AAAS Policy Alert -- June 20, 2012
IN THIS ISSUE
Senate Appropriations Committee Passes NIH/Education Funding Bill. The Senate Appropriations Committee approved its
Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (Labor/HHS) funding bill (S. 3295) Thursday on a 16-14 vote, sending the bill forward
to the Senate floor. The National Institutes of Health budget under the committee's mark, plus select mandatory funding and transfers, would amount to $31 billion, $99 million over the President's
request in total funding for NIH. The President's budget (PDF) had proposed keeping NIH funding flat from FY 2012 levels; the increase
thus represents a 0.3 percent increase above both the request and FY 2012. Virtually every individual institute within NIH would receive a 0.3 percent increase under the Senate bill. In the report (PDF),
the committee commends NIH for adopting the Institute of Medicine's recommendations on research involving chimpanzees and encourages the agency to expand Institutional Development Awards (IDeA) to
all EPSCoR-eligible states, among other items.
Elsewhere at HHS, the bill would provide (PDF) $406 million to CDC R&D, a large boost of $87 million or 27.2 percent above both the President's
request and FY 2012 funding. Lastly, the bill would provide $405 million, an additional $7 million or 1.8 percent above the President's request for R&D at the Department of Education. During
the markup, the committee restored $51 million in funding for the department's Math and Science Partnership, which had been cut in subcommittee.
Progress on Sequestration Compromise? Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) rescinded
his agreement to the Norquist tax pledge to oppose increases in the marginal tax rate last week, stating that a tax increase may be a necessary component of a deal to prevent sequestration. Off the
record, other Senators have told reporters that they too may be willing
to compromise. Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) is calling on Republican Senators to sign onto a letter supporting
revenue increases as part of a plan to stave off sequestration. Levin believes that if nine other Republicans follow Graham, Congress can reassure the country, and the financial markets, that sequestration
will not occur. As currently formulated, the sequestration would cut approximately 8 percent of nondefense spending and 10 percent of defense spending beginning January 2; a previous AAAS
analysis suggested the nondefense R&D cuts could be much larger under differing proposals.
Members of Congress could be experiencing added pressure as they seek a compromise on the sequestration
question, as defense contractors, who have long said the sequestration will force them to terminate thousands of employees, have said they
will be required under federal law to issue layoff notices by November 2, 60 days before the sequestration takes effect – and just a few days before the elections.
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 Tasks NRC to Study Impact of Regulations on Academia. Report language (PDF) that
accompanied the FY 2013 Labor-HHS appropriations bill includes a call for the National Research Council to study the impact of federal regulations and reporting requirements on universities and colleges.
The study is to assess the time and costs needed to comply with federal regulations and to make recommendations for "consolidating, streamlining, and eliminating redundant and burdensome Federal regulations
and reporting requirements."
House Committee Reports Out Energy Permitting Bill. The Streamlining Permitting of American Energy Act (H.R. 4383), introduced
by Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO), applies to oil, natural gas, wind, solar, and other energy projects that occur on federal lands. It seeks to facilitate the issuance of permits by doing away with unnecessary
red tape and reducing litigation, as well as establishing concrete deadlines for completion of the permitting process.
Congress Addresses Energy Policy in the Tax Code. The Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on
June 12 focusing on the role of energy policy in the national tax code. Witnesses suggested diverse policies such as a lower, uniform corporate tax rate that would eliminate the need for tax credits and
exemptions, and a tax on the use of fossil fuels. Sens. Chris Coons (D-DE) and Jerry Moran (R-KS) have introduced legislation (S. 3275)
that would allow investors in renewable energy projects to use a more favorable tax structure already available to investors in fossil fuels.
NIH Releases Two Studies on Biomedical Workforce. The National Institutes of Health's Biomedical Workforce Working Group (PDF) spent
a year examining available data on the number and fate of biomedical researchers through different stages of their careers, and last week it released its report (PDF).
The recommendations of this subcommittee of the Advisory Committee to the NIH Director include providing supplements to training grants that help graduate students prepare for alternatives to academic
careers, capping how long a graduate student can receive NIH funding, and shifting graduate student funding out of investigators' grants to training grants and fellowships. Frustrated by the lack
of comprehensive data, the panel also recommends that NIH require institutions receiving NIH funds to report on the career outcomes of both graduate students and postdoc researchers, and that it work more
closely with other federal agencies to create and coordinate data collection efforts. A second report, this one from the Diversity in Biomedical Research Working
Group of the ACD, was released the same day. Its recommendations include increasing attention to tracking, reporting, and evaluating the outcomes of trainee activities; exploring efforts to determine
and combat real or perceived biases in the NIH peer review system; piloting implicit bias and diversity awareness training for reviewers and program officers; and appointing a chief diversity officer for
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.
FDA Awards Funds to Foundation for Regulatory Science Initiative. The Food and Drug Administration has awarded $900,000 to the
Reagan-Udall Foundation to support the operations of the non-profit organization. The Foundation was created through the Food and Drug Administration Amendments Act of 2007 to study regulatory science
through initiatives that bring together scientists, consumer and patient advocates, and industry leaders.
Intersociety Letter Supports NSF Political Science. The Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF) issued a letter (PDF)
to the U.S. Senate signed by 121 organizations representing science and engineering professional societies, universities, and other academic institutions arguing in support of political science research.
The letter, which AAAS also signed, urged Senators to vote against amendments that would eliminate NSF's political science research program.
Obama Issues Broadband Executive Order. President Obama has issued an executive
order designed to encourage broadband infrastructure deployment by facilitating access to federal land and buildings. The order brings a number of federal agencies together to develop a consistent
set of strategies for the timely and efficient deployment of broadband facilities on federal lands, buildings, and rights of way. Agencies are expected to develop master contracts for leasing rights and
provide comprehensive information on policies and procedures to the public.
New State Department Awards Announced. The Department of State has announced the first eight awards in the Obama-Singh 21st Century
Knowledge Initiative. This initiative funds partnerships between US and Indian universities in priority areas such as food security, climate change, sustainable energy and public health. The next request
for proposals will be announced in July 2012.
NRC Releases Report on Future of Research Universities. Last week the National Research Council released its
report, "Research Universities and the Future of America: Ten Breakthrough Actions Vital to Our Nation's Prosperity and Security." The
report called on the federal government to "adopt stable and effective policies, practices, and funding for university-performed R&D and graduate education"; strengthen partnerships with
industry; create a strategic investment program; and reduce regulatory burdens on universities.
Brazil Hosts Global Sustainable Development Conference. This week the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD), also known as Rio+20,
will convene more than 130 heads of state to create a plan for global sustainable development. The negotiations have highlighted seven areas, including jobs, energy, sustainable cities, food security and
sustainable agriculture, water, oceans, and disaster readiness.
Zimbabwe Introduces Second STI Policy. President Robert Mugabe has issued Zimbabwe's
Second Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy, a decade after the first in 2002. The proposal pays particular interest to internet technology, computers, and mobile phones, along with biotechnology
to address food, environment, and disease.
National Academies Releases Fracking Report. A report by the Committee on Induced Seismicity Potential
in Energy Technologies concluded that that the process of hydraulic fracturing does not pose a high risk for inducing large seismic occurrences, but that carbon capture and sequestration may have potential
to cause such events if not executed properly.
Japan Reactivates Nuclear Reactors. The Prime Minister of Japan has ordered the
reactivation of two nuclear reactors, marking an end to the freeze on nuclear power in Japan since the crisis last year in Fukushima. According to The New York Times, the Prime Minister intends
this to be the first step toward restarting elsewhere as well.
China Launches Into Space. China has successfully achieved its
first crewed space docking. The Shenzhou-9 spacecraft docked with China's Tiangong-1 space laboratory on Monday. The mission's three astronauts included China's first woman in space, Liu Yang. The crew will stay in space for nearly two weeks.
China's future plans for space exploration include establishing a crewed space station and landing people on the moon.
Evolution Added to English Curriculum. Evolution will now be part of the primary national curriculum (for students
aged 8-11) in England. Scientists and educators there have been campaigning for the change for three years.
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Publisher: Alan I. Leshner
Editor: Erin Heath
Contributors: Andrew Amis, Kelly Anderson, Joanne Carney, Ed Derrick, Kavya Devarakonda, Mark Frankel, Matt Hourihan, Earl Lane, Gretchen Seiler, Sara Spizzirri, 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