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April 2013 Public Policy News

18 April 2013: NSF peer review comes under scrutiny: Yesterday, the House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space, and Technology held a hearing to discuss how the NSF decides which grant proposals to fund. The hearing featured Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Director John Holdren. Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) asked about focusing NSF grants on basic research that, he contended, would be more relevant to national needs. Following the hearing, Rep. Smith sent a letter to acting NSF Director Cora Marrett requesting detailed information on specific research projects awared NSF grants. Rep. Smith (R-TX) is the new chairman of the Committee. Read more about the Committee's priorities for 2014The High Quality Research Act has also been introduced in the House by Rep. Smith. It would limit the kind of research the NSF can fund, which prompted Rep. Bernice Johnson (D-TX), the Ranking Member of the Committee, to respond to Rep. Smith's proposal in her own letter. President Obama also responded to these developments at the 150th anniversary of the National Academy of Scienes by vowing to uphold the "integrity of the review process against political maneuvers." Director Holdren also responded at a AAAS event earlier this month.

12 April 2013: U.S. Department of Commerce to host webinar on Export Control Reform: The Commerce Department is hosting a webinar by Assistant Secretary for Export Administration Kevin Wolf. The first hour will describe the structure of the initial implementation rule and the second hour will describe the structure of the definition of "specially designed." (The webinar has now been posted to the Bureau of Industry and Security website) The Obama Administration has also recently announced many new changes to the regulation process.

10 April 2013: SPIE launches campaign in support of NSF funding: In response to the release of President Obama's budget proposal this morning, Representative G.K. Butterfield is circulating a letter to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittee requesting that the NSF be fully funded at the requested level (8.4% increase in funding over 2012 levels. To support these efforts, SPIE encouraged its members to contact their Members of Congress and ask them to sign onto this letter. Access the final letter.

10 April 2013: President Obama sends U.S. Congress his FY2014 budget proposal: The White House has sent its budget request for the 2014 fiscal year to Congress, beginning the budget negotiation process for the coming year. SPIE released a statement expressing support for certain aspects of the proposal, including increased funds for scientific research and a greater emphasis on STEM Education. Read the full release. All told, the President's 2014 budget proposes $143 billion for federal research and development, providing a 1 percent increase over 2012 levels for all R&D, and an increase of 9 percent for non-defense R&D. It includes an 8.4 percent increase over the 2012 enacted level for the National Science Foundation (NSF). Funding would rise for the NSF to an annual $7.6 billion. The budget for the Department of Energy's Office of Science would increase by 5.7 percent, to $5 billion.

Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Director John Holdren held a briefing on the budget, saying "the state of the R&D budget is quite strong," but acknowledging the FY 2014 request for federal science and technology programs is "not the budget we would want if the financial times were better." Access a webcast of this briefing, or review an in-depth look at the FY2014 budget request.

Items of note:

  • NASA: The Obama Administration has requested $17,715.4 million for NASA in FY 2014, a decline of $54.6 million or 0.3 percent from the FY 2012 level. Science funding would decline 1.1 percent under the proposed budget.
  • NSF: The total request for FY 2014 is $7,625.8 million which is an increase of $592.7 million or 8.4 percent over the FY 2012 enacted budget of $7,033.1 million.
  • NIST: The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is one of three federal S&T agencies for which the Obama Administration is seeking significant budget increases. The Administration is seeking $928.3 million for NIST in FY 2014, an increase of $177.5 million or 23.6 percent over FY 2012.
  • STEM: Funding for STEM education has previously come from multiple science mission agencies but under the President's FY 2014 proposal, it will be consolidated and restructured and will be based out of three agencies: the Department of Education (ED), National Science Foundation (NSF), and the Smithsonian Institution. The proposal decreases the total number of federal STEM programs from 226 to 112. The FY 2014 budget request includes $3.1 billion for STEM education programs. This request is an increase of $195 million or 6.7% over the FY 2012 enacted level.

9 April 2013: Final Next Generation Science Standards released: On Tuesday, April 9, the final Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), a new set of voluntary, rigorous, and internationally benchmarked standards for K-12 science education, were released. The NGSS were built upon a vision for science education established by the Framework for K-12 Science Education, published by the National Academies' National Research Council in 2011. View more information.

2 April 2013: President Obama announces $100 million brain mapping initiative as part of FY 2014 budget request: President Obama announced his intention to seek $100 million in his FY 2014 budget request for the BRAIN Initiative: Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies. Research funding would be provided by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation.

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