November 26th, 2012, by Abby Benson  

Week in Review, or Turkey Time Out

With the threat of the “fiscal cliff” still looming, members of Congress left town last week for Thanksgiving recess. They are expected back this week for the final stretch of the lame duck session that will likely last until the wee hours of December. Despite the optimism coming out of White House recently after meetings between the President and Congressional leaders, Politico painted a very different picture of behind-the-scenes pessimism among staff that are actually working to craft a deal to avert the fiscal cliff. There are another rounds of high-level meetings scheduled at the White House this week.

The Association of American Universities (AAU) and the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities (APLU) took the opportunity last week to reiterate their support for a balanced approach to deficit reduction by re-sending a letter signed by over 150 university Presidents and Chancellors to Congressional leadership. The letter states, “we urge your bipartisan leadership in forging a major, balanced longterm deficit-reduction agreement that will reduce budget deficits, rein in the nation’s debt, and create economic and job growth to ensure our nation’s long-term fiscal health and to prevent the indiscriminate cuts of sequestration.”

If you’re interested in learning more on the ideological divide on how the fiscal cliff should be addressed, I recommend checking out the proceedings of a recent forum put on by the Peterson Foundation, a “nonpartisan organization dedicated to raising awareness of America’s long-term fiscal challenges and promoting solutions to ensure a better economic future.” The forum, entitled Post election: The Fiscal Cliff and Beyond, explores deficit reduction solutions put together by five different think tanks that fall across the political spectrum including the American Action Forum, the Bipartisan Policy Center, the Center for American Progress, the Economic Policy Institute and The Heritage Foundation. In 2011, the Peterson Foundation gave grants to each of these organizations to identify paths forward to reduce the deficit, and this recent forum allowed the opportunity for an updated look at each of these plans.

On the appropriations front, CQ reports that staff are still working on crafting an “omnibus” spending bill that would finalize spending for FY 2013, but that there will likely be resistance to pushing such a large bill through during the lame duck session.

Also of Note

Research. Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-IL) and Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA) introduced House Resolution 815 declaring 2013 the “Year of the Federal Lab.” According to the press release, this largely symbolic measure “highlights all the national energy laboratories as well as more than 100 other labs that serve as federally funded research and development centers, or are owned, leased, or otherwise used by a Federal agency and funded by the Federal Government.”

Space. NASA announced last week that it would be creating a new Federal Advisory Committee on Applied Sciences. Federal Advisory Committees are groups of outside experts designated “special government employees” who provide consensus advice to the government on any number of topics. These committees–of which there are about 1,000 government wide–are governed by the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA). This new NASA committee will be charged with monitoring “a program of grants for competitively-awarded pilot projects to explore the integrated use of sources of remote sensing and other geospatial information to address State, local, regional and tribal agency needs.”

In Print

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports on the difficulties of measuring the return on investment of R&D funding in a piece entitled In Budget Battle, Science Faces New Pressures to Prove It Delivers (subscription required).

In a Politico op-ed, Robert Atkinson and Stephen Ezell of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation offer a menu for how Congress should Step up global competitiveness in lame duck, including avoiding the fiscal cliff while preserving investments in R&D.

Science profiles newly elected member of Congress–and MIT alum–Thomas Massie (R-KY).

AAAS reports on a recent Capitol Hill briefing on the effects of sequestration on the nation’s research enterprise.  The event featured several Members of Congress including Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL) and Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ).

Dennis Crouch’s Patently-O blog reports on a recent keynote speech by the head of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, David Kappos, at the Center for American Progress on the “patent wars.”

What’s on Deck


  • The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee will hold a subcommittee hearing on National Priorities for Solar and Space Physics Research and Applications for Space Weather Prediction.


  • The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee will hold a hearing on Tapping America’s Energy Potential Through Research and Development.

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