FYI: The AIP Bulletin of Science Policy News

FYI This Month: April 2012

Richard M. Jones
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Senate Committee Discusses Investments in Research and Development

A hearing entitled “Keeping America Competitive Through Investments in R&D” of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation’s Subcommittee on Science and Space provided an opportunity for budget and program discussions between senators and senior Obama Administration officials. 

GAO Assesses the Research Prioritization Process at the Department of Energy Office of Science

The Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development of the Senate Appropriations Committee reviewed a Government Accountability Office report on the Office of Science’s research priorities, explained how those priorities were established, and described the coordination between this office and other federal agencies used to identify areas of potential duplication of research efforts. 

Office of Science and Technology Policy Unveils Big Data Initiative

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, in collaboration with several federal departments and agencies, announced the creation of a Big Data Research and Development Initiative.  The goals of this initiative are “to advance state-of the-art core technologies needed to collect, store, preserve, manage, analyze, and share huge quantities of data; harness these technologies to accelerate the pace of discovery in science and engineering; strengthen our national security; and transform teaching and learning; and to expand the workforce needed to develop and use Big Data technologies.” 

House Science Subcommittee Examines Public Access to Research

A panel of five witnesses at a hearing of a subcommittee of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee offered contrasting approaches on increasing public access to the results of federally-funded research.  While there was marked disagreement about how this could best be accomplished, all agreed that the dissemination of research results to the public is important.  This hearing provided a thoughtful and well-articulated review of what the subcommittee later called the “complexity and promise of increased public access to research.”

Science Committee Holds Hearing to Review Plans for the International Space Station

The House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology held a hearing entitled, “Securing the Promise of the ISS – Challenges and Opportunities.”  The hearing reviewed NASA’s plans for effectively managing and utilizing the International Space Station (ISS) through 2020, including how NASA plans to continue conducting research aboard the ISS and how the agency will ensure that essential transportation and facilities resources are adequate to meet scientific research needs. 

Key Congressional Hearings on FY 2013 NASA Budget Request

Four important hearings were held on the FY 2013 NASA request.  As has been true for so many appropriations cycles, NASA and its congressional supporters simply do not have enough funding for all the current and future programs and projects in the agency’s portfolio.  Under the request, total agency funding would be cut by 0.3 percent. 

American Astronomical Society President Testifies Before House Appropriators

Last month the House Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittee received testimony from public witnesses regarding the Administration’s FY 2013 request.  One of those testifying was Debra Elmegreen, President of the American Astronomical Society.  Among the topics discussed in her testimony were the James Webb Space Telescope, proposed budgetary reductions for NASA’s Planetary Science Division, funding for other NASA missions, Plutonium-238 production, and funding for the National Science Foundation’s Astronomical Sciences, and Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction programs. 

First Information: FY 2013 Funding for the Department of Energy

The House Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee passed its version of an FY 2013 spending bill.  The subcommittee chairman explained “The recommendation continues to prioritize investments in our nuclear security enterprise, programs to address gasoline prices, and opportunities to advance American competitiveness, including the Corps of Engineers.” 

First Information: FY 2013 Funding for NSF, NASA and NIST

Appropriations legislation moved in both the House and Senate providing funding for the National Science Foundation, NASA, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Senate Appropriations Subcommittee Approves FY 2013 DOE Funding Bill

In commenting on the bill, the subcommittee chair commented “This bill makes responsible investments in critical water infrastructure projects, clean energy technologies and nonproliferation and nuclear weapons programs. It allows the Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation to fulfill their public safety responsibilities around the country while safeguarding and modernizing our nuclear weapon stockpile. The bill adds a limited provision to begin addressing our lack of policy for long-term storage of spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste, providing the Department of Energy with the authority to initiate a pilot program for a consolidated storage facility.” 

Coalition for National Security Research Issues FY 2013 Funding Statement

The Coalition for National Security Research, “a broadly-based coalition of industry, research universities, and associations [including AIP and several of its Member Societies] united by a commitment to a strong Defense S&T base” issued a FY 2013 funding statement.  The coalition states:  “While we recognize the severe fiscal restraints facing our country and difficult spending decisions that must be made, we urge the Congress to prioritize defense research as it develops the FY 13 Defense appropriations and authorization bills. Specifically, CNSR urges Congress to provide at least $2.117 billion for the DoD 6.1 basic research account and the FY 12 level of funding for both the 6.2 applied research and 6.3 advanced technology development accounts.”

White House Council Issues Report on Public Access

In fulfillment of a provision in the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010, the National Science and Technology Council sent a report to Congress detailing “progress toward the coordination of policies” “related to the dissemination and long-term stewardship of the results of unclassified research, including digital data and peer-reviewed scholarly publications, supported wholly or in part by funding from the Federal science agencies.” 

Georgetown University Releases Two Reports on College Majors

Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce recently released two reports addressing the career and earning prospects of a variety of college majors.  The first report, “Hard Times: College Majors, Unemployment and Earnings,” addresses the question: is college worth it?  The second report “What It’s Worth: The Economic Value of College Majors,” seeks to address the difference in potential earnings between college majors. 

Senate Committee Holds Hearing on Worker Training and Job Programs

The Senate Subcommittee on Competitiveness, Innovation, and Export Promotion held a hearing examining the role that training programs play in developing a highly skilled workforce and also examined opportunities of building partnerships between government, industry, and the education community in response to the needs of employers. 

Richard M. Jones
Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics