April 2nd, 2012, by Abby Benson  

Week in Review, or Springing into Recess

The House and Senate began their two-week spring recess last Friday after passing the House budget resolution for FY 2013. As described last week, this plan would cut $19 billion from the FY 2013 spending level outlined in the Budget Control Act. A significant portion of those cuts would be aimed at non-defense discretionary spending (which supports most research agencies), while defense discretionary spending would be increased. The House voted along party lines to approve the budget resolution, while also voting down a number of alternative symbolic proposals including one put forth by the conservation House Republican Study Committee and another put forth by a bipartisan group of moderate members echoing principals outlined in the Bowles-Simpson commission.

Also of Note

Energy. A group of 60 House Members from both sides of the aisle sent a letter to House appropriators requesting support for the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science, which funds basic research. Although the letter does not reference a specific dollar figure for FY 2013, it does ask for “robust and substantial funding.”

The Senate confirmed a number of Presidential nominees before breaking for recess, including MIT alum David Danielson as Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), and Charles McConnell as Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy.

Health. A group of 49 Senators from both sides of the aisle wrote to Senate appropriators in support of funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Unlike a similar letter completed last week in the House requesting $32 billion for the agency, this letter does not request a specific dollar figure for NIH, but rather asks for a “strong commitment to funding” for the agency.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a new policy related to federally supported research on certain biological agents or toxins that are considered potential threats to public health and safety. This policy would require federal research agencies to regularly review existing grants to identify research that involves any of 15 named agents, and to identify concerns related to “dual use” (i.e., potential misuse). This policy likely emerged in response to a recent controversy surrounding the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB)’s recommendation that results of avian flu research not be published due to concerns for public safety. According to ScienceInsider, this decision was reversed by the NSABB last Friday.

United for Medical Research released an update to their recent report on the economic impact of research funding at the NIH. This addendum revises the report’s estimates to reflect cuts that are anticipated if sequestration takes place in January 2013. According to the report, sequestration would result in a 7-8% cut in funding for the agency.

Research. The White House announced a new “Big Data Research and Development Initiative” during a ceremony at the White House. This initiative includes funding opportunities from six federal agencies aiming to “improve our ability to extract knowledge and insights from large and complex collections of digital data.”

Space. NASA announced that it will launch the NASA Aeronautics Research Institute (NARI), a “virtual institute to solicit and foster innovative ideas that address technological challenges facing aviation and the U.S. air transportation system today and in the future.”

In Print

The American Institute of Physics AIP blog summarized a recent Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing on DOE’s FY 2013 budget request.

ScienceInsider reported on a House Science, Space, and Technology Committee hearing on public access, and a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on the NIH FY 2013 budget.

Space Politics reported on a recent Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee hearing on NASA’s FY 2013 budget request.

What’s on Deck

Both chambers are in recess for two weeks. Keep an eye out for my next Week in Review update on April 16th!

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