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September Public Policy News

September 30, 2011: Senate Appropriators begin naming numbers for key science agencies: In recent weeks, the U.S. Senate has come up with its own numbers for key science programs, following House appropriators who have already announced many of their budget numbers for the FY2012 cycle. Here's an update on the new numbers that have been proposed:

  • Defense: The FY 2012  Department of Defense Appropriations Bill has been approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee.  Total funding provided by this bill, H.R. 2219, is $620.24 billion.  The House passed version of the bill recommends $638.33 billion.  The Obama Administration requested $646.42 billion. Reflecting efforts to trim spending, FY 2011’s budget was higher — about $660.12 billion.
  • Department of Energy Science: The Department of Energy’s Office of Science (OS) is funded at $4.857 billion, a decrease of 11.4% from the Administration’s FY 2012 recommendation.
  • National Science Foundation: NSF is funded overall at $6.86 billion, a decrease of about 11.7 % from the Administration’s FY 2012 Budget Request.
  • National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST): The Senate appropriators have agreed to fund NIST (an agency of the U.S. Dept. of Commerce) at $750 million, a decrease of about 30.2% from the Administration’s FY 2012 recommendation.  The Technology Innovation Program (TIP) appears to have received minimal funding of about $50 million.

September 30, 2011: Report released on how potential spending cuts might affect research and development: The so-called Debt Super Committee working on trimming an additional $1.5 trillion in federal spending over a multi-year period is expected to propose deep cuts before Thanksgiving.  If the Debt Super Committee cannot reach an agreement, automatic across the board cuts will be imposed upon most federal discretionary spending programs. The Congressional Budget Office has released a report, The Estimated Impact of Automatic Budget Enforcement Procedures Specified in the Budget Control Act. See how such efforts might affect your own interests by clicking here.

September 26, 2011: Obama Administration releases long ancticipated federal inventory of STEM programs: White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Associate Director for Science Carl Wieman, who also serves as leader of the White House’s efforts in STEM education, presented the preliminary results of a new federal inventory of STEM programs at a recent summit at Drexel University. The OSTP provided a detailed accounting of all 13 federal agencies that sponsor programs focused on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. All told, the inventory tallied 252 specific programs in STEM education across the 13 agencies, representing a total federal investment of $3.5 billion. Complete results of the inventory and analysis will be published later this fall. You can access the preliminary findings here.

September 20, 2011: White House releases plan to encourage communication between government officials and citizen-experts: Today the White House released the US Open Government Plan, which includes a mention of "expert.net".  This is all a part of the efforts to increase transparency in government. In many cases, those who work in government turn to those outside for advice and support. But too often, officials know only a subset of relevant experts or need to find experts in a new area. To overcome these hurdles, the U.S. will Launch ExpertNet. This platform will enable government officials to better communicate with citizens who have expertise on a pertinent topic. It will give members of the public an opportunity to participate in a public consultation relevant to their areas of interest and knowledge, and allow officials to pose questions to and interact with the public in order to receive useful information. Read the full plan here.

September 16, 2011: America Invents Act becomes law, ushering in patent reform: President Barack Obama signed into law on Friday a bill that overhauls the nation’s patent system for the first time in nearly six decades. When enacted, the bill will shift the U.S. patent system from a first-to-invent to a first-to-file nation. It also sets up a new regime to review patents and gives the USPTO more flexibility to set and spend fees paid for by inventors and businesses to get patents and register trademarks.

September 15, 2011: SPIE-supported state STEM-Ed report card released: SPIE is a sponsor of ASTRA’s 2011 State STEM Ed Report Card series that has just been released. Now 4 pages long, this year’s report cards contain extensive job & career data provided by Dr. Tony Carnevale and his team at the Georgetown Center for Education and Workforce, as well as ethnicity and gender survey graphs of STEM students provided by the NRCCUA, the National Research Center for College & University Admissions. Check out your own state by clicking through here.

September 2, 2011: American Security Project's Norm Augustine writes on the gap in research and development: "America is in grave danger of loosing its edge," wrote Norm Augustine in an article for The Hill. "For over one hundred years, American leadership in science, technology, engineering, and manufacturing has been unrivaled. It has created for us not only one of the highest standards of living any civilization has ever achieved, but also brought American preeminence in the world and a strong national defense." Read the full article here