Wednesday, April 29, 2009
For those of you who try to stay current on science policy, I am a member of AAAS and receive its policy alerts. I encourage all of you to join and subscribe to Science. Here is today's policy alert:
AAAS Policy Alert -- April 29, 2009
President Addresses National Academies
President Obama addressed the Annual Meeting of the National Academy of Sciences on April 27 and called for a renewed commitment to basic scientific research and education. During his speech he stated that his goal would be to increase our nation's share of federal investment in research and development (R&D) to 3 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). In recent years, the share has hovered around 2.6 percent of GDP. Furthermore, Obama announced the membership of the President's Council of Advisors for Science and Technology (PCAST). Members include past AAAS President Shirley Ann Jackson of RPI, as well as former Board member Rosina Bierbaum and current AAAS Treasurer David Shaw. They join former AAAS President John Holdren who is both the U.S. President's science advisor and co-chair of PCAST.
The House and Senate have nominated the conferees to resolve the differences between their respective versions of the FY 2010 budget resolution. House members include: Budget Committee Chairman John Spratt (D-SC), Ranking Member Paul Ryan (R-WI), and Reps. Allen Boyd (D-FL), Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Jeb Hensarling (R-TX). Senate members include Budget Committee Chair Kent Conrad (D-ND), Ranking Member Judd Gregg (R-NH) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA). The conferees met today (April 27) to begin deliberating over a consensus document.
Other Congressional News
Congressional Climate Change Update. The House Energy and Commerce Committee held four days of hearings
on the American Clean Energy and Security Act, with much debate on the
merits of moving ahead on the climate and energy package. Subcommittee
markup of the bill has been pushed back to next week, with details such
as how to allocate permits to emit greenhouse gases and how the
revenues will be used yet to be determined. Meanwhile Senate
Environment and Public Works Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) announced
the formation of five working groups
to find compromises in several areas of concern: regional issues, cost
containment, targets and timetables, market oversight and coal research
and technology. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee
heard from Todd Stern, special envoy for climate change at the State
Department, who testified on the diplomatic cost of inaction on climate
change and emphasized the need for all countries - developed and
developing - to engage in negotiations with "common but differentiated
responsibilities." Stern is leading the first session of the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate
on April 27-28, a White House initiative to develop a dialogue among
major developed and developing economies on climate change.
New Bill Promotes Science Envoys. Last week, Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) introduced legislation (S. 838) that recognizes the importance of international scientific cooperation and the work of organizations such as AAAS and the National Academies in this area. The legislation tasks the State Department to appoint Science Envoys to represent our nation and promote international collaboration.
Presidential Memo on Scientific Integrity. OSTP issued a Presidential Memo on scientific integrity in the April 23 Federal Register
and requests public comments on six principles for maintaining and
protecting the responsible use of science in decision-making. The memo
builds upon a March 9, 2009 memorandum from the President that called
on OSTP to issue a set of recommendations within 120 days. OSTP has
launched a blog
on the subject and is seeking comments on the selection of scientists
to serve in the executive branch, peer-review of science used in
policy-making, access to scientific data used in policy-making, and
whistleblower protection. Comments are due May 13, 2009.
NIH Stem Cell Guidelines Now Open for Comment. The NIH Guidelines for Human Stem Cell Research are now open for public comment until May 26.
NCI Director Speaks on Cancer Plan. National Cancer Institute Director John Niederhuber recently spoke of his institute's plans in the wake of President Obama's cited goal of doubling funds for cancer research. Included would be a boost in the NCI payline to fund more meritorious research grants, as well as more grants to first-time investigators and new faculty researchers. There will also be a focus on personalized cancer care.
EPA Examines Ocean Acidification. On April 14, EPA issued a Federal Register notice requesting information on ocean acidification, the changing of ocean chemistry from increases in carbon dioxide that affects coral reefs and other marine organisms. In response to a lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity, EPA is trying to determine whether changes are needed to the water quality criteria under the Clean Water Act. Comments are due June 15, 2009.
Toxics Reporting Tightened. As mandated in the 2009 omnibus appropriations bill, EPA finalized changes to reporting requirements under the Toxics Release Inventory that will take effect July 1. The final rules restore more stringent reporting requirements than those from a Bush-era rule that raised the pollution threshold for reporting. In 2006, AAAS submitted comments stating that the increased threshold would "threaten the ability of researchers to identify and understand potential threats to the environment and public health in a scientifically rigorous manner."
FDA Widens Access to "Morning-After" Pill. The Food and Drug Administration will now allow 17-year-olds to purchase the Plan B "morning-after" pill without a prescription, following a recent federal court order that it do so. The decision has been labeled a "triumph of science over politics" because of widespread concern that the previous administration overruled scientific advice on making the pill available over the counter, leading the FDA's top women's health official, Susan Wood, to resign in protest in 2005.
Nation's First CTO: Clarification. Last week's Policy Alert reported on the President's selection of Aneesh Chopra to be the nation's first chief technology officer. It has since been reported that the CTO will also be one of the associate directors of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) concerned with overall technology policy and innovation strategies across federal departments. Chopra's position (which is subject to Senate confirmation) should not be confused with that of Vivek Kundra, recently named Chief Information Officer, who is located in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), overseeing day-to-day information technology spending and interagency operations.
Climate Risk Report Released.
Led by the Heinz Center and CERES, a coalition of insurance,
government, environmental, and investment organizations released a
report, Resilient Coasts: A Blueprint for Action that listed steps the nation can take to drastically reduce rising coastal hazard risks and their associated economic impacts.
Texas School Board Chairman Up for Confirmation. Texas State Board of Education Chairman Don McLeroy, a vocal opponent of teaching evolution, is up for Senate confirmation by the state Senate, and during a recent hearing some members of the Senate Nominations Committee expressed dissatisfaction with McLeroy's performance. One state senator said McLeroy has "created a hornet's nest" and noted that 15 bills filed during this legislative session would strip powers from the state school board. Even if McLeroy is not confirmed as chairman, he will still remain a member of the board. In other news, the Institute for Creation Research is now suing in U.S. District Court over the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board's decision to deny its request to offer a master's degree in science education.
Animal Rights Activists Charged. Two animal rights activists have been arraigned on charges of conspiracy, stalking and other crimes, including attempted fire-bombing, against UCLA scientists engaged in animal research.
Publisher: Alan I. Leshner
Editor: Joanne Carney
Contributors: Erin Heath, Earl Lane, Steve Nelson, Al Teich, Kasey White
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 protected]