From AAAS Policy Alert – highlights

AAAS Policy Alert — May 20, 2009
NSF Releases Details of FY 2010 Budget Request.

The U.S. House of Representatives last week approved the proposed budget for fiscal year (FY) 2010 on May 15. NSF’s Research and Related Activities (R&RA) programs would grow 10.6 percent above the final FY 2009 levels (excluding stimulus) for a total of $5.7 billion. All R&RA Directorates would receive increases between 6.7 percent (U.S. Arctic Research) to 12.6 percent (Geosciences). The Education and Human Resources (EHR) program would grow 1.5 percent for a total of $858 million. supplemental defense spending bill containing $2 billion for pandemic flu preparedness, of which $1.5 billion will go towards development and purchase of vaccines for the national stockpile. Meanwhile, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed its version of the bill (which also includes pandemic preparedness funds) allowing it to go to the floor for a vote.

Other Congressional News

On May 18 the U.S. Senate approved the nomination of Margaret Hamburg as commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration.

Committee Begins Markup of Climate Bill.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee began markup of the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (H.R. 2454) on Monday. Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Energy and Environment Subcommittee Chair Ed Markey (D-MA) released the The Senate Environment and Public Works passed a bill cosponsored by Chair Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Ranking Member James Inhofe (R-OK) on May 14. The Black Carbon Emissions Bill (S. 849) requires the EPA to study the climate and health-related impacts of black carbon and to identify the most effective control strategies for the pollutant, a contributor to global warming that is mainly emitted from diesel engines and burning wood. On May 13, the House Science and Technology Subcommittee on Energy and Environment passed a draft bill that would create a National Climate Service within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Sponsored by Committee Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN), the proposal would expand NOAA’s delivery of climate-oriented services and is envisioned as a single point of federal contact for data collection, information exchange, climate forecasting, and adaptation assistance. The bill establishes a network of regional and local facilities to enhance collaboration, including the six preexisting Regional Climate Centers, facilities run by the National Weather Service, and other NOAA programs. The full committee is scheduled to take up the bill later this week. bill’s text late last week. The bill contains several changes from an earlier draft, notably reducing the greenhouse gas emissions goal in 2020 from 20 to 17 percent below 2005 levels and lowering a renewable electricity standard from 25 percent in 2025 to 20 percent, with a quarter of that total allowable from increased efficiency measures. The bill outlines how emission allowances and revenues will be distributed, with utilities receiving 35 percent of the free permits and trade-vulnerable industries such as steel, cement and glass receiving 15 percent.

Nominations

Thomas Frieden to serve as Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Frieden is currently New York City’s health commissioner and previously worked at CDC. Frieden immediately issued a memo to employees affirming the agency’s commitment to science.

On March 17, 2009, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspected the University of Louisiana’s New Iberia Research Center (NIRC) following complaints by the Humane Society of the United States that the center was caring for its nonhuman primates in a manner that violated the Animal Welfare Act requirements. Inspectors cited NIRC for issues with its handling of animals, and with its Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC). A USDA follow-up inspection on April 30, however, concluded that the March 17 citations were being addressed appropriately. Comments are due by July 7. announced that the administration will retain a special rule issued in December for protecting the polar bear under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The rule prohibits the government from invoking the Act to restrict emissions of greenhouse gases that threaten polar bears and their habitats.

Elsewhere

The National Institutes of Health is reportedly overwhelmed by the submission of approximately 20,000 Challenge Grant applications-more than double the amount for a normal review period. NIH must award the grants by the end of September, and so it has recruited more than 15,000 extra reviewers and will take an editorial board-style approach. In other news, NIH is examining its financial conflict of interest policies following a number of high-profile incidents involving extramural researchers.
NRC Issues Report on Neuroscience and the Military.  A new report from the National Research Council (NRC) states that the Army should use insights from neuroscience to improve its capacity to identify and make use of the individual variability of its soldiers. The report,responded to the Office of Science and Technology Policy’s (OSTP) request for public comment on the Presidential Memo on Scientific Integrity published in the Federal Register on April 23, 2009. Opportunities in Neuroscience for Future Army Applications, says the Army should expand its research on the neural bases of training, learning and performance, and should monitor nonmilitary research in neuroscience to keep abreast of advances that may have military application. Neuroscience also may have practical battlefield applications, the report said, such as neuroergonomics — the use of brain-machine interfaces to allow hands-off control of external systems such as computers or vehicles.

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