AAAS Policy Alert -- September 26, 2012
IN THIS ISSUE
Congress Passes Continuing Resolution Funding Federal Government Through March 2013. As expected, the Senate over the weekend passed legislation
by a 62-30 vote to keep the federal government funded and operating through March 2013. The House had passed the resolution on Sept. 13 by a 329-91 vote. With a few exceptions, the continuing
resolution (CR) grants a very small (0.62%) increase to federal appropriations across-the-board, bringing funding up to the $1.047 trillion spending level agreed to in last year's debt-ceiling
agreement. The resolution grants a larger increase for atomic weapons R&D activities at the Department of Energy, essentially meeting the President's request in this category, and provides an
additional $100 million for domestic uranium enrichment R&D. Additionally, the resolution makes provisions to ensure that the Joint Polar Satellite System and the Geostationary Operational Environmental
Satellite System remain on their planned launch schedules. These changes bring annualized R&D funding levels up to $141.7 billion, a 0.8% or $1.2 billion increase above FY 2012 levels, according to
AAAS estimates (PDF), as compared to an expected inflation rate of 1.7%.
It is worth remembering that the CR does not affect the looming sequestration which could reduce federal R&D by over $12 billion next year should it go forward as planned in January. On Sept. 27,
AAAS will release an analysis of the effects of these cuts through 2017 on key R&D-supporting agencies and on states, providing further information for policymakers and the science community.
Negotiations over sequestration and the tax elements of the fiscal "cliff" continue, but since Congress
is now in recess until after the election (Nov. 13), an agreement is unlikely until the post-election lame-duck period at the earliest.
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
STEM Jobs Act Fails in House. Last week the House of Representatives failed to pass a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) immigration bill introduced
by Judiciary Committee chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX). The STEM Jobs Act of 2012 (H.R. 6429)
would have replaced the current system of awarding permanent residency visas via a lottery system with one that would award visas to foreign nationals who have earned a Ph.D. or master's degree from
a U.S. university in a STEM field. Smith's bill was introduced after negotiations over broader immigration reform failed, but there are hopes that some compromise may be reached during the
post-election lame-duck session. A competing approach that would maintain both a lottery visa system and a STEM-degree visa system was Rep. Zoe Lofgren's (D-CA) bill, the Attracting the Best
and Brightest Act of 2012 (H.R. 6412). Ultimately, the Smith bill became caught in a political
divide over the importance of maintaining the existing lottery system which benefits immigrants from developing countries such as Africa. Smith's bill received
257 votes in support, with 158 opposed, but the measure fell 20 votes short of the two-thirds majority that was required by having the bill rushed to the House floor without committee approval.
Approves "Stop the War on Coal Act." H.R. 3409, approved on Sept. 21, is a package of five bills that would
reduce the regulatory authority of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Interior. Among other things, the Act would prohibit the EPA from regulating carbon dioxide emissions
and setting limits on greenhouse gas emissions for power generation facilities. It would also prevent both agencies from implementing any legislation that might harm the coal industry. The White House
has threatened to veto the legislation if it passes the Senate.
House Introduces New Space Legislation. House Republicans Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) and Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) have introduced
Leadership Preservation Act, which would "create a 10-year term for the NASA administrator to provide crucial stability and leadership structure at NASA." The bill would
also create a new advisory board that would provide guidance to NASA and submit budgets to Congress and the White House. In other space technology news, presidential candidate Mitt Romney's campaign
recently released a white paper that outlines his space policy platform.
FedEx and UPS to Restrict Shipping of Research Animals. Responding to pressure from People
for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), international shipping companies FedEx and UPS announced restrictions on the shipping of animals for laboratory research, including a full ban on research
mammals. A Scientific American article called the restrictions "largely
symbolic" as many researchers already use private transporters trained in animal care. However, a recent article in Nature highlighted
the possible impacts on animal breeders and biomedical researchers, suggesting that companies and researchers engaging in animal research may relocate to countries with fewer restrictions.
Comment on the above item. Policy Alert blog entries are located on AAAS's MemberCentral. Once you
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New Contest Spotlights Value of Federally Funded Research. The Federation
of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) is sponsoring a contest to
highlight the benefits of federally-funded research. Entries can be anything from exhibits to events to web-based outreach so long as they demonstrate how research improves the health, quality of
life, or economy of local communities. The grand prize is $10,000.
New Public Opinion Poll on Sequestration, Medical Research Released. Research!America and United
for Medical Research released the results last week of a poll of likely voters on the sequestration cuts and medical research. Slightly more than half of respondents said that across-the-board
budget cuts are not the right way to reduce the federal budget deficit. Although 54% of respondents feel it is important for the U.S. to maintain its leadership in research, 59% are pessimistic about U.S.
prospects to be a world leader in science and technology in 2020. The full results of the poll can be found here.
Principles for Supporting Global Careers in Graduate Education. Higher
education leaders from 15 countries announced a set of principles
to guide the preparation of graduate students for the demands of the global workforce and economy. The global summit, convened by U.S.-based Council of Graduate Schools (CGS)
and the Technische Universität München, is an annual event designed to promote international best practices on current issues in master's and doctoral education.
The principles included integrating international experiences and training into graduate
degree programs, respecting reciprocity in international collaborations, developing innovative and interdisciplinary global research, and preparing graduate students for ethical issues that emerge in a
European Union Caps Food-Based Biofuels. Current European Union (EU) regulations require that 10% of
EU transportation fuels come from renewable sources by 2020. Last week the European Commission announced that food-based biofuels will be capped at half of that number, with the remainder coming from other
renewable sources. The most likely replacement is second-generation biofuels made from inedible plant material, although these sources are not currently commercially viable. Representatives of the biofuels
industry fear that the cap on food-based biofuels will result in loss of R&D investments and closure of existing biofuel plants (more details here).
Quebec Government Supports Fracking Moratorium and Nuclear Plant Closing. The recently-elected provincial government of Quebec has announced that it favors a continuing moratorium on hydraulic
fracturing in the province, both on exploration and on extraction of shale gas. The procedure is currently under temporary ban in the province pending results of an environmental study. The
government also ordered that a second study be done, this one from the independent agency that inquires into any industrial activity that may affect the environment or the health of Quebeckers. The government
has also announced its intention to close the province's only nuclear plant. The government will establish a $CAN 200 million fund to compensate the community around the plant for the economic
impacts of the closing (further details here).
Japan Backtracks On Proposal to Phase Out Nuclear Power. The
Japanese government has refused to
give full cabinet approval to a proposed plan (reported in Policy Alert, 9/19/12) to phase out nuclear energy by 2040, following intense opposition to the plan from the business community. Instead,
Economy Minister Motohisa Furukawa said, the cabinet will take the original proposal "into consideration" in arriving at a flexible, long-term energy policy.
Russia Joins Japan and Canada
in Opposing Kyoto Protocol Extensions. The first round of greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction agreements signed under the Kyoto
Protocol are set to expire Dec. 31, 2012. Several countries, led by the European Union, have demonstrated an interest in continuing GHG reductions in a second phase of the Protocol. Russia announced last
week that it will not support such extensions, joining Japan and Canada in
opposing continuation of the agreement. Instead, Russia plans to focus on a U.N.-planned agreement requiring involvement of both developed and developing countries, which would go into effect in 2020.
Gender Segregation at Egyptian Medical School. Following reports that Iranian officials had placed restrictions
banning undergraduate women from 77 different fields of study, including many in science and engineering, it is now reported that
Mansura University in Egypt has also introduced policies that separate male and female students for the first three years of medical school courses.
Archived issues of AAAS Policy Alert can be found
Publisher: Alan I. Leshner
Editor: Steve Nelson
Contributors: Joanne Carney, Ed Derrick, Laci Gerhart, Erin Heath, 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