AAAS Policy Alert -- May 11, 2011
Congress is expected to act on a number of budget-related issues this week. First, the House Appropriations Committee is expected to release its "302(b)" allocations (i.e., allocations of spending caps for each of the appropriations subcommittees), totaling $1.019 trillion in discretionary spending, close to FY 2006 levels. The President's FY 2012 request for discretionary spending is $1.116 trillion, and although he appears flexible on the overall spending figure, he remains firm in his opposition to cuts that he feels would threaten the nation's economic recovery. Second, Republican Senators are expected to release their FY 2012 budget plan on May 10. Also, the bipartisan group led by Vice President Biden and the Senate "Gang of Six" will continue to discuss and negotiate their own plans for long-term deficit reduction throughout the week. Third, the House Armed Services Committee is scheduled to markup the FY 2012 Defense Authorization bill on May 11. Finally, Congress continues to discuss whether to try to add spending cuts and/or budget reforms to the legislation that would raise the nation's debt ceiling.
Visit the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program Website to learn about final action on FY 2011 appropriations, stay up-to-date on the latest action on the FY 2012 budget, and order AAAS Report XXXVI: Research and Development FY 2012. Presentations from the annual AAAS Forum on Science & Technology Policy, held May 5-6, will be posted soon.
Other Congressional News
SBIR/STTR Reauthorization Update . The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program and the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Program are administered by the U.S. Small Business Administration to ensure "that the nation's small, high-tech, innovative businesses are a significant part" of the federal government's R&D efforts. The Senate SBIR/STTR Reauthorization Act of 2011 (S. 493) had become mired in a larger debate over the economy which resulted in the addition of 137 amendments to the bill, the majority of which were non-germane to the SBIR/STTR program. Last week an effort to move the bill to final passage did not succeed. The Senate managed to debate only 11 of the 137 amendments, and a measure to limit debate (aka cloture vote) failed. Meanwhile, the House Science, Space and Technology Committee marked up the Creating Jobs Through Small Business Innovation Act of 2011 (H.R. 1425) to reauthorize the SBIR/STTR programs. The legislation would increase the size of awards but would not increase the current percentage "set-asides" (2.5% for SBIR and 0.3% for STTR), which are funds taken from federal R&D budgets of participating agencies to fund the program. The Committee also approved an amendment by Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL) that would create a new "Proof-of-Concept Partners hip" pilot program within NIH for universities and industry to partner in evaluating the potential commercialization of innovative ideas.
Science Bills Advance Out of Senate Committee. The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation held an executive session on May 5 and favorably reported a number of bills as well as the nomination of Scott C. Doney to be the Chief Scientist of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Among other bills, the committee reported out S. 46, Coral Reef Conservation Amendments Act of 2011; S. 646, Natural Hazards Risk Reduction Act of 2011; and S. 692, National Hurricane Research Initiative Act of 2011.
Briefing on Water and Climate Change . AAAS and the American Meteorological Society (AMS) cosponsored a congressional briefing on May 9 entitled The Vulnerability of U.S. Water Resources to Climate Change. Peter Gleick, an environmental scientist with the Pacific Institute in Oakland, CA, and a leading expert on climate and water, discussed recent reports of increased precipitation intensity in North America, the Mississippi River flood events, and efforts to prepare for climate and water risks facing cities, farmers, and natural systems.
Disagreements Emerge Over Congressional Restriction of U.S.-China Activities. A Congressional critic of the Chinese government, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), wrote language into the FY 2011 spending bill that would prohibit the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) or NASA from engaging in joint scientific activities with China. However, presidential science advisor John Holdren says that the prohibition does not apply to the president's "constitutional authority to conduct negotiations." Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and Director of OSTP, told a House Appropriations Committee panel on May 4 that applications of the legislative provision to Administration policy would be considered on a case-by-case basis. That did not satisfy Rep. John Culberson (R-TX), who warned that OSTP or NASA funding might be jeopardized by efforts to collaborate or coordinate in any way with China.
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OSTP Requests Agencies' Draft Scientific Integrity Policies Within 90 Days. As previously reported in the Policy Alert (April 25, 2011), 30 executive departments or agencies had submitted progress reports to OSTP on their scientific integrity policies, and six of them submitted draft policies. On May 5, at the 2011 AAAS Science and Technology Policy Forum, OSTP Director John Holdren announced that OSTP has requested that every covered agency "provide its draft scientific integrity policy within 90 days."
Proposed Rule on Government Employees Serving in NGOs . The Office of Government Ethics (OGE) issued a proposed rule that would allow federal employees to serve or participate in an official capacity in nonprofit organizations, including professional scientific societies. The OGE proposal reflects a recommendation made in the OSTP Scientific Integrity Memorandum. Public comments are due by July 5, 2011.
DOE Appoints Panel on Gas Extraction Impacts. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu has appointed a seven-member panel to recommend ways to make extraction of natural gas by hydraulic fracturing, also known as "fracking," safer and cleaner. John Deutch, chemistry professor at MIT and former Director of Energy Research and Undersecretary of Energy at DOE under the Carter Administration, will chair the panel, which has been asked to provide recommendations for immediate implementation within 90 days and more comprehensive environmental and safety policies for state and federal regulators three months later. House Republicans immediately criticized the Administration's plans as wasteful and duplicative.
Federal Greenhouse Gas Emissions Aired. The White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), in response to an executive order requiring federal agencies to track greenhouse gas emissions and report the results to CEQ, created an inventory detailing federal emissions. The inventory shows the Department of Defense was responsible for over 50% of the government's direct and indirect emissions, which total 66.4 million metric tons of CO2 equivalents in FY 2010.
FDA Issues Food Safety Rules. The Food and Drug Administration has issued its first set of rules under the authority given to it in the Food Safety Modernization Act. The first of the two rules strengthens FDA's ability to prevent potentially unsafe food from entering U.S. commerce by allowing the agency to administratively detain food it believes has been produced under unsanitary or unsafe conditions. The second rule requires anyone importing food into the United States to inform the FDA if any country has refused entry to the same product, including food for animals.
PTO Postpones Expedited Reviews for Budgetary Reasons. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is postponing until further notice implementation of "Track One," its planned program of expedited reviews for patent applications for a fee. The program was scheduled to take effect May 4, but PTO officials said that FY 2011 budget reductions would prevent its being carried out effectively.
People in the News. - The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research has a new director: Martha J. Somerman, dean of the University of Washington School of Dentistry.
- Carol Browner, who recently resigned as an assistant to the President and director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy, joined the Center for American Progress (CAP) as a Distinguished Senior Fellow. She will focus on domestic and international policy development.
APLU to Lead Federal "Feed the Future" E-Consultation. The Association of Public and Land Grant Universities will coordinate an on-line consultation to provide researchers and stakeholders with an opportunity to provide input to the federal "Feed the Future" initiative. The consultation, which will accept comments at its web site from May 9 to May 27, is sponsored by the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Board on International Food and Agricultural Development, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. "Feed the Future" is the government's global hunger and food security initiative. It is intended to address the root causes of hunger and establish a lasting foundation for change by aligning U.S. resources with "c ountry-o wned processes" and sustained partnerships.
Proposals to Merge ESF and EuroHORCs Hit Stumbling Blocks. Proposals to reconfigure the European Science Foundation (ESF) did not gain the required two-thirds support at the recent meeting of the ESF Assembly. The ESF, a non-governmental organization representing research performers and funding organizations that is dedicated to pan-European scientific collaboration, had developed proposals to merge with the European Heads of Research Councils (EuroHORCs), an informal association of the heads of European research funding organizations. The most favored proposal, one that had already received a favorable vote by the EuroHORCs general assembly, would have created a single new organization, "Science Europe," by merging the two organizations to strengthen representation and influence at the European level. Both organizations will now discuss next steps.
New African Forum on ST&I Announced. An African Inter-Parliamentary Forum on Science, Technology, and Innovation (AIPF-STI) was launched at a meeting in Addis Ababa on May 2. AIPF is an Africa-wide forum whose aim is to bring together all national and regional parliamentary assemblies in Africa, along with journalists and scientists, to influence the STI policy-making process. This initiative is the first such forum in Africa for parliamentarians focused on promoting STI. The Speaker of the East African Legislative Assembly, Abdirahim Abdi, has stated that first major challenge for the new organization will be to find funding.
India Plans Major Increase in R&D Spending. As announced by the Minister of State for Science and Technology, the Indian government intends to double its spending on science and technology research and development under its 12th Five Year Plan (2012-2017). The Department of Science and Technology will spend Rs150 billion ($US 340 million), an amount equivalent to 0.6% of the country's gross domestic product. The budget for scholarships and postdoctoral fellowships will rise to five times its current level.
Correction. The item in the May 3, 2011 Policy Alert on "FDA-NIH Joint Council to Hold Public Meeting" on June 2, 2011, is incorrect. The meeting was convened in 2010.
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