Week in Review, or Politicizing Science
In betwixt ongoing budget battles, and even during recess break, research continued to get politicized this week with House Science Committee Chair Lamar Smith again vocal in his bid to overhaul the peer review process at NSF. On Monday, Chairman Smith released the text of the draft bill — the High Quality Research Act. As reported last week, the bill requires that before an NSF grant can be funded, the NSF director must certify that the project is 1) in the interest of the U.S., 2) is of the finest quality, and 3) does not duplicate other federally funded research projects. Smith also issued a statement this week on the draft legislation and on the recent letter he sent to Acting NSF Director requesting reviewer notes on several specific grants funded.
In response to this ongoing situation, which is seen by many to be an attack on the peer review process, President Obama made strong remarks in a speech at the 150th anniversary of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday in support of universities, scientific research of all disciplines, NSF-funded research, and the peer review process. John Holdren, the President’s top science advisor, also responded this week commenting on his concerns about the Chairman’s draft bill and the overall approach during the AAAS’ Annual Science and Technology Policy Forum on Thursday.
The politicization of research didn’t stop there. House leader Cantor released a memorandum this week outlining his plans for House debate during the month of May. Included are many long-term policy priorities for Cantor, such as another attempted repeal of Obamacare. However, Cantor also identified The Kids First Research Act (H.R. 1724) as priority legislation that would transfer $100 million over 10 years from the Presidential Election Campaign Fund, a voluntary tax checkoff for public campaign finance, to the NIH Director’s Common Fund for pediatric research.
Also of Note
Appointments. The President announced two nominations this week to currently vacant cabinet posts. Penny Pritzker was nominated to replace Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank as the next Secretary of Commerce, and Michael Froman was nominated to replace Ron Kirk as U.S. Trade Representative.
Energy. Four leaders of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development sent a letter to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) requesting additional information on the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) under construction in Cadarache, France. The Senators are interested in an analysis of the United States’ share in the project based on better understanding of the project’s cost trajectory and timescale.
Health. NIH released a report this week, NIH Peer Review: Grants and Cooperative Agreements, explaining the purpose, principles, and core values of peer review at NIH.
Innovation. The American Academy of Arts and Sciences released a report this week, ARISE II: Unleashing America’s Research & Innovation Enterprise, which includes eleven recommendations for industry, academia, and government to attain the integration of the physical sciences, engineering, life sciences and medicine in order to address 21st century challenges.
The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) met this week to discuss two broad areas of interest, including an examination into the interplay between economic growth and innovation, and to hear from agency leaders how they will carry out various components of the recently announced BRAIN Initiative.
The Innovation Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF), a DC-based innovation policy think tank, released a controversial report, 25 Recommendations for the Reauthorization of the 2013 America COMPETES Act, on the America COMPETES Act this week recommending that NSF shrink budgets for the geosciences and social sciences.
Space. Both SpaceRef and NASA Watch this week are reporting on statements NASA Administrator Bolden made at a luncheon regarding his support for the President’s STEM consolidation plan (made as a component of his FY 2014 Budget Request). As reported previously, the plan could result in a loss of the majority of funding for NASA Education and Outreach Programs in a reprogramming effort to centralize all STEM education efforts at NSF, the Department of Education, and the Smithsonian.
Ashley Southall writes about more impacts of sequestration for the New York Times in Spending Cuts Threaten to Delay Research, Obama Tells Scientists.
Norm Ornstein offers his view on the troubling anti-research trend emerging in Congress for the National Journal in Meet the Yahoo Caucus.
Harvard Medical Student Nathaniel P. Morris calls for an end to sequester cuts for HuffPostSCIENCE in an article entitled, In Defense of Research.
Nancy Marshall-Genzer writes about the impact of the sequester on researchers for Marketplace Morning Report in Marketplace: Sequester funding cuts have researchers worried.
What’s on Deck
- The House Science, Space, and Technology Energy and Environment Subcommittee will hold a joint hearing on Keystone XL Pipeline: Examination of Scientific and Environmental Issues.
- The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a full committee hearing To consider the Helium Stewardship Act of 2013.
- The Coalition for Imaging and Bioengineering Research (CIBR) will host a Congressional Briefing on The Value of Medical Imaging Research featuring National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) Director Christopher Austin, M.D., and remarks from Senators Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.) from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. in 325 Russell Senate Office Building. RSVP to dina.beaumont (at) aol.com.
- The Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism will hold a hearing on Cyber Threats: Law Enforcement and Private Sector Responses.
- The House Science, Space, and Technology Space and Research Subcommittees will hold a joint hearing on Exoplanet Discoveries: Have We Found Other Earths?
- The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power will hold a hearing on American Energy Security and Innovation: Grid Reliability Challenges in a Shifting Energy Resource Landscape.