April 30th, 2012, by Abby Benson  

Week in Review, or Fêting Science

Washingtonians had another opportunity to celebrate science last week, when the second annual U.S.A. Science and Engineering Festival took place at the Washington Convention Center. The festival included hundreds of scientific exhibits and opportunities to meet real live researchers, as well as celebrity appearances the likes of the Discovery Channel’s Myth Busters.

On Capitol Hill, the House Appropriations Committee approved its 302(b) allocations, which sets the amount of spending each of its 12 subcommittees can allocate. These allotments are based on the recently passed House budget, which shaves $19 billion off the amount agreed to in last year’s Budget Control Act (BCA). As a result, the House subcommittee allocations are generally less than FY 2012 levels and the the Senate’s 302(b) allocations. This disparity in funding levels between the Senate and House will certainly make resolution of the two bills challenging later in the year, especially since the Director of the White House’s Office of Management and Budget wrote to House Appropriators last week indicating the President would not sign any spending bill that did not use the BCA agreed-to top line spending amount for FY 2013.

The full House Appropriations Committee also approved its Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) and Energy and Water (E&W) bills, without any significant changes to the amounts provided in last week’s update. In addition, the Senate Appropriations Committee held subcommittee and full committee markups of its FY 2013 E&W and Agriculture  spending bills (more details below).

Also of Note

Appointments. Dr. Henry Kelly, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary and, until recently, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), will leave DOE for a position as a senior advisor to the President’s Science Advisor, John Holdren, at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).

ScienceInsider reports that just one week before he was supposed to take over as head of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), Chris Kaiser of MIT has withdrawn his nomination, citing personal reasons in his decision. ScienceInsider also reports that Glenn Paulson has been named the next Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) science advisor. Paulson hails most recently from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.

Among the list of winners of this year’s Presidential Medal of Freedom are John Glenn, former astronaut and U.S. Senator, and William Foege, a physician and epidemiologist who helped to eradicate smallpox.

Appropriations. The Senate Appropriations Committee held subcommittee and full committee markups of its FY 2013 E&W and Agriculture spending bills. The E&W bill provides $4.9 billion for the DOE Office of Science, $35 million above the FY 2012 enacted level. The bill also includes $312 million for the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), $37 million more than the FY 2012 enacted level. Within the Agriculture bill, the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), which funds competitive research, receives $298 million, an increase of $33.5 million over the FY 2012 enacted level.

Health. The White House released its National Bioeconomy Blueprint. This document “outlines steps that agencies will take to drive the bioeconomy—economic activity powered by research and innovation in the biosciences—and details ongoing efforts across the Federal government to realize this goal.” The report includes five strategic goals to strengthen the bioeconomy, including increased support for basic research and translational efforts, more efficient regulation, and better training.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the Association of American Universities (AAU), the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) issued a new report entitled Bridging Science and Security for Biological Research: A Dialogue between Universities and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. This report summarizes recent meetings between research universities and the FBI to discuss the agency’s role in biosecurity.

Research. The House passed the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act) by voice vote. This bill has caused some concern with research universities as it would require a new central reporting system for federal grants and contracts without removing existing agency-specific reporting requirements. A Senate version of the bill has been introduced but is stalled with the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) released a Report to the President and Congress on the Fourth Assessment of the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI). This biennal report is required by Congress to update them on the progress of the NNI.

In a press conference on Capitol Hill last week, three members of Congress, with the support of several associations including the AAAS, announced a new award called the “Golden Goose Award.” This award, a play on the Golden Fleece award of the 1970s, will reward scientists who conducted research that on the surface sounded silly, but ultimately had significant societal benefit. The first award will be selected by an expert panel and presented in September of 2012.

In Print

In a Washington Post op-ed entitled The Right Economic Investment for America, Fareed Zakaria includes the President’s proposed 5% increase in federal R&D on a list of investments that could contribute to long-term economic growth.

The Washington Post also covered the announcement of the Golden Goose Award, as described above.

Nature’s blog reports on two hearings of interest to the research community, including a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on dual use research, and a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on legislation that would ban research conducted on great apes.

The President’s Science Advisor, John Holdren, made remarks at the AAAS annual Science and Technology Policy Forum, where he affirmed the President’s belief that “investments in research, in infrastructure related to science, technology, and innovation, and in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education are not the places to cut back,” and that “We need to maintain those investments… in order to build a basis for our ongoing economic prosperity, for our national security, for our environmental quality, and for our quality of life.”

What’s on Deck

The House and Senate are both in recess this week.

Monday (4/30)

  • The American Geophysical Union will hold a Capitol Hill briefing on “From the Mississippi to the Gulf: Water Quality and Security.”


  1. Week in Review, or Budget Crystal Ball :: NEWScience Policy says:

    June 11th, 2012 at 7:31 am (#)

    […] Appropriations. As mentioned above, the House passed the FYFiscal Year 2013 Energy and Water spending bill last week. Despite a number of adopted amendments to the bill—including no less than two that would limit the ability of the government to force people to stop using incandescent light bulbs—there were no significant changes to funding levels for research programs at the Department of Energy (DOEDepartment of Energy) that were…. […]