Bookmark and Share


Public Policy Report for 14 February 2011

A First Look at the FY 2012 Budget

On 14 February 2011, the President released his official budget request for fiscal year (FY) 2012. As foreshadowed in the State of the Union address, budget increases may be in store for some science agencies such as the National Science Foundation. However, other science agencies, such as the United States Geological Survey may be facing budget cuts. The following provides a quick first look at the top line numbers for some key federal science agencies. More detailed analysis will be released in the near future.

President Proposes Some New Investments, Cuts for NSF

As described in the President’s FY 2012 budget documents, “The National Science Foundation (NSF) is the key Federal grant-making agency responsible for supporting the full breadth of non-biomedical science and technology research at the Nation’s universities and colleges.” Moreover, NSF is responsible for nearly 20 percent of all federally-supported fundamental research conducted by academic institutions and nearly 40 percent of federally-supported non-biomedical university-based research.

In recognition of this and the President’s repeated pledges to invest in innovation, the Administration’s budget request would provide $7.8 billion to NSF, an increase of 13 percent above the FY 2010 enacted appropriation. Of note, however, Congress has yet to complete work on the FY 2011 appropriations and NSF would receive cuts under the House’s current version of the FY 2011 spending bill.

The President’s FY 2012 budget request pledges to reduce costs wherever possible and has proposed eliminating or reducing funding for “lower priority education and research programs that achieved their original goals, showed mixed results, or did not align well with NSF’s core mission responsibilities.” At the same time, the budget would continue to invest in programs to broaden access to science and technology educational opportunities. For instance, the budget would provide $20 million for an “overarching, comprehensive science and technology workforce program to engage Hispanic-serving institutions.” Additionally, the Administration would provide $40 million to initiate a new teacher-training research and development program. From these funds, roughly $20 million would be applied to programs for K-12 teachers and $20 million for undergraduate teachers.

With respect to investments in research, the budget would “support the development of a clean energy economy.” Toward this goal, the President has proposed $998 million for the second year of a cross-agency “Science, Engineering and Education for Sustainability initiative that will take an integrated approach to increasing U.S. energy independence, enhancing environmental stewardship, reducing energy and carbon intensity, and generating sustained economic growth.” In addition, the budget would provide a $209 million increase from the 2010 enacted funding level for research in areas that could lead to breakthroughs in clean energy technology. If enacted, the funding for this effort would approach $576 million in FY 2012.

The FY 2012 budget also requests funding to continue building the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) and the Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI). According to White House documents, “The richness and diversity of America’s ecosystem and the oceans that flank America’s coasts have been a critical part of the Nation’s economy and growth throughout history. Accord¬ingly, the Administration proposes $88 million for the second year of construction of the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON). NEON will collect data across the United States on the impacts of climate change, land use change, and invasive species on natural resources and biodi¬versity. The Administration also proposes $103 million for the fourth year of construction of the Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI). OOI will consist of an integrated network of deep-sea buoys, regional cabled nodes on the seafloor, and coastal observatories that will provide continu¬ous, interactive access to the ocean.”

The budget request for NSF continues to propose investments in areas that could lay the “groundwork for the industries and jobs of the future and a renaissance in American manufacturing.” Related to this policy objective, the budget proposes $117 million for “cyber-infrastructure” activities that “will accelerate the pace of discovery in all research disciplines, and $12 million for a new program that will fund a suite of activities that promote greater interdisciplinary research.”

At First Look: USGS to Be Cut Under President’s Budget

According to White House budget documents, the President’s FY 2012 budget would provide $12 billion for the Department of the Interior, “a level that is roughly the same as in previous years.” Moreover, the White House states: “This reflects a continued increase in land and water conservation programs—an Administration priority—and an increase for offshore oil drilling oversight in the wake of the Gulf Coast oil spill. As with all Departments, cuts had to be made in other worthy areas including construction programs for tribal facilities, national parks, wildlife refuges, and public lands.”

Additionally, programmatic increases for conservation and drilling oversight would be offset by cuts to the budget of the United States Geological Survey (USGS). Details on the impacts to specific USGS programs will not be available until the agency releases its full FY 2012 budget request, which should happen this week.

A Glance at Other Agencies

  • Environmental Protection Agency would receive roughly $9 billion, a $1.3 billion decrease.
  • Department of the Interior would receive approximately $12 billion, a $92 million decrease.
  • National Institutes of Health would receive roughly $31.8 billion, which would provide a $1.0 billion increase.
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration would receive roughly $5.5 billion, which represents an increase of approximately $645 million.
  • United States Department of Agriculture: Agricultural research would decline by roughly $472 million, placing this function at $2.3 billion. However, it appears that the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative could receive a 24 percent increase, brining the program area to roughly $325 million. Increased funding within this area appears to be targeted toward human nutrition and obesity reduction, food safety, sustainable bioenergy, global food security, and climate change.
  • United States Forest Service would be trimmed by $176 million, dropping the agency to $5.1 billion.
  • Department of Energy would receive a 12 percent increase, bringing the agency to $29.5 billion. Within Energy, the Office of Science would grow by $452 million, brining its FY 2012 budget to $5.4 billion.
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration would remain at the FY 2010 enacted funding level of $18.7 billion.
  • National Institute of Standards and Technology would hit the $1 billion mark, if the proposed $141 million budget increase is appropriated.

link to this

House Republican Spending Plan Would Slash Current Budgets

The new majority in the House of Representatives is moving forward with plans to reduce federal spending for the remainder of fiscal year (FY) 2011, which began on 1 October 2010. Science and almost all other non-security budgets have been targeted for cuts.

On 11 February, House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) proposed a reduction of $61 billion, relative to the FY 2010 enacted budget, from an upcoming Continuing Resolution (CR) that would fund the government for the remaining seven months of FY 2011. House Republicans are touting the proposal as "the largest reduction in discretionary spending in the history of our nation." The proposal would target numerous government agencies and programs for spending cuts, including:

  • National Science Foundation (total for agency): -$359.5 million
    • Research and Related Activities: -$150.0 million
    • Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction: -$62.5 million
    • Education and Human Resources: -$147.0 million
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: -$484.3 million
  • Smithsonian Institution: -$30.0 million
  • Environmental Protection Agency: -$3 billion
  • National Institutes of Health: -$1.6 billion
  • Agricultural Research Service: -$185.1 million
  • National Institute of Food and Agriculture: -$217.1
  • Department of Energy, Office of Science: -$893.2 million

The spending plan includes $26 billion in additional cuts from the proposal floated by Rep. Rogers just days before. Conservative lawmakers fiercely criticized the earlier plan, which would have cut $74 billion from the CR relative to the President's budget request for FY 2011. Rogers announced on 10 February that he would include additional reductions in the CR in order to reduce spending by at least $100 billion relative to the President's FY 2011 budget. Many Republican Representatives campaigned on a promise of reducing spending in FY 2011 by at least $100 billion.

"After meeting with my subcommittee Chairs, we have determined that the CR can and will reach a total of $100 billion in cuts compared to the President's request immediately - fully meeting the goal outlined in the Republican 'Pledge to America' in one fell swoop," said Rogers in a statement released on 10 February. "Our intent is to make deep but manageable cuts in nearly every area of government, leaving no stone unturned and allowing no agency or program to be held sacred. I have instructed my committee to include these deeper cuts, and we are continuing to work to complete this critical legislation."

Democrats were quick to criticize the plan. "Republicans are proposing an irresponsible spending bill that threatens job and economic growth, hampers our global competitiveness, and harms the people hurting most: working families and the middle class," said Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). "The Republican proposal would target critical education programs like Head Start, halt innovation and disease research, end construction projects to rebuild America, and take cops off the beat," she said.

The large scope of the proposed spending reductions may make it very difficult for the GOP-led House to eventually reach an agreement with the Democratic Senate. The clock is ticking for Congress to act, as the current spending bill for FY 2011 ends on 4 March. The House of Representatives is scheduled to begin debate on the CR on 15 February.

link to this

Scientists Applaud Interior Department Scientific Integrity Policy

On 1 February, the Department of the Interior (DOI) issued a comprehensive policy that will promote and protect scientific and scholarly integrity within the department. The policy, issued as a chapter in the Departmental Manual, provides essential details and procedures for the DOI-wide implementation of a September 2010 directive from Secretary Salazar. The policy also responds to White House directives requiring federal departments and agencies to establish scientific integrity policies.

“The DOI policy released today is impressive and thorough. This policy goes a long way toward providing a model for other agencies and non-governmental organizations” said American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) President Dr. James P. Collins. “I commend Secretary Salazar and everyone at Interior who worked on developing the department’s position in these important areas. It is an impressive accomplishment to develop a policy that meets the needs of departmental scientists and is compatible with the DOI’s diverse mission areas,” Collins said.

The DOI scientific and scholarly integrity policy includes a number of provisions AIBS and other scientific organizations recommended in response to a draft policy issued for comment last year.

“The department has considered and incorporated recommendations made by external scientific organizations,” said Dr. Robert Gropp, AIBS Director of Public Policy. “It is great to see that Interior has taken the White House directives on scientific integrity seriously. We are pleased to see that the policy now applies to all employees, including political appointees and public affairs officials. This policy should help to foster public trust in departmental decisions and officials.”

“Scientific societies and professional organizations should be pleased with this policy,” stated Collins. Importantly, the new policy sets forth specific and clear guidance for how departmental scientists may serve their professional communities through service on boards and advisory committees. “DOI now has a clear procedure to guide how and when federal scientists may serve their scientific communities. This is good for the department, for science, and for the public. Federal scientists are often leaders in their fields. Science benefits when they are able to fully participate in their professional communities,” stated Collins.

In the coming months, AIBS will work with its members and the department to ensure that scientists are aware of this new policy. According to Executive Director Dr. Richard O’Grady, “AIBS is considering hosting a roundtable discussion on scientific integrity this May. We want to facilitate a discussion of this policy. Integrity is so important to ensuring public trust in organizations, whether governmental or non-governmental, that we want to explore how scientific and scholarly integrity policy can be developed in other organizations and agencies.”

AIBS comments on the draft DOI scientific integrity policy are available online at http://www.aibs.org/position-statements/.

The DOI Scientific and Scholarly Integrity policy is available at http://elips.doi.gov/appdm/actgetfiles.cfm?relnum=3889/.

link to this

AIBS Names Emerging Public Policy Leader Award Winner

The American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) has selected Wesley Brooks, a Ph.D. candidate at Rutgers University, to receive the 2011 AIBS Emerging Public Policy Leadership Award (EPPLA).

“AIBS is committed to fostering a productive dialogue between policymakers and scientists,” said AIBS Executive Director Dr. Richard O’Grady. “We applaud Wesley Brooks for exemplifying this commitment through his work.”

Since 2003, AIBS has recognized the achievements of biology graduate students who have demonstrated an interest and aptitude for contributing to science and public policy. AIBS will bring Brooks to Washington, DC in March to meet with his Congressional delegation and to attend a briefing on the federal budget for scientific research. These events are in conjunction with the annual Biological and Ecological Sciences Coalition (BESC) Congressional Visits Day. Brooks will also receive a certificate and one-year membership in AIBS, which includes a subscription to the journal BioScience.

“By participating in the 2011 Congressional visits event, Wesley Brooks is playing an important role in bridging the communication gap between our nation’s policymakers and the scientific community,” said AIBS President Dr. James P. Collins. “He is a great role model for graduate students interested in working at the intersection of biological research and public policy.”

“I believe that this award will provide me with the momentum, knowledge, and interpersonal connections necessary to effectively transition from my graduate research to a long-term career in public service and science advocacy,” said Brooks.

Brooks is pursuing a Ph.D. in ecology and evolutionary biology at Rutgers University. His thesis research explores how fish and plant community properties affect the susceptibility of those communities to invasion by non-native species. He hopes that his research findings will identify lower cost alternatives for the control of invasive species. While in graduate school, Brooks has interned with the National Center for Environmental Economics at the Environmental Protection Agency. During these experiences, he has contributed to the development of a computer model to more accurately project the costs of climate change. He was also a Governor’s Executive Fellow through a program at Rutgers’ Eagleton Institute of Politics. Prior to graduate school, Brooks worked as an ecological consultant at the Key West Tropical Forest and Botanical Garden in Key West, Florida, where he collaborated with government agencies and others to share plant population data across conservation areas. He earned a bachelor’s degree in biology and political science from Duke University.

This year, AIBS will also recognize as EPPLA Honorable Mention Michael Jay Walsh, a Ph.D. student in biological and environmental engineering at Cornell University.

link to this

Senate Appropriations Committee Leadership, Membership Announced

On 4 February, the Senate Appropriations Committee announced its lineup for the 112th Congress. With the retirement and defeat of several former appropriators, the committee had multiple openings for new members, thereby allowing seven Republicans to join. All but one of these newest appropriators are freshmen; the exception is Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who is currently serving his second term. The others include Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO), Daniel Coats (R-IN), John Hoeven (R-ND), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Mark Kirk (R-IL), and Jerry Moran (R-KS). The subcommittee Chairmen, Ranking Minority Members, and members are as follows:

Agriculture, Rural Development, and Food and Drug Administration Subcommittee

The Chairman will be Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI). Freshman Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) will assume the top Republican spot on the subcommittee. Members of the panel will be Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Ben Nelson (D-NE), Mark Pryor (D-AR), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Susan Collins (R-ME), Jerry Moran (R-KS), and John Hoeven (R-ND).

Commerce, Justice, and Science Subcommittee

Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) will continue to chair the Commerce, Justice, and Science Subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over the National Science Foundation and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) will become Ranking Member; Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), who held that post in the 111th Congress, will become Ranking Member on the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Subcommittee. Members of the panel will be Senators Daniel Inouye (D-HI), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Herb Kohl (D-WI), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Ben Nelson (D-NE), Mark Pryor (D-AR), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Richard Shelby (R-AL), Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

Interior and Environment Subcommittee

Major leadership changes occurred on the Interior and Environment Subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over the United States Geological Survey, Environmental Protection Agency, National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, and parts of the Forest Service. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) both decided to give up their top spots on the subcommittee in order to lead the Energy and Water Subcommittee. The new Interior and Environment Subcommittee Chairman will be Senator Jack Reed (D-RI). Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) will become Ranking Member; Murkowski is also ranking member on the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Members of the panel will be Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Herb Kohl (D-WI), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Ben Nelson (D-NE), Jon Tester (D-MT), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Susan Collins (R-ME), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Roy Blunt (R-MO), and John Hoeven (R-ND).

Energy and Water Subcommittee

The subcommittee will have completely new leadership this year after former Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) retired and former Senator Bob Bennett (R-Utah) lost his bid for renomination. Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) will assume the role of subcommittee chair. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) is the subcommittee’s new Ranking Member. Members of the panel will be Senators Parry Murray (D-WA), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Jon Tester (D-MT), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), Richard Shelby (R-AL), Susan Collins (R-ME), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Subcommittee

The Chairman will be Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), who also chairs the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) assumes the position of Ranking Member. The subcommittee has jurisdiction over the Department of Education and the National Institutes of Health, among other agencies. Members of the panel will be Senators Daniel Inouye (D-HI), Herb Kohl (D-WI), Patty Murray (D-WA), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Jack Reed (D-RI), Mark Pryor (D-AR), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Jerry Moran (R-KS).

link to this

USGS Seeks Comments on Global Change Science Strategy

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) is requesting comments on the “USGS Global Change Science Strategy: A Framework for Understanding and Responding to Climate and Land-Use.” Details for reviewing and commenting on the plan are available in the following letter from Matt Larsen, Associate Director for Climate and Land Use Change at the USGS.

Dear USGS Stakeholder and Partner:

As you may know, in 2007 the USGS developed a Science Strategy outlining 6 overarching strategic science directions that we should focus on over the next 10 years. As part of implementing that strategy, we have aligned our management structure with Mission Areas that align with those strategic directions.

A team of scientists is now developing a 10-year science strategy for the new Climate and Land Use Change Mission Area. This strategy is being developed to further implement the USGS Science Strategy and will be used in setting priorities and implementation planning for future USGS climate and land-use change programs and activities. This is part of an overall effort to create strategies for all of the new Mission Areas.

We invite you to visit the USGS Science Strategy website (http://www.usgs.gov/startwithscience/) to review the draft “USGS Global Change Science Strategy: A Framework for Understanding and Responding to Climate and Land-Use” and provide your comments and feedback. The draft will be available for a 60-day period. Comments received will be taken into consideration in preparing the final document.

The website also includes background material on this plan and the strategic science planning process for all the USGS Mission Areas. Please help us create a compelling, comprehensive, and relevant strategy by visiting the site to offer your input.

Sincerely,

Matt Larsen Associate Director for Climate and Land Use Change

link to this

Obama Administration Launches Education Technology Agency

The Department of Education has proposed a new agency to fund the development of new education technologies and to promote their use in schools. The Advanced Research Projects Agency-Education is modeled after a successful funding program at the Department of Defense called DARPA, which is credited with the creation of the Internet. The new agency will seek to develop and deploy technologies that will help students to learn, such as digital tutors. According to officials at the Department of Education, less than 0.1 percent of the department’s budget for K-12 education is currently spent on research on how students learn.

link to this

Study Finds That Teachers Avoid Teaching Evolution

According to a new study published in the journal Science, only 28 percent of biology teachers in public high schools teach evolution and present it as a unifying theme for theme for biology. Conversely, 13 percent of surveyed teachers spend at least an hour of class time on the subject of creationism. The remaining 59 percent of teachers try to avoid controversy by neither endorsing evolution or creationism/intelligent design.

“Students are being cheated out of a rich science education,” said Dr. Plutzer, a professor of political science at Penn State University. “We think the ‘cautious 60 percent’ represent a group of educators who, if they were better trained in science in general and in evolution in particular, would be more confident in their ability to explain controversial topics to their students, to parents, and to school board members.”

link to this

Short Takes

  • Senator Daniel Inouye (D-WI), Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, announced in early February that his panel would not permit earmarks in the spending bills for fiscal years 2011 and 2012. This announcement means that both chambers of Congress and the President are unified in their opposition to earmarks. Republican leadership in the House of Representatives already banned earmarks, and President Obama pledged in his State of the Union address to "veto any legislation containing earmarks."

  • The Natural Science Collections Alliance (NSC Alliance) has published two new documents that demonstrate how scientist and others are utilizing natural science collections to advance research and inform solutions to current problems. The documents may be viewed and downloaded from the NSC Alliance website at http://nscalliance.org/?p=360

  • The State Department is seeking experts to review the "Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters To Advance Climate Change Adaptation" of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Comments are due by 7 March. For more information, visit http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2011/2011-2648.htm.

  • Nominations are being solicited for the National Wildlife Services Advisory Committee. The committee advises the Secretary of Agriculture on policies, program issues, and research needed to conduct the Wildlife Services program. Nominations are due by 12 April. For more information, visit http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2011/2011-3141.htm.

link to this

New in BioScience: "New Congress: Old Climate Rhetoric?"

Read the Washington Watch column in the February 2011 issue of BioScience to learn about how the 112th Congress may or may not work together to address pressing science and science-related public policy issues. The article, “New Congress, Old Climate Rhetoric?” may also be viewed online for free at http://www.aibs.org/washington-watch/washingtonwatch2011_02.html.

link to this

Become an Advocate for Science: Join the AIBS Legislative Action Center

Quick, free, easy, effective, impactful! Join the AIBS Legislative Action Center today!

The AIBS Legislative Action Center is an online resource that allows biologists and science educators to quickly and effectively influence policy and public opinion. Each day lawmakers must make tough decisions about science policy. For example, what investments to make in federal research programs, how to conserve biodiversity, how to mitigate climate change, or under what circumstances to permit stem cell research. Scientists now have the opportunity to help elected officials understand these issues. This exciting new advocacy tool allows individuals to quickly and easily communicate with members of Congress, executive branch officials, and selected media outlets.

This new tool is made possible through contributions from the Society for the Study of Evolution, American Society for Limnology and Oceanography, Association of Ecosystem Research Centers, and the Botanical Society of America.

AIBS and our partner organizations invite scientists and science educators to become a policy advocate today. Simply go to http://capwiz.com/aibs/home/ to send a prepared letter or to sign up to receive periodic Action Alerts.

link to this

back to Public Policy Reports

Bookmark and Share