February 13th, 2012, by Abby Benson  

Week in Review, or Awaiting the Budget

The President is scheduled to deliver his FY 2013 budget request to Congress later this morning, kicking off a flurry of activity as the package is scrutinized for insight into Presidential priorities. The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) R&D Budget and Policy Program provides a list of individual research agency budget briefs taking place this afternoon and into the week, several of which will be webcast.

Although the details of the budget have remained under wraps until today, the White House released a 2013 “Fact Sheet” on Friday revealing that the budget will include strong support for research and development, including “$140.8 billion for R&D overall; increase the level of investment in non-defense R&D by 5 percent from the 2012 level, even as overall budgets decline; maintains the President’s commitment to double the budgets of three key basic research agencies (National Science Foundation, Department of Energy’s Office of Science, and National Institute of Standards and Technology Laboratories); expands and makes permanent the R&D tax credit. [Includes] Level funding for biomedical research at NIH ($30.7 billion); and to get more out of the money, proposes new grant management policies to increase the number of new research grants by 7 percent.”

Once the budget request is delivered to the Hill, both the House and Senate can begin the appropriations process. As a first step in that process, both chambers normally pass a budget resolution, which gives appropriations committees their marching orders on how much to appropriate. This year, however, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has announced that he won’t move a budget resolution to the floor, even if the Senate Budget Committee approves one, since the Budget Control Act (BCA) already specified the top-line number for FY 2013. In the House, Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) will move a budget resolution through his committee, and some speculate this could provide the opportunity to specify a top-line number even less than what was agreed to in the BCA.

The House Appropriations Committee is starting off strong with a number of agency-specific hearings scheduled for this week (more details below), while the Senate Appropriations Committee has yet to reveal their hearing schedule. Regardless of how quickly the hearings take place, it is clear that with the ongoing economic challenges and upcoming election season, the President’s budget has a long road to travel before becoming reality.

Also of Note

Agriculture. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics (REE) released its Research, Education, and Economics Action Plan (REE) for 2012. The plan’s preamble warns “the challenges facing agriculture, natural resources, and conservation are immense and need to be faced with a robust research enterprise and educational programs in order to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world.”

Education. The President hosted the second White House Science Fair on February 7th, featuring more than 30 teams drawn from science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) competitions across the country.  During the event, the President announced a new public-private partnership called “Educate to Innovate,” aimed at furthering STEM education at all levels.  That same day, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) issued a report entitled, Engage to Excel: Producing One Million Additional College Graduates with Degrees in STEM.

Energy. The Department of Energy (DOE) announced the launch of its new new Energy Innovation Hub focused on advanced batteries and energy storage. This hub, which received $20 million in FY 2012 appropriations,  will focus on “accelerating research and development of electrochemical energy storage for transportation and the electric grid.”

Health. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a new effort to fight Alzheimer’s disease, in support of the National Alzheimer’s Project Act, a law signed by the President in 2011. This initiative includes the redirection of $50 million in existing National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding to Alzheimer’s research, and a request for $80 million additional in the FY 2013 budget request. ScienceInsider reports on the challenge faced at NIH to reprioritize the $50 million for Alzheimer’s research from their existing research plan.

NIH released a new website this week aimed at educating the general public about the benefit of clinical research trials, and how/why to participate in them.

A recent blog post by Sally Rockey, NIH’s Deputy Director for Extramural Research, discusses NIH’s efforts to support young investigators.

Research. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) and Representative Mike Doyle (D-PA) each re-introduced the Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA) in their respective chambers (S.2096/H.R. 4004). This legislation would require major research agencies to post the results of their supported research six months after publication in a scientific journal. This requirement is similar to NIH’s existing  PubMed Central website, except it posts items twelve months after publication.

The polar opposite of this legislation, the Research Works Act (H.R. 3699), would remove programs such as NIH PubMed Central, keeping the results of federally supported scientific research in the hands of subscription-based scientific journals. The Association of American Universities (AAU) and the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities (APLU) wrote to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, expressing their concerns with the legislation.

Innovation. The White House announced a new initiative aimed at “Harnessing Innovation for Global Development.” This includes a new university program at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to define and solve large development challenges, and a new U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) program called Patents for Humanity, “to advance the President’s global development agenda by rewarding companies who bring life-saving technologies to underserved regions of the world, and by highlighting positive examples of humanitarian actions that are compatible with business interests and strong patent rights.”

In Print

Back in October 2011, the Congressional Research Service released its annual report on research and development funding in FY 2012. While not exactly timely, since FY 2013 is just geting started, this is a very useful, comprehensive resource for anyone interested in learning more about the nation’s research enterprise.

Space News gives a preview of FY 2013 budget request for NASA, including anticipated cuts to that agency’s planetary sciences program.

What’s on Deck





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