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December 2013 Public Policy News

23 December: Coalition urges Appropriators to support DOE Office of Science and ARPA-E: After Congress returns on January 6 it will need to vote on legislation to fund the operations of the federal government through September 30. The staffs of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees will be working through the holiday recess to have final legislation ready for a vote in the House and Senate. Current funding expires on January 15. Read more

20 December: House Science Committee discusses astrobiology research:
The House Committee on Science, Space and Technology held a December 4 hearing to assess the multi- and interdisciplinary nature of astrobiology research. NASA’s Astrobiology Program, part of the Planetary Science Division of the Science Mission Directorate includes four divisions: NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI); Exobiology and Evolutionary Biology (EXO); Astrobiology, Science and Technology Instrument Development (ASTID); and Astrobiology Science and Technology for Exploring Planets (ASTEP). NASA publishes astrobiology roadmaps in order to outline definitions, accomplishments, set priorities, and describe public outreach and education objectives in the field of astrobiology. The next astrobiology roadmap is expected to be released in 2014. Read more

13 December: Progress toward completion of FY 2014 Appropriation Bills:
“Short-term agreement breaks through partisan gridlock and can serve as foundation for continued bipartisan work,” declared a joint statement issued earlier this week by the House and Senate Budget Committee chairmen about a plan setting overall discretionary program funding limits for FY 2014 and FY 2015. Last night the House easily passed (332-94) a budget measurement that will implement this agreement, and it is expected that the Senate will do so next week. These actions are, at long last, clearing the way for appropriators to write final funding legislation for this fiscal year. Read more

13 December: Results of International Education Survey released:
A recent survey by the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) compared students in 65 economies. PISA is an ongoing triennial survey which aims to evaluate education systems by assessing how students apply their knowledge to real-life situations. Student competencies are measured in reading, mathematics and science, with each year focusing on one of the three areas. In 2012 the focus was on math and in 2015 the focus will be on science. Results of the survey allow for comparison of students’ performance over time and are used to compare student performance between economies. Around 510,000 15-year-old students took part in PISA 2012.

Key findings include that among the 34 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) nations the United States “performed below average in mathematics in 2012 and is ranked 26th (this is the best estimate, although the rank could be between 23 and 29 due to sampling and measurement error).” The US ranks 21 out of 34 OECD countries in science, with a margin of error that has a range of 17-25th. In math, Shanghai-China was the top-performer. Performance in Shanghai-China “is the equivalent of over two years of formal schooling ahead of those observed in Massachusetts, itself a strong-performing U.S. state.” Read more

3 December: Briefing on US defense and intelligence workforce:
Congresswoman Louise M. Slaughter sponsored an event, hosted by Rochester Institute of Technology, to focus attention on critical importance of remote sensing to national security. RIT stresses the need to support educational efforts to build a deeper workforce of individuals trained in imaging science and remote sensing to support the nation's defense, intelligence and civil communities. Read the full release