AAAS Policy Alert -- February 29, 2012
IN THIS ISSUE
Last week's Policy Alert (2/23/12) summarized the overall shape of the President's proposed budget to Congress for FY 2013 and provided summary figures for R&D across agencies and for some of the larger R&D-supporting agencies. This week we report on how some other important R&D agencies as well as selected interagency initiatives fared in the budget proposals for FY 2013.
While the President's FY 2013 budget request is fairly generous to some agencies, it is far less so for R&D funding at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). According to the latest AAAS analyses (PDF), USDA R&D would decline by 1.5%, or $34 million, compared to estimated FY 2012 levels. This would leave the agency's R&D budget more than $300 million below FY 2010 levels, not accounting for inflation. R&D at the Agricultural Research Service would remain essentially flat. The R&D budget at the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) would be reduced by $41 million, or 5.5%, largely due to the end of the joint Biomass R&D Initiative, which accounted for $40 million in R&D funding last year. Conversely, the total budget for the Agricultural Food and Research Initiative, a key research endeavor, would increase by 22.9% to $325 million.
The R&D budget at the Department of Transportation (DOT) would generally fare better. DOT R&D would receive a boost of $161 million, 17% above FY 2012 levels ( see table)(PDF). This increase would be largely driven by broad R&D gains at the Federal Highway Administration. The Federal Aviation Administration would see a reduction in R&D funding, although the Administration seeks an approximately 11% increase in the NextGen air transport program's overall budget.
The three high-profile interagency initiatives - dealing with nanotechnology, networking and IT, and climate change - would also see modest increases ( see table)(PDF). The National Nanotechnology Initiative would receive a $70 million increase to $1.767 billion, roughly 4.1% over FY 2012 levels. This increase is due largely to a 40% increase in the Department of Energy's contribution to the program in FY 2013. The US Global Change Research Program would fare best among the three, receiving a 5.6% or $135 million increase in FY 2013, with NASA, NOAA, DOE, and USGS all contributing substantially more. The Networking and IT R&D program would receive a 1.8% increase, allowing it to keep pace with inflation. A $67 million reduction in contributions from the Department of Defense would be more than offset by increases in contributions from other agencies.
The latest estimates of R&D in the FY 2013 budget request are available here (PDF). Please visit the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy website for additional details on the proposed budget for FY 2013 as they become available.
Appropriation Hearings in Full Swing. Since it is an election year and both chambers of the U.S. Congress are operating under a truncated Congressional calendar, House and Senate appropriations subcommittees are wasting no time in launching hearings on the FY 2013 federal budget request. This week the House Appropriations subcommittees will hold hearings regarding the budgets for the USDA, DOE, DOE NNSA, NOAA, FDA, EPA, Interior, OSTP, DHS, and DOD (see detailed list here)(PDF). The Senate Appropriations Committee will hold hearings on budgets for Interior and the U.S. Army (detailed list here ).
OTHER CONGRESSIONAL NEWS
Elsevier Withdraws Support for Research Works Act, Bill Dies. The publishing company Elsevier issued a statement on Feb. 27 withdrawing its support for the Research Works Act (H.R. 3699). The controversial bill, which would repeal the NIH public access policy, was met with strong criticism within the scientific community and the launch of a boycott against scholarly publishers that support the legislation. The Chronicle of Higher Education reported later the same day that Rep. Issa, the bill's lead co-sponsor, has stated that he would not seek passage of the legislation.
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House to Consider Higher-Ed Academic Freedom Bill. This week the House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on the Protecting Academic Freedom in Higher Education Act (H.R. 2117), which would repeal a provision issued by the Department of Education that allows the federal government to define "credit hour" and repeal certain regulations that govern participation of state distance-learning programs in federal programs. The bill was introduced by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and is supported by higher education groups, such as the Association of American Universities and the American Council on Education (see letter here)(PDF). A press release on the bill from the House Education and Workforce Committee can be found here. A Senate version has also been introduced (S. 1297), but has yet to be reported out of committee.
NSTC Releases Advanced Manufacturing Plan. The White House's National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) has released a "National Strategic Plan for Advanced Manufacturing" (notice of release found here, and the plan itself here)(PDF). The plan establishes five objectives for federal policy: (1) accelerating investment, especially by small- and medium-sized manufacturers; (2) making the education and training system more responsive to the demand for skills; (3) fostering national and regional partnerships among all stakeholders in advanced manufacturing; (4) optimizing federal advanced manufacturing R&D investments by taking a portfolio perspective; and (5) increasing total public and private investments in advanced manufacturing R&D.
NIH Group Seeks Input on Implementing Recommendations of IOM Report on Use of Chimpanzees in Research. The NIH Council of Councils has established a working group to provide recommendations on (1) implementing the guiding principles and criteria in the IOM report Chimpanzees in Biomedical Research: Assessing the Necessity; and (2) the size and placement of chimpanzees either supported or owned by NIH. NIH announced (NOT-OD-12-052) that input is being sought from the scientific community and the general public. Comments must be submitted electronically by April 10, 2012.
FDA Releases Scientific Integrity Manual. On Feb. 3 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a Staff Manual Guide (SMG) (PDF) that includes details of the agency's "principles, policies, and practices that relate to the preservation and promotion of scientific integrity."
EPA Issues Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions. On Feb. 27 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced in the Federal Register (PDF) the availability of its annual inventory of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and sinks. The report, available on the EPA Web site, covers a twenty-year period between 1990 and 2010.
DC Circuit Court to Consider EPA Regulation of Greenhouse Gases. This week the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia will hear oral arguments on four cases that challenge the EPA's authority to regulate greenhouse gases (court calendar with links to cases found here). In 2007 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the EPA had the authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. The challengers to the rule will argue that such regulation gives the agency the authority to regulate energy production (more details found here; full article requires subscription).
New NIST Cybersecurity Center Seeks Partners. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has announced a partnership with the state of Maryland and Montgomery County to establish a National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence (announcement found here). The center will provide a state-of-the-art computing facility where NIST researchers can work collaboratively with users and vendors of cybersecurity products and services. The center is now actively seeking partners from the industry, government, academia, and non-profit sectors. Further information and announcements can be found here.
Government Launches Portal of Federal Resources for Business. The federal government has launched BusinessUSA, a website designed as a single point of access for all federal resources available to support business development. Designed, tested, and built with active feedback from U.S. businesses, the site has been launched as a "beta" version and is open for feedback from users.
An Update on the H5N1 Papers Controversy. Debate and discussion has continued regarding the research manuscripts submitted to Science and Nature that describe success in mutational approaches to increase the transmissibility of influenza A (H5N1) to ferrets, which are considered an important model of human transmissibility. These studies, while an advance in basic research into virtual transmission as well as public health in aiding surveillance efforts and developing vaccines or therapies against pandemics, were also seen to have dual-use potential. Concern about bioterrorism or accidental release led the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) in December to recommend that the papers not be published in their entirety. The journals were willing to consider agreeing with this recommendation if a mechanism could be found to let individuals or groups with a need to know (such as public health officials or researchers who might be working with similar strains) have the full information. The World Health Organization, after an international meeting on Feb. 16 and 17 of influenza experts, government officials, journal representatives, and a member of the NSABB, issued a consensus statement regarding the influenza A (H5N1) research.
While underscoring the importance of the research and the safety of the laboratories who did the research, the WHO indicated that there is a need to review biosafety and biosecurity conditions under which further research is conducted. They expressed a strong preference that the papers be published in their entirety after "a review of the essential biosafety and biosecurity aspects of the newly developed knowledge" occurred and additional public education could be carried out. They did not consider the publication of redacted manuscripts with controlled release of the full information to be a viable option. They endorsed continuing a voluntary moratorium among H5N1 researchers on research to increase H5N1 transmissibility and on the mutant strains described in the Science and Nature papers.
Two Anti-Evolution Bills in Oklahoma. Oklahoma has seen its share of anti-evolution bills, and 2012 is no exception. HB 1551, which was introduced in 2011 and rejected in the House Common Education Committee, was resurrected on February 20 (background article found here). (In the Oklahoma legislature, a bill's sponsor is allowed to ask the committee to bring up a bill again the year after it is introduced.) HB 1551 is one of the so-called "academic freedom" bills; it singles out evolution and global warming as "controversial." The bill passed the committee by a vote of 9-7. A similar bill, SB 1742, was introduced in the Senate last month (more details found here).
Report Examines Electronic Journal Preservation. According to an article in the Library Journal, "[a] recently released study of e-journal preservation at Columbia and Cornell Universities [referenced here ] revealed that only about 15% of e-journals are being preserved and that the responsibility for preservation is diffuse at best." Electronic materials currently account for around 60% of collection expenditures, and the report, Preservation Status of e-Resources: A Potential Crisis in Electronic Journal Preservation, questions "whether the necessary infrastructure is in place to ensure that this scholarly record remains intact over the long term."
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Publisher: Alan I. Leshner
Editor: Steve Nelson
Contributors: Joanne Carney, Ed Derrick, Erin Heath, Matt Hourihan, Barbara Jasny, Anne Poduska, Deborah Runkle, Gretchen Seiler, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.