June 4th, 2012, by Abby Benson  

Week in Review, or Examining Energy

The Senate continued its Memorial Day recess last week, but the House returned mid-week for two days of activity. During that short time, the House debated the FY 2013 spending bills for Military Construction/Veterans Affairs (which ultimately passed) and Energy and Water. The debate on Energy and Water, which funds research programs at the Department of Energy (DOE), is expected to continue this week with a number of amendments to be considered. On Thursday, the White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy (SAP) on the bill, opposing cuts to several DOE research programs including the Office of Science, the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), and Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). The SAP also threatens to veto the bill, consistent with an earlier promise by the White House that it would veto any spending bill with a top line number that does not comply with the levels agreed to in last year’s Budget Control Act (BCA).

On the Senate side, the Commerce-Justice-Science bill was expected to hit the floor this week, but the bill hit a snag related to some apparent mismanagement of funds at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s National Weather Service. CQ reports that getting to the bottom of that will likely postpone Senate consideration of the bill beyond this week.

Since there is not much else to report on the Congressional front, let me take the time to share with you what I thought was a pretty exciting story in this week’s Science about paralyzed rats learning to walk again, a good reminder of why we should all care about policy that governs research. (Yes, I realize the research was conducted in Switzerland!) but still!).

Also of Note

Appointments. Nature reports that Carl Weiman, Associate Director for Science at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), will be stepping down immediately due to personal reasons. Dr. Weiman, a Nobel prize-winning physicist, has long been an advocate of improving undergraduate science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education, founding programs while at the University of Colorado Boulder and the University of British Columbia, and continuing the charge most recently at OSTP.

Energy. House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Ranking Member Eddie-Bernice Johnson (D-TX) recently introduced two bills (H.R.5826 and H.R. 5827) focused on energy and water research. The first would implement the White House’s National Water Research and Development Initiative, while the second would direct DOE to consider water more prominently in conducting energy research.

The DOE issued a solicitation for its most recent Energy Innovation Hub, this one focused on critical materials. This $120 million, five-year initiative is the latest in a series of energy innovation hubs that have been a high priority of Secretary of Energy Steve Chu.

Health. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) issued a request for information (RFI) on the Biographical Sketch portion of the application for grants from that agency. According to the RFI, “Some feel that it does not allow applicants to fully describe the nature, significance or impact of their scientific accomplishments and capabilities.” Comments are due on June 29th.

Innovation. The White House announced a new program called Presidential Innovation Fellows.  This program aims to “pair top innovators from the private sector, non-profits, or academia with top innovators in government to collaborate on game-changing solutions that aim to deliver significant results in six months.”

Space. As I mentioned in my last post, the commercially built Dragon spacecraft successfully connected with the International Space Station (ISS) in a historic moment. Last week, the commercial space industry reached another milestone when the Dragon returned successfully from orbit and landed as planned in the Pacific Ocean (full of trash from the ISS!).

In Print

In  a Roll Call op-ed entitled Science Funding and the Ideological Divide, Mike Lubell provides some historical perspective on the bipartisan nature of support for scientific research.

In his latest column in the New York Times entitled The Role of Uncle Sam, David Brooks takes a look at the role of government in economic growth through the years, including in encouraging innovation.

The American Institute of Physic’s (AIP) FYI blog contains a useful analysis of Department of Defense (DoD) research programs outlined in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) recently passed by the House.

What’s on Deck

Tuesday (6/5)

  • The Collaborative Research Support Programs (CRSPs) are holding a Capitol Hill  briefing on CRSP Contributions to Food Security in Developing Countries. Contact crsps (at) crsps.net for more details.

Wednesday (6/6)

  • The House Appropriations Committee will hold a subcommittee markup of the FY 2013 Agriculture spending bill.
  • The House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a subcommittee hearing on Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Priorities and Practices.
  • The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee will hold subcommittee hearings on An Examination of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Launch Indemnification Program and EPA’s Impact on Jobs and Energy Affordability.

Thursday (6/7)

  • The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a subcommittee hearing on Recommendations from the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future for a Consent-Based Approach to Siting Nuclear Waste Storage and Management Facilities.
  • The Joint Economic Committee will hold a hearing on The Economic Outlook with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.

Friday (6/8)

  • The House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on Examining the Appropriateness of Standards for Medical Imaging and Radiation Therapy Technologists.
  • The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars will hold a panel on Capitol Hill on “The Start-up Act and America’s Entrepreneurial Economy.” Contact page (at) wilsoncenter.org for more details.

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