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Science Policy Updates

Looking for highlights from this week in science policy? The AAAS Policy Alert is a weekly e-newsletter that provides an inside look at policies affecting science and technology and the S&T community. AAAS Members receive the AAAS Policy Alert as one of their member benefits. At any time, our members can manage their preferences to receive this and other newsletters via AAAS My Profile.  Once logged in select Edit My Contact Information, and go to Contact Preferences to access the Email Preferences.

Read on for a sample edition of the AAAS Policy Alert.


Policy Alert

April 26, 2023


AAAS R&D Competitiveness Report Released

The annual AAAS report “U.S. R&D and Innovation in a Global Context: The 2023 Data Update” has been released, covering the state of global R&D and where the U.S. stands among its competition. The U.S. has climbed in a couple statistics: R&D intensity and researchers per 1000 in the labor force. However, the U.S. came in second in total publications, eclipsed by China for the first time, and the U.S. saw a decrease in total patents while China’s increased.

Limit, Save, Grow: The Republican Debt Ceiling Plan

On Wednesday, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) released the Limit, Save, Grow Act of 2023 that would lift the debt ceiling another $1.5 trillion (or for a year, whichever comes first). This is important because new estimates show that we may be running out of “extraordinary measures” to avoid a default in June.

The bill also rolls back the Inflation Reduction Act's green tax credits and IRS funding, implements extra working requirements for federal nutrition aid such as SNAP, and imposes funding caps for the next decade, which would return spending to FY 2022 discretionary levels combined with a max of 1% increase every subsequent year.

These discretionary cuts, expected to disproportionately impact nondefense appropriations, would have significant impacts on R&D funding. An analysis by Matt Hourihan of the Federation of American Scientists predicts that the shortfall for the 2024 budget would be $28 billion (-13%) and that over the next decade, an estimated $442 billion in research funding would be cut across both defense and nondefense R&D, more than twice the shortfall generated by the Budget Control Act in 2011.

The Policy Alert has previously reported on letters from federal agency leaders outlining what a blanket 22% cut could look like. The cuts will likely not be across the board, though, and scaling budgets down based on the administration priorities in the President’s Budget Request along with a defense appropriation that maintains 2024 levels, some research-intensive agencies could see as much as 70% cuts to accommodate the new discretionary cap. 

The House is slated to vote on the bill this week, and the future of debt limit conversations and R&D appropriations depend on the outcome of that vote.



Women University Presidents and Deans Pen Open Letter on CHIPS & Science

Thirteen women university presidents and deans of engineering — including AAAS Chair, Gilda Barabino — released a open letter in support of the CHIPS and Science Act and promising to “significantly grow the engineering workforce” in order to achieve its goals. The letter, however, notes that it will be impossible to achieve the legislation’s goals “without bringing in more women and people of color.” The letter outlines five specific recommendations for government, industry and academia to address to build the necessary science and technology workforce. 



President Biden Announces New Office of Environmental Justice

President Biden issued an executive order last week creating a new office in the White House focused on environmental justice efforts. The order launched the Office of Environmental Justice, which will work within the White House Council on Environmental Quality and be led by a federal chief environmental justice officer tasked with coordinating implementation of environmental justice policies. The order also instructed agencies to look at gaps in science and data “to better understand and prevent the cumulative impacts of pollution on people’s health,” according to a White House official.

DOD Creates Climate Resource for Allies

Following on the rollout of the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) Climate Assessment Tool in September 2020, the department introduced versions on April 20 for Australia, Germany, Italy, Japan, South Korea, and the United Kingdom to aid their climate resilience efforts and promote global security cooperation. Noting that “nations and alliances that are more resilient to the impacts of climate will have a competitive advantage,” DOD emphasized its commitment to working with its allies to assess climate risks and identify adaptation measures.