July 25th, 2011, by Abby Benson  

Week in Review, or Riding the Roller Coaster

As the debt limit roller coaster continued last week, the House quietly  passed the FY 2012 Legislative Branch spending bill (no research funding in there), and House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) announced that consideration of the last two FY 2012 spending bills—Labor-Health-HHS (including National Institutes of Health (NIH)) and State-Foreign Operations—would be put off until after August recess. The Senate passed its first FY 2012 spending bill—Military Construction—but is still waiting to move on the remaining bills until the roller coaster finally comes to a halt.

With only nine days left before the August 2nd deadline, no deal has been made. A promising “grand bargain” emerged late last week that would have raised the debt limit and cut $3 trillion in spending, but it exploded late Friday night when Speaker Boehner (R-OH) walked away from the table. This impasse was followed by assurances from both sides, presumably to calm global market fears, that the two parties would reach a deal by the August 2nd deadline. Meanwhile, in a largely symbolic vote, the House passed their conservative “Cut, Cap, and Balance” plan on Tuesday in a 234-190 vote, only to send it to the Senate where, as expected, it failed in a 51-46 vote.

A colleague of mine recently unearthed a weekly address given by President Ronald Reagan back in 1988 where he espouses the hope of scientific discovery and the importance of the federal role in supporting research. I thought his message was especially relevant today, as he closed with the following sentiment: “Some say that we can’t afford it, that we’re too strapped for cash. Well, leadership means making hard choices, even in an election year. We’ve put our research budget under a microscope and looked for quality and cost effectiveness. We’ve put together the best program for the taxpayers’ dollars. After all, the American tradition of hope is one we can’t afford to forget.”

Also of note

Commerce. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) announced in the Federal Register that it is seeking input from interested parties on how to best structure a new public-private partnership program called the Advanced Manufacturing Technology Consortia (AMTech) program. This initiative will support industry-led consortia (with national labs and universities) conducting R&D in areas related to advanced manufacturing.

A new report out of the Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration (ESA) entitled STEM: Good Jobs Now and for the Future finds that the number of STEM jobs had grown three times more than non-STEM jobs over the last ten years, and that STEM workers are likely to remain jobless for less time than non-STEM workers.

Defense. The Department of Defense’s (DoD) Minerva Initiative, designed to “improve DoD’s basic understanding of the social, cultural, behavioral, and political forces that shape regions of the world of strategic importance to the U.S.” announced it’s latest call for proposals. This Broad Agency Announcement (BAA - a competitive solicitation for basic or applied research) addresses seven topics of interest ranging from terrorist ideologies to national security implications of energy and environmental stress

The DoD and Department of Energy (DOE) signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) last year with the goal of increasing the nation’s energy security. Since the MOU was signed, the R&D arms of both departments have been working closely together and announced several joint DOE/DoD research, development, and demonstration projects  including a joint DOE/U.S. Navy project on energy storage announced in March, and a joint DOE/U.S. Army fuel cell pilot demonstration program announced last week.

Energy. The Department of Energy (DOE) announced a new program, the National University Clean Energy Business Challenge, that will provide $2 million in funding to support six regional competitions for student-focused, clean energy business plans. This initiative is, in part, modeled on the MIT Clean Energy Prize.

Health. Congressional Quarterly reported last week that Senator Kirk (R-IL) has resumed his efforts to codify President Obama’s executive order which allows federal support for embryonic stem cell research. Kirk shepherded similar legislation during the last Administration, but it was eventually vetoed by then President George W. Bush. Kirk’s bill would likely be very similar to the Stem Cell Research Advancement Act introduced earlier this year in the House by Reps. DeGette (D-CO) and Dent (R-PA).

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) on the protection of human subjects used in research (regulations known as “The Common Rule”). According to the announcement, the ANPRM aims to determine “how to better protect human subjects who are involved in research, while facilitating valuable research and reducing burden, delay, and ambiguity for investigators.” You can read a Washington Post piece on the ANPRM here.

Research. Among the topics addressed at last week’s President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology (PCAST) meeting was an update from Chad Holliday, former CEO of DuPont, on the ongoing National Academy of Sciences (NAS) study on the future of research universities. Holliday noted that the study, due out later this year, will take a broad and long-term look at how the government can best support the university research enterprise.

A group of over 2,800 undergraduate and graduate students signed a letter to Congressional lawmakers urging them to support sustained investments in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) research and education. One of the co-authors of the letter, a student at the City University of New York, writes “As future scientists and educators, federal funding is important to us all…While addressing the nation’s budget challenges is essential, now is not the time to sacrifice investments in science.”

In Print

Robin Rasor, Director of Licensing at the University of Michigan and the President of the Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM), wrote a piece for IP Watchdog defending university-industry partnerships and the Bayh-Dole Act, which gives universities, non-profits, and small businesses intellectual property rights for technologies emerging out of federally funded research.

What’s on Deck


  • The House Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on “DoD Investment in Technology and Capability to Meet Emerging Security Threats.“
  • The House Natural Resources Committee, Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs Oversight will hold a Hearing on “NOAA’s Fishery Science: Is the Lack of Basic Science Costing Jobs?” 
  • The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, Subcommittee on Research and Science Education will hold a hearing on “The Merit Review Process: Ensuring Limited Federal Resources are Invested in the Best Science.”


  • The House Agriculture Committee Subcommittee on Rural Development, Research, Biotechnology, and Foreign Agriculture will hold a hearing on an “Audit of USDA Research Programs.”

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