AAAS Policy Alert -- April 24, 2013
IN THIS ISSUE
Congressional Dispute Emerges Over Budget Resolution. Congressional leaders are at odds over negotiations on the Congressional budget resolution, which among other things would set the overall federal spending limit for FY 2014, and thereby dictate the size of the discretionary budget, including R&D programs. Senate Democrats appear eager to begin bicameral negotiations, while Speaker Boehner (R-OH) prefers a slower approach that gives the respective Budget Committee chairs time to develop a framework. There is major divergence between the House and Senate resolutions on multiple levels, including the discretionary spending cap. The House budget embraces the post-sequestration cap level of $966 billion and favors increased defense spending, while the Senate budget would roll back sequestration and fix the discretionary spending cap at $1.057 trillion, the same as the President's budget.
The AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program will host a Capitol Hill briefing this Friday, April 26 to provide an overview of federal R&D funding in the President's FY 2014 budget request. Additionally, the program will continue to post updates and analyses of the FY 2014 budget and appropriations on the R&D budget website.
OTHER CONGRESSIONAL NEWS
NSF Oversight Hearing. On April 17, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology held a hearing on the National Science Foundation's (NSF) budget request for FY 2014. During the hearing chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) suggested that every NSF grant include a statement of how the research "would directly benefit the American people." According to a news report by ScienceInsider, Smith said NSF needs to do a better job deciding what to fund at a time of budget stringency and lower success rates for grant applicants. But Dan Arvizu, director of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and chairman of the National Science Board that oversees NSF, expressed concerns that the proposal might "compromise the integrity" of the peer review process. He noted that the science board had recently reviewed and approved the agency's existing criteria -- intellectual merit and the broader impacts of the research. Acting NSF Director Cora Marrett offered a compromise, suggesting the NSB may be an appropriate body to assess what it means for research to be "for the benefit of the U.S. population." Arvizu said he would be open to seeing whether Smith's guideline "would serve the national interest."
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Senate Immigration Reform Bill Unveiled. A bipartisan group of eight senators formally unveiled their major immigration reform bill last week. The bill features a new class of visas for entrepreneurship and would significantly boost the number of H1-B visas available to immigrants with advanced degrees, particularly in math and science. The Senate Judiciary Committee quickly held hearings on the bill and is expected to mark it up in early May.
Congressional Hearings This Week.
•The House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence will hold a hearing on Counterterrorism Efforts to Combat a Chemical, Biological, Radiololgical, and Nuclear (CBRN) Attack on the Homeland, on April 25. Relatedly, according to news reports, Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) is preparing a bill on cooperative threat reduction in the Middle East and North Africa.
•Four subcommittees of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee will hold hearings this week on a range of topics including: Next Generation Computing and Big Data; Overview of NASA's FY 2014 Budget Request; Policy Relevant Climate Issues; and Hydraulic Fracturing Research.
•The House Committee on Foreign Affairs will hold a hearing on Export Controls.
•The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will hold hearings on the Human Space Exploration and the NOAA budget request for FY 2014.
Senate Appropriations Subcommittees will hold hearings on the budgets for Homeland Security, EPA, Department of Health and Human Services and National Nuclear Security Administration.
White House Releases Earth Observation Strategy. Last week, the interagency National Science and Technology Council issued a report entitled, National Strategy for Civil Earth Observations (PDF), which provides an outline for the 11 federal agencies involved in Earth-observation for how to evaluate and prioritize "investments according to their value to society in critical areas such as agriculture, global change, disasters, water resources, and weather."
AAAS Comments on Dual-Use Research. In response to a request for public comment from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, AAAS has submitted comments (PDF) on a proposed policy for institutional oversight of dual-use research of concern, defined as research that "can be reasonably anticipated to provide knowledge, information, products or technology that could be directly misapplied to pose a significant threat with broad potential consequences to public health and safety, agricultural crops and other plants, animals, the environment, materiel or national security." In the letter, AAAS encourages the government to work with the academic research community to train scientists in effective communication of dual-use research, and recommended that a clearly defined appeals process be created for research grants that are declined or halted due to dual-use concerns. A 2013 report developed jointly by AAAS, the Association of American Universities, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation addresses dual use research.
S&T Community Prepares for America COMPETES Reauthorization. In anticipation of the upcoming reauthorization of the America COMPETES Act, a number of academic, business and S&T organizations have issued a set of guiding principles (PDF) for congressional leaders to take into consideration as they prepare to draft legislation. The principles, drafted and endorsed by groups such as the Association of American Universities, Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, AAAS, National Academy of Engineering, and individuals such as former Lockheed Martin CEO Norm Augustine, include: funding for basic science and engineering research across all disciplines and major research agencies; maintaining and promoting scientific literacy and strengthening the pipeline of scientists and engineers; and preserving research excellence and opportunity by sustaining the research funding system. Meanwhile, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) issued a set of 25 recommendations (PDF) for COMPETES including redirecting "NSF monies to areas with stronger national economic impacts."
WMA Seeks Comments on Human Research Subjects. The World Medical Association (WMA) has proposed revisions to the Declaration of Helsinki on medical research involving human subjects and is inviting public comment on the revisions through June 15, 2013. The revision with comments explaining the proposed changes is posted here (PDF). Comments should be submitted to the WMA secretariat at firstname.lastname@example.org.
China to Expand S&T Cooperation with Developing Nations. The Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) is planning a new science cooperation initiative with developing countries, including setting up research centers outside China, the first of which will be in Kenya. The CAS is also planning to begin a program to "train hundreds of new PhD students as well as senior scholars from developing countries at Chinese research institutions." More details.
People in the News. On April 18, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee favorably reported, by a vote of 21 to 1, on the nomination of Ernie Moniz to serve as the Secretary of the Department of Energy. His nomination now goes to the full Senate for consideration. For further details visit the US Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources.
For breaking news and analysis from the world of science policy, check out Science's policy blog, ScienceInsider.
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Publisher: Alan I. Leshner
Editor: Joanne Carney
Contributors: Kavita Berger, Mark Frankel, Erin Heath, Matt Hourihan, Earl Lane, Gretchen Seiler
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 email@example.com.