AAAS Policy Alert -- September 6, 2012
IN THIS ISSUE
Congress To Return to Budget Challenges. When Congress returns from recess next week, House and Senate leaders are expected to renew efforts
to pass a continuing resolution to fund government programs through March 2013, thereby avoiding a pre-election shutdown. Discretionary spending will likely be in accordance with the $1.047 trillion level
agreed upon in last year's debt-ceiling deal, although funding beyond March remains in question. Appropriations work remains far from finished, with only six of 12 spending bills passed by the House
and none passed by the Senate, and it is unclear what influence appropriations decisions so far will have on any future spending agreements. The Office of Management and Budget has
said that total spending levels in the bills passed so far exceed allowable spending levels, although none of these bills have yet become law. See AAAS estimates of R&D funding in the current appropriations
cycle here (PDF, as of August 3).
OMB To Issue Sequestration Report. The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is expected
to issue a report in the coming days outlining Administration plans for implementing the across-the-board cuts to defense and nondefense spending known as sequestration, set to take place in January 2013.
The report was mandated by the Sequestration Transparency Act of 2012, signed into law Aug. 7. The nondefense discretionary (NDD) community will have an opportunity to hear about this report directly from
OMB officials at an upcoming
NDD Town Hall, slated for Sept. 11.
In the coming weeks, the AAAS R&D Budget Program will be issuing estimates of the impacts of sequestration on federal
R&D funding, by agency
and by state, through FY 2017.
CBO Issues Updated Budget and Economic Outlook. The Congressional Budget Office's updated report on long-term budgetary and economic trends,
released Aug. 22, suggests the U.S. could enter a recession next year if the mix of federal spending cuts and expiring tax cuts known as the "fiscal cliff" were allowed to take place. Under
this mix of policies, national GDP could fall by 0.5% while unemployment could rise to 9%. At the same time, this policy mix would cut next year's federal budget deficit significantly, from
7.3% of GDP in FY 2012 to 4% in FY 2013. Under current law, the deficit and national debt would also fall significantly by 2022. Should the fiscal cliff be avoided – by extending various tax cuts
and "turning off" sequestration – deficits would remain far larger in both the near- and long-term, while the economy would continue to grow in the near-term but suffer the effects in
the long-term. CBO says that if the fiscal cliff were to be fully avoided, it could lead to "unsustainable" debt levels.
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
Inaugural Golden Goose Ceremony. On Sept. 13 the first series of Golden Goose
Awards will be presented at an event on Capitol Hill. The award honors scientists and engineers whose federally funded research has had significant human and economic benefits. The concept
behind the Golden Goose Award was created by Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN). AAAS, the Association of American Universities, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, the Science Coalition,
and other S&T organizations have worked together as founding partners to launch the project.
Bioethics Commission Considers Recommendations on Privacy and Genomic Data. The Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues
met on Aug. 1-2, and considered a number of recommendations related to privacy and genomic data. The organizing theme of the recommendations was how the nation can "reconcile care for the
enormous public benefit that is anticipated from whole genome sequencing with care for individuals' privacy and respect for persons which has been a driving force of what all research on human subjects...and
research in clinical care have taken as guiding principles, respect for persons, and as a subset of that, respect for individual privacy." The Commission's discussion of the recommendations
can be found here.
New AAAS-State Department Partnerships. On July 25 AAAS signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the State Department to
establish the Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) Expert Partnership (see AAAS press release). The new partnership program,
which includes the participation of nine other S&T organizations,
will help expand the reach of U.S. scientists who already are abroad by working through U.S. embassies "to promote economic prosperity, democratic governance, social development, and global scientific
knowledge." The State Department made the announcement at the Global Diaspora Forum where it also announced the creation of the Networks
of Diasporas in Engineering and Sciences, an effort co-sponsored with AAAS and the National Academies, with a goal of connecting scientists and engineers who have immigrated to the U.S. and assisting in
their bringing their S&T expertise back to the needs of their country of origin.
Presidential Candidates Respond to ScienceDebate Questions. Both the Obama and Romney presidential campaigns responded to
a series of 14 questions compiled by ScienceDebate 2012 in cooperation with a group of professional societies including AAAS. The questions
addressed topics such as innovation, climate change, education, energy, natural resources, biosecurity, and the Internet, among others. The Obama Administration focused their responses on what
they have accomplished and what they will continue to support, e.g., reduce greenhouse gas emissions and dependence on oil. The Romney campaign focused on its vision for the proper role of government and
did reveal a shift in their view of climate change. The Romney campaign acknowledged that the "world is getting warmer, [and] that human activities contribute to that warming." Both candidates
support a permanent R&D tax credit and the value of federally funded basic research.
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.
Science in the Republican Party Platform. The 2012 Republican Platform was
released at last week's GOP national
convention in Tampa, and science issues appear throughout the document. The platform gives less space to climate change than the 2008 platform; it emphasizes opposition to cap-and-trade legislation, boosting
domestic gas, oil and coal development, and "[taking] quick action to prohibit the EPA from moving forward with new greenhouse gas regulations." It also encourages "the cost-effective
development of renewable energy, but the taxpayers should not serve as venture capitalists for risky endeavors." The platform supports federal investment in biomedical research, with special mention
of neuroscience, and opposes federally-funded embryonic stem cell research. It supports encouraging foreign students earning advanced degrees in science and engineering to remain in the U.S. More
details can be found on ScienceInsider and Inside
Higher Ed. Next week's Policy Alert will cover science in the Democratic Party Platform, following the party's convention this week.
Appeals Court Upholds NIH Funding of Stem Cell
Research. On Aug. 24 a three-judge Federal Appeals Court panel unanimously affirmed a lower court decision allowing NIH funding of human
embryonic stem cell research to continue. The plaintiffs contended that the so-called Dickey-Wicker language barring the federal funding of embryo research also banned hESC research. A lower court
ruled the language was ambiguous and that the Obama administration's interpretation was reasonable. The appeals court panel's decision could be appealed to the full Appeals Court or directly
to the U.S. Supreme Court (more details found here).
New Ruling in Myriad Gene Patent Case. On
Aug. 16 the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled that
patents on genes related to breast and ovarian cancer held by Myriad Genetics of Salt Lake City are valid because "each of the claimed molecules represents a nonnaturally occurring composition of
matter." The court also ruled that a method of screening for cancer therapeutics is patentable, contrary to the opinion of a lower court, but that the company's claims on testing for cancer
risk by comparing or analyzing DNA sequences are invalid.
AAMC To Measure Effects of Conflict-of-Interest Rules. The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) has initiated a new conflict-of-interest
metrics project to run concurrently for three years with the newly implemented rule on financial conflicts of interest related
to the conduct of research funded by the Public Health Service. The AAMC project is intended to measure the new rule's impacts, costs, and effectiveness. Institutions participating in the project will provide
AAMC with aggregate data on an annual basis through Dec. 31, 2015. No data about individual investigators will be collected. More information about the project can be found here.
Report on University Commercial Spinoffs. The Association of University Technology Managers released highlights
of its annual survey of licensing and start-up activity by universities, hospitals, and non-profit research institutes. In FY 2011 the 186 institutions responding accounted for 671 startup companies,
4,700 US patents issued, and $2.5 billion from licensing, royalty, and cashed-in equity income. The institutions reported $61 billion in sponsored research, including $40 billion from federal
sources and $4 billion from industry. A background article appears here.
EU Drops Requirement for Collaboration with
Africans in Research Solicitation. In a call for 2013 research proposals on energy, water, agriculture, and other topics, the
European Union has dropped a mandate that research groups include African partners in their projects, according to a
report by SciDev.Net. Some African officials fear that without such a specific mandate, EU researchers will be less willing to collaborate with African colleagues, and African science
may suffer as a result. "Many African experts don't have access to research funding from their [own] countries," Kevin Chika Urama, executive director of the Africa Technology
Policy Studies Network in Nairobi, Kenya, told SciDev.Net. But Daan du Toit, Minister-Counsellor for science and technology at the South African mission to the EU, said African researchers
who identify projects for which they can add value still are in a good position to receive funding.
African Union Creates Major Panel on S&T and Innovation. The African Union has established a new High Level Panel on Science, Technology and Innovation to guide the union through
a review of efforts under its Science and Technology Consolidated Plan of Action (aimed at the development of innovation economies) and to propose next steps. The panel, co-chaired by Calestous Juma,
professor at Harvard University, and Ismail Serageldin, director of the Library of Alexandria, is expected to present its report to a ministerial conference in November, according to an
article in SciDev.Net.
Brazilian Government Announces Major Support for IT Industry. The Brazilian government has announced
plans for strategic investments in support of its information technology industry. As announced by the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, the $250 million, 3-year program will include
workforce training, technology incubators, and other support for entrepreneurs, as well as promotion of public-private partnerships.
Archived issues of AAAS Policy Alert can be found at http://www.aaas.org/spp/policyalert.
Publisher: Alan I. Leshner
Editor: Steve Nelson
Contributors: Joanne Carney, Ed Derrick, Mark Frankel, Erin Heath, Matt Hourihan, Earl Lane, Deborah Runkle, Gretchen Seiler
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