March 12th, 2012, by Abby Benson  

Week in Review, or Widening the Gap

Both the House and Senate were in session last week, with their attention largely focused on passing the JOBS Act and continuing to debate the contentious transportation bill. On the appropriations front, as reported last week, House Republicans have been mulling over enacting a top-line spending number for FY 2013 that is less than what was agreed to by Democrats and Republicans last summer in the Budget Control Act (BCA). That plan appeared to solidify last week as Republicans bandied about a number $19 billion below the BCA level of $1.047 billion. According to CQ, in return for appeasing conservative Republicans on this lower top line number, they will offer less resistance when it comes to actually passing appropriations bills and the inevitable continuing resolution that will keep the government running until after the election. Of course, the bigger the gap between House and Senate appropriations bills, the bigger the fight will likely be to finalize the FY 2013 spending plan.

Also of Note

Appointments. President Obama announced that he would nominate Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy as Director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), and Todd Parks as the next U.S. Chief Technology Officer.

Innovation. The House New Democrat Coalition, a group of fiscally conservative Democratic members of the House, released a set of Principles for Innovation and Competitiveness aimed at allowing “businesses and entrepreneurs to be more innovative and competitive in the global marketplace.” Included in the list of 10 principles are “supporting basic research” and “incentivizing research and development.” Reps. Ron Kind (D-WI) and Gerry Connolly (D-VA) wrote an op-ed in Roll Call to accompany the release .

Health. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) newest center, the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), has issued a request for information (RFI) on how it can strengthen the Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) program. the CTSA program provides “infrastructure to facilitate translational research, to promote the training and career development of translational researchers, and to develop innovative methods and technologies to strengthen translational research.” Comments are due April 6, 2012.

Homeland Security. The Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, announced the creation of the Homeland Security Academic Advisory Council (HSAAC). This new council, composed of university presidents and other academic leaders, will advise the Secretary on “student and recent graduate recruitment; international students; academic research; campus and community resiliency, security and preparedness; and faculty exchange.”

Manufacturing. The President announced a new $1 billion proposal called the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation, which would create 15 institutes around the country to “bring together industry, universities and community colleges, federal agencies, and our states to accelerate innovation by investing in industrially-relevant manufacturing technologies with broad applications to bridge the gap between basic research and product development, provide shared assets to help companies – particularly small manufacturers – access cutting-edge capabilities and equipment, and create an unparalleled environment to educate and train students and workers in advanced manufacturing skills.” Although funding for this program is included in the FY 2013 budget request, it will require legislation to be enacted before funding can be appropriated.

Patent Reform. The blog PatentlyO reports on efforts by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to reduce the backlog of patent applications at that agency, a main focus of the America Invents Act, patent reform legislation that was enacted last year.

Space. SpacePolicyOnline reports that Representative Frank Wolf  (R-VA), Chair of the House Appropriations Commerce, Justice, Science Subcommittee, wrote to NASA Administrator, Charles Bolden, telling him that NASA should not enter into cooperative agreement with China on the International Space Station (ISS). This direction stems from an ongoing dispute between Wolf and the White House on scientific collaboration with China.

In Print

With appropriations hearing season in full swing, I will do my best to include in this section research-related hearing summaries drafted  by other organizations.

SpacePolicyOnline provides a summary of recent House Science, Space, and Technology Committee and Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee hearings focused on the future of human spaceflight.

ScienceInsider reports on a recent House Science, Space, and Technology Committee hearing during which the Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF) was questioned on that agency’s efforts to reduce gas prices, and a House Appropriations Commerce, Science, and Justice Subcommittee hearing on the NASA budget and cuts to its planetary science program.

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) reports on House and Senate Appropriations Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee hearings with Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Kathleen Sebelius on that department’s FY 2013 budget request.

The American Institute of Physics (AIP) reports on House Energy and Commerce Committee and House Appropriations Energy and Water Subcommittee hearings with Secretary Chu on the FY 2013 DOE budget request.

For those of you interested in working in science for the government, the Office of Personnel and Management has launched a pilot website aimed at inspiring science and technology careers in government. This pilot website is supported by six Federal agencies—the Department of Energy (DOE), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Department of Labor (DOL), Department of State (DOS), and NASA. Hopefully other science-focused agencies such as the NSF and HHS will eventually join in!

What’s on Deck

The House is in recess this week, the Senate is in session.

Wednesday, March 14th

  • The Senate Appropriations Committee will hold a subcommittee hearing on the FY 2013 DOE budget request.
  • The American Chemical Society will hold a Capitol Hill briefing on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education for an Innovative Workforce.

Friday, March 16th

  • A group of nine national scientific and engineering societies will host a Capitol Hill briefing on Research that Pays Off: The Economic Benefits of Federally Funded R&D.



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