AAAS Policy Alert -- May 3, 2012
IN THIS ISSUE
House, Senate Continue Appropriations Activities. Last week, the full House and Senate Appropriations Committees approved spending bills impacting the budgets for several federal agencies. Both committees passed their respective Energy and Water appropriations bills, which provide funding for the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Bureau of Reclamation, among other agencies. As previously reported, the House would trim the DOE Office of Science budget and keep funding for fossil and nuclear energy, while making more substantial cuts to efficiency, renewables, and the energy research agency ARPA-E. The Senate version, as expected, is more generous on renewables, efficiency, ARPA-E, and the Office of Science than the House, although it would not fund any of these agencies at the levels requested by the Administration; it would also substantially cut fossil energy research and development.
The Senate Appropriations Committee also approved the Agriculture spending bill, which would provide a small increase to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service, and a 3 percent increase to the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, matching the President's request. The bill would also boost the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative by 13 percent, though short of the 23 percent increase requested by the Administration.
Lastly, the House Appropriations Committee approved the Commerce, Justice, Science appropriations bill, which provides funding for NASA, the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the Department of Commerce. As previously reported, the bill would provide boosts to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), NSF, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), while trimming the NASA budget; it would also seek to restore some of the cuts to planetary science proposed by the Administration. In addition, the bill would restore funding to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), which saw its FY 2012 budget slashed by 25 percent to $4.5 million, granting OSTP the full $5.85 million requested by the President.
The House Appropriations Committee also approved its 302(b) allocations for FY 2013, which set the appropriations framework for the subcommittees. As expected, the Committee approved a total discretionary budget of $1.029 trillion, $19 billion below the spending level agreed to in the Budget Control Act and proposed by the Administration and the Senate. The lower House levels continue to set up a conflict with the President, who has said he would veto any bills that don't abide by the higher spending level to which both parties agreed last year.
VA Exempt from Sequestration. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has confirmed that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) would be exempt from the across-the-board cuts of between 8 and 10 percent scheduled to take effect in January 2013. VA was expected to be excluded from these cuts, but some concerns had been raised over ambiguities in the statute language. VA has a $1.2 billion research budget for health and prosthetics R&D. However, even though VA would be exempt from direct cuts, it could still feel the effects of sequestration indirectly, as it receives an additional $500 million each year from other federal agencies for R&D.
Separately, OMB last week told the House Budget Committee that it is not yet developing contingency plans for the sequestration. For more updates, please visit the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy website.
OTHER CONGRESSIONAL NEWS
House Passes DATA Act. As expected, the House of Representatives passed the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (H.R. 2146), also called the DATA Act, last week by voice vote. Staff on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee revised the original bill in an effort to eliminate duplicative reporting requirements, thus addressing concerns (PDF) expressed by some university groups.
Bill to Broaden Participation in STEM Fields Introduced. On April 24, House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) introduced the Broadening Participation in STEM Education Act (H.R. 4483) at a conference organized by the National Action Council for Minorities in Education. The bill aims to expand the number of minorities in undergraduate science, technology, math and engineering (STEM) fields and would authorize NSF "to award grants to colleges and universities that want to implement or expand innovative, research-based approaches to recruit and retain students from underrepresented minority groups."
Administration Launches Bioeconomy Blueprint. On April 26, the Obama Administration released its National Bioeconomy Blueprint (PDF), outlining steps agencies will take to drive economic activity powered by research and innovation in the biosciences. Areas of focus (PDF) include energy, translational medicine, agriculture and homeland security.
White House Issues 10-Year Global Change Plan. Last week the U.S. Global Change Research Program released the Administration's ten-year strategic plan for global change research. According to the press release, the strategy will now expand "to incorporate the complex dynamics of ecosystems and human social-economic activities and how those factors influence global change."
DOE Launches Program for Women Working in Clean Energy. DOE has announced a new program, the Clean Energy Education and Empowerment initiative, to promote career and leadership opportunities for women in clean energy. The program, offered in partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Energy Initiative, includes awards for mid-career professionals; an invitation-only symposium to be held in the fall; and a team of 20 distinguished ambassadors to serve as champions of the cause.
Research News from India. The Indian Minister of Human Resource Development has announced plans to open 200 new universities and a degree college in each district in India in the next five years as part of the government's 12th Five Year Plan (2012-2017). The Ministry is planning a record budget of Rs800 billion (US$15.2 billion) for the five years and requesting about a quarter of the budget for opening new universities. See the May 11, 2011, Policy Alert for more on the Five Year Plan.
Mountain Countries Call for Action on Climate Change, Involvement of Social Scientists. At the International Conference of Mountain Countries on Climate Change in Nepal last month, representatives from approximately 30 countries issued a "call for action" that called for greater involvement by social scientists in research and discussions about climate change. The Executive Director of the Bolivian Mountain Institute said that "climate is almost absent [from discussions] in the social sciences," and that social scientists are needed to "provide information on how past and present societies have reacted to climate variations and how political decision-making processes can motivate people to act."
International Research Institute Issues First Report in Food Policy Series. Last week, the International Food Policy Research Institute, a center supported by the Consultative Group of International Agricultural Research, released the first report in an annual series that identifies food policy developments in 2011 and priority action areas in 2012. The Global Food Policy Report (PDF) draws upon input provided by policymakers, researchers, food experts, and other stakeholders in areas such as food prices, climate change and agriculture, disasters, biofuels, and land degradation. In addition to providing a list of food policy tools and indicators, the report also includes several recommendations for 2012, such as "the G20 should take further steps to rein in food price volatility by, for example, doing more to reduce the competition between biofuel and food production and to discourage trade restrictions that exacerbate price swings."
Lawmakers Announce Launch of Golden Goose Award. On April 25, Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN), joined by Reps. Charlie Dent (R-PA) and Robert Dold (R-IL), announced the launch of the Golden Goose Award, which aims to highlight the serendipitous nature of scientific research. The award will spotlight federal research that has gone on to benefit society in significant and perhaps unexpected ways. AAAS and several other societies are participating in the administration of the award.
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Budget, Economy Key Themes at AAAS Annual Policy Forum. AAAS held its 37th annual Science and Technology Policy Forum on April 26 and 27. The event drew hundreds of participants and featured an array of speakers, including the President's Science Advisor John Holdren, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), and retiring Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), who was selected to give the William D. Carey Lecture. A key focus of this year's event was the budget outlook for science and technology and the economic impacts of federal investment in R&D.
People in the News. - Chris Kaiser, a cell biologist at MIT who was to begin as director of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences on April 30, withdrew from the position, citing personal reasons. NIGMS has been led by acting director Judith Greenberg since the departure of former director Jeremy Berg last July. - EPA announced that Glenn Paulson will be the new science advisor to Director Lisa Jackson, replacing Paul Anastas, who stepped down in February. Paulson, who recently served as associate dean for research at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, has also served with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the Natural Resources Defense Council. Unlike Anastas, Paulson will serve only as science advisor, which does not require Senate approval, but not as head of the EPA Office of Research and Development.
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Publisher: Alan I. Leshner
Editor: Erin Heath
Contributors: Joanne Carney, Ed Derrick, Mark Frankel, Matt Hourihan, Anne Poduska, 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.