AAAS Policy Alert -- November 2, 2012
Note: This week's Policy Alert is delayed due to Washington, DC-wide closures for two days resulting from Hurricane Sandy.
IN THIS ISSUE
White House Reiterates Hopes for Grand Bargain. In an initially off-the-record interview with the Des Moines Register published
last week, President Obama reiterated his intentions for a "grand bargain" with Congress that adopts both spending cuts and revenue increases to avoid the fiscal cliff, including sequestration.
Senior White House adviser David Plouffe subsequently told reporters that the President intends to tackle negotiations "right after
the election," but House Speaker John Boehner's (R-OH) office responded by accusing the Administration of lacking a plan for the bargain and focusing overly on tax hikes.
OECD Releases Science, Industry Outlook. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development recently released its Science,
Technology and Industry Outlook for 2012, including country profiles for OECD member states. The U.S. profile (PDF) shows many
of the nation's metrics on public and private R&D, innovation, and knowledge flows hewing reasonably close to the OECD median, with some exceptions. For instance, the U.S. performs more strongly
on intensity of venture capital, but less well on metrics of international collaboration on authorship and patenting. In comparison with the OECD median, the report finds U.S. federal R&D funding somewhat
more focused on public labs than universities and oriented around basic research rather than applied research. Federal R&D is also far more defense-heavy than in other OECD member states.
on the federal research and development budget for FY 2013 and the recently released AAAS sequestration report, please visit the AAAS R&D Budget and
OTHER CONGRESSIONAL NEWS
Inhofe Launches Pro-Coal Campaign. Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) began a three-state tour to
endorse GOP candidates who oppose the President's regulations on coal and other traditional energy industries. He plans to visit Montana, Missouri, and Ohio, all of which have Democratic incumbents
leading in senatorial races: Senators Jon Tester in MT, Claire McCaskill in MO, and Sherrod Brown in OH. Those states, says Inhofe, "are three of the largest coal states of all the states...in
each one of these states, you have a Democrat incumbent senator who has voted to kill coal."
NSF Reports on U.S. Doctorates and Proportion of Foreign Recipients. The National Science Foundation has released a new InfoBrief
on "International Mobility and Employment Characteristics among Recent Recipients of U.S. Doctorates," based on information collected in surveys in 2008 and 2010 by the National Center
for Science and Engineering Statistics. The brief notes that foreign citizens' share of U.S.-earned doctorates had reached nearly 40% by 2010. Overall, 20% of foreign-citizen
graduates reported working or living in their country of origin in 2008; of those not in their country of origin, the United States was the most popular destination, with nearly 90% reporting living in
Bioethics Commission to Meet Next Week. The Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues is holding a public meeting in Chicago on Nov. 5-6. At this meeting, the Commission
will discuss ethical issues associated with the development of medical countermeasures for children. The meeting will be webcast. Information about the meeting is available here.
Federal Travel Restrictions Affecting Professional Meetings. Meetings
run by professional societies are feeling the effects of the federal restrictions on travel noted in the 5/16/12 Policy
Alert. An article
from DTN reports that, based on top-level agency prioritizations, a number of scientists from USDA and the Army Corps of Engineers had to cancel plans to participate in the recent annual joint meeting
of the American Society of Agronomy, the Crop Science Society of America, and the Soil Science Society of America. A recent New
York Times article discusses the issues as well and describes the expected reductions in federal employee attendance at the upcoming 2012 Supercomputing Conference as an example.
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.
AAAS Board of Directors Issues Statement on Labeling of GM Foods. On Oct. 20 the AAAS Board of Directors issued a Statement
on "Labeling of Genetically Modified Foods" (PDF). The Board was prompted to issue the statement because efforts to mandate labels on genetically modified foods could "mislead
and falsely alarm consumers." Noting that "GM crops are the most extensively tested crops ever," the Board stressed that "the science is quite clear: crop improvement by the
modern molecular techniques of biotechnology is safe."
Report Issued on Dual-Use Research Review and Oversight. The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), Association
of American Universities (AAU), Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) announced a new report on dual-use research review and oversight, Bridging
Science and Security for Biological Research: A Discussion about Dual Use Research Review and Oversight at Research Institutions. This report describes best practices and lessons learned from
existing, voluntary dual-use review and oversight programs. The report lists outstanding challenges and policy solutions for review and oversight of dual-use life sciences research (project description here).
NRC Report Says Algal Biofuels Currently Unsustainable. The
National Research Council (NRC) released a report analyzing the
commercial sustainability of algal biofuels. Research on making biofuel from algae, underway for decades, has gained increasing attention in recent years, in part because algae would not have to
compete for agricultural land with food crops as other biofuel sources would. However, the NRC concludes that the current technologies for producing algae-based fuels require excessive inputs of
water, energy, and fertilizer and are not currently sustainable on a large scale. The report outlines current concerns and strategies for achieving commercially-sustainable algal biofuels, including a
framework for assessing sustainability of such fuels throughout their development and production (more detail here).
NRC Releases Interim Workforce Report to DOD. The
National Research Council also released an interim report this month,
saying that one of the greatest challenges for the Department of Defense and the U.S. defense industrial base is attracting talented STEM employees. The report suggests that DOD change its recruitment
policies – specifically, it recommends that DOD consider reducing or eliminating many security clearance requirements, so that non-U.S. citizens are eligible for employment. The report also
pointed out that DOD needs to improve morale; there are few opportunities for professional growth within the agency, and employees are often under-utilized.
Research Materials Destroyed in Some New York Area Facilities. Among the many casualties of Hurricane Sandy this week were a number of research projects underway at various New York area
research facilities. Among the hardest hit was New York University's Smilow Research Center, with other possible losses at Rockefeller University and Brookhaven National Laboratory. ScienceInsider has
asked other researchers to report their labs' experiences with the storm.
Developed Nations Agree to Double Aid for Protection of Biodiversity. One hundred seventy countries recently
met in Hyderabad, India for the U.N. Convention
on Biological Diversity (COP 11), during which developed countries agreed to double financial aid to developing countries. This funding will help developing countries reach the Aichi
Targets, measures which protect global biodiversity. COP 11 also discussed threats to biodiversity such as climate change and poaching, and created partnerships to help countries address these problems
(conference press release here (PDF)).
Russia To End Cooperation with U.S. on Threat-Reduction Program. Russia announced two weeks ago that it will not extend the agreement with the United States on cooperative threat reduction. This
program, known as Nunn-Lugar, was established to reduce, if not eliminate, the threat posed by former Soviet offensive chemical, biological, and nuclear programs. During the past decade, the program
transitioned from redirection of weapons expertise and facilities in countries of the former Soviet Union to cooperative engagement with countries throughout the world on issues of mutual interest (further
Geoengineering Experiment: Further Developments and NOAA Clarification. According
to analysis summarized here,
Russ George and the Haida Salmon Restoration Corp may not have broken international treaties when they dumped 100 tons of iron dust off the Canadian coast (see 10/24/12 Policy Alert, not yet posted
at Archives). International protocols apply only to dumping of waste, although the experiment may have violated Canadian law. It is less clear whether
the experiment had any scientific impact. Phytoplankton levels did increase, although potentially due to normal ocean circulation patterns. A recent
study indicates that, even if successful, the experiment will not produce a significant decrease in atmospheric CO2 levels. The experiment appears to have involved equipment supplied by the U.S. National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), although without NOAA's fully-informed approval. NOAA's Office of Communications issued the following clarification: "NOAA's
global ocean drifters provide data about the world ocean (such as ocean currents and temperature) that aid forecasters and researchers. Due to limited government resources, NOAA relies on volunteers and
vessels of opportunity to deploy global ocean drifters into strategic locations. In July, the Haida Salmon Restoration Corporation offered to deploy 20 NOAA global ocean drifters off the West Coast of
Canada for a salmon research project. Haida Salmon Restoration Corporation did not disclose that it was going to discharge material into the ocean, nor did our drifters contribute to the discharge of any
material. We are disappointed that we were misled."
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.