AAAS Policy Alert -- July 25, 2012
IN THIS ISSUE
House Action on NIH, Defense Funding Bills. Last week the two largest R&D funding bills advanced in the House, even though at this point the prospects for Congress completing
them appear unlikely. First, the House Appropriations Subcommittee for Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education approved the controversial draft
spending bill that provides FY 2013 funding for the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Education, and other agencies. The bill takes steps intended to block implementation
of the Affordable Care Act: it would eliminate the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; rescind $150 million in funding to the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Trust fund; and forbid any funding
for patient-centered research. The bill keeps NIH funding flat at FY2012 levels, and notably, it attaches several unprecedented strings to overall NIH funding. It requires 90% of NIH research funding to
go for extramural research and 55% to be for basic research. It would also reduce the maximum salary researchers could receive from NIH grants by 8%, from $179,700 to $165,300, and it would forbid NIH
from funding economic research.
Also last week, the full House approved the FY 2013 Defense appropriations bill on a 326-90 vote, along with a handful
of amendments that would make relatively minor changes to FY 2013 DOD R&D. According to AAAS estimates (PDF), the bill would continue the multiyear
decline in DOD R&D funding but at a slower pace than the Administration has proposed. Specifically, the final bill provides $73.5 billion for total DOD R&D, a $964 million or 1.3% decrease from
FY 2012, but a 1.2% or $928 million increase above the Administration's request. The most notable funding amendment, introduced by Reps. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) and Barney Frank (D-MA) and passed 247-167,
cuts a total of $1.1 billion from across all programs in the bill except for military personnel, the Defense Health Program, and overseas operations. This amount would mean over $200 million less for R&D.
At the same time, multiple amendments were approved that would increase Defense Health Program research by $40 million. Basic research funding at DOD would remain essentially flat at FY 2012 levels.
The overall DOD science and technology budget (PDF) (6.1, 6.2, 6.3, plus defense health research) would decline by only 0.7%, or $98 million, from
FY 2012, a larger decline than the Administration had proposed - due mainly to Congress's continued support for health-related defense research.
Some Republicans Suggest Spending Flexibility. Because the House and Senate budget processes appear to have stalled, as reported last week, a continuing resolution (CR) will likely be required
to temporarily fund the federal government this fall. Several House Republicans have indicated they
would support a CR that adhered to the higher budget cap set by the Budget Control Act, so long as it would fund the government through early 2013. The Republicans hope that election victories in November
would enable them to pass a budget with a lower spending level in 2013. Congress and the President had agreed to a FY 2013 spending cap of $1.047 trillion last August, but House Republicans have been pushing
for a $1.028 trillion cap instead, drawing the ire of Congressional Democrats and veto threats from the White House.
House Passes Sequestration Transparency Bill. On July 18 the House passed the Sequestration Transparency
Act (PDF) by a vote of 414-2. This bill would require the Administration to provide details of the implementation of sequestration within 30 days of the bill being signed into law. The bill received strong
bipartisan support as Republicans clamor to know how the defense sector will be affected, and Democrats remain concerned about the effects on non-defense discretionary spending. Both parties hope that
a clearer understanding of the impacts of sequestration will lead to legislation replacing the cuts. In related news, further evidence of the potential negative effects of sequestration was published by
the Aerospace Industries Association last week. The study concluded that sequestration cuts
would cause 2.14 million jobs to be lost and increase the unemployment rate to over 9%.
For updates on the federal research and development budget for FY 2013, please visit the AAAS
R&D Budget and Policy website.
Obama Administration to Reward Master STEM Educators On July 17 the Obama Administration announced plans
to create a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Master Teacher Corps to reward and recognize exceptional math and science teachers, based on recommendations made in a 2010 report (PDF)
by the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). Funding for the program is dependent on Congress appropriating the full $5 billion FY 2013 request for the Department
of Education's Recognizing Educational Success, Professional Excellence, and Collaborative Teaching (RESPECT) project, a prospect which appears unlikely (background here).
However, $100 million from the department's budget for the current fiscal year will go to the Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) to launch the Master Teacher Corps this
year. RSVP here to participate in a teleconference on the Corps' creation, Thursday, July 26, 1 p.m. EDT.
PCAST Releases Report on Advanced Manufacturing. The President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) released a report, "Capturing
Domestic Competitive Advantage in Advanced Manufacturing," which makes recommendations aimed at maintaining the U.S.'s leading position in advanced manufacturing (press release found here). The
recommendations fall into three areas: (1) enabling innovation, (2) securing the talent pipeline, and (3) improving the business climate. They include a call to establish a national network of manufacturing
innovation institutes; an emphasis on investment in community college training of the advanced manufacturing workforce; an approach to evaluate platform manufacturing technologies for collaborative investment;
a plan to reinvigorate the image of manufacturing in America; and proposals for trade, tax, regulatory, and energy policies that would level the global playing field for domestic manufacturers.
Presidential Bioethics Commission to Discuss Genome Sequencing. The Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues is scheduled to meet (PDF) on
August 1-2 in Washington, DC. The commission plans to discuss the development of medical countermeasures for children and to develop and finalize recommendations regarding access to and privacy of human
genome sequence data.
Controversial Rules Proposed for SBIR and STTR. The Small Business Administration has proposed new rules for the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program and the Small Business Technology
Transfer (STTR) program that are causing a stir among industry advocates. The new
rules, proposed last month, could eliminate a requirement that grant applicants be majority-owned by an American
resident or company. Instead they propose that applicants must primarily operate in the U.S. or "make a significant contribution to the U.S. economy," without an American ownership requirement.
There are also concerns that the new proposal could create a loophole that opens the door for large companies - in addition to small businesses - to receive grants.
Organizations List Questions for Presidential Candidates to Address. AAAS is among more than a dozen leading science and engineering organizations that helped formulate
a list of 14 important science policy questions that they say President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney should be debating on the campaign trail. The effort is being organized by ScienceDebate.org,
a nonprofit science advocacy group, which released the questions July 19 on topics such as innovation and the economy, climate change, energy, improving science education, protecting food and fresh water,
preventing pandemics, and ensuring that policy decisions are based on the best available scientific and technical information. The AAAS Office of Government Relations also has developed a Web
site that describes and tracks the candidates' positions on science, technology, and innovation issues.
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.
NGA Issues Reports on Fostering Economic Growth. The National Governors Association has issued two reports, "Growing State Economies: A Policy Framework" and "Growing
State Economies: Twelve Actions," to provide guidance on policy at the state level (both reports available here). The Framework is
organized around six drivers of growth: entrepreneurs; education and skills; innovation and technology; private capital; global markets and linkages; and industry clusters. For each, the Framework
discusses evidence and recent learning supporting the importance of the factor, and identifies key policy questions to address.
Scientists Seek Native Americans' Knowledge on Climate Change. In what was billed as a groundbreaking event, climate scientists sought help from Native Americans, who have been tracking
weather patterns and wildlife migrations for thousands of years. On July 17‐20 a group of about 300 coastal indigenous tribal elders, leaders, scientists, witnesses, and others gathered at the Smithsonian
Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC to "discuss traditional ecological knowledge and what it can teach us about past, present, and future adaptation to climate change," according
to the Symposium website.
Gene Therapy Drug Likely to Achieve Milestone. The European Commission appears poised to provide the first regulatory approval in the Western world of a gene therapy drug "after more
than two decades of dashed expectations" for the field, according to The New York
Times. The EC often accepts the advice of the European Medicines Agency, which has recommended approval of Glybera to treat the rare genetic disease lipoprotein lipase deficiency.
Global Research on Neglected Tropical Diseases Increases. A new report by Thomson Reuters Global Research on neglected tropical diseases indicates that research on such diseases has increased over the past two decades, with much of that increase due to studies in developing countries, where the diseases hit hardest. Brazil and India have made the greatest leap in such research. Other countries cited in the report include Argentina, China, Iran, Thailand, and Turkey (details here).
Brazil Fines Firms for Biopiracy. The government of Brazil has announced that it has fined 35 companies for not sharing benefits from exploitation of the country's biodiversity. The
companies were found to have committed 220 violations of the country's national law on biodiversity and were fined approximately $44 million. Some of the violations were for "not
sharing financial benefits from the exploitation of Brazil's biodiversity, and others for falsely claiming that they did share the benefits." The companies have the right to appeal the fines
(details found here).
Controversial Life Sciences Prize Finally Awarded. UNESCO, the United Nations cultural and science body, has awarded a controversial life sciences prize funded by Teodoro Obiang,
the dictatorial president of Equatorial Guinea. Three researchers from Egypt, Mexico, and South Africa, working on vaccine development, food scarcity, and parasitic diseases, each received $100,000. According
to Reuters, representatives of France and other European nations boycotted the award ceremony in Paris
despite the decision to change the name of the prize and remove any reference to Obiang, who is being investigated on suspicion of corruption and money-laundering.
People in the News. • Sally Ride, a physicist, NASA astronaut, and the first American woman to fly in space, died on July 23 at the age of 61 (more details found here).
issues of AAAS Policy Alert can be found at http://www.aaas.org/spp/policyalert.
Publisher: Alan I. Leshner
Editor: Steve Nelson
Contributors: Kelly Anderson, Ed Derrick, Kavya Devarakonda, Mark Frankel, Erin Heath, Matt Hourihan, Earl Lane, Gretchen Seiler, Sara Spizzirri
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.