AAAS Policy Alert -- August 1, 2012
IN THIS ISSUE
Congressional news sources have reported that the leadership in both the
House and Senate have tentatively agreed to craft a continuing resolution (CR) that would fund the federal government for six months at the beginning of the 2013 fiscal year. The agreement is expected
to maintain federal government operations at FY 2012 spending levels through mid-March, thereby avoiding the potential for a government shutdown during an intense election year. Details of the
CR are expected to be released before Congress leaves at the end of this week for the August recess, but neither chamber is expected to vote on the CR until Congress returns in September. One detail
that has emerged is that the CR will meet the $1.047 trillion discretionary spending level laid out in the Budget Control Act for FY 2013, rather than the lower spending level included in the House Budget
Resolution. Another issue that will be closely monitored is whether the CR will include language for how to implement the sequester scheduled to begin in January 2013.
In related news, last week the Senate
unanimously passed the Sequestration Transparency Act (PDF). This bill,
which already passed the House, requires the Administration to provide details on the implementation of sequestration and how it plans to distribute the cuts across government programs. The bill
was sent to the President to sign or veto. Previously, the President had objected
to detailing sequestration cuts hoping that the threat of the unknown would force Congress to replace the sequester with a bipartisan debt reduction deal.
Finally, the Senate Defense Appropriations
Subcommittee is scheduled on
July 31st to mark up the FY 2013 defense spending bill.
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
Members in House and Senate Show Support for Non-Defense Discretionary Programs. Democrats in both chambers are drawing attention to the potential impacts of sequestration
on non-defense discretionary spending. Senator Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies, released an analysis of
the threat of sequestration on the agencies overseen by his subcommittee. In addition to many other cuts, the report projects that NIH would lose $2.4 billion in funding, which would cause the agency to
award 700 fewer research grants in FY 2013. In the House, 78 Democrats have signed onto a letter to
protect domestic discretionary programs from sequestration cuts. The letter highlights their concerns that forcing non-defense programs to bear the burden of sequestration cuts will harm economic recovery.
The letter also expressed concerns that the cuts would reduce the number of NIH grants by approximately 700 and NSF grants by up to 1,500.
Great Ape Bill Passes Senate Committee. On July 25, the U.S. Senate
Environment and Public Works Committee marked up and passed the Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act of 2011 (S.
810). The bill would eliminate "invasive research" involving chimpanzees. The bill was amended to provide an exemption procedure in the event of an emerging threat to public health. The amendment
grants authority to the Secretary of Health and Human Services to initiate, when appropriate, a "Great Ape Task Force" to explore the temporary use of chimpanzees and to evaluate proposed research accordingly.
Hearing on Climate Science. On August 1, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing on
the status of climate science and adaptation measures. Witnesses before the hearing will include former AAAS President James McCarthy, Alexander Agassiz Professor of Biological Oceanography and Acting
Curator of the Malacology Department in the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University.
Witnesses Call for Water Efficiency Research and Standards. On July 25, the Senate
Energy and Natural Resources Committee Water and Power Subcommittee held a hearing on
water efficiency and the water-energy nexus. Witnesses, including PepsiCo Senior Director of Global Sustainable Development Daniel Bena and Alliance for Water Efficiency President and CEO Mary Ann
Dickinson, insisted that additional research was needed on water use and efficiency standards before conservation incentives for businesses and consumers could be developed.
USPTO Issues First to Invent Proposed Rule. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) published its proposed
rules (PDF) for implementing the "first-inventor-to-file" provision of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (H.R.
1249 (PDF)). Under the USPTO's new rule, the "first-inventor-to-file" would be awarded the patent, rather than the individual who was "first-to-invent" as was practiced
before the patent reform bill was signed into law. In addition to amending the rules of patent practice, the USPTO is proposing examination guidelines to inform both the public and patent examiners of
its interpretation of the first-inventor-to-file provision. The proposed rules and guidelines are open for public comment until October 5, 2012. The USPTO also plans to discuss the proposed rules and guidance
at a series of events around the country.
Comment on the above item. Policy Alert blog entries are located on AAAS's MemberCentral.
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look for "Capitol Connection" in the drop-down list.
Federal Court Rules on Stem Cell Treatments. The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia has ruled that
a stem cell therapy offered by a Colorado clinic, Regenerative Sciences Inc., meets the definition of a FDA-regulated biological drug. The company had argued that
the treatment is a medical procedure and thus not subject to federal oversight, but in a 2010 lawsuit, the government said that the stem cells are more than "minimally manipulated" and use
reagents that cross state lines, thus putting them into the regulated drug category.
Panel Recommends Logistical Changes to U.S. Antarctic Program. On July 23, the National Science Foundation
announced the release of a Blue Ribbon Panel report, "More
and Better Science in Antarctica through Increased Logistical Effectiveness," the second in a two-part review of the U.S. Antarctic Program. The report provides an overview of current logistical
challenges for research in Antarctica, as well as recommendations to improve logistical capabilities. At the press conference, Norman Augustine, chairman of the Blue Ribbon Panel, said the cost-savings
from just one recommendation could result in the funding of 60 additional research grants.
U.K. Open Access Policy. On July 16 the Research Councils U.K. (RCUK) officially
announced a new Open Access Policy to take effect in April 2013. The open access policy applies to all peer-reviewed research papers which result from research that is wholly or partially funded
by the seven Research Councils making up RCUK. Papers must be published in journals which are compliant with Research Council policy on Open Access (essentially, ensuring free access within
six to twelve months, depending on the Council); and must include details of the funding that supported the research, and a statement on how the underlying research
materials such as data, samples or models can be accessed.
New HHS Biodefense Centers. Texas A&M University has dedicated the
first element of a new biodefense center where researchers will develop and manufacture medical countermeasures such as vaccines to address bioterrorism threats as well as pandemic influenza
and other health emergencies. The school's Center for Innovation in Advanced Development and Manufacturing, which has three industrial partners, is funded primarily by the U.S. Department
of Health and Human Services. In June, HHS announced it was establishing two similar centers in Maryland
and North Carolina as part of an effort to bring medical countermeasures to the market more quickly.
Debate Over Fracking Regulation Authority Continues in the Courts. On July 24, a federal court held
a hearing on State of New York v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in which New York State is suing for a fuller assessment of the environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing ("fracking"). Assistant
U.S. Attorney Sandra Levy argued for
the case to be thrown out on the pretext that the Delaware River Basin Commission, which regulates fracking in New York, Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, is not a federal agency, and the Commission's
proposed regulations on fracking have not yet been finalized. However, U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis reserved his
decision on the case, citing concerns for the potential impacts of fracking on drinking water supplies. In a similar decision, a Pennsylvania appellate court recently ruled against
provisions in a law that would have, among other things, required natural gas drilling, waste pits, and pipelines to be allowed in every zoning district.
People in the News. Kirk Johnson, vice president of research and collections
and chief curator at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, will become the new Director of the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History on 29 October, replacing Cristián
Samper, who leaves in August to lead the Wildlife Conservation Society.
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, Ed Derrick, Kavya Devarakonda, Mark Frankel, Erin Heath, Earl Lane, Gretchen Seiler, Sara Spizzirri, Brad Wible
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