Highlights of Science and Technology Policy Developments of 2009

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Publication date: 
6 January 2010

The following are selected highlights from FYI in 2009.  Note that the month refers to the FYI publication date; see the archive for individual issues.


House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) stresses the importance of science, technology and innovation to the nation’s economic well-being at a policy meeting.  House and Senate appropriators draft economic stimulus legislation that would provide billions of dollars for science facilities, research and instrumentation, and energy research and education.  Steven Chu describes the essential role that the Department of Energy plays in the training, development, and employment of scientists and engineers at his Senate confirmation hearing. The House passes economic stimulus legislation.  A report by the National Academy of Sciences concludes the nation’s export and visa control systems are “broken.”


The Government Accountability Office identifies the space shuttle as one of thirteen “urgent issues” for the Obama Administration.  A DOE advisory committee recommends additional funding for energy, climate change, and economic challenges.  President Obama signs economic stimulus legislation providing an estimated $21.5 billion for scientific research. FY 2009 legislation is enacted increasing funding for NASA by 2.2 percent, the National Nuclear Security Administration by 3.6 percent,  the U.S. Geological Survey by 3.7 percent,  NSF by 5.9 percent, NIST by 8.4 percent, and the DOE Office of Science by 18.8 percent.   The Obama Administration releases an FY 2010 budget request overview with many references to the importance of science.


The acting director of the DOE Office of Science says a significant effort will be made to double the budget of the Office of Science in the next seven to ten years.  President Obama signs a presidential memorandum on scientific integrity.  The House Science and Technology Committee reviews ITAR and H1 visas.  Energy Secretary Chu is pressed on the Administration’s plans for nuclear waste disposal at congressional hearings.  Departments and agencies describe their intentions for stimulus funding.  The Senate confirms John Holdren as the new Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy.  Letters circulate on Capitol Hill supporting NSF and the DOE Office of Science.  House appropriators hold hearings on the nuclear weapons’ complex and science funding.


The Executive Officer of the American Physical Society urges House appropriators to avoid the “boom and bust” budget cycles that physical and biological sciences have experienced.  The chairman of House Science and Technology Committee testifies in support of the Administration’s S&T request.  The House and Senate issue budget resolutions supporting the doubling of NSF’s budget.  A Senate committee holds hearing on lessons learned from Three Mile Island, with witnesses urging the need to guard against complacency.  The National Science Board seeks comments on a sustainable energy future report.  Experts review the future of science and technology cooperation between the U.S. and China.   President Obama sets a goal to devote 3 percent of GDP to research and development and stresses the importance of math and science education.  Energy Secretary Chu testifies on climate change legislation.  Commerce Secretary Gary Locke testifies before House and Senate appropriators.


Senate confirmation hearings are held for senior Energy Department positions.  OSTP Director Holdren declares “our biggest asset: The President’s engagement with S&T.”  House appropriators discuss shortfalls in NASA’s funding.  The Administration sends an FY 2010 request to Congress that continues budget doubling plan for DOE Office of Science, NSF, and NIST.  House Science Committee members generally support the FY 2010 S&T request, with some disagreement about NASA.  Senate appropriators respond favorably to testimony by Energy Secretary Chu on the FY 2010 request.  House appropriators stress the importance of the Nuclear Posture Review in determining the future of the National Nuclear Security Administration.  A House Armed Services Committee hearing focuses on changes in today’s battlefield environments and the importance of anticipating future war fighting needs.


House and Senate committees review NASA’s FY 2010 budget request, with considerable attention given to the five year gap between the retirement of the space shuttle and its replacement.  The American Institute of Physics and other scientific and education organizations urge the President to make additional federal investments in science education.  Senate appropriators show little enthusiasm for FY 2010 NNSA request.  Appropriations committees start to release initial versions of FY 2010 funding bills, some of which are acted upon by House.  Scientific and academic organizations issue a statement urging visa reforms.   First meeting of Augustine Space Flight Committee is convened to provide an independent review of the U.S. human space flight program.


Senate confirmation hearing for the new NASA Administrator.  The new Director of the DOE Office of Science, speaking before an advisory committee, reaffirms the department’s responsibility to support basic research.  Calls made for funding increases in a major climate change bill for the development of clean energy technologies.  The Administration moves on several fronts to highlight proposed DOE Energy Innovation Hubs.


NSF issues a letter requesting merit review expertise to assist in the selection of awards for Academic Research Infrastructure funded by the economic stimulus act.  The White House releases a budget memo on FY 2011 science and technology priorities.  First meeting of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), with discussions on healthcare, energy, and reports from various subcommittees.


The Augustine committee issues a report summary, concluding that NASA’s budget profile is incompatible with a meaningful human exploration program.    President Obama reaffirms his belief in the importance of basic research.  A hearing is held on legislation to establish U.S. medical isotope production.


Congress continues its work on appropriations bills as the new fiscal year starts.  A National Academies’ committee initiates a review of technical issues relating to a Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty.  Obama Administration releases “A Strategy for American Innovation,” noting that during the last four decades, Federal funding for physical, mathematical, and engineering sciences as a percentage of GDP has declined by half.  The Government Accountability Office issues report questioning NASA’s management of the Constellation System.   A House hearing reviews DOE high energy physics and nuclear physics programs.  The Augustine committee releases its final report.


Large turnout for a symposium on “Accelerators for America’s future.”  Second PCAST meeting devotes considerable time to STEM education.  The Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) makes its first awards.  AIP announces the Mather Public Policy Intern Program.  A House Science subcommittee holds a hearing on the future of fusion energy.  The House passes a medical isotope bill.  A website is unveiled on R&D spending using economic stimulus funding.  The White House announces a major STEM education initiative.


Congressional committees review NASA’s human space flight programs.  Critics assail climate science and controversial emails during a climate change hearing.  ARPA-E announces a second funding opportunity and a fellowship program.  A medical isotope bill is supported by key senators.  Final FY 2010 appropriations legislation is passed, with funding changes ranging from +44 percent to - 15 percent.