AAAS Policy Alert -- February 21, 2012
IN THIS ISSUE
On Feb. 19 former Clinton chief of staff Erskine Bowles and former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-WY) released a new plan to reduce the federal deficit by $2.4 trillion over the next ten years. In a summary of the plan
they state that reforms "should be designed to strengthen current economic conditions, promote work, encourage innovation, improve productivity, and bolster investment in our future" (additional background here). In the original Bowles-Simpson National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility report
(PDF) they argued that investments in research and education were critically important to help the economy grow and to remain competitive. The new plan's three-page summary does not explicitly mention science and technology. The new plan calls for cuts to Medicare and Medicaid that go deeper than the White House has been willing to accept, and also recommends revenues from taxes that House Republicans have said should be off the table.
The sequester -- automatic spending cuts -- is due to hit the federal budget on March 1 if the Administration and Congress do not reach an agreement on a deficit reduction plan. Last week the Senate Appropriations Committee held a hearing to highlight the damaging impacts of the sequester and included testimony from the Office of Management and Budget, Department of Defense, and Department of Education (webcast found here). In addition, Chair Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) requested information from a host of federal agencies, including NSF, NASA, NIH, and Interior, on what impacts sequestration would have on their respective agency activities (agency statements found here).
Another important pending deadline is the FY 2013 continuing resolution (CR) that is currently funding the federal government but is due to expire March 27. However, in a C-SPAN interview, House Appropriations Committee chair Harold Rogers discussed his plan for extending the CR in order to avoid a government shutdown.
For updates on the federal research and development budget for FY 2013 and the AAAS sequestration report, please visit the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy website.
OTHER CONGRESSIONAL NEWS
Public Access Legislation Introduced. The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR) was introduced
(PDF) in the Senate and the House on Feb. 14. The bills would require federal agencies with annual extramural research budgets of $100 million or more to develop policies requiring public online access to research manuscripts resulting from their funded research within six months of publication in a peer-reviewed journal.
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.
Congress Addresses Climate Change. After President Obama's vow, in his State of the Union Address, to address climate change, members of Congress promptly took action. On Feb. 14, Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) introduced two bills. The Climate Protection Act (S.332)
would charge fees for carbon dioxide and methane emissions, in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas pollution and address climate disruptions; the bill would also enhance the use of clean energy. The Sustainable Energy Act (S.
329) would eliminate certain fuel subsidies and extend some energy tax incentives. Senator Boxer also organized a hearing,
in which the Committee on Environment and Public Works, which she chairs, heard from four renowned climate scientists, including former president and chair of the AAAS Board of Directors, Dr. James J. McCarthy. In the House, Democrats announced the creation of the Safe Climate Caucus.
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) explained that the purpose of the new group is to "end the conspiracy of silence in this House of Representatives about the dangers of climate change..."
Bills for "Transparency, Responsiveness" Target EPA.
Sen. Mike Johanns (R-NE) introduced four new bills aimed at forcing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to seek congressional approval for new regulations (rather than the agency developing and implementing new rules through its own rule-making process), and holding the agency accountable for meeting project deadlines and providing regular progress updates to Congress (press release here).
House Members Form Bipartisan "Congressional STEAM Caucus." On Feb. 14 Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) and Aaron Schock (R-IL) announced the formation of the Congressional STEAM (STEM+Arts and Design) Caucus, the goal of which is "to encourage the creativity needed to drive our innovation economy forward" (press release found here
). The caucus "will host briefings and advocate for policy changes [to] encourage educators to integrate arts, broadly defined, with traditional Science, Technology, Engineering and Math curriculum."
Science and Technology in the President's State of the Union Address. In his State of the Union Address
on Feb. 12, President Obama called on Congress to reach an agreement to avoid the sequester, arguing that the cuts would "devastate priorities like education, and energy, and medical research." A main theme of the speech was economic recovery and job creation, and investments in science and technology were a recurring subject. The President emphasized the return on investments from past research, such as the Human Genome Project, and argued that "Now is not the time to gut these
job-creating investments in science and innovation. Now is the time to reach a level of research and development not seen since the height of the Space Race. We need to make those investments." On the topic of immigration reform, he referred to the need to "attract the highly-skilled entrepreneurs and engineers that will help create jobs and grow our economy." Finally, on the subject of climate change, he argued that the nation needs to do more to combat climate change to benefit future
generations, but also stated that "we can make meaningful progress on this issue while driving strong economic growth."
Administration Set to Endorse Brain Activity Map Project. The Obama Administration is planning to announce support for a new project on the scale of the Human Genome Project, according to a New York Times article.
Currently referred to by NIH as the Brain Activity Map Project, the new project will be a public-private collaboration expected to run over ten years at a total cost of $3 billion. Congressional approval will be required. The President alluded to the project in his State of the Union Address, and a formal announcement from the Administration is expected within the next few months.
Obama Issues Cybersecurity Executive Order. On Feb. 12, President Obama signed an executive order (PDF) that directs the federal government to develop new (voluntary) cybersecurity standards, and enhance the flow of information about potential threats to our networks between the public and private sectors.
CMS Issues Final Rules for Reporting by Physicians, Researchers. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued final regulations
to implement the Physician Payment Sunshine Act (Section 6002 of the Affordable Care Act), the effective date of which is April 9, 2013. The rule finalizes requirements for annually reporting of "certain payments or other transfers of value to covered recipients," including physician-researchers receiving payments from industry as well as information about certain ownership or investment interests held by physicians and their immediate family members in companies covered by the
regulations. The primary companies covered are manufacturers of drugs, devices, biologicals, or medical supplies.
NIST, DOJ Announce Forensic Science Commission. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Department of Justice have announced the creation of a National Commission on Forensic Science, "to strengthen and enhance the practice of forensic science" (press release here).
The new body will provide "a framework for coordination across forensic disciplines under federal leadership, with state and local participation," and will "help to standardize national guidance for forensic science practitioners." An upcoming Federal Register notice will list specific criteria for membership, and candidates will have 30 days in which to submit applications.
Update on State Science Education Legislation. As reported regularly in Policy Alert,
state legislation singling out scientific theories as controversial and encouraging classroom critique of their "strengths and weaknesses" have been popping up in various states for the past several years. The latest state legislature to see such a bill is Kansas, but HB 2306 has a twist: it does not mention evolution but focuses solely on climate change. According to Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education: "The point of the bill is obviously to misrepresent climate science as scientifically controversial." In other news, a scientifically misleading education bill in Colorado was rejected
in the House Education Committee by a 7-6 vote, while a similar bill in Montana was tabled by its House Education Committee.
Mixed News for European Science Program Amid Overall EU Budget Cuts. At
the European Union's budget summit in early February, leaders of the EU's 27 member states agreed upon cuts to the union's overall budget over the next seven years (2014 through 2020), and allocated 70.96 billion over that same period to Horizon 2020, the main science funding program. The European Commission (the EU's executive body) had proposed 80 billion for Horizon 2010, "the minimum amount needed to make [the program] work the way it is designed," according to science
leaders. Nevertheless, the nearly 71 B represents a 29% increase over the 55 B of its predecessor, Framework Programme 7. Before becoming final, the budget figures still must be approved by the European Parliament (additional details found here and here).
Canada Announces New Visa to Attract Entrepreneurs. On April 1 Canada will implement a new visa program intended to attract foreign entrepreneurs, according to a recent announcement by Jason Kenney, Minister for Citizenship, Immigration, and Multiculturalism (press release here).
Designed to "make Canada the destination of choice for the world's best and brightest to launch their companies," the new visa program "will link immigrant entrepreneurs with [Canadian] private sectors organizations...that have experience working with start-ups and who can provide essential services."
People in the News. On Feb. 6 the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced the selection of Pramod Khargonekar to head NSF's Engineering Directorate (press release here).
Most recently he has been the deputy director for technology at DOE's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E); he also holds the Eckis Professorship of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Florida.
Archived 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, Erin Heath, 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