Bills In Brief

Bridges vol. 40, July 2014 / Bills In Brief

By Sara Spizzirri, Erin Heath, Daniel Osborn, and Matt Hourihan from AAAS and Richard M. Jones from AIP

This Bridges Bills in Brief is brought to you, in part, by the “Science and Technology in Congress” newsletter, a publication of the AAAS Center for Science, Technology and Congress, covering the latest science-related news on Capitol Hill. 

Science Committee Examines the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report Process

The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee held a hearing on May 29 to evaluate the process that the United Nations used in producing an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Assessment Report. The Members of the committee were divided along party lines on issues including data analysis, data quality, and transparency in author and study selection and whether the report provided biased information. The hearing preceded President Obama’s announcement of new greenhouse gas emission standards for power plants.

Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) began the hearing by discussing the economic impact of climate regulations. He was concerned that regulations will “hit workers and families hard but have no discernible impact on global temperature.” He was concerned about whether the report uses “inconsistent approaches to data quality, peer review, publication cut-off dates, and the cherry-picking of results.” Smith also noted that “U.S. contributions to global emissions are dwarfed by those of China, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases.”

Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) expressed her concern “that the real objective of this hearing is to try to undercut the IPCC and to cast doubt on the validity of climate change research.” She countered Smith’s remarks about the IPCC assessment stating that it “is unprecedented in its scope and inclusiveness” highlighting that the United States and 194 other nations used a “rigorous and open process that yields the most comprehensive and objective assessments of the scientific literature relevant to understanding climate change and its associated risks.” Regarding the Chairman’s remarks questioning the consensus of the scientific community on climate change, Ranking Member Johnson responded “the IPCC process of developing a consensus arguably results in a summary with more conservative estimates than some scientists believe are warranted -- estimates that understate the impacts of climate change.” To read more.

All Eyes on the FIRST Act

On March 10, House Science, Space, and Technology Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) officially introduced the Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science and Technology (FIRST) Act (H.R. 4186), the committee majority’s authorization bill for the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). The bill is intended to be a reauthorization of the America COMPETES Act of 2010. (Other programs featured in COMPETES, such as the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, will be part of a separate bill.) The Research and Technology Subcommittee approved the FIRST Act on a party line vote on March 13, and the full committee passed it on March 28.

The FIRST Act features a two-year authorization for FY 2014 and FY 2015, putting the numbers for FY15 at $7.3 billion for NSF, $863 million for NIST, and $4.6 million for OSTP (this OSTP mark dropped by a million after an amendment passed at the full committee level).

The bill would mark a departure from previous COMPETES bills by authorizing NSF funding by each disciplinary directorate. Part of the rationale behind this move appears to be to enable cuts to the Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences Directorate; Smith and some of his colleagues have expressed concern about “questionable” grants, particularly within these fields. A deal with Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL), ranking member on the research panel, restored almost half of the SBE cuts; however, an amendment approved in the full committee markup reversed that move. SBE would now be authorized at 42 percent in FY 2015 below FY14 levels.

NSF would also be required to provide written justification that every grant serves national interests by strengthening the economy and national defense, advancing health and welfare, increasing partnerships between academia and industry, or augmenting the scientific workforce and public literacy. Another policy within the bill that had drawn the attention of science and research groups was a public access provision that would allow 24 months, with the possibility of up to three years, for articles resulting from federally funded research to remain embargoed for release to the public, rather than the 12 months that seems to be becoming the norm. The full committee amended this time period by cutting it in half to 12 months with the possibility of extending to 18.

Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) has continued to oppose the bill, calling it a “missed opportunity,” and Democrats sought through amendments to reverse some of the provisions they considered most damaging. Others who have expressed concern about some of the provisions include White House Science Adviser John Holdren, the Association of American Universities, and the Coalition for National Science Funding. In an unusual move, the National Science Board, the presidentially appointed oversight board to the NSF, also voiced its concern in a statement; the bill would, it said, “impose significant new burdens on scientists that would not be offset by gains to the nation.” (Content from Erin Heath)

Reports

CRS

EPA and the Army Corps' Proposed Rule to Define "Waters of the United States”

NASA Appropriations and Authorizations: A Fact Sheet

GAO

Disaster Resilience: Actions Are Underway, but Federal Fiscal Exposure Highlights the Need for Continued Attention to Longstanding Challenges NIH: Research Priority Setting, and Funding Allocations across Selected Diseases and Conditions

NASA: Actions Needed to Improve Transparency and Assess Long-Term Affordability of Human Exploration Programs

National Academies

Convergence: Facilitating Transdisciplinary Integration of Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, Engineering, and Beyond

The Arctic in the Anthropocene: Emerging Research Questions

Other

Gray Matters: Integrative Approaches for Neuroscience, Ethics, and Society (Bioethics)

Big Data: A Technological Perspective (PCAST)

Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of climate change (IPCC)

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