AAAS Policy Alert -- May 8, 2013
IN THIS ISSUE
House May Act on Debt Ceiling Bill This Week. With both parties gearing up to resume the debate over the federal debt ceiling, House Republicans have introduced legislation
to avoid default by allowing government to continue borrowing beyond the debt limit to cover interest payments and Social Security. The debt ceiling was previously suspended until May 18, after which the U.S. Treasury could employ special measures to continue meeting national obligations and delay default through the summer, unless Congress votes to raise it again.
OMB: Sequestration Will Be Slightly Smaller. Due to some funding cuts in the March appropriations bill, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has said
the size of the across-the-board cuts in FY 2013 will be $4.9 billion smaller than expected. The new sequester amount will be roughly $80 billion this year, rather than the $85 billion originally expected.
For further budget updates, please visit the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy website.
OTHER CONGRESSIONAL NEWS
More on NSF Peer-Review Controversy. Last week House Science, Space, and Technology Committee chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) issued a statement regarding the discussion draft bill entitled the High Quality Research Act after news leaked regarding the draft legislation (see last
week's Policy Alert).
In his statement, he emphasized that his hope was to create a bipartisan bill that would help the agency "prioritize research projects." He also emphasized that the goal was to maintain the current peer review process but to add a "layer of accountability." In a response to the chairman's statement, John Holdren, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), stated at the AAAS Forum on Science and Technology Policy (C-SPAN video here) that he had "no objection to looking at the peer-review process to make sure that it is everything it can be." But he also expressed concern that it would be detrimental "to confine taxpayer support to those projects for which a likely direct contribution to the national interest can be identified in advance."
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.
House Legislative Agenda for May. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) issued a memo that outlines some legislative priorities over the next month. Of interest to the S&T community are topics such as the Keystone XL pipeline and a joint hearing
being held by the House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittees for Energy and Environment this week to address the scientific issues surrounding the proposal. Another priority issue will be student loan rates, and the House Education and Workforce Committee is expected to introduce legislation that would create a fixed interest rate for student loans "tied to market rates for federal borrowing." Finally, the leadership would make a legislative priority the Kids First Research Act of 2013
(H.R. 1724). The legislation would eliminate the Presidential Election Campaign Fund (a public campaign account financed through a voluntary tax check-off) and redirect $100 million over ten years to the NIH Director's Common Fund for pediatric research.
Senate Weekly Highlights. This week the Senate Armed Services Committee will conduct a series of hearings and mark-ups on the Defense Authorization Act of 2013. The Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a full committee hearing
on The Responsible Helium Administration and Stewardship Act (H.R. 527) that passed the House at the end of April. Finally, the Senate Judiciary Committee will begin the first of what could be many hearings
on the comprehensive immigration reform legislation (S. 744).
President Addresses NAS Sesquicentennial Event. On
April 29 President Obama spoke at the National Academy of Sciences' 150th annual meeting, reiterating his strong support for science and technology. He observed that the S&T investments of today can pay off many times over in the following years, and said that recent mandatory cuts in federal spending could retard or jeopardize S&T advances. The President's remarks can be found here.
EPA Extends Comment Period for Fracking Study. The Environmental Protection Agency has extended its deadline, from April 30 until November 15, 2013, for the public to submit data and scientific literature to inform EPA's research on the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources (notice found here).
EPA to Publish Information on Peer Reviewers for Selected Contractor-Managed Reviews. EPA has announced a change in its conflict-of-interest review process for contractor-managed peer reviews (news release here).
The revised processes apply in all future technical documents designated as Influential Scientific Information or Highly Influential Scientific Assessments, where independent peer reviews will be conducted by panels selected and managed by independent contractors. For these cases EPA will publish the names, principal affiliations, and resumes of candidates being considered for the panel. Members of the public will be able to provide comments on the candidates for a period of at least three weeks. The
names of those selected for the final peer review panel will be posted publicly before the meeting takes place.
NOAA Releases Five-Year R&D Plan for Comment. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Research Council is in the process of updating the agency's five-year strategy governing research activities, and is seeking public comment through June 3. The draft plan can be found on the Research Council website.
NIST Seeks Comments on Planned FFRDC. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) intends to establish its first Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC) in order to support the National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence in Maryland. Comments on the proposed FFRDC are due by July 22 (notice found here).
NIST anticipates that a solicitation to manage the FFRDC will be published in the summer.
American Academy of Arts and Sciences Releases New Report. ARISE II: Unleashing America's Research & Innovation Enterprise
outlines 11 recommendations that support two goals: moving from interdisciplinary to transdisciplinary research, and promoting cooperation and collaboration among the academic, government, and private sectors. Recommendations include the creation of a "knowledge network" that facilitates collaboration among scientists in different disciplines, and expanded support for shared core-research facilities.
Coalition of Foundations Calls for Increased Support for Basic Science.
A group of seven leading private foundations is calling for a doubling of the amount of philanthropic funding for basic science within a decade. Robert Conn, president of The Kavli Foundation, discussed the initiative during the AAAS Forum on Science and Technology Policy. In addition to The Kavli Foundation, the newly formed Coalition of Foundations for Science includes the W.M Keck Foundation, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute,
the Simons Foundation, and the Research Corporation for Science Advancement. In a summary statement, the group notes that U.S. philanthropic foundations distributed about $47 billion in 2011, with only about $2 billion of that targeted at basic scientific research. More information about the announcement can be found here
Bill to Repeal Louisiana Science Education Act Fails. A bill to repeal the Louisiana Science Education Act was tabled by the state's Senate Education Committee on May 1 (more information here).
The LSEA calls on education administrators to help promote "critical thinking...of scientific theories being studied including, but not limited to, evolution, the origins of life, global warming, and human cloning" and allows teachers to use supplemental materials to help students "understand, analyze, critique, and review scientific theories" if allowed by their local school boards. Recently Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal connected the bill to teaching creationism in comments to NBC News.
California to Use Cap-And-Trade Money for Green Programs. California regulators have decided to use profits from the recently implemented cap-and-trade program to fund green programs, such as clean transportation initiatives and natural resources projects.
Canadian Group Calls for Change in Policy Directions. The
Canadian Association of University Teachers has launched a campaign called "Get Science Right," saying that the national government's policies and funding decisions "are threatening Canada's future in science and research" and citing "renewed concerns about the impact of recent decisions on the integrity and independence of scientific research" (news release and links to related documents here).
EU Court Counters Data-Sharing, Orders Drug Data Held Confidential.
The General Court of the European Union has ordered the European Medicines Agency to keep confidential certain drug information of two U.S. drug companies, AbbVie and Intermune. The Agency had changed its policies in November 2010 to increase transparency and availability of clinical and nonclinical data, and has released 1.9 million pages in response to 613 requests. The companies filed separate complaints, arguing that the EMA policies put commercial interests at risk (more information here).
People in the News. • President Obama has nominated Penny Pritzker to be Secretary of Commerce. She would succeed Rebecca Blank, who has been acting Secretary since last June and who is becoming Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
• The President has nominated Michael Froman to be U.S. Trade Representative. Froman is currently Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economic Affairs.
• The President also nominated Tom Wheeler to be Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.
For breaking news and analysis from the world of science policy, check out Science's policy blog, ScienceInsider.
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, Erin Heath, Matt Hourihan, Earl Lane, Deborah Runkle, 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