date: Thu, 19 Feb 2009 13:40:50 -0500 (EST)
from: AAAS Member Services <announcementsatXYZxyzbers-aaas.org>
subject: AAAS Policy Alert -- 19 February 2009
AAAS Policy Alert -- February 19, 2009
On February 17 President Barack Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act
(H.R. 1) at a special signing ceremony at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Last
week House and Senate conferees reached final agreement on the $790 billion economic
recovery bill, and it was subsequently passed by votes of 246-183 in the House and 60-28 in
the Senate. The newly released AAAS analysis reports that the final stimulus plan
contains $21.5 billion in federal research and development (R&D) funding, more than either
the $17.8 billion in the Senate or $13.2 billion in the House versions. The final bill
contains $10.4 billion for NIH, $3.0 billion for NSF, $1.6 billion for the DOE Office of
Science, and $600 million for NIST. The bill also provides $3.5 billion for DOE's energy
R&D programs, and would fund climate change-related projects in NASA ($1.0 billion) and
NOAA ($830 million). The $21.5 billion R&D total provides $18.0 billion for the conduct of
R&D and $3.5 billion for R&D facilities and large equipment.
Holdren, Lubchenco Nomination Hearing. The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation
Committee held a hearing on February 12 to consider the nominations of John Holdren for
Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and Jane
Lubchenco for Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere. Holdren's testimony
focused on the dual role of OSTP: creating policy for science, as well as science for use
in other policy issues. Lubchenco addressed the economic importance of NOAA activities such
as weather forecasting and fisheries management, and stated that she supported the creation
of a National Climate Service within NOAA. Chairman Rockefeller (D-WV) announced that he
intended to bypass a committee vote on both nominees and instead use a Unanimous Consent
Agreement on the floor to speed their confirmations.
House Passes Nanotechnology Reauthorization Bill. Although the stimulus bill may have been
the major story last week, the House also passed the National Nanotechnology Initiative
Amendments of 2009 (H.R. 554), which would require a government roadmap for research on the
environmental, health, and safety effects of nanotechnology. The new bill is identical to
the NNI reauthorization bill that passed overwhelmingly in the House last year but stalled
in the Senate.
Senate Committee Changes Announced. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee
announced a new subcommittee lineup that eliminated two subcommittees that addressed
climate change and added new subcommittees to address the growing focus on green jobs.
Senators Benjamin Cardin (D-MD) and Mike Crapo (R-ID) will serve as chairman and ranking
member, respectively, of the new Water and Wildlife Subcommittee, while Bernie Sanders
(I-VT) and Christopher Bond (R-MO) will head the Green Jobs and New Economy Subcommittee.
The full committee will handle global warming issues. Meanwhile, Senate Judiciary Committee
leaders have decided to eliminate the Human Rights and Law Subcommittee, saying that the
full committee will continue to deal with human rights, and that President Obama's election
makes a separate panel unnecessary.
Senators Launch a WMD Caucus. Two members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,
Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Richard Burr (R-NC), launched a Senate Caucus on WMD
Terrorism. The caucus will focus on a range of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) threats,
including nuclear, biological, and chemical. The Senators plan to utilize the caucus as a
forum for legislators, staff, and experts to address the range of policy mechanisms that
could be utilized "to prevent, prepare for, mitigate, and respond to acts of WMD
Possible Merger of Security Offices Debated. The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and
Government Affairs met February 12 to discuss a proposal to merge the Homeland Security
Council (HSC) with the National Security Council (NSC), both located in the Executive
Office of the President (see webcast and witness testimonies here). Witnesses on both
sides of the issue agreed that personnel involved in homeland security advisory roles need
better funding, more attention, and better staffing. Former DHS Secretary Tom Ridge, as
well as Fran Townsend, and Senators Lieberman (I-CT) and Collins (R-ME) all strongly
opposed the merger, noting that the Department of Homeland Security and the HSC are
relatively new entities and should be given the time and resources to mature before
considering whether the HSC should move under the NSC. Other witnesses claimed that the HSC
could not meet its advisory responsibilities alone and that the NSC should be restructured
to incorporate HSC staff and concerns. Traditionally, the White House structures its
security advisory staff as it sees fit, but the HSC was created by statute, and the
dissolution or merger of the council may need to be addressed through statute as well.
New Portal for CRS reports. The website wikileaks.org has joined several other
organizations in making Congressional Research Service reports available on-line. Unlike
the other congressional support agencies (GAO, CBO), CRS is restricted from making its
reports public, although Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT) announced his intent to develop a
system for releasing the reports.
People in the News.
- Acting FDA Commissioner Frank Torti has created the new FDA position of Senior Genomics
Advisor, to be filled by Liz Mansfield, a scientist with experience at both the FDA and
private sector. Her focus will be on helping the agency and those it serves analyze and
make effective use of the increasing volume of genomic data associated with the drug
approval process, an area in which the FDA has been criticized for lacking adequate
- Kei Koizumi, longtime director of the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program (and Policy
Alert contributor), moves to OSTP this week as Assistant Director for Federal Research and
Development, an appointment that does not require Senate confirmation.
Anti-Evolution Bill Update: One New, One Defeated. Alabama now has an "academic freedom"
bill for 2009; such bills have appeared almost yearly in the state legislature since 2004
but have never passed. Meanwhile, Mississippi's anti-evolution bill, which would have
required science textbooks to include disclaimers calling evolution a "controversial
theory," has reportedly died in committee.
New Report Calls for Transforming Energy Research. A new report by the Brookings
Institution, Energy Discovery-Innovation Institutes: A Step toward America's Energy
Sustainability, calls for additional investments in traditional energy R&D as well as the
creation of regional Energy Discovery-Innovation Institutes. The institutes would foster
partnerships to develop and rapidly transfer highly innovative technologies into the
Court Rules Vaccines Don't Cause Autism. In 1986, in response to concerns that lawsuits
against vaccine manufacturers might drive them out of business and that essential vaccines
would no longer be available in the U.S., Congress passed the National Vaccine Injury
Compensation Program. The program includes a special court to which vaccine lawsuits are
referred and which has the power to award compensation from a special fund created for that
purpose. Last Thursday, the court ruled that there is no link between vaccines and
autism and that families with autistic children are not entitled to receive compensation.
Three distinct cases were tried, each of which was handled by a different "special master."
The three rulings were similar and found no evidence that vaccines had caused the
children's autism. The Associated Press quoted Denise Vowell, one of the special
masters saying "Sadly, the petitioners in this litigation have been the victims of bad
science conducted to support litigation rather than to advance medical and scientific
understanding" of autism. The plaintiffs are likely to appeal.
Publisher: Alan I. Leshner
Editor: Steve Nelson
Contributors: Kavita Berger, Joanne Carney, Mark Frankel, Erin Heath, Kei Koizumi, Kathryn
Luke, Shirley Malcom, Al Teich, Kasey White
NOTE: The AAAS Policy Alert is a newsletter provided to AAAS Members to inform them of
developments in science and technology policy that may be of interest. Information in the
Policy Alert is gathered from published news reports, unpublished documents, and personal
communications. Although the information contained in this newsletter is regarded as
reliable, it is provided only for the convenience and private use of our members.
Comments and suggestions regarding the Policy Alert are welcome. Please write to
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