AAAS Policy Alert -- May 24, 2012
IN THIS ISSUE
House, Senate Committees Move Defense, Homeland Security, Veterans Spending Bills. Several spending bills received action by House and Senate Appropriations Committees last week. The largest of these was the FY 2013 Defense Appropriations Bill (bill number not yet assigned), which the House Appropriations Committee approved on a voice vote. According to AAAS estimates, the bill would provide $73.7 billion for total DOD R&D, a $793 million or 1.1% decrease from 2012 but a $1.1 billion or 1.5% increase above the Administration's request. Weapons development (6.4-6.7 in the Defense R&D classification system - see Chapter 5 of the FY 2013 AAAS R&D report for details) would be cut by $2.6 billion or 4.2% from FY 2012, and science and technology (6.1-6.3) would only be cut by $53 million or 0.4%. Basic research would remain flat at $2.1 billion. The bill also restores funding to the billion-dollar Defense Health Program, which had been targeted for a hefty 46.9% cut by the Administration. Among other items, various approved amendments encourage DOD initiatives on neuroscience; require a report on maintaining competitiveness in the nation's advanced semiconductor manufacturing base as it relates to defense; and direct the Air Force to prioritize technologies that ensure pilot safety in contaminated environments. The bill will now move to consideration on the House floor.
The full House also passed last week the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013 (H.R. 4310) by a 299-120 vote. One notable amendment added on the House floor (H. Amdt. 1123) would exempt DOD from the across-the-board spending cuts scheduled for January 2013 and offset these savings with additional nondefense cuts elsewhere, effectively borrowing the proposal from the House budget resolution. Additionally, the House voted to ease export restrictions on commercial satellites. Both the Defense authorization and the appropriations bills would allow over $3 billion more in funding than the President's request. The White House said that the President intends to veto any spending legislation that does not abide by last year's debt and spending deal.
Spending bills for Homeland Security and Military Construction/Veterans also received approval by the House Appropriations Committee and by the relevant Senate appropriations subcommittees. Both the House and Senate versions of the Homeland Security bills (bill numbers not yet assigned) would grant funding increases of more than 20% to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate, largely in accord with the Administration's request. The directorate is the major R&D funder at DHS, but in recent years its funding has been slashed substantially. For the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), both the House and Senate versions would keep VA's billion-dollar R&D budget steady at FY 2012 levels, in accord with the President's request. An additional $500 million of VA-performed R&D is funded by other federal agencies. The full Senate Appropriations Committee is scheduled to consider these bills this week, while the House bills await consideration on the House floor.
OMB Releases FY 2014 Budget Guidance, Calls for Continued Cuts. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Acting Director Jeffrey Zients sent a memo to department and agency heads on May 18, providing guidance on the preparation of the FY 2014 budget. The memo focuses squarely on controlling spending in light of the constraints set by the Budget Control Act of 2011, and asks agencies to cut lower-priority spending to allow for continued investment in "areas critical to economic growth and job creation, including education, innovation, infrastructure, and research and development." The guidance memo directs agencies to cut their bottom-line FY 2014 requests by 5% below the net discretionary spending levels appropriated for FY 2013. The memo also directs agencies to exclude the across-the-board sequestration from their requests. In a second appended memo, OMB spotlights the importance of evidence for evaluation, cost-benefit analysis, budgeting, and policymaking. The memo asks agencies to demonstrate such approaches in their requests, and says there will be some funding available for initiatives that seek improved use of evidence or expanded evaluative capacity, including in the area of grant-making. The memo also highlights the Office of Science and Technology Policy's Science of Science Policy working group as one such entity seeking to apply evidence-based principles.
For updates on the federal research and development budget for FY 2013, please visit the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy website.
OTHER CONGRESSIONAL NEWS
Senate Bills Would Ease Foreign Researchers Remaining in U.S. Two bills introduced in the U.S. Senate would enable more foreign-born researchers to remain in the U.S. after being trained in the sciences at American universities. The SMART Jobs Act (bill number not yet assigned), proposed by Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Chris Coons (D-DE), would offer STEM graduate students a new visa category and a clear route to a permanent residency "green card" once employed. Sen. John Cornyn's (R-TX) proposed STAR Act (bill number not yet assigned) would offer green cards to STEM graduates from institutions that receive $5 million or more in federal research grants.
Update on House Action on American Community Survey. Last week's Policy Alert (5/16/12) reported that among the amendments to the Commerce, Justice, Science appropriations bill that the full House passed last week was one that would make public participation in the Census Bureau's American Community Survey (ACS) voluntary, not mandatory as before. In addition, the House passed an amendment that would eliminate the ACS altogether. More information is here and here.
International Science Leaders Publish Merit Review Standards, Create Global Research Council. At a meeting convened by National Science Foundation (NSF) Director Subra Suresh, nearly 50 leaders of international scientific and engineering funding agencies met at the inaugural Global Summit on Merit Review on May 14-15 to discuss common standards for peer review. The meeting led to the declaration of six Principles for Scientific Merit Review -- expert assessment, transparency, impartiality, appropriateness, confidentiality, and ethical considerations -- and the creation of a Global Research Council to facilitate further collaboration. The global meeting of minds follows President Obama's 2009 call for increased international scientific cooperation during a speech at the National Academy of Sciences. According to the NSF press release, the next summit will be hosted by Brazil and Germany in 2013. (More information found here.)
HHS Releases National Plan to Address Alzheimer's Disease. On May 15 the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released its National Plan to Address Alzheimer's Disease (PDF file), as required by the 2011 National Alzheimer's Project Act. The plan seeks to effectively treat and prevent Alzheimer's disease by 2025 through investments in promising research, such as the first prevention trial for high-risk individuals and clinical trials for an insulin nasal spray treatment. Additionally, the plan offers guidelines for enhancing patient care, expanding support for patients and their families, increasing public awareness and education, and improving data to track progress. (Press release found here.)
NIH Fogarty Center Strategic Plan. NIH's Fogarty International Center is updating its 2008-2012 Strategic Plan, Pathways to Global Health Research. The goal of the strategic planning process is to identify current and future needs and directions for global health research and research training. Comments are due by June 30.
Researchers Concerned About California DNA Privacy Bill. The California Senate Appropriations Committee is considering a DNA privacy bill requiring that a person's genetic information be made accessible only to individuals specifically named on a consent form and only for the purposes stated on the form. According to a news report in Nature, scientists fear the proposed legislation would seriously hinder genomics research in the state by requiring authorization for re-use of genetic data even when it is from anonymous subjects. State Senator Alex Padilla, the bill's author, said he is receiving "constructive" feedback from stakeholders, including California researchers. "My intent is not to impede research," Padilla said, "[but] to protect consumers."
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.
Missouri and Alabama Antievolution Bills Fail. Two antievolution bills in Missouri died in committee when the Missouri legislature adjourned on May 18. Also expired is an Alabama bill that would have authorized local school boards to give high school credit for religious instruction. The bill's sponsor, Blaine Galliher, intended the legislation to be an avenue for teaching creationism.
Report Questions Future of U.S. Leadership in Biomedical Research. The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation and United for Medical Research jointly published a report, released May 17, showing growing competition from countries such as China, Germany, Singapore, Sweden, and the United Kingdom in biomedical research. The report indicates that a constant dollar decline in National Institutes of Health funding puts U.S. leadership in the field in jeopardy.
Design Principles for Federal STEM Education Investments. The America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 calls for the National Science and Technology Council's Committee on STEM Education (CoSTEM) to create a 5-year Federal STEM education strategic plan. In February 2012, the CoSTEM released Coordinating Federal Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education Investments: Progress Report. The 5-year strategic plan, to be published later this year, will "describe the approaches that will be taken by each participating agency to assess the effectiveness of its STEM education programs and activities." The request for public comment seeks input through June 15.
Indian Government Bans Use of Live Animals for Research. The Indian government has announced a ban on the use of live animals in dissection and other experiments in education and research facilities. Experiments in molecular research are exempted. The ban, announced by the Ministry of Environments and Forests, calls for the use of alternate methods such as computer simulations and mannequin models to avoid unnecessary suffering or pain to animals.
Global Migration Patterns of Scientists. A new study by the National Bureau of Economic Research provides new insights into the flow of scientific talent in a global marketplace. The study focuses on scientists in biology, chemistry, earth and environmental science, and materials science in 16 countries. The study also explored the reasons scientists relocated and found the top reasons to move were the opportunity to "improve future career prospects" and to work with outstanding collaborators.
People in the News. Dan Arvizu, Director of DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory, has been elected to a two-year term as chairman of the National Science Board. Kelvin Droegemeier, Vice President for Research at the University of Oklahoma, was elected vice chairman. The NSB is the governing board for the National Science Foundation and also provides policy advice to the President and the Congress (NSF announcement found here).
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Publisher: Alan I. Leshner
Editor: Steve Nelson
Contributors: Ed Derrick, Kavya Devarakonda, Erin Heath, Matt Hourihan, Earl Lane, Deborah Runkle, Gretchen Seiler, Sara Spizzirri, Ric Weibl, 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.