AAAS Policy Alert -- November 7, 2012
Note: Watch for AAAS's Election Update summarizing key election outcomes later this week, sent by separate e-mail to AAAS members.
IN THIS ISSUE
Report: Government Has Options to Mitigate Sequestration's Impacts. A new report from OMB Watch, a nongovernmental
transparency and accountability organization covering the White House Office of Management and Budget in particular, outlines a variety of managerial steps that the executive branch could take, without
needing legislative approval, to temporarily soften the blow of sequestration. The report argues that even if the $109 billion in cuts should take effect early next year, the White House would be
able to use its apportionment authority to temporarily accelerate program spending, delay the announcement of new federal grants and contracts, and pursue other administrative steps that would feasibly
reduce the impact of sequestration for several weeks.. Such steps could give policymakers additional time to find a legislative solution, the report argues.
Treasury Warns of Looming Debt Ceiling (Again). Last week the Treasury Department said the
United States will likely reach the current borrowing limit of $16.4 trillion by the end of 2012. Treasury said it would employ "extraordinary measures" to buy additional time, extending the
situation into early 2013. Similar steps were taken last year to give Congress time to negotiate the previous debt-ceiling deal. That deal, reached in August 2011, added more than $2 trillion to
the federal borrowing limit and put in place the sequestration. The approaching debt ceiling adds another ticking-clock element to ongoing negotiations to delay or avoid the sequestration.
According to Congressional Budget Office estimates, the federal debt stands at roughly three-quarters of the annual gross domestic product (GDP).
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
House Democrats Request Climate Change Hearing. Representatives Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Bobby Rush (D-IL) have sent a letter to Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), Chair of the House
Committee on Energy and Commerce, and to Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY), Chair of that committee's Energy and Power Subcommittee, requesting a committee hearing on climate change, with a focus on the recent
superstorm Sandy. In the letter, Waxman and Rush note that they have requested hearings on climate change from these committees 17 times without success (press release and link to the letter found here).
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.
NIH Director Introduces New Blog. National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins debuted his new NIH
Director's Blog last week. The blog, he wrote, is designed to "highlight new discoveries in biology and medicine that I think are game changers, noteworthy, or just plain cool." Posts
so far have featured video from a recent "Celebration of Science" event held at NIH and information about the Human Connectome Project, an NIH-funded project created to map the brain's
Non-Profits Push for More Collaborative Weather Research. The National Academies held a Congressional briefing in
September for their recent report, Weather Services for the Nation: Becoming Second to None. During the briefing, the University
Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) proposed the formation of a National Weather Commission that would facilitate public-private partnerships and encourage better collaboration among scientists.
On Oct. 31, UCAR launched a message board to "facilitate dialogue and open sharing of ideas and views," and to help them identify appropriate goals and scope of the proposed commission. Interested
parties can submit their comments here.
Bipartisan Group Issues Report on Climate Change and Security. The bipartisan organization
American Security Project (ASP) issued a Climate Security Report to highlight the challenges that a changing climate will present for domestic and global security (link to report release and the report
itself here). The
report was written for the incoming Administration and discusses strategic planning for three contingencies: Climate Change and Security; Climate Change and the Global Security; and Climate Change and
the Homeland. It states that "Climate change poses a clear and present danger to the United States through its effects on our global allies as well as its direct effects on our agriculture,
infrastructure, economy, and public health." The ASP Board of Directors is chaired by former Senator Gary Hart (D-CO) and includes members such as former Senator Warren Rudman (R-NH), Senator
John Kerry (D-MA), and former Governor Christine Todd Whitman (R-NJ).
U.N. Develops Global Framework for Climate Services. In its first-ever "extraordinary session," the United Nations World Meteorological Organization put together a framework
for global climate predictions to guide predictions used by policy makers and the general public for crop production, infrastructure planning, and disease management. Its goals are to help people understand
the strengths and weaknesses of climate modeling tools, and to effectively scale global predictions into regional decision-making. For additional information, see the pre-meeting
press release, the draft plan (PDF), and a post-meeting news account.
U.K. Research Fund Makes Second Round of Awards. The U.K. Research Partnership Investment Fund, established earlier this year with £100 million ($US 160 million), has expanded to £300
million and made a second round of awards (press release here). The
fund is designed to support investment in higher education research facilities. Each award must be matched by at least twice as much from non-public sources. Fourteen awards, worth £220
million, have now been made. The fund intends to announce a third call for bids for the remaining £80 million. The fund will run for three years. General information about
the fund can be found here.
TWAS Undergoes Another Name Change. The organization
founded as the Third World Academy of Sciences, and more recently known as TWAS, The Academy of Sciences of the Developing World, has changed its name to The World Academy of Sciences. TWAS
members adopted the change at their 23rd General Meeting in Tianjin, China, earlier this year (announcement and background information here). The
purpose of the organization, the advancement of science in developing countries, remains the same.
Qatar Announces National Research Strategy. Qatar has announced a national research strategy to put into action its plans to transition to a knowledge-based economy.
The strategy stresses five national priority areas: energy and environment; information and computing technology; health and related life sciences and technologies; social sciences, arts
and humanities; and enterprise-wide interdisciplinary R&D. A major challenge for the country is developing an adequate STEM workforce; Qatar currently has only about 1,000 scientists. Further
information can be found here.
Science Journalists Form Virtual Newsroom
for Africa and Middle East. The World Federation of Science Journalists (WFSJ) has launched the world's first virtual science newsroom as
an experimental initiative to support the development of science journalism in Africa and the Middle East. The virtual newsroom will initially run for the next two months, after which the
WFSJ will decide on whether to develop it further. Journalists selected to participate will have their work mentored by "eight editors from different science media platforms in Africa
and the Middle East, [who] will commission, edit, and publish their work on their platforms." Additional information can be found here.
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, Laci Gerhart, Erin Heath, Matt Hourihan, Earl Lane, Gretchen Seiler, Sara Spizzirri, Brad Wible
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