FYI: The AIP Bulletin of Science Policy News

FYI This Month: October 2012

Richard M. Jones
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Update on Automatic Budget Cuts to Federal R&D

Two reports describing significant damage that automatic cuts in federal spending would have on research and development have been released.  A new letter to President Obama and congressional leaders urges agreement on a plan to avoid budget sequestration and to achieve “significant long-term deficit reduction.”  Meanwhile, the Office of Management and Budget has instructed federal departments and agencies to “continue normal spending and operations” as uncertain efforts to prevent these cuts continue on Capitol Hill.

Immigration Discussions Surrounding the Science, Engineering, Technology, and Math Workforce

Discussions on Capitol Hill have recently turned to reforming the immigration system to grant visas to highly skilled workers in science, engineering, technology, and math (STEM).  Representatives Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Lamar Smith (R-TX), and Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) each introduced bills addressing the skills and talent deficit faced by US employers looking to hire STEM workers.  The bills would change immigration rules to allow for an increase in immigrants with STEM skills.

National Academies Releases Report on Discipline-Based Education Research

The National Research Council of the National Academies of Sciences convened a Committee on the Status, Contributions, and Future Directions of Disciplined-Based Education Research (DBER).  The Committee recently released a report entitled “Discipline-Based Education Research: Understanding and Improving Learning in Undergraduate Science and Engineering.”  The report examines the emerging field of DBER, a field which combines expertise in science and engineering with methods and theories of how students learn.  DBER “investigates learning and teaching in a discipline from a perspective that reflects the discipline’s priorities, worldview, knowledge, and practices” according to the Executive Summary of the report.

Top Democrat on Appropriations Committee Outlines Impacts on R&D from Funding Cuts

Rep. Norm Dicks (D-WA), the Ranking Member on the House Appropriations Committee, has outlined what he anticipates will be the impacts of dramatic reductions in departmental and agency budgets that are scheduled to occur on January 2, 2013.  Included in his analysis are NSF, DOE, NASA, NIH, CDC, DoD, NNSA, and the National Weather Service.

New Threat to American Competiveness Discussed at Senate Hearing

“Success takes time,” Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) said at the outset of a hearing entitled “Five Years of the America COMPETES Act: Progress, Challenges, and Next Steps.”  The two-hour hearing heard from five witnesses, one of whom raised a troubling new development posing a threat to America’s future competitiveness.

Looking Ahead: Senate Hearing on Moving Beyond Low Earth Orbit

“I cannot escape the conclusion that the agency is being asked to do too much with too little” said Steven Squyres at a hearing of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.  Squyres is the Chairman of the NASA Advisory Council, and was joined at the witness table by National Research Council Space Studies Board Chair Charles Kennel and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne President Jim Maser to discuss the space agency’s future programs

Study Requested on Regulatory Burdens Faced by Research Universities

House Subcommittee on Research and Science Education Chairman, Mo Brooks (R-AL), sent a letter on October 3, 2012 to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to request a review of the current regulations and reporting requirements imposed on research universities.

Richard M. Jones
Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics