AAAS Policy Alert -- October 19, 2012
IN THIS ISSUE
Lawmakers Continue Sequestration Warnings. In a "Dear
Colleague" letter last week, Rep. Norm Dicks (D-WA), ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee, warned of additional defense cuts if sequestration proceeds, on top of the 9.4 percent
cuts outlined in a previous Office of Management and Budget (OMB) report. Dicks says the additional cut -- which would amount to 1.4 percent, or an additional $1.1 billion in cuts to defense R&D
-- results from the lower defense spending cap established by the Budget Control Act, which created a "firewall" between defense and nondefense spending. It would also extend U.S. dependence on Russia
for human space flight capacity. The letter urges a balanced "grand bargain" to avoid sequestration and reduce the deficit. The letter also cites a Congressional Research Service report that
says sequestration would reduce the number of National Institutes of Health (NIH) and National Science Foundation (NSF) grants combined by 4,000. (Last week NIH posted notice that
it plans to issue non-competing research grants at 90 percent of the previous committed level during the continuing resolution, as it has done during CRs in recent years.) Another bipartisan group of Senators
who are interested in national security have written a letter to
the Senate leadership outlining the consequences of sequestration on defense and nondefense research. That group includes 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).
Schumer Discusses Budget Deficit Plan. The potential gap between the parties in dealing with the budget deficit was clarified early last week when Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) criticized
the idea being discussed as part of deficit-reduction debates that top tax rates could be lowered while revenue could be raised through closing loopholes and deductions. Instead, Schumer called for
allowing tax cuts for the wealthy to expire at the end of the year as planned -- returning to Clinton-era levels -- and that any revenue saved by closing loopholes should go fully toward deficit
reduction, not toward lower tax rates. Republicans quickly criticized Schumer's approach in harsh
Bioethics Commission Addresses Genome Sequencing. The Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues has released
its report on genomics and privacy. The report, Privacy and Progress in Whole Genome Sequencing, concludes that "to realize the enormous promise that whole genome sequencing holds for
advancing clinical care and the greater public good, individual interests in privacy must be respected and secured. As the scientific community works to bring the cost of whole genome sequencing down
from millions per test to less than the cost of many standard diagnostic tests today, the Commission recognizes that whole genome sequencing and its increased use in research and the clinic could yield
major advances in health care. However it could also raise ethical dilemmas." The Commission offers a dozen recommendations that are meant to "help craft policies that are flexible enough
to ensure progress and responsive enough to protect privacy."
Study Connects NIH Funding Patterns to Disease Advocacy. A new analysis by a UC-Berkeley sociology graduate student connects lobbying money spent on specific diseases to
research on those diseases funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Focusing on 53 diseases over a roughly two-decade period, the study found that
for every $1,000 spent on lobbying, NIH and the Department of Defense spent an average of $25,000 more on that disease the following year. The study can be found in the October issue of American Sociological
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.
CDC/APHIS Issue Final Select Agent Rule. On October 5, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published the final
regulatory rule to govern the utilization of select agents and toxins. The final rule implements a tiered system for regulating select agents based on risk
for misuse and danger to public health; for example, 11 agents have been designated as Tier 1 agents and thus will require additional security measures. The agencies removed a number of other agents and
viruses from the select agent list. In addition, the rule mandates stricter inventory requirements and audit procedures to enhance security. The rule goes into effect on December 4, 2012, and CDC and APHIS
have scheduled a workshop to be webcast on November 16, 2012, from 9:00 am to 5:00 p.m (EST) to discuss it. The webcast is free, but requires advance registration. (PDF)
World Bank Makes Addressing Climate Change a Priority. Last week, the World Bank Group held its Annual Meeting in Tokyo, where new president Jim Yong Kim listed mitigating and adapting
to climate change as one of the Bank's priorities (PDF). Kim highlighted opportunities
in linking climate change mitigation strategies to economic growth, reductions in global poverty levels, and addressing public health issues such as HIV/AIDS and access to health care.
Appeal in Stem Cell Case Filed with Supreme Court. Efforts to stop the National Institutes of Health (NIH) from funding human embryonic stem cell (hESC) research took another step last week,
with plaintiffs filing an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court. The appeal is based on two legal technicalities. The plaintiffs, led by James Sherley of the Boston
Biomedical Research Institute and represented by an anti-abortion legal group, asked the Supreme Court to consider two procedural questions: (1) whether the court of appeals erred in holding
that an Executive Order can and did obviate NIH's need to consider comments from those totally opposing such research under the Administrative Procedure Act; and (2) whether the Court of Appeals
erred in rejecting the Dickey-Wicker claim made by the plaintiffs by according deference to a preliminary injunction motion. It may be months before the Supreme Court responds to the request for a hearing.
NRC Report on Women in Science. On
October 18, the National Research Council's Committee on Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine (CWSEM)
will issue a report that will address "policies and programs designed to enhance the status and participation of women in STEM disciplines." The report, Blueprint for the Future, is
the result of a 2011 workshop to develop a "strategic research agenda in a global context" focusing on three specific disciplines: chemistry, computer science, and mathematics and statistics.
issues of AAAS Policy Alert can be found at http://www.aaas.org/spp/policyalert.
Publisher: Alan I. Leshner
Editor: Erin Heath
Contributors: Joanne Carney, Ed Derrick, Mark Frankel, Laci Gerhart, Erin Heath, Matt Hourihan, Earl Lane, Steve Nelson, Deborah Runkle, Gretchen Seiler, Sara Spizzirri
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