AAAS Policy Alert -- December 13, 2012
IN THIS ISSUE
Department of Defense, Other Agencies Begin Planning for Sequestration. Last week the White House Office of Management and Budget directed
agencies to begin planning for sequestration, after which Pentagon spokesman George Little acknowledged that the Defense Department (DOD) will officially
begin such planning. Until now, DOD, like other federal agencies, has publicly denied making any contingency plans in the event that the spending cuts take place beginning in January. DOD would face
$492 billion in cuts over the next decade, including $33.5 billion in R&D cuts over the next five years alone. Negotiations over
the fiscal cliff and related issues are ongoing at the time of this writing.
S&T Community Ramps Up Sequester Activities. On Dec. 7 AAAS issued a letter to the White House and to the U.S. Congress urging the leaders in both branches "to work together to
achieve a bipartisan compromise that avoids the fiscal cliff and moves the country onto sound fiscal footing without sacrificing our nation's crucial investments in science and technology." The letter (PDF),
signed by 126 science, engineering, higher education, and business organizations, notes that "federal nondefense R&D funding has declined by 5% in the past two years." Elsewhere, a group
of MIT graduate students has repackaged the "Stand with Science" campaign into a plea to lawmakers to avoid the sequester. To view a message video and sign the petition, go here.
Budget Office Says FY 2013 Deficit Already Rising. The
Congressional Budget Office's (CBO) most recent monthly budget review placed
the federal deficit at $292 billion through the first two months of the 2013 fiscal year, $57 billion larger than at the same point last year. Revenues increased year-over-year, but outlays grew even faster.
Universities Report Highest-Ever R&D Spending. A recent National Science Foundation (NSF) survey showed R&D spending
at universities increased 6.3% between FY 2010 and FY 2011. This increase included $4.2 billion in expenditures funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), or 10.2% of the federally funded
R&D expenditures for FY 2011. Fields with increases of more than 10% between FY 2010 and FY 2011 included atmospheric sciences, economics research, and chemical engineering, among others.
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
Senate Passes Defense Authorization Bill. Last week the U.S. Senate passed the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 (H.R.
4310 PDF) and nominated Senators to serve on the conference committee to work with the House and move the bill to final passage. This week the House is scheduled to
nominate its conferees to negotiate with the Senate on the amended bill.
Update on Senate Commerce Committee Leadership. Sen. Jim DeMint's (R-SC) announcement last week that he would be retiring from that chamber two years before his term is up leaves a new opening
on the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. Given his seniority, Sen. DeMint was expected to serve as the incoming ranking member on the Committee. His surprise announcement
creates a chance for Sen. John Thune (R-SD) to serve in that capacity.
NIH Outlines Initiatives to Strengthen the Biomedical Research Workforce. The NIH will launch multiple initiatives designed to help strengthen the biomedical research
enterprise and sustain the global competitiveness of the U.S. scientific community (press release found here). The initiatives are based
on the recommendations of the Advisory Committee to the Director, which used two working groups to develop recommendations that were released in June
2012. The several initiatives are organized into the categories of diversity in the biomedical research workforce, the future biomedical research workforce, and data and informatics.
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.
PCAST Report Calls for Increases, Changes in Agricultural Research. The President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology has released a report calling for a substantial increase
in the federal investment in agricultural research, along with a rebalancing of effort. Noting the substantial impact of prior investments and the significant role of private industry, the report
recommends the U.S. Department of Agriculture put less focus on intramural research on commodity crops and more on extramural research awarded competitively. The report also calls for the creation
of several large, multi-disciplinary research institutes to be supported by public-private partnerships and an internal review to clarify regulatory policy (press release available here (PDF);
full report here (PDF)).
NSF Graduate Research Fellowships to Support Global Collaboration. NSF
has started a new program to encourage international collaboration with investigators in partner countries, supporting travel and research costs for the selected fellows. The new program, Graduate
Research Opportunities Worldwide (GROW), is
expected to fund as many as 400 fellows and will be subject to merit review and availability of funds.
NSF Identifies Characteristics of Doctorate Recipients. NSF's National
Center for Science and Engineering Statistics released a new report, "Doctorate
Recipients from U.S. Universities: 2010." The report describes recent trends in higher education, such as increased representation of women and minorities and the emergence of new
fields. The report notes, for example, that science and engineering doctorates represented 74% of all doctorates awarded in 2011, up from 66% in 2001. NSF collects this data each year to better understand
the U.S. S&T workforce and the potential for innovation.
DHHS Releases Emergency Medical Countermeasures Plan. On Dec. 10 the Department of Health and Human Services released its 2012 Public Health Emergency Medical Countermeasure Enterprise
(PHEMCE) Implementation Plan. The plan implements the 2012 PHEMCE Strategic Plan that was released earlier this year, the goals and objectives of which are to "identify, create, develop, manufacture,
and procure critical medical countermeasures; establish and communicate clear regulatory pathways to facilitate medical countermeasure development and use; develop logistics and operational plans for optimized
use of medical countermeasures at all levels of response; and address medical countermeasure gaps for all sectors of the American civilian population." The Implementation Plan describes the
programs and initiatives that support the goals of the PHEMCE Strategy; lists the roles and collaborations of interagency partners that support the Strategy; describes threat-specific and capability-specific
approaches for medical countermeasure research and development; and provides key milestones to assess program progress over the next five years (more information here).
To Launch Second Mars Rover. NASA announced a new Mars program that will include a second
Rover to be launched in 2020, and the 2013 launch of the MAVEN orbiter, which will allow scientists to study Mars' atmosphere. This new initiative is in response to findings of the Mars Program Planning
Group that was established in 2012 to help NASA restructure the Mars Exploration Program. John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate and a former astronaut, told
reporters that "the challenge to restructure the Mars Exploration Program has turned from the seven minutes of terror for the Curiosity landing to the start of seven years of innovation."
NIST Report Summarizes Federal Technology Transfer Achievements. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has released its report on federal technology transfer in FY 2010. The
report, part of an annual series, summarizes the technology transfer achievements of eleven federal agencies with significant federal laboratory operations. It documents the number of cooperative
research and development agreements (CRADAs) with non-federal partners as well as invention disclosure, patenting, and licensing, and discusses highlights and trends. For FY 2010, the laboratories
had 4,783 new invention disclosures, filed 1,830 patent applications, and were awarded 1,143 patents. The laboratories also received over $140 million in licensing income (report, with tables including
data from prior years, found here).
CSPC Issues Letter to Parents on STEM Education. The Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress (CSPC) has issued a "letter" to
parents on the importance of STEM education (PDF). The goal of the letter/report, issued by the Committee on K-12 Education co-chaired by former Lockheed Martin CEO Norman Augustine, former Senator
Bill Brock, and former Governor Roy Romer, is to provide an overview of the state of STEM education and outline ways that parents can make an impact. For example, it suggests that parents write the
U.S. Congress, asking that it implement the recommendations in the National Academies report Rising Above the Gathering Storm.
LA School Voucher Program Ruled Unconstitutional. A state district judge in Baton Rouge has ruled that Louisiana's expanded school voucher program is unconstitutional. The program
allows qualifying students to attend private or parochial schools using state aid. Some scientists have been monitoring the initiative because of concerns about students being taught creationism using
public funds. Gov. Bobby Jindal criticized the judge's decision and has pledged to pursue an appeal.
Study Supports Accuracy of 20-Year-Old Climate Predictions. Global temperature predictions made two decades ago by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) are proving
reasonably accurate, according to a new paper in the journal Nature Climate Change (available to subscribers only). Authors David Frame, director of the New Zealand Climate
Change Research Institute at Victoria University, and Daíthí Stone of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, say the global mean surface temperature in 2010 showed an increase
of between 0.35 and 0.39 degrees Celsius since 1990. The IPCC had predicted in 1990 that the increase would be about 0.55C. When Frame and Stone took natural variability into account,
they found that the observed warming was consistent with the IPCC's best estimate for warming (more information here).
Continues Piecemeal Increases to R&D Funds Cut Earlier. On Dec. 5 the United Kingdom government announced a new increase in funds for R&D, amounting to £600 (about $965
million), to address a number of specific topics. This is the latest, and the single largest, of a series of modest increases for UK R&D over the past two years, after the newly elected government
in 2010 "froze the science budget and slashed capital spending on research infrastructure" (more background here).
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, Laci Gerhart, Erin Heath, Matt Hourihan, Earl Lane, Deborah Runkle, 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