January 23rd, 2012, by Abby Benson  

Week in Review, or Slowly Starting 2012

It was a quiet week in Washington, not surprisingly since most of the political action seemed to be taking place in  Iowa and South Carolina! I erroneously reported in my last posting that the House was going to be in session last week, when in fact both chambers were still essentially in recess. The Senate and the House will be back in action this week, and will meet for a joint session on Tuesday evening to hear the President’s annual State of the Union address. The State of the Union provides insight into what priorities will be included in the President’s budget request, which is slated to be delivered to Congress on February 6th. While the importance of innovation, research, and education were central themes in last year’s State of the Union, it remains to be seen how central a role they will play in this year’s more politically charged address.

Also of Note

Commerce. Earlier this month, President Obama announced his intention to consolidate and reorganize the government. The proposal would consolidate the Department of Commerce, the Small Business Administration, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the Export-Import Bank, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency. In addition, it would move the National Oceanic and Atmospheric  Administration (NOAA) from the Department of Commerce to the Department of the Interior. Of course, Congress would have to sign off on this proposal, which will be no small feat in an election year.

Health. Sally Rockey, Deputy Director for Extramural Research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has penned two recent blog posts which summarize 2011 success rates (grants awarded) and insights into variations from previous years, such as the overall success rate which fell slightly from 2010.

As I reported back in October, Sally Rockey also asked via her blog for input on how the NIH should manage its resources in the face of potential funding cuts. The Association of American Universities (AAU) provided their input to the NIH in early January, offering several  recommendations including maintaining support for basic research and acknowledging that extramural research organizations are also facing fiscal constraints.

The NIH posted its NIH Fiscal Operations Plan for FY 2012, which outlines policies that will apply to funding provided in the final FY 2012 appropriations package.

Research. The debate surrounding public access to federally-funded research results continues. Earlier in January, the AAU submitted comments in response to the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) request for information on the issue. According to their letter, their comments were heavily drawn from the report of the Scholarly Publishing Roundtable, a group that was created by “the House Science and Technology Committee in cooperation with OSTP to develop consensus recommendations for expanding public access to the journal articles arising from research funded by agencies of the U.S. government.”

In December, Representatives Darrel Issa (R-CA) and Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) introduced the Research Works Act (H.R. 3699), which would repeal existing requirements at NIH that research results be submitted to that agency for public access upon acceptance for publication in a scientific journal. This legislation is supported by many publishers, who argue that such public access requirements undermine the current scholarly publication model (see more under “In Print”).

The President’s Job Council released their final report, “Road Map to Renewal”, which includes recommendations in several broad areas such as increased government support for education, innovation, and the revitalization of American manufacturing. On research, the Council recommends the U.S. “invest in education and R&D to ensure we capture the future. Both are foundations for America’s
competitiveness.”

Science. The National Science Board (NSB) released its 2012 “Science and Engineering Indicators.”  This publication, released every other year, provides comprehensive data on how the U.S. measures up in research and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education.  The NSB press release begins that “The United States remains the global leader in supporting science and technology (S&T) research and development, but only by a slim margin that could soon be overtaken by rapidly increasing Asian investments in knowledge-intensive economies.”

In Print

An article by Bob Grant in The Scientist entitled “Anti-Open Access Rises Again” offers a summary of the current debate surrounding public access and the Research Works Act (see story above under “Research”).

In the New York Times, Thomas Lin writes about “Cracking Open the Scientific Process,” and efforts to reinvent the current model of scientific publishing.

In RealClearScience.com, Dr. Alex B. Berezow and Ross Pomeroy give their version of “The State of Science in America.” This fictitious “speech” focuses on U.S. dominance in science, but also outlines challenges in the future.

Doug Bandy writes in a Forbes op-ed, “Now’s the Time to Start Cutting Wasteful Government Programs,” about the need to cut government spending. The piece references Senator Coburn’s recent “Wastebook,” and calls out one NIH grant specifically.

What’s On Deck

Monday

Tuesday

Friday

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