AAAS Policy Alert -- June 14, 2012
IN THIS ISSUE
House Approves Energy and Homeland Security Spending Bills. Last week, the House of Representatives approved the Energy
and Water and Homeland Security spending bills. The Energy and Water appropriations bill, which mainly deals with Department
of Energy (DOE) funding along with a handful of other agencies, passed on a 255-165 vote. According to AAAS estimates (PDF tables or summary),
the bill would provide approximately $11 billion for DOE R&D in FY 2013. This is essentially flat from FY 2012 levels and $856 million, or 7.2 percent, below the President's request. The funding
mix, however, would change somewhat from last year: atomic defense-related R&D would be increased by 8.4 percent, or $361 million, while Office of Science R&D would be cut by 1.6 percent,
or $69 million, although the House would provide a large increase to the Office of Science's Fusion Energy Program. Overall R&D in the Department's energy technology programs would be cut
by 11.6 percent, or $264 million. This is mostly due to funding reductions for renewable energy, energy efficiency, and low-carbon innovations. The Senate version, which was approved by the Senate
Appropriations Committee on April 26 and awaits floor action, is somewhat more generous in many areas, providing roughly $400 million more in total R&D funding.
The Homeland Security bill, meanwhile,
passed on a 234-182 vote. No R&D-relevant funding changes were made on the House floor, and thus the numbers that had come out of the full Appropriations Committee
stand (PDF table or summary). The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science & Technology
Directorate, the major source of R&D within the department, would be granted a $162 million or 30.4 percent increase above FY 2012 funding, in accordance with the President's budget request. Additionally,
the Defense Nuclear Detection Office, another key R&D funder at DHS, would receive a $35 million increase in R&D funding, nearly double FY 2012. Total DHS R&D would increase by $189 million,
or 30.6 percent. These numbers are virtually the same as those that have emerged in the Senate version of the bill, which
passed committee on May 22 and awaits floor action. See Chapter 11 of the AAAS FY 2013 R&D budget report for more on R&D at DHS (PDF).
CBO Issues Deficit Estimates While Congress Searches For Common Budget Ground. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its annual report on the long-term
budget outlook last week, comparing two different spending scenarios: one assuming that the forthcoming "fiscal cliff," including the expiration of tax cuts and automatic spending cuts,
is allowed to go forward, and a second assuming that Congress makes policy changes to avert the sequestration "cliff." Additionally, on Thursday, CBO reported that the current federal
budget deficit was $845 billion at the end of May, less than the deficit at the same point in 2011.
Meanwhile, bipartisan talks in the Senate to avert the "cliff" continue. As reported in The
New York Times, Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Charles Schumer (D-NY) joined the so-called "Gang of Eight" working group at a recent session. The goal of the bipartisan group
is to craft an overall resolution to the budget deficit and sequestration, but they have not yet offered draft legislation. Several Senate Republicans have also indicated "off the record" their
willingness to consider tax reform as part of the legislation, a constant demand of Senate Democrats and the Administration.
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
International S&T Act Introduced. On June 6, Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-MO) introduced the International Science
and Technology Cooperation (ISTC) Act (H.R. 5916), which would establish an interagency committee, under the direction of the National Science and Technology Council, to coordinate and improve the
efficiency of U.S. research efforts. AAAS issued a letter of support for the legislation and was quoted in a press
release by Rep. Carnahan. The bipartisan legislation is also supported by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), chairwoman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs; Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX),
who serves as ranking member of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology; along with eight other Republican and Democratic co-sponsors. The bill was originally introduced in 2009 and
passed the U.S. House of Representatives with overwhelming bipartisan support by a vote of 341-52.
House Committee Advances Whistleblower Bill. On May 30 the House Oversight and Government
Reform Committee reported out the Whistleblower
Protection Enhancement Act (H.R. 3289). The legislation is a companion to the bill (S. 743) that passed the Senate last month by unanimous consent (see May 14, Policy Alert). Language
in the bill would protect government employees from "censorship related to research, analysis, or technical information" that involves "any effort to distort, misrepresent, or suppress
research, analysis, or technical information." The bill must still be reported out of the House Intelligence Committee and Committee on Homeland Security before it can be voted on the House
OMB/OSTP Set R&D Priorities for FY 2014. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) have released their joint guidance
memo detailing the Administration's priorities for R&D in FY 2014. The memo encourages agencies to focus on ambitious "grand challenges" requiring major advances, and directs
agencies to prioritize research investments over development activities. Specific priority areas include advanced manufacturing; clean energy; climate change; R&D for informed management and ecosystem
sustainability; IT; nanotechnology; biological sciences; STEM education; and innovation and commercialization.
NIH Data on Grant Success by Degree and Institution Type. On her blog Rock Talk,
NIH Deputy Director for Extramural Research Sally Rockey has posted some data on funding rates by type of degree and by type of institution. "We've seen that investigators with a PhD tend to do slightly less well when
competing for NIH funding," she writes, as compared to those with medical degrees. However, "When you break out investigators by degree and the type of institution they work at, there isn't
really a big difference that pops out between those with an MD, PhD, or MD/PhD." The latest
post indicates that "investigators with a PhD at medical schools and research institutes fare better (by several percentage points) when compared to investigators with a PhD at institutions of
higher education (not including medical schools)."
NIH Issues RFI on Modifying Biographical Sketch Content. NIH has established a working group to reassess the content of the Biographical Sketch
that researchers must submit with their grant applications and has issued a Request for Information (RFI) seeking input from the research community and the public. The RFI states that "Concerns have been raised about the Biosketch as currently
configured. Some feel that it does not allow applicants to fully describe the nature, significance or impact of their scientific accomplishments and capabilities. Further, some
feel that the current Biosketch disproportionately advantages those with extensive publication records and unduly weighs publications that have appeared in highly prestigious journals." For
more details, including how to submit comments by the June 29 deadline, see http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/NOT-OD-12-115.html
NRC Report on Future of U.S. Research Universities. This week the National Research Council will release a report, entitled Research
Universities and the Future of America: Ten Breakthrough Actions Vital to Our Nation's Prosperity and Security, a congressionally mandated project to identify steps that federal and state governments,
industry, and U.S. universities should take to ensure that U.S. research institutions continue to produce high-quality research and education. The report will be released at a public briefing on
June 14th. Those who cannot attend the briefing may watch a live webcast.
Over E-Mails Subpoenaed by BP. Two scientists affiliated with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), commissioned by the Coast Guard to determine
how much oil was spilling into the Gulf of Mexico after an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in 2010, were legally forced to hand over more than 50,000 pages of documents and 3,000 personal
e-mail messages (see Boston Globe editorial). The U.S. Federal Government has sued BP for its part
in the disaster and BP, preparing its defense, sought a court order for a release of the documents. Susan Avery, president and director of WHOI, responded that "The
situation leaves scientists and institutions vulnerable to litigants who could disregard context and use the material inappropriately and inaccurately in an effort to discredit their work."
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.
South Korean Textbooks Successfully Targeted for Removal of Evolution Content. A campaign in South Korea has reportedly
succeeded in removing references to evolution from high school biology textbooks. The Committee to Revise Evolution in Textbooks is an offshoot of the Korea Association for Creation Research. The South
Korean Ministry of Education, Science and Technology has announced that publishers are slated to produce revised editions of books that exclude examples of the evolution of the horse or of an avian ancestor;
the committee has also targeted human evolution and the adaptations of the beak of the finch.
Archived issues of AAAS Policy Alert can be found at http://www.aaas.org/spp/policyalert.
Publisher: Alan I. Leshner
Editor: Joanne Carney
Contributors: Kelly Anderson, Mark Frankel, Erin Heath, Matt Hourihan, Earl Lane, Gretchen Seiler, Ric Weibl
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