AAAS Policy Alert -- October 3, 2012
IN THIS ISSUE
AAAS Releases Estimates of R&D Budgets Under Sequestration. On Sept. 27 the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program released a new
report that has estimated the impact of sequestration on federal R&D budgets and by state over the next five years. Under a set of reasonable assumptions, it found that federal R&D funding
through 2017 could be reduced by $57.5 billion, or 8.4%, in constant dollars (i.e., corrected for inflation). Among defense agencies, DARPA would lose around $1.3 billion in funding over the first five
years under sequestration. On the nondefense side, most science budgets would stand to lose 7.6% of their funding. For NIH, this would mean $11.3 billion less for research over five years, with budgets
reverting to levels last seen a decade ago. The National Science Foundation would lose about $2.1 billion, and the Department of Energy would lose about $4.6 billion. NASA's budget would drop to
levels not seen since the 1980s. Cuts for nondefense agencies would more than double if Congress were to push the burden of sequestration away from defense and more fully onto science agencies.
data, the report also found that universities and industries in each of 19 states would lose at least $1 billion in federal research funding over the next five years. California institutions would lead
with $11.3 billion in lost funding, but Maryland, Virginia, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Texas, New York, and other states would also see billion-dollar reductions.
AAAS held a news teleconference
with reporters the day the sequestration analysis was released, resulting in stories by The
Los Angeles Times, Nature, and Government
Executive magazine. In a commentary distributed by the McClatchy Tribune News Service, AAAS CEO
Alan I. Leshner and Kent Kresa, chairman emeritus of Northrop Grumman and chairman of the Board of Trustees at Caltech, wrote that looming cuts under sequestration could cripple key areas of science by
slashing federal R&D at a time when such funding already has declined 10% in real dollars since 2010.
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Senators Urge Bipartisan Budget Compromise. In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV)
and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), a bipartisan group of six senators last week warned of the consequences of sequestration to defense, research, and other priorities, and said that all ideas
should be on the table to avoid the fiscal cliff. The six were Sens. Carl Levin (D-MI), John McCain (R-AZ), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH).
The senators wrote: "We are committed to working together to help forge a balanced bipartisan deficit reduction package to avoid damage to our national security, important domestic priorities, and
OMB to Agencies: For Now, Proceed As Normal. In a bulletin released last week, the Office of Management and Budget
(OMB) told federal agencies to "continue normal spending and operations" for the time being, reflecting the Administration's expectation that a viable deficit deal to replace the sequester
will be found. The directive echoes earlier instructions given to agencies over the summer.
Senate Appropriations Subcommittee Releases FY 2013 Interior and Environment Spending Bill. Even with a continuing
resolution in place through March and Congress on recess until after the election, some appropriators are continuing work on the FY 2013 budget. Last week the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior,
Environment, and Related Agencies released
its draft FY FY 2013 spending bill, which funds the Interior Department (including the U.S. Geological Survey), EPA, the Forest Service, and other agencies. In most areas, the bill seeks
to split the difference between FY 2012 funding levels and the Administration's request. By contrast, the House version of the bill slates
most agencies for substantial cuts in FY 2013. The Senate bill will help provide a framework for eventual budget negotiations covering the remainder of the fiscal year.
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
House Republicans Introduce Bill to Reform EPA Science Advisory Panels. The EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act of 2012 (H.R.
6564) was introduced on Sept. 28 by Reps. Ralph Hall (R-TX), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Andy Harris (R-MD), and Dan Benishek (R-MI). The bill would revise the process for selecting advisors and increase
public participation and transparency within the EPA's Science Advisory Board (SAB). Citing materials
from the Congressional Research Service (PDF), supporters of the bill are concerned that the Board's advice is often not sufficiently objective. They also believe that the private sector is not
adequately represented on these panels. The bill would require that EPA grant-holders comprise no more than 10% of the Board's membership, and that all reports and recommendations, including
dissenting opinions or uncertainties, be made public and open to public commentary. Even if the bill were passed by the House, it is considered unlikely to gain Senate passage or be signed by the President.
Democrats Issue Climate Change Report. Democrats on the House Natural Resources and the Energy and Commerce Committees released a report (PDF) on
climate change at the request of Reps. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Edward Markey (D-MA). The report concludes that there are "strong links" between high carbon emissions and global warming and
recent extreme weather events.
New Senate DATA Act Introduced. On Sept. 21 Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and Rob Portman (R-OH) introduced the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA
3600) to provide greater transparency on federal spending. The Senate bill, a companion to the House version (H.R.
2146) that passed in April, would require the government to track and post online data on federal obligations and outlays to contractors and grant recipients. In addition, it would create a Federal
Accountability Spending and Transparency (FAST) Board to monitor waste, fraud, and abuse, while the House bill would have created a separate, independent federal agency to serve those functions. More
importantly, the Senate bill does not include language restricting the ability of federal employee to travel to conferences that was included as an amendment to the final House bill.
GAO Report Warns About Hacked Medical Devices. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report last week warning that certain implantable
medical devices, such as cardiac defibrillators and insulin pumps, can be hacked and remotely controlled. The report recommends that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) increase its focus on this risk
during the pre-market device approval process; leverage its post-market efforts to identify and investigate security problems; and enhance its collaboration with other federal agencies such as the National
Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which maintains a computer security vulnerability database.
NSB Issues Report on Declining State Funds for Public Universities. The National Science Board has released a report, "Diminishing
Funding and Rising Expectations: Trends and Challenges for Public Research Universities." Using data from the 2012 Science and Engineering Indicators report, this report documents
the significant decline of state support for public research universities in all but seven states between 2002 and 2010. The NSB notes the importance of these institutions in providing access
to affordable, quality education for all students, and expresses concern for the financial health of the institutions in the face of these cuts. The report also notes the widening gap between public
and private research universities on key indicators such as instructional spending per student and faculty salaries.
NSF's IG Seeks Comments on Plans for Reviewing Compliance with Responsible-Conduct
Requirements. NSF's Office of the Inspector General (OIG) is inviting
public comments on a planned data-collection scheme for its review of compliance with requirements regarding responsible conduct of research (RCR). Section 7009 of the America COMPETES Act requires
award recipients to create RCR training programs for undergraduate students, graduate students, and postdoctoral researchers taking part in NSF-funded research. The NSF OIG plans to interview
three groups for its data collection: upper-level administrators; RCR program administrators; and students and post-docs participating in RCR programs. Comment are due by Nov. 13, after
which NSF will seek approval for the proposed data collection from the Office of Management and Budget.
Supreme Court Poised to Address Affirmative Action Admissions. On Oct. 1 the Supreme Court returned to start another term, and one of the first cases on the docket will be a controversial
lawsuit challenging affirmative action in university/college admissions. On Oct. 10 the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on the Fisher
v. University of Texas at Austin case on behalf of the plaintiff who asserts that promoting diversity in education is not a compelling governmental interest. The American Educational Research
Association (AERA), along with the AAAS and six other scientific organizations, filed an amicus brief (PDF) "urging
the Court to consider an overwhelming body of scientific evidence relevant to the case," which suggests that the "purported harms to minority students associated with race-conscious admissions
[alleged by the plaintiff] are inconsistent with recent findings and lack empirical basis." The AERA held a press conference regarding
the scientific evidence detailed within the amicus brief last week.
California Defends Global Warming Solutions Act. The Act (AB 32) directed the California Air Resources Board to implement new
regulations that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2020. It also established a cap-and-trade system and the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS), which measures carbon content
in transportation fuels. A District Court ruling earlier found the LCFS unconstitutional, on the grounds that it violated the Commerce Clause by favoring fuel sources that are manufactured in the state
of California (which have a more favorable LCFS rating than other, out-of-state fuels). Now the case will be heard by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Regardless of the outcome there, the
case is expected to reach the U.S. Supreme Court.
Maine Unveils First Grid-Connected Ocean Power Supply. Maine's Ocean Renewable Power Company (ORPC) has finalized the first commercial,
grid-connected tidal power system in the United States (more details here). The 180-kilowatt device, called a TidGen, is located in Cobscook
Bay, ME and provides enough electricity to power 25-30 homes. Expansions to the facility are already under development, and by fall 2013 the system plans to support 75-100 homes. The facility was funded
by a $10 million investment from the U.S. Department of Energy's Water Power Program, and has already brought in over $14 million into Maine's
economy and created or retained 100 jobs.
Assessment of Canadian S&T Released. Canadian science and technology is healthy and growing in both output and impact, according to a
new report from the Council of Canadian Academies (PDF). With less than 0.5% of the world's population, Canada produces 4.1% of the world's scientific papers and nearly 5% of the world's
most frequently cited papers, the report found. Two areas identified as strengths in a similar report in 2006 -- natural resources and environmental S&T -- have not experienced the
same improvement as Canadian S&T in general, the new report found. It also noted that, despite its output of scientific publications, Canada holds only 1.7% of world patents.
Archived issues of AAAS Policy Alert can be found at http://www.aaas.org/spp/policyalert.
Publisher: Alan I. Leshner
Editor: Steve Nelson
Contributors: Kavita Berger, Joanne Carney, Ed Derrick, Mark Frankel, Laci Gerhart, 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 email@example.com.