OSTP report on federal R&D - At the request of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, RAND has prepared the most comprehensive and detailed information to date on the nature, magnitude, and location of the individual activities that comprise the Federal government's R&D portfolio. Discovery and Innovation: Federal Research and Development Activities in the Fifty States, District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico is an extraordinarily comprehensive 650 page report that taps the RaDiUS (Research and Development in the United States) database to put a human face on the Federal R&D enterprise. This groundbreaking effort identifies the individual laboratories, R&D centers, universities, and companies where people actually create new knowledge and develop innovative new technologies. To ensure the comparability of all of the data used in the report from the most aggregate to the most detailed level of analysis, the most recent data available is from 1998, the baseline fiscal year used throughout the report. Unlike previous reports, RaDiUS provides descriptions of the substantive nature of the research, rather than simply categorizing research expenditures by broad scientific discipline. According to RAND, the bottom line is that every State in the nation has seen a boost in its economy and improvements in local communities from jobs to schools as a result of Federal investments in science and technology. The report is online at http://www.rand.org/publications/MR/MR1194/.
Science education bills introduced in Senate; Ehlers bills make progress in House - Senator Pat Roberts has introduced three bills to enhance pre-college science, math, engineering, and technology (SMET) education. S.2624 - The National Science Education Act enhances and creates new programs within the National Science Foundation including a master SMET teacher program to provide mentors for K-8 teachers and train them in hands-on, inquiry-oriented instruction. This bill also establishes a working group to examine the ideal scope, sequence and content of SMET curricula. S.2623 - The National Science Education Enhancement Act enhances and creates new programs within the Department of Education including rigorous summer institutes for meaningful teacher professional development. S.2622 - The National Science Education Incentives Act creates tax credits for potential math and science teachers who pursue strong SMET content in their career preparation and tax incentives for businesses who provide goods and training services to elementary and secondary school teachers. These three bills are companions to those introduced in the House by Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-MI), which now have 56 co-sponsors. AIBS members who would like to encourage their representatives to co-sponsor this legislation (or thank their representatives who have already co-sponsored) can use the AIBS Legislative Information Center at http://www.aibs.org/latitude/latpublicpolicy.html to determine if their representatives have co-sponsored these bills. E-mail letters can be sent to the representatives directly from this website. Congressman Ehler's website has a very good, detailed information about the specifics of these three bills. AIBS plans to coordinate its efforts to support passage of these bills with the National Association of Biology Teachers and other member organizations.
Bush promotes big federal spending for science education - The New York Times reported June 21 that presidential candidate George W. Bush proposed spending an additional $2.3 billion over five years in federal funds to improve math and science education in public schools. Speaking to educators in the Silicon Valley, Bush warned that American schoolchildren were not being adequately prepared for the demands of jobs in high technology. Among Bush's proposals are: an additional $1 billion over five years to establish a Math and Science Partnership Fund to encourage universities and colleges to interact with public schools in ways that enhanced math and science instruction for children in kindergarten through the 12th grade; $345 million to encourage science and math majors to teach in public schools in needy areas (increasing the existing $5,000 of student loan forgiveness to $17,500); and increasing the size of federal Pell grants for low-income students who have taken college-level math or sciences courses in high school.
House appropriations for NSF - The U.S. House of Representatives approved the appropriations bill for Veterans Affairs-Housing and Urban Development-Independent Agencies on June 21. This bill, which includes the National Science Foundation's funding, contains little increase for NSF, which would receive $4.0 billion, an increase of $149 million (3.8%) over the current fiscal year. This increase is drastically lower than the amount requested by the Clinton Administration, which had proposed a $675 million (17.3%) increase for NSF. The Research and Related Activities (R&RA) account, which funds most of NSF's R&D, would receive $3.1 billion (5.4 percent or $159 million more than FY 2000). The House bill would generally follow NSF's stated priorities on how to distribute the funds among the research directorates. The Biological Sciences (BIO) directorate would receive $450 million, an increase of 8.6 percent (in contrast to the requested 22%), while programs in the mathematical and physical sciences, engineering, earth sciences, and social sciences would receive increases between 6 and 8 percent. The Major Research Equipment account, which funds construction of large-scale scientific facilities, would receive $77 million, far less than the $139 million request. The House would provide no funds for the National Ecological Observatory Network. The only program within R&RA to decline would be Integrative Activities, which includes the Biodiversity in the Environment Initiative (Biocomplexity). This program would fall 32.5 percent from $129 million to $87 million.
NSF's Education and Human Resources programs would receive $694 million, slightly below FY 2000 and well below the $729 million request. Although the House would provide the full requested amounts for Educational System Reform, the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), and most other HER programs, funding for Undergraduate Education and Graduate Education is well below the Administration's requested amounts.
The Senate has not drafted its version yet. According to science budget experts at the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences, the House bill is likely to draw a veto threat because its funding levels fall far short of the request, and because it would eliminate one of the Clinton Administration's high-priority programs. Ultimately, AAAS says, it is likely that final funding levels for VA-HUD bill programs will be far higher when the appropriations process is over. It is likely that additional funds will be found for NSF programs, especially if the Senate VA-HUD bill proposes higher funding levels, but it appears unlikely that Congress will agree to the full increase requested by the Administration. (Thanks go to the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program for its up-to-the minute, in-depth reporting and analysis).
Appropriations Committee ranking Democrat David Obey (D-WI) expressed strong disappointment at the amount of funding provided for the National Science Foundation (NSF) and suggested that continuing advances in biomedical science require advances in other scientific disciplines. Mr. Obey opposed the bill, saying, "take a look at the National Science Foundation. Economists tell us that in the past 50 years half of the United States economic productivity can be attributed to technological innovation and the science that has supported and developed it. The way science works is that organizations such as the National Science Foundation develop the basic science. And then, when they answer the key questions of nature, then that science is given to the National Institutes of Health and the National Institutes of Health do research which is more applied in nature, leading to specific cures for specific diseases. But the underlying foundation of all progress against human disease is the National Science Foundation, and the President's budget for it is being whacked by $500 billion. Representative Rush Holt (D-NJ) offered an amendment to increase NSF funding by about $500 million but it was rejected because it did not identify any "offsets" in other areas of the VA-HUD-IA appropriations bill.
The Committee report to the House did contain one glimmer of hope for next year. The report commended NSF on the Nation Science Board report, `Environmental Science and Engineering for the 21st Century: the Role of the National Science Foundation,' and encouraged the Foundation to consider incorporating the recommendations of that report in its fiscal 2002 budget submission. That report recommends increasing NSF support for environmental research, education, and scientific assessment by an additional $1 billion, to be phased in over the next five years, to reach an annual expenditure of approximately $1.6 billion.
Plant Protection Act signed into law - The Agricultural Risk Protection Act of 2000 (H.R. 2559, signed by President Clinton on June 20, incorporates as Title IV the Plant Protection Act, a measure designed to regulate the importation and interstate movement of plant pests. The law authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture to develop a permit system and regulations to limit the spread of plant pests, which are defined as "any living stage of any protozoan, nonhu8man animal, parasitic plan, bacterium, fungus, virus, viroid, infection agent or other pathogen that can directly or indirectly injure, cause damage to, or cause disease in any plant or plant product." To prevent import of such organisms, the Secretary of Agriculture may prohibit or restrict the importation, entry, exportation, or movement in interstate commerce of any plant , plant product, biological control organism, noxious weed, article, or means of conveyance, if that the prohibition or restriction is necessary to prevent the introduction into the United States or the dissemination of a plant pest or noxious weed within the United States.