NOAA AUTHORIZATION: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has existed for more than three decades, but has never been authorized by Congress. This fall, the House passed authorizing legislation for NOAA, but the Senate did not act, and similar legislation will have to be reintroduced again in the new Congress next year.
HOMELAND SECURITY S&T: House and Senate appropriators, dissatisfied with management of the Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology Directorate, are looking to new Under Secretary for Science and Technology Jay Cohen to improve matters.
CONGRESSIONAL FELLOWSHIPS: The American Institute of Physics, the American Physical Society, the American Geophysical Union, and the Optical Society of America are all seeking applicants for their Congressional Science Fellowship programs, which offer scientists the opportunity to work in a congressional office, providing scientific expertise and learning about the legislative process. Applications for the term starting in September 2007 are generally due in early January; please see http://www.aip.org/gov/cf.html for more information.
FY07 APPROPRIATIONS: Congress will be heading home for the holidays with only two of the 11 fiscal year 2007 appropriations bills passed, and the final appropriations outcome still unclear.
DEMOCRATS ON INNOVATION: Incoming Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D- CA) recently reiterated her support for increased basic research funding. A year ago she gave a speech outlining in more detail Democrats' plans for an "Innovation Agenda".
ITER CONSTRUCTION AGREEMENT: On November 21, representatives of the parties participating in ITER gathered in Paris to sign an agreement to build the international demonstration fusion reactor.
INNOVATION BENCHMARKS REPORT. "Those who stand still will fall behind," says a new report tracking benchmarks of America's leadership in research and technology. This report, released on November 16, is the second from the Task Force on the Future of American Innovation, a coalition of business, scientific, and university organizations including the American Institute of Physics and the American Physical Society. The Task Force finds that the concerns raised in its 2005 report - including federal basic research spending, student interest and PhD production in science and engineering, and the high-tech trade balance - have not disappeared. "If we wait to be absolutely sure these trends are what they appear to be," it warns, "it will become ever more difficult and expensive to recover."