AAAS Policy Alert -- April 19, 2012
IN THIS ISSUE
New Analysis of the House Budget's Impacts on R&D. The recently passed House budget resolution and the looming across-the-board spending cuts would reduce discretionary spending dramatically, and these cuts would likely have significant impacts on federal R&D. To try to clarify what these impacts might be, AAAS has produced a new analysis that estimates potential R&D cuts based on House and Administration spending proposals, the automatic spending cuts in the Budget Control Act, and current R&D spending patterns, along with some simple assumptions. While these figures should be interpreted with caution due to the uncertainty involved, the analysis finds that the House budget could reduce total baseline spending in key budget accounts by 15 percent below the President's request, amounting to a 5 percent cut in nondefense R&D from the current year, without accounting for the across-the-board cuts scheduled to take place in January 2013. Factoring in these additional cuts, the House budget could yield reductions in total R&D of up to 12 percent below the current year, with nondefense R&D receiving a disproportionate amount of the cuts. Over the next decade, the House budget could reduce nondefense R&D by up to 27 percent, or $161 billion, below the President's request. While most research areas would receive sharp reductions, some - including clean energy - could be particularly hard hit. Read the new brief for more information.
Appropriations Markups to Begin This Week. The House and Senate Appropriations Committees, freshly returned from recess, will begin marking up appropriations legislation this week affecting the budgets of NASA, the National Science Foundation, the Departments of Energy and Transportation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and other agencies. Visit the House and Senate committee calendars for more information.
OSTP to Hold Grand Challenges Conference. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy plans to hold a conference in July highlighting "Grand Challenges -- ambitious goals on a national or global scale that capture the imagination and demand advances in innovation and breakthroughs in science and technology." The announcement requests that those wishing to get involved contact email@example.com.
FDA Addresses Antibiotics in Agriculture. The FDA has published three recent documents in the Federal Register to promote changes in the ways medically important antibiotics are used in food-producing animals. The first, a final guidance for industry called "The Judicious Use of Medically Important Antimicrobial Drugs in Food-Producing Animals," recommends phasing out the agricultural use of medically important drugs. The second is a draft guidance for sponsors of certain new animal drug products, and the third is a draft proposed regulation for veterinary feed directives. Comments on the two drafts are open until July 12.
Report Highlights Gaps for Women in STEM Education and Workforce. The White House Council on Women and Girls has released a report, "Women in America: Indicators of Social and Economic Well-Being," which details the state of female education and employment from 1990 to 2009. Data from the National Center for Education Statistics reveal that girls still score lower than boys on math and science proficiency and achievement tests. At the undergraduate level, women earn less than half of all bachelor's degrees in mathematics, physical sciences, engineering and computer sciences. Less than 20 percent of all bachelor's degrees granted in 2008 in engineering and computer sciences went to women -- a decrease from 1998. (For further information and analysis, read the U.S. & World News Report article here.)
CLIMATE CHANGE AND ENERGY DEVELOPMENTS
Pew Releases Clean Energy Investment Report. According to a report from the Pew Charitable Trusts, the United States led the world in clean energy investment in 2011 with a total investment of $48 billion. China, which led in 2010, invested $45.5 billion in 2011. Globally, overall financial backing in clean energy technologies hit a record $263 billion, up 6.5 percent from 2010 levels. Looking forward to 2012, the report states "the U.S. clean energy sector will be hard-pressed to sustain 2011's record levels with the expiration of Treasury grants, the Department of Energy's loan guarantee programs, and other stimulus initiatives."
New Working Group to Coordinate Federal Policy on Natural Gas Development. Last week, President Obama issued an executive order creating a deputy-level interagency working group to coordinate policy efforts regarding unconventional domestic natural gas development. Following a meeting with the White House, several stakeholders released statements cautiously applauding the move.
Tennessee Passes Anti-Evolution Bill. Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (R) allowed HB 368 to become state law last week, opting neither to sign nor veto the bill. The law encourages teachers to present the "scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses" of topics that include evolution and climate science. In a statement, Haslam declined to challenge the bill, pointing out that the bill received bipartisan support in the state legislature by a wide margin and that he doesn't "believe [the bill] accomplishes anything that isn't already acceptable in our schools." He stopped short of endorsing the bill, however, saying "good legislation should bring clarity and not confusion" and the bill "has not met this objective." Tennessee becomes the second state after Louisiana to pass a bill of this nature.
Texas Passes Stem Cell Treatment Policy. Texas has reportedly become the first state to pass a policy imposing oversight on the medical use of experimental treatments using adult stem cells. The plan has drawn a divergence of opinions on its attempts to regulate the treatments, many of which are unproven. Gov. Rick Perry has received attention for his use of stem cell therapies to treat a back injury. The Texas Medical Board passed the policy 10-4 on April 13.
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World Bank Announces Open Access Policy. The World Bank has announced a new open access policy for its research and knowledge products, effective July 1. According to the announcement, "the new Open Access policy, which will be rolled out in phases in the coming year, formalizes the Bank's practice of making research and knowledge freely available online. Now anybody is free to use, re-use and redistribute most of the Bank's knowledge products and research outputs for commercial or non-commercial purposes." As the first phase of the policy, the Bank has launched an Open Knowledge Repository, where members of the public can read and download the World Bank's public products, and adopted a set of Creative Commons copyright licenses.
Biosecurity News. The National Institutes of Health has posted the full recommendations from the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity, which met March 29-30 to consider the risks and benefits of publishing two papers that describe how to make the avian H5N1 virus transmissible in mammals. NSABB recommended that one manuscript be published in full and that the data, methods, and conclusions of the other be published after further review and revision. To track the latest developments in this story, visit Science's webpage on public health, biosecurity, and H5N1.
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Publisher: Alan I. Leshner
Editor: Erin Heath
Contributors: Kavya Devarakonda, Ed Derrick, Matt Hourihan, Gretchen Seiler
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.