June 27th, 2011, by Abby Benson  

Week in Review, or Patent Progress

The House of Representatives marked up its financial services FY 2012 appropriations bill last week and was expected to vote on the FY 2012 DoD appropriations bill, but ended up delaying the vote until the House comes back from recess the week of July 4th.  The House also passed the long-awaited patent reform bill, the America Invents Act, which I provide more details on below.

Consideration of FY 2012 appropriations bills continues to stall in the Senate, but Congressional Quarterly reported last week that Senator Inouye (D-HI), Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, has decided to move forward with Subcommittee markups despite the lack of resolution on the debt limit/deficit reduction debate.  The Committee has a lot of work ahead if it hopes to get all twelve bills completed by the end of FY 2011 (September 30th).

It’s probably a good thing Senator Inouye has decided to get to work, as the bipartisan talks being led by Vice President Biden appeared to collapse last week over the debate on taxes (Republicans don’t want to raise them, Democrats don’t want to cut spending without increasing revenues). Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) pulled out of the talks late in the week, resulting in cancellation of the groups’ remaining meetings. It will now fall to President Obama and Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) to come to an agreement on next steps.

Also of Note

Defense. The White House released a Statement of Administration Policy (SAP) on the FY 2012 DoD appropriations bill last week, which included language rejecting proposed reductions to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) as potentially having a negative impact on the country’s innovation and national security. As I reported last week, the bill would increase funding for basic research at DoD, but it also includes language directing DARPA to find $100 million in “efficiency cost reductions” in FY 2012.

The newly created DoD Office of Operational Energy, established by Congress in 2009 to coordinate energy use and efficiency among the services, released its first ever Operational Energy Strategy. This strategy makes several references to the importance of continued R&D in the areas of energy efficiency and alternative fuels.

Energy. The Department of Energy (DOE) announced it would hold a Quadrennial Technology Review (QTR) Capstone workshop in Washington, DC on July 13th. According to the DOE, this will “be an opportunity for the public to hear and offer feedback on the broad outlines of DOE’s principles for entry of a technology into the DOE portfolio, composition of activities they support, and approaches to prioritization of R&D programs within each of their six strategies for energy system transformation.” The QTR was initiative by DOE in response to a recommendation in the November 2009 President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) report on on “Accelerating the Pace of Change in Energy Technologies Through an Integrated Federal Energy Policy.”

Health. There is quite a bit of regulatory activity afoot at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).  HHS recently issued a “pre-rule” on “Human Subjects Research Protections: Enhancing Protections for Research Subjects and Reducing Burden, Delay, and Ambiguity for Investigators.” The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is currently reviewing the public comments recently received on its Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals, Eighth Edition. And finally, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) announced that it would delay its review of NIH regulations regarding conflict of interest, which is part of a much broader Administration review on regulatory reform across the government. The Association of American Universities (AAU) provides a great summary of all of these efforts in their latest weekly update.

Patent Reform. After a wild ride in the House of Representatives, the chamber finally approved H.R. 1249, the America Invents Act, by a vote of 304 to 117.  As I reported in my last update, last minute concerns about the fate of fees paid to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office resulted in several near-death moments for the bill, but a compromise reached late in the week gave the bill enough Democratic and Republican support to pass. The bill is now headed back to the Senate for consideration. While the Senate’s version of the bill is very similar to the House bill, the Senate has yet to weigh in on the newly negotiated fee diversion compromise.

Research. Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA), Chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, recently introduced H.R. 2146, the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act, in the House.  The bill includes a provision that would make permanent the comprehensive reporting requirements of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Several university associations and the Council on Government Relations issued a statement in opposition to this bill, citing a data point collected by the Federal Demonstration Partnership suggesting that administrative costs of ARRA reporting requirements averaged about $7,900 per research award.

The NSF released their newly updated list of Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDCs). This useful list allows you to sort all FFRDCs by funding agency, location, administrator type (e.g., university, industry), and activity type.

The White House. President Obama visited Carnegie Mellon University on Friday to announce the formation of an “Advanced Manufacturing Partnership” (AMP), an initiative bringing together federal agencies, industry, and universities to accelerate research and development on emerging technologies to improve U.S. manufacturing. The public-private partnership, spearheaded by Ron Bloom, Assistant to the President for Manufacturing Policy, and coordinated by the Office of Science and Technology Policy, will be led by MIT President Susan Hockfield and Andrew Liveris, CEO of Dow Chemical. The initiative is based in part on recommendations included in a new report from the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), “Ensuring Leadership in Advanced Manufacturing.” Also included in this report is a recommendation for a $500 million federal investment in advanced manufacturing technologies, to be coordinated through existing procedures at federal research agencies.

What’s on Deck

The House is in recess this week, and as of now I don’t know of any research-related activity hearings in the Senate.

Keep an eye out for next week’s update on the morning of Tuesday July 5th. Have a great 4th of July!

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