DC Digest - October 9, 2012
In Today's Issue:
- Task Force on American Innovation Urges Policymakers to Avoid Budget Sequester
- Research Community Raises Concerns About NIH Provisions in House Funding Bill
- Chairman Brooks Requests GAO Review on Regulations that Hinder Research Universities
- Duke Prof to Participate in Congressional Briefing on Role of Ecosystem Science on National Security
- Higher Ed Issues Loom Large in Candidates' Campaign Ads
TASK FORCE ON AMERICAN INNOVATION URGES POLICYMAKERS TO AVOID BUDGET SEQUESTER
On October 2, the Task Force on American Innovation sent a letter to the President and House and Senate leaders urging them to reach a budget agreement that not only avoids the budget sequestration scheduled for January 2 but also achieves “significant long-term deficit reduction.” The letter was signed on behalf of the Task Force by 19 business and higher education leaders, including Texas Instruments CEO Richard K. Templeton, who chairs the Task Force, AAU President Hunter Rawlings, and seven AAU university presidents and chancellors.
The letter asserts that all parts of the federal budget should be on the table for deficit reduction, but that nearly all deficit measures so far have focused on discretionary spending, where both defense and nondefense research funding is based. But research “drives innovation, productivity, job creation, and economic growth,” says the Task Force, so while reducing deficits is necessary for achieving long-term prosperity, “it is equally necessary that we continue to prioritize spending on science and technology.” The letter concludes, “We urge you to take actions that prevent the upcoming budget sequestration and enable this generation to leave future generations a legacy not of excessive debt and limited prospects but of renewed technological leadership and economic opportunity.”
Task Force on American Innovation Urges Policymakers to Avoid Budget Sequester (pdf)
Task Force on American Innovation (innovationtaskforce.org)
RESEARCH COMMUNITY RAISES CONCERNS ABOUT NIH PROVISIONS IN HOUSE FUNDING BILL
A group of 207 organizations and institutions, including AAU and Duke University School of Medicine, sent a letter to House appropriators on October 1 expressing concerns about several provisions related to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the committee’s FY13 Labor-HHS-Education funding bill. The letter reads in part:
“…[W]e believe the funding level provided for NIH in the legislation falls short of what is needed to ensure U.S. global competitiveness in medical research and advance critical scientific discoveries that improve human health,” says the letter, which went to Rep. Dennis Rehberg (R-MT), who chairs the subcommittee that drafted the bill, and the panel’s ranking Democrat, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT). It adds that many of the policy provisions in the bill “over-regulate NIH and may inadvertently impede the agency’s ongoing efforts to improve the stewardship of its resources.” Among such provisions are ones that would set “arbitrary” boundaries on the number and size of awards, prescribe the ratio of extramural to intramural research funding, further lower the extramural salary cap to Executive Level III, and bar NIH from using funds “for any economic research programs, projects, or activities.”
The letter also addresses an issue that goes beyond NIH. Section 223 of the bill would prohibit the use of funds for any program, project, or activity (PPA) related to research until the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) has certified that the PPA “is of significantly high scientific value” and has a “measurable” impact on public health. The groups point out that it is impossible to certify the impact of a research project before it has been conducted and that in the case of basic research projects, the public health impacts may not be realized for many years. “Imposing these restrictions on fundamental research would delay important advances, at best, and most likely, serve as a permanent barrier to advancing the most innovative and promising research,” says the letter.
Groups Express Concern about NIH Provisions in House Fy13 Funding Bill (pdf)
CHAIRMAN BROOKS REQUESTS GAO REVIEW OF REGULATIONS THAT HINDER RESEARCH UNIVERSITIES
Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL), a Duke alumnus and chairman of the House Research and Science Education Subcommittee, asked the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) on October 3 to review “regulatory actions that hinder our nation’s research universities.”
In a letter to GAO, Rep. Brooks said that it was evident, based on a recommendation in the National Research Council’s report on research universities, two hearings he convened in his subcommittee to follow up on the report, and additional conversations he held with the university research community, that “the current regulatory environment may be limiting the growth of fundamental basic scientific research.”
“While it is necessary and imperative that research universities maintain transparent and accountable systems to track the use of federal dollars,” he said in the letter, “I am concerned with the amount of time and resources being spent on duplicative and burdensome paperwork and red tape in the conduct of federally funded scientific research.”
James Siedow, Duke's vice provost for research testified in June in front of Chairman Brooks's subcommittee about the importance of research universities and some of the regulatory burdens hindering their activities.
Rep. Brooks Letter to GAO (science.house.gov)
In Congressional Testimony, A Word About the Value of Research Institutions (duke.edu)
DUKE PROF TO PARTICIPATE IN CONGRESSIONAL BRIEFING ON ROLE OF ECOSYSTEM SCIENCE ON NATIONAL SECURITY
Dr. Avner Vengosh, professor of earth and ocean sciences at Duke, will present his research on the water-energy nexus (coal ash, coal mining, shale gas and fracking) during a congressional briefing next week. The briefing, hosted by the Association of Ecosystem Research Centers, will focus on the role of ecosystem science on national security and will take place in room 2325 of the Rayburn House Office Building at 9:30am on October 18. Dr. Vengosh's talk is titled "Environmental Consequences of Past and Future Energy Production in the United States."
More information will be included in next week's DC Digest.
Abstract of Dr. Vengosh's Presentation (pdf)
HIGHER ED ISSUES LOOM LARGE IN CANDIDATES' CAMPAIGN ADS
Presidential candidates from both parties usually offer support for higher education in broad terms. This year, however, wonky subjects like income-based repayment programs and the interest rate on subsidized federal loans are playing a more prominent role in campaign rhetoric.
The percentage of candidate-sponsored ad airings mentioning education is up from 2008, according to data compiled by the Wesleyan Media Project. As of last week, 13 percent of the advertisements aired by President Obama and Mitt Romney addressed the topic of education, compared with 8.4 percent in 2008.
Higher Ed Looms Large in Candidates' Campaign Ads (Chronicle of Higher Ed)