DC Digest - September 16, 2011In Today's Issue:
- Obama Signs Patent Bill, Highlights New University Economic Development Efforts
- Duke Welcomes Federal Patent Reform
- AAU Announces New Undergraduate STEM Education Initiative
- Senate Funding Bill Would Cut NSF, NASA Science, Fund Webb Telescope for FY12
- Basic Research Fares Well in Senate FY12 Defense Funding Bill
- Key Ed Department Official to Leave
OBAMA SIGNS PATENT BILL, HIGHLIGHTS NEW UNIVERSITY ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT EFFORTS
President Obama on Friday signed patent reform legislation, the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (H.R. 1249), into law at a White House event. This historic patent reform legislation will help American entrepreneurs and businesses bring their inventions to market sooner, creating new businesses and new jobs.
The President also used the event to highlight university efforts to promote technology commercialization and regional economic development, as pledged in the letter sent to then-Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke on April 19 that was signed by 139 university presidents, including President Brodhead.
See next item for more information on patent reform at Duke.
President Obama Signs America Invents Act and Announces New Steps to Help Entrepreneurs Create Jobs (WhiteHouse.gov)
DUKE WELCOMES FEDERAL PATENT REFORMS
Duke officials hailed the passage of the America Invents Act Friday, saying it will make it easier for university researchers to move innovations into the marketplace where they might create new industries and jobs. President Barack Obama signed the act into law at a White House ceremony earlier in the day.
In FY2010, Duke researchers filed 189 applications and were issued 91 patents. The number of applications has roughly doubled over the past five years, according to campus officials, but the number of those approved has stayed about the same, reflecting delays in the federal approval process. The new law will simplify the patent process and bring it into closer alignment with the systems of major U.S. trading partners.
University Welcomes Federal Patent Reforms (duke.edu)
AAU ANNOUNCES NEW UNDERGRADUATE STEM EDUCATION INITIATIVE
AAU announced on Wednesday that the association is undertaking a five-year initiative to improve undergraduate teaching and learning in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields at their member institutions.
The announcement, a two-page summary of the plan, and a more detailed discussion draft are available on the AAU website.
AAU Undergraduate STEM Education Initiative (aau.edu)
SENATE FUNDING BILL WOULD CUT NSF, NASA SCIENCE, FUND WEBB TELESCOPE FOR FY12
The Senate Appropriations Committee approved its version of the FY12 Commerce-Justice-Science (C-J-S) bill on September 15, providing a 2.4-percent cut for the National Science Foundation (NSF) and a 2.8-percent cut for NASA. The vote was 29 to 1.
For NSF, the Committee bill provides $6.7 billion overall, which is $162 million below the FY 11 enacted level. Within that total, the bill allocates:
• $5.4 billion to Research and Related Activities, a cut of $120.8 million from FY11;
• $829 million to Education and Human Resources, a cut of $32 million from FY11; and
• $117 million for Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction, equal to the FY11 level.
The Committee report endorses NSF’s prioritization of multi-disciplinary, high-risk research, including investments in advanced manufacturing, cyber-infrastructure, and robotics. As expected, report language strongly supports innovative science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education programs across all levels of education.
NASA would receive $17.9 billion, which is $509 million below the FY11 enacted level. The measure provides $5.1 billion for the Science Directorate, which is $165 million above the FY11 level. Within that total, the bill allocates $1.7 billion for Earth Science, $1.5 billion for Planetary Science, $682 million for Astrophysics, and $622 for Heliophysics.
The bill also includes $530 million for the James Webb Space Telescope, an amount that would allow sufficient progress to aim for launch of the space telescope by 2018. (The House-passed bill includes no funding for the telescope.)
In its report on the bill, the Committee expressed support for the Tier I Earth Science Missions included in the Earth Science Decadal Survey. The panel supports continued funding for the Soil Moisture Active and Passive (SMAP) mission, the Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite (ICESatII), and the Climate Absolute Radiance and Refractivity Observatory (CLARREO). The Committee also recommends that the Deformation, Ecosystem Structure and Dynamics of Ice mission (DESDnyl) continue at the FY11 level.
The press release also notes that the bill provides $2.7 billion for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, “allowing the agency to spend all of its expected fee revenue for FY2012.” The measure also “adopts the new reserve fund authorized by the landmark America Invents Act.”
BASIC RESEARCH FARES WELL IN SENATE DEFENSE FUNDING BILL
While the Senate Appropriations Committee voted to freeze the Defense Department’s base FY12 budget at the FY11 level of $513 billion, the panel provided a near-seven percent increase for 6.1 basic research. (The freeze in the agency’s overall discretionary budget is consistent with the level approved in the Budget Control Act but $26 billion below the Administration’s FY 12 request.)
The Committee press release says: “The bill fully funds “6.1” Basic Research programs across the Services and DARPA; provides $200 million for the Rapid Innovation Fund authorized by the Senate Armed Services Committee; and includes increases in the areas of nanotechnology, cybersecurity, and alternative energy.”
The committee report shows that 6.1 basic research would receive a total of $2.082 billion, or about 6.9 percent above FY11. The quick numbers show:
Army $436.92 million, same as request
Navy $587.37 million, $10 million above the request
Air Force $533.86 million, $15 million above the request
Defense Wide $523.32 million, $22 million below the request
The Minerva Initiative did not fare as well with respect to new studies. The report states:
“Minerva.—The fiscal year 2012 budget request includes $24,700,000 to continue the Minerva program, an increase of $6,700,000 over amounts appropriated in fiscal year 2011. The
Committee recommends fully funding the proposed expansion of Minerva Chairs at Defense education institutions, as well as the continuation of ongoing studies; however, the Committee notes the limited value of long-term studies for the warfighter and recommends no funding to initiate new studies.”
KEY ED DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TO LEAVE
James Kvaal's departure does not leave the Education Department without experienced hands on higher education policy. But Kvaal, like his predecessor, Robert Shireman, was generally seen as the agenda-setter in an Education Department where Secretary Arne Duncan (like many of his predecessors) pays far more attention to K-12 than to higher education and takes a hands-off approach to postsecondary issues.
Kvaal will be visiting Duke to deliver the first Sulzberger Distinguished Lecture on September 20.
The Exodus (Inside Higher Ed)
Key US Education Department Official to Leave (Reuters)