definitions of the criteria and recommends that NSF better articulate the use of the criteria for the benefit of the science community. In addition, the report contains three principles governing NSF's approach to utilizing these criteria, as well as guidance addressing several issues associated with their implementation.
NIH Seeks Information. The Advisory Committee to the Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has issued two Requests for Information. The Working Group on Diversity in the Biomedical Research Workforce is seeking comments by Feb. 24 to help inform its recommendations on increasing diversity, while the Working Group on Data and Informatics is seeking input by March 12 on "policies regarding the management, integration, and analysis of research data and administrative data."
AAAS Submits Comments to OSTP Public Access Query. AAAS has submitted comments (PDF file) in response to the Request for Information issued by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) regarding public access to research resulting from federal funding that is published in scholarly publications. In its comments, AAAS stated that "it is important that the discussion surrounding public access must clearly distinguish between access to research results in support of scientific progress and access to scientific information as a crucial element of public engagement to enhance the understanding of science and/or to inform public policy." It should not simply replace efforts to communicate scientific information to the public through other means. In related news, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, introduced legislation last month, the Research Works Act (H.R. 3699), that would nullify public access policies such as the NIH PubMed Central policy.
Comments Sought on National Ocean Policy Implementation Plan. The National Ocean Council, created by presidential executive order, has released a draft action plan to address some of the most pressing challenges facing the ocean, U.S. coasts, and the Great Lakes. The draft describes more than 50 actions the federal government plans to take to improve the health of the ocean, coasts, and Great Lakes. The National Science Foundation's role in the endeavor is outlined here. The Council is seeking feedback on the implementation plan until Feb. 27.
Secretary of Energy Advisory Board to Meet Jan. 31. The Secretary of Energy Advisory Board (SEAB) will hold an open meeting on Jan. 31. The SEAB, described in more detail here, provides advice and recommendations to the Secretary of Energy on the Department's basic and applied research, economic and national security policy, educational issues, operational issues, and other activities as directed by the Secretary. More information about the meeting, as well as a request for those interested in attending to RSVP by Jan. 26, can be found here .
EPA Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program Underway. In response to the FY 2008 Consolidated Appropriations Act, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued the Mandatory Reporting of Greenhouse Gases Rule which requires reporting of greenhouse gas (GHG) data and other relevant information from large sources and suppliers in the U.S. (website of the GHG Reporting Program found here). The reported information is now available to the public in a readily-accessible format, found here. The 2010 GHG data includes information from facilities in nine industry groups, including 29 source categories, which directly emit large quantities of GHGs, as well as from suppliers of certain fossil fuels and industrial gases. EPA's online data publication tool allows users to review data in a variety of ways, including by facility, industry, location, or type of gas.
USPTO Takes Public Engagement on New Patent Law on the Road. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) will hold a series of seven events for the public to engage with USPTO officials regarding the new patent law enacted by the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act and its implementation. The events will be between Feb. 17 and March 7 around the country. A press release about the series can be found here.
Special Section - Uncle Sam Wants You: Agencies Seek Nominations for Advisory Committees
The Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate invites applications from individuals interested in serving on the Homeland Security Science and Technology Advisory Committee (HSSTAC). The HSSTAC gives advice and recommendations to the Under Secretary of DHS S&T. Applications are due Jan. 30.
The Department of Commerce is currently seeking applications, due by Feb. 9, to fill six vacant positions on the Manufacturing Council. The purpose of the Council is to advise the Secretary of Commerce on matters relating to the competitiveness of the U.S. manufacturing sector and to provide a forum for regular communication between Government and the manufacturing sector.
The Bureau of the Census is requesting nominations , also due by Feb. 9, of individuals and organizations to the Census Scientific Advisory Committee. The Committee advises the Director of the U.S. Census Bureau on the uses of scientific developments in statistical data collection, statistical analysis, survey methodology, geospatial analysis, econometrics, cognitive psychology, and computer science as they pertain to the full range of Census Bureau programs and activities.
Two Anti-Evolution Bills Filed in Missouri. Missouri now has two anti-evolution bills. The first one (HB 1227) would require the "equal treatment of science instruction regarding evolution and intelligent design." The second (HB 1276) features oft-used language in recent years, encouraging teachers to help students "analyze" and "critique" the "scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses" of evolutionary theory.
Climate Teachers Surveyed. The National Earth Science Teachers Association has released the executive summary (PDF file) of a survey it conducted of several hundred U.S. K-12 educators on climate change. The majority -- 89% -- accept the scientific consensus that global warming is occurring. More than a third of respondents reported pressure to teach "both sides" of the climate change issue.
Economics Association Adopts Conflict-of-Interest Guidelines. Earlier this month, the Executive Committee of the American Economic Association adopted guidelines for authors' disclosures of potential conflicts of interest in the AEA's publications, according to a Wall Street Journal article. Among the features included: each author should disclose (a) any positions held in relevant organizations (profit-making or non-profit); and (b) the sources of financial support for the research reported. For published articles, information on relevant potential conflicts of interest will be made available to the public. The guidelines also urge all economists to apply the same principles in other publications - scholarly journals, op-ed pieces, newspaper and magazine columns - and in radio and TV commentaries and testimony before federal and state legislative committees and other agencies.
People in the News.
- Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Deputy Director Jeffrey Zients has been named Acting Director of OMB. The position of OMB Director had been vacant since the prior director, Jacob Lew, resigned to become White House Chief of Staff. The move allows the White House to avoid a Senate confirmation hearing, which likely could have been contentious. Zients had also been Acting Director of OMB prior to Lew's becoming Director in 2010.
- Longtime Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA), a senior House appropriator, has decided not to seek reelection in 2012 following a realignment of his district. He is the third California Republican to retire in a week, according to a Washington Post article.
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, Matt Hourihan, Anne Poduska, Gretchen Seiler, Ric Weibl
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.