March 11th, 2013, by Amanda Arnold  

Week in Review, or Hope Floats for FY 2014

On Saturday, the President made his weekly address calling for an end to sequestration and throughout the week more information continued to bubble to the surface about the impact of sequester at, for instance, the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Energy. The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) Washington Highlights offers an overview of sequestration impact on health care programs writ large.

Meanwhile, attention has turned to the expiration of the Continuing Resolution (CR) currently funding the government through March 27th. The House approved its version of the FY 2013 budget package (H.R. 933) on Wednesday, which locks in the $85 billion in across-the-board FY 2013 sequester cuts and sets total discretionary spending at $984 billion (essentially the same amount as agreed to in the Budget Control Act of 2011). The package, which funds the government through September 30th, does include separate FY 2013 appropriations bills for the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs giving those agencies flexibility in how to apply the sequester budget cuts.

The President did not threaten to veto the House version. Meanwhile, Senate appropriators, most notably Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), are expected to release a similar package today, which would include the sequester cuts but also include appropriations bills for additional agencies: Agriculture, Homeland Security, and Commerce-Justice-Science (which funds research at NSF, NIST, NOAA, and NASA). Like the House version, the Senate package is being called a “hybrid” since it would leave in place the Continuing Resolution language for the more controversial funding bills, including Labor-HHS-Education (which includes NIH). These more controversial appropriations bills would, as Politico reports, “remain locked in a rigid funding format first dictated by a continuing resolution adopted last fall.”

Both the House and Senate are expected to reach agreement on the final FY 2013 budget funding package prior to March 27th since they are scheduled to be in Easter recess from March 25th-April 5th. However, the January passed No Budget, No Pay Act also requires the House and Senate each pass a budget resolution for FY 2014 by April 15th.

Amongst discussion about getting back to regular order for FY 2014, CQ Roll Call reported that the President’s budget, originally due February 4th, is now on target for delivery on April 8th. This newest date sources back to the Department of Defense. The President’s budget was previously expected on March 25th.  Given the fact that the sequester is unlikely to be undone on the March 27th date, the FY 2014 appropriations process, which starts this week in the House, is the next opportunity to undo the across-the-board cuts.

Also of Note

Appointments and Retirements. Senator Carl Levin, a Democrat representing Michigan, announced this week that he will not seek re-election in 2014. Senator Levin is chair of the Armed Services Committee and is currently in his sixth term in office.

Congressman Chris Stewart, a Republican from Utah, will become the Chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee’s Environment Subcommittee. This is notable since Congressman Stewart is a freshman member of the House.

Health. Dr. Harold Varmus and Dr. Harpal Kumar, two notable scientific research leaders in cancer, published a report this week in Science Translational Medicine entitled, Addressing the Growing International Challenge of Cancer: A Multinational Perspective. The report includes recommendations to enable a coordinated global fight against cancer. Key areas include enhanced patient registries and increased research in drug testing and clinical trials.

In his Director’s Blog this week, NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins highlighted a new prize in life science and medicine. For its inaugural year, the Breakthrough Prize in the Life Sciences recognized eleven scientists including Dr. Eric Lander of Harvard and MIT’s Broad Institute and Dr. Robert Weinberg of the Whitehead Institute. The breakthrough prize is funded by a group of six including Google co-founder Sergey Brin and his wife 23&Me co-founder Anne Wojcicki; Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Pricilla Chan; Apple chairman Art Levinson; and Russian venture capitalist Yuri Milner.

According to ScienceInsider coverage of Monday’s National Cancer Institute (NCI) Board of Scientific Advisors, NCI announced the scheduled conclusion of The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) for next year. The group is now working on developing the next phase of the much-heralded cancer genomes project.

Dr. Sally Rockey, Deputy Director for NIH Extramural Research, introduced the Broadening Experiences in Scientific Training (BEST) program this week in her blog, Rock Talk. The program seeks to address the Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD) working group recommendations on expanding the biomedical workforce through broadening graduate and postdoctoral training.

AAMC’s Washington Highlights reports about a hearing on Tuesday in which the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, discussed the purchasing power of the agencies over time and areas of potential overlap. Witnesses included leaders of all the relevant health agencies: NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins, as well as Dr. Tom Frieden, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Dr. Carolyn Clancy, Director of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

Energy. The House Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee held a hearing last week focused on the FY 2014 budget for the Office of Science within the Department of Energy. According to AIP’s FYI Blog, the issue of flattening or declining budgets monopolized much of the mostly positive hearing.

Immigration. According to the Chronicle for Higher Education, David Skorton, President of Cornell; Michael Crow, President of Arizona State; and Eduardo Padrόn, President of Miami Dade sent a letter to 1,200 fellow university presidents to urge their support for an immigration reform bill that prioritizes visa reform for students, especially those studying science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, saying that American colleges “train many of the brightest minds of the world…only to have those students sent abroad to compete against us because our immigration laws do not provide a viable path for them to stay.”

Research. On Friday, the President issued a new Executive Order on Export Control ReformAccording to the Administration’s fact sheet on implementation, the Order implements components of the President’s Export Control Reform Initiative, an effort to update the nation’s export control system.

The House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Research held a hearing regarding scientific transparency and integrity on Tuesday. The hearing followed an Investigation and Oversight Subcommittee hearing held last March to examine open access to scholarly publications. The hearing addressed growing concern about the necessity to reproduce results reported in scientific journals.

ScienceInsider reports this week on an internal examination by the National Science Foundation Office of Inspector General (IG) that identified almost 100 cases of  alleged plagiarism in 2011 proposals funded by the agency. The potential cases were identified through the use of software designed for this purpose. A more complete investigation is underway.

Space. According to Space Policy News, Representative Frank Wolf (R-VA) stated his concern at a Capitol Hill press conference on Thursday about “systemic security issues” after what he believes were a series of security violations most recently at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, VA and previously at Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, CA. Representative Wolf is arguing that these violations resulted in Chinese nationals obtaining sensitive information and he has laid out a seven-step plan for immediate action.

In Print

Dennis Overbye writes in the New York Times about the future of a scientific discipline in Particle Physicists in U.S. Worry About Being Left Behind.

Norman Ornstein writes about science funding for Roll Call in Government Non-Policies Are Damaging Science.

Forbes presents Legendary Drug Industry Executives Warn U.S. Science Cuts Endanger The Future, a commentary piece by a group of drug industry luminaries including Marc Tessier-Lavigne, President of The Rockefeller University and former Chief Scientific Officer of Genentech Inc.; P. Roy Vagelos, Chairman of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, and Retired Chairman and CEO of Merck & Co., Inc.; and Elias Zerhouni, President R&D Sanofi and former NIH Director.

Chris Kempes, a NASA/Caltech post doc, defends scientific research investment for the Huffington Post in Defending and Expanding Basic Programs Will Enable Future Economic Growth.

What’s on Deck

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

  • The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) will meet to discuss graduate education among other items.

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