AAAS Policy Alert -- February 23, 2012
IN THIS ISSUE
White House Releases FY 2013 Budget Request to Congress. On Feb. 13 the Administration released its FY 2013 budget request to Congress. The request calls for $140.8 billion in total federal R&D, or a 1.4% increase over FY 2012 levels, according to Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) data. When inflation is taken into account, this would keep total R&D support roughly flat.
Under the request, basic and applied research would receive boosts of 1.5% and 5%, respectively, above FY 2012 levels. Development activities, which account for more than half of total federal R&D investment, would decline by 0.5%.
Similar to last year's appropriations outcome, cuts to defense R&D would partially offset gains in nondefense R&D. According to OSTP's estimates, defense R&D would decline by $1.1 billion, or 1.5% percent. The lion's share of these cuts would take place in R&D at the Department of Defense, as R&D in the Department of Energy's atomic defense activities would receive a 9.6% increase. Not all DOD accounts would receive a reduction, however, as basic research would remain essentially flat. Defense health research would be among the hardest hit, as the Administration seeks to cut funding for the program in half from FY 2012.
Nondefense R&D would receive a boost of 5%, or $3.1 billion. Among the big winners is the Department of Energy, which would receive an R&D increase of 8%, or $884 million above FY 2012 levels, according to OSTP data. In addition to the atomic defense R&D increases mentioned above, the Office of Science would receive a 2.4% increase, while the department's energy programs would receive a 16.2% increase. Within the Office of Science, the three physics programs (High-Energy, Nuclear, and Fusion Energy) would all be cut. Within Fusion Energy, the administration would increase its commitment to ITER, the international fusion energy project, by 42%. Elsewhere, ARPA-E would receive a 27% increase to $350 million.
The National Science Foundation would be another winner under the President's request, as every core scientific directorate would receive at least a 2.1% increase above last year's levels. Some – including the Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering (up 8.6%) – would fare particularly well. The overall NSF R&D budget would increase by 4.6%, to $5.9 billion. NSF's Education and Human Resources directorate would increase by 5.6% to $876 million.
Not all agencies and programs would fare as well as these, however. The National Institutes of Health would receive a flat R&D budget, which likely translates to a more than 2% decrease when factoring in inflation. In spite of a lack of new funding, NIH will still seek an 8% increase in the number of new grants. This goal would be achieved through reduced grant duration, a 1% cut to continuing grants, and the end of inflationary adjustments to ongoing grants.
Elsewhere, while NASA would receive a small increase in R&D funding, the Administration made headlines by targeting the Planetary Science program for a 20% cut. This is largely due to the proposed withdrawal from the international Mars initiative.
Note: the above material is largely based on OMB/OSTP data, which may not be consistent with agency data or be otherwise unverified. The AAAS R&D Program is in the process of verifying and, in some cases, revising these data, and will post an update on its website when they are available.
Please visit the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy website for additional details on the proposed budget for FY 2013 as they become available.
Comment on the above items. 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.
Defense Science Board Releases Basic Research Report. Last month the Defense Science Board Task Force on Basic Research released its long-awaited report on the Department of Defense's basic research enterprise (PDF). The task force gave DOD's program positive marks, but recommended that the Department reduce the bureaucratic burden on researchers and reform its acquisition system. The task force also recommended that DOD strengthen its partnerships with universities to ensure a supply of talent, and that DOD do more to work alongside foreign researchers to accelerate knowledge exchange. DOD investments in basic research account for only 3% of DOD's total RDT&E portfolio and 7% of all federal basic research funding.
PCAST Releases Undergraduate STEM Education Report. On Feb. 7 the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) released Engage to Excel: Producing One Million Additional College Graduates with Degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (PDF). The report provides strategies and recommendations for producing an additional one million undergraduate students with STEM degrees that are needed in the next decade, according to economic analyses. Among the five recommendations offered: "catalyze widespread adoption of empirically validated teaching practices; launch a national experiment in postsecondary mathematics education to address the math preparation gap; and create a Presidential Council on STEM education with leadership from the academic and business communities to provide strategic leadership for transformative and sustainable change in STEM undergraduate education." Further information about the report can be found here.
White House Establishes Global Development Council. By Executive Order, the President has established a Global Development Council to inform and advise the President and other senior U.S. officials on U.S. global development policies and practices; to support new and existing public-private partnerships; and to increase awareness and action in support of development by soliciting public input on current and emerging issues in the field of global development. The Council will be administered by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
ARPA-E Seeks Comments on Funding Announcement for Energy Technologies. The Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency -- Energy (ARPA-E) has issued a request for information on a draft Open Funding Opportunity Announcement. Comments are due Feb. 29. The funding announcement, open to any energy-related technology, will be finalized and competition opened in March. The objective of the announcement is to identify transformative and disruptive concepts to enhance the nation's energy and economic security.
FDA, Sebelius Sued Over Decision on "Plan B" Availability. The controversy over the decision by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to override a decision by the FDA to make Plan B contraceptive (the "morning-after-pill") available to women without age restrictions is back in the news with a request to a federal court in New York by the Center for Reproductive Rights to reopen its 2005 lawsuit against the FDA, according to an article in Bloomberg Businessweek. The Center argues that "HHS's actions on emergency contraception have been arbitrary and legally unjustifiable," and that the "FDA has failed to meets its obligation to the public and [to] make decisions based on science, rather than politics."
SBA Regulation Affects Number of Small Business Firms. The United States Small Business Administration (SBA) has increased small business size standards for 34 industries and three sub-industries in the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) Sector 54, Professional, Technical, and Scientific Services (regulation found here). SBA calculates that the new definitions increase the total number of firms matching the definitions by 8,350, or about 1.1% above current numbers.
NRC Issues Licenses to Build New Nuclear Reactors. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has issued a license for new nuclear reactors to be built in Georgia. The Southern Company is adding the reactors to an existing plant, which will become the largest nuclear complex in the country, but is using a new design, the Westinghouse AP1000. Costs are anticipated to be $14 billion. These would be the first new nuclear reactors built in the US in decades. Public interest groups are filing suit in federal court to block the license, according to a Reuters article.
US Patent and Trademark Office News: Proposed Fee Increases and New Visiting Professionals Program. Earlier this month, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) published a proposed fee schedule (PDF) that includes significant fee increases—including a 47% increase in basic patent filing fees. According to the new schedule, the current patent application fee of $1250 would be raised to $1,840. These fee changes are proposed in order to reflect more closely the actual cost of services and to reduce the backlog of patent applications. Public comments about this fee schedule are encouraged: public hearings were held on February 15 and 23 (transcripts are available here), and a 60-day comment period is anticipated to open in June 2012. In other news, the USPTO also recently announced a new program, the Thomas Alva Edison Visiting Professionals Program, in which professionals in academia or the intellectual property industry provide up to six months of full-time service to the agency.
DOD, EPA to Collaborate on Installation Sustainability. The Department of Defense and the Environmental Protection Agency have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to collaborate in the development of technologies to help create sustainable and resilient military bases across the country and overseas (press release found here, and the MOU here)(PDF). In addition to enabling the sharing of resources, this agreement provides an opportunity to use military bases as test beds for sustainable technology innovation.
International Climate and Clean Air Initiative Announced. Last week Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced an international initiative that aims to reduce short-lived atmospheric pollutants -- such as methane, black carbon, and hydrofluorocarbons -- that contribute to global warming. The initiative, called the Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants, includes Bangladesh, Canada, Ghana, Mexico, Sweden, the United States, and the United Nations Environment Programme, and aims to "augment, not replace, global action to reduce carbon dioxide," according to a Fact Sheet. This coalition will provide support to existing efforts, such as the Global Methane Initiative and the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, but will also promote the formation of national action plans and the adoption of policies to reduce emissions.
India's Government Increases Support for Social Sciences. India recently announced efforts to rejuvenate its social science research by instructing the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) to establish a Social Sciences Knowledge and Research Network, a new innovation center, and a series of fellowships, all intended to boost the quality and quantity of social science research. The country's Human Resources Development Ministry is spearheading the effort. More details can be found here and here.
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Editor: Steve Nelson
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