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AAU Weekly Wrap-up

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May 9, 2014

CONTENTS
CONGRESSIONAL SCHEDULE NEW
BUDGET, APPROPRIATIONS, AND TAX ISSUES
House Appropriations Okays FY15 CJS Bill, Subcommittee Allocations UPDATED
OTHER CONGRESSIONAL ISSUES
Senate Judiciary Committee Again Postpones Markup of Patent Legislation UPDATED
OTHER
ITIF Report Shows U.S. Investment in University Research Lagging

 

CONGRESSIONAL SCHEDULE NEW

The House met today to consider legislation to permanently extend the research and development tax credit (H.R. 4438) and to consolidate federal charter school programs (H.R. 10). The House is in recess next week and will reconvene on Monday, May 19.

The Senate did not meet today. It will reconvene on Monday, May 12. Its schedule for the week includes confirmation of judicial and executive branch nominees and a cloture vote on an energy efficiency bill (S. 2262).

 

BUDGET, APPROPRIATIONS, AND TAX ISSUES

HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS OKAYS FY15 CJS BILL, SUBCOMMITTEE ALLOCATIONS UPDATED

The House Appropriations Committee on May 7 approved the FY15 Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) bill, as well as its allocation of discretionary spending among the panel’s 12 subcommittees (the 302(b) allocations).

While funding in the overall CJS bill is one percent below the FY14 level, the measure would increase funding for both the National Science Foundation (NSF) and NASA. During the markup, the committee agreed to reallocate $5 million of the increase for NSF research to offset increased funding for the Pacific Coast Salmon Recovery program. In addition, the committee report that accompanies the bill states that “any increases [for NSF] provided above the request and not otherwise specified in [this report] shall be applied to math and physical sciences; computer and information science and engineering; engineering; and biological sciences.”

NSF: Counting the $5 million committee reduction, the bill would provide about $7.4 billion for the agency overall, an increase of $232 million, or about 3.2 percent, over the FY14 enacted level. Within that total, the bill includes $5.93 billion for Research and Related Activities, an increase of $165 million, or 2.8 percent; $876 million for Education and Human Resources, an increase of $31 million, or 3.5 percent; and $200 million for Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction, which is level funding.

In addition to the language mentioned above, the committee report addresses several issues with respect to NSF:

The report includes $21 million for research related to the BRAIN initiative and cognitive sciences and neurosciences.

The report recommends that NSF continue its work on the “replication of scientific research,” and that the agency support research on practices that improve research methods, increase research transparency, and allow for increased scientific replicability.

The committee recognizes the importance of, and NSF’s reliance on, employees hired through the Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA). But the report also says, “NSF should be able to better control these costs through more aggressive negotiations with IPA employees’ home institutions, the imposition of cost sharing requirements and other means. To incentivize NSF to continue pursuing these cost savings opportunities, the recommendation permits NSF to continue hiring IPAs but does not provide the requested increases for IPA compensation, per diem, lost consultant fees and travel.”

The report notes that some have raised concerns about research funded through the Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBE) Directorate. It adds, In order to address these concerns, NSF must ensure that SBE awards are consistent with NSF’s scientific quality standards and aligned to national interests.The committee recognizes the intrinsic value in SBE sciences and the direct responsiveness of SBE activities to committee priorities, including studies on the effects of youth exposure to media violence and the collection of data for STEM education indicators.”

NASA: The bill would provide $17.9 billion overall, which is $250 million, or 1.3 percent, above the FY14 level.

Within that total, Science would receive about $5.2 billion, which is $42 million, or one percent, above the FY14 level.

Aeronautics would be funded at $666 million, which is $100 million, or 17.7 percent, above the FY14 level. Space Technology would receive $620 million, which is $44 million, or 7.6 percent, above the FY14 enacted level.

Report language accompanying the bill makes a number of recommendations about specific projects and programs within the three NASA directorates. These include language outlining concerns about the proposed Asteroid Redirect Mission; providing direction on NASA education and outreach programs; laying out detailed direction for Planetary Sciences; rejecting NASA’s plan to terminate the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy project (SOFIA); proposing a restructuring of the Aeronautics budget; and requiring NASA to develop a plan to allocate more research funding for the International Space Station to research, not logistical support.

 

OTHER CONGRESSIONAL ISSUES

SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE AGAIN POSTPONES MARKUP OF PATENT LEGISLATION UPDATED

Lacking the necessary support to pass a bill designed to curb abusive patent practices, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) again postponed markup of a bill (S. 1720) that was scheduled for May 8.

The Committee continues to work on patent legislation, searching for compromise language that would curb abusive practices without harming the ability of patent holders legitimately to enforce their patent rights. Universities and allied groups continue to stress the importance of balance in any legislation and the need to avoid overly broad provisions that would diminish the value of patents and weaken the nation’s innovative capacity.

 

OTHER

ITIF REPORT SHOWS U.S. INVESTMENT IN UNIVERSITY RESEARCH LAGGING

As part of an AAU-APLU-Science Coalition meeting on Capitol Hill on May 7, the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF) led a discussion of its report from last December, “University Research Funding: Still Lagging and Showing No Signs of Improvement.” Participating in the session were ITIF President Rob Atkinson, MIT Washington Office Director Bill Bonvillian, and IBM Senior Director for Strategic Partnerships Kathleen Kingscott.

The ITIF report shows that although the United States still leads the world in overall funding of university research, it no longer leads in university research funding relative to the size of its economy. Among 39 nations, the U.S. ranks just 24th in federal and state government funding and 27th in business funding of university research as a share of gross domestic product.

A video of the session and slides from the three speakers has been posted on the ITIF website here.

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