DC Digest - February 3, 2012
In Today's Issue:
- DHS to Change Visa Rules for High-Skilled Immigrants
- Duke Med School Dean: Cuts to Medical Research are Bad for Health, Economy
- NC Rep. Heath Shuler Will Not Seek Reelection or Run for Governor in 2012
- House Panel Holds Hearing on USPTO Report on Prior User Rights
- National Academies Report Identifies High-Priority Technologies for NASA
- Higher Ed Associations Urge NIH Director to Expand Proof-of-Concept Research
- Cost Looms Large for Obama's Student Loan Interest Rate Cut
- Senators Question Obama's Plan to Tie Federal Aid to Tuition
DHS TO CHANGE VISA RULES FOR HIGH-SKILLED IMMIGRANTS
As part of the White House Startup America Initiative, aimed at promoting “high-growth entrepreneurship,” the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on January 31 announced a series of administrative changes that are meant to attract, retain, and improve the immigration process for high-skilled immigrants. The agency press release includes the following administrative changes (details of which are available in the release):
- Expand eligibility for 17-month extension of optional practical training (OPT) for F-1 international students to include students with a prior degree in Science, Technology,
Engineering and Mathematics (STEM);
- Allow for additional part-time study for spouses of F-1 students and expand the number of Designated School Officials (DSOs) at schools certified by DHS to enroll
- Provide work authorization for spouses of certain H-1B holders;
- Allow outstanding professors and researchers to present a broader scope of evidence of academic achievement;
- Harmonize rules to allow E-3 visa holders from Australia and H-1B1 visa holders from Singapore and Chile to continue working with their current employer for up to 240 days
while their petitions for extension of status are pending; and
- Launch the Administration’s Entrepreneurs in Residence Initiative with an information summit on February 22 “to bring together high-level representatives from the
entrepreneurial community, academia, and federal government agencies to discuss how to maximize current immigration laws' potential to attract foreign entrepreneurial
DHS Reforms to Attract and Retain Highly Skilled Immigrants (DHS.gov)
Startup America Initiative (WhiteHouse.gov)
DUKE MED SCHOOL DEAN: CUTS TO MEDICAL RESEARCH ARE BAD FOR HEALTH, ECONOMY
Dr. Nancy Andrews, vice chancellor for academic affairs and dean of the Duke University School of Medicine, writes in an op-ed appearing on Tuesday in the Raleigh News and Observer:
"As our national leaders face unprecedented challenges to reduce government spending, we must all face the consequences of difficult choices. Last fall's failure of the congressional "supercommittee" to arrive at a bipartisan solution has prompted mandatory cuts from both defense and domestic programs, including government-funded medical research through the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
While all programs have their merits and a committed constituency to argue for their continued funding, the endeavor of medical research rises to special consideration as both a life saver and job creator. Cuts to this vital endeavor would hurt the health of our people and our economy."
Unhealthy Cuts in Medical Research (newsobserver.com)
NC REP. HEATH SHULER WILL NOT SEEK REELECTION OR RUN FOR GOVERNOR IN 2012
North Carolina Rep. Heath Shuler will not seek reelection in 2012, he announced Thursday.
Shuler, a prominent Blue Dog Democrat and former Washington Redskins quarterback, faced an uphill path to a fourth term after redistricting, which made his western North Carolina-based 11th District seat more conservative. “This was not an easy decision. However, I am confident that it is the right decision. It is a decision I have weighed heavily over the past few months,” Shuler said in a statement. “I have always said family comes first, and I never intended to be a career politician. I am ready to refocus my priorities and spend more time at home with my wife Nikol and two young children.”
Heath Shuler Will not Seek Reelection or Run for Governor in 2012 (Politico)
Rep Heath Shuler to Retire (The Hill)
Rep. Shuler's Statement on Retirement (Shuler.house.gov)
HOUSE HOLDS HEARING ON USPTO REPORT ON PRIOR USER RIGHTS
The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Competition and the Internet held a hearing on Wednesday to discuss a report on prior user rights in patent law and related issues with U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Director David Kappos and representatives from industry and academia. Among those testifying was AAU Executive Vice President John Vaughn, whose testimony, and that of other witnesses, is available on the hearing webpage.
As the USPTO works to implement provisions of the patent reform law enacted last September, the law’s significant expansion of prior user rights as a defense against patent infringement remains a major issue. As reported in last week's DC Digest, given the far-reaching changes to that portion of the law, the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (P.L. 112-29) directed the USPTO to submit a report to Congress on the new prior user rights provisions.
Among other recommendations, the USPTO report said the prior user defense in the AIA “should be maintained with no change at the present time because there is no substantial evidence that it will have a negative impact on innovation, venture funding, small businesses, universities, or independent inventors.”
The university community had long opposed an expansion of prior user rights. However, higher education representatives worked with other sectors toward the end of the patent reform effort to forge a compromise that substantially expanded the U.S. prior user rights defense, but exempted university patents from the assertion of a prior user rights defense and included a number of other provisions circumscribing the scope of the prior user rights defense.
Two witnesses at the hearing called for significant changes in the prior user rights compromise included in the AIA. However, in his oral testimony, Director Kappos said the university exemption was a 21st century means of promoting innovation that enabled the U.S. to “leapfrog” ahead of the nation’s economic competitors in patent policy. There appeared to be general agreement among subcommittee members that there should be no immediate changes to the prior user rights provisions and that discussion of any changes to be made in the future should include the university community.
Hearing On Prior User Rights (judiciary.house.gov)
NATIONAL ACADEMIES REPORT IDENTIFIES HIGH-PRIORITY TECHNOLOGIES FOR NASA
The National Academies on Wednesday released a report that identifies 16 high-priority technologies that NASA should pursue over the next five years. According to the National Academies press release, these priorities were chosen to align with three main facets of NASA's overall mission: extending and sustaining human activities beyond low Earth orbit; exploring the evolution of the solar system and the potential for life elsewhere; and expanding our understanding of Earth and the universe.
Report Identifies 16 Highest Priorities to Guide NASA's Technology Development Efforts for Next Five Years (NationalAcademies.org)
HIGHER ED ASSOCIATIONS URGE NIH DIRECTOR TO EXPAND PROOF-OF-CONCEPT RESEARCH
The Association of American Universities (AAU) and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) sent a letter to National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins on February 2 urging him to “take full advantage” of the proof-of-concept authority included in the reauthorization of the Small Business Innovation and Technology Transfer Research (STTR) programs.
The associations noted that they did not support the provision in the new law that increases the small business research funding set-aside at major federal research agencies, but they did endorse proof-of-concept language added to the bill by Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL). As described in the letter, the language authorizes NIH to fund “a pilot program to support proof-of-concept research that would enable universities to more effectively commercialize new technologies and to support creation of successful small businesses.”
AAU, APLU Urge NIH Director to Expand Proof-of-Concept Research (pdf)
COST LOOMS LARGE FOR OBAMA'S STUDENT LOAN INTEREST RATE CUT
Last week President Obama called on Congress in his State of the Union address “to stop the interest rates on student loans from doubling in July.” That line surely left a lot of people (Washington’s education policy circles not included) wondering what in the world the president was talking about. Is Congress really planning to double the interest rate on federal student loans this summer? The answer is yes, no, and maybe. In other words, it’s complicated. What’s more, a newly released estimate from the Congressional Budget Office shows that the cost of the president’s request will weigh heavily in any debate on the proposal.
Cost Looms Large for Obama's Student Loan Interest Rate Cut (New America.net)
SENATORS QUESTION OBAMA'S PLAN TO TIE FEDERAL AID TO TUITION
Senate Republicans pushed back against President Obama's college-affordability agenda at an education-committee hearing Thursday, expressing doubts about the administration's plans to reward colleges and states that hold down tuition and maintain their higher-education budgets.
"I don't believe the government's role is to pick winners and losers," said Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, explaining that he was uncomfortable "shifting the determination of affordability to Washington."
Senate Republicans Question Obama's Plan to Tie Federal Aid to Tuition (ChronicleofHigherEd)
HELP Committee Hearing: Innovations in College Affordability (Help.senate.gov)