Weekly Updates

Updates to the campuses regarding federal policy issues, legislation and current happenings.

Select the date you wish to review to expand the content. If you are looking for an update prior to those listed, contact Connie Johnson.

July 23, 2014

Both chambers are in session this week.

APPOINTMENTS

NSF Deputy Director to Resign

Cora B. Marrett announced that she will resign her position as Deputy Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF) effective Aug. 24th. Marrett was confirmed as NSF Deputy Director in 2011. She has also served as NSF's acting director and acting deputy director. Marrett served as the first assistant director for the Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences directorate, and as assistant director for the Education and Human Resources directorate. (Source: NSF)

 

BUDGET/APPROPRIATIONS

Continuing Resolution Inevitable as Congress Winds Down

With the FY15 appropriations process stalled indefinitely, both chambers are considering what a continuing resolution (CR) might look like to keep the government running beyond the October 1st beginning of FY 2015. It is possible a CR would stretch until after the elections and potentially into December, given that Congress is in session for only few days in November. House Republican leaders could face a challenge in getting backing from their more conservative members who favor deeper spending cuts over continuing current spending levels. And in the Senate, the CR could face the opposite challenge from Democrats, who would prefer adding funding anomalies to permit some increased spending.

Appropriators, and mainly their staffs, are likely to begin behind-the-scenes negotiations over the contours of an omnibus spending package for FY 2015 that could move in a lame-duck session. It would be likely to contain some fresh appropriations for fiscal 2015, as well as continued spending at current levels for other agencies. The starting point in those talks will be the seven bills that have passed the House that will be compared to the versions that have moved through committee in the Senate, which has not passed any spending bills. Moving a CR would be an all-too-familiar end to an appropriations season that was greeted with considerable optimism after a Congress cleared a consensus budget deal in December that set a $1.014 trillion top line for fiscal 2015 discretionary spending. Appropriations leaders in both chambers had high hopes early on for clearing some of the fiscal 2015 spending bills as individual measures. (Source: CQ, CU)

House Appropriations Committee Rescinds NEH FY15 Budget Cut 

Last week, the House Appropriations Committee approved an amendment to the FY 2015 Interior and Related Agencies appropriations bill that restored an $8 million cut in the budget for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) made at the subcommittee level. The rescission of the cut was made as part of Subcommittee Chairman Ken Calvert’s (R-CA) manager’s amendment. The FY 2015 funding level for NEH in the bill—and for its companion agency, the National Endowment of the Arts—is now set at its current FY14 funding level of $146 million. (Source: AAU)

Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Increases Basic Research Funding 

Last week, the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee approved its FY 2015 funding bill with what it said was a five-percent increase in funding over FY14 for basic research programs in the Army, Navy, Air Force, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The Committee press release says the funding increase is $257 million, but does not specify how the additional funding would be allocated. Another $789 million would be added to the DOD medical research programs, including those that are congressionally-directed. (Source: AAU)

White House Releases Budget Guidance for FY 2016

Last week the White House released a quartet of memos dealing with the FY 2016 budget request, including the annual science and technology priorities memo from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). Even as Congress is tackling FY 2015 appropriations, agencies have been at work for months formulating the FY 2016 budget request, which is in theory due in February of next year. The joint OMB/OSTP memo, typically released in mid-summer, identifies areas for particular emphasis in agency budgets. Priorities that reappear this year, similar to previous years, include:

  • Advanced manufacturing and "industries of the future" (for reference: the National Strategic Plan for Advanced Manufacturing);
  • Clean energy, including renewables, efficiency, and transportation;
  • Climate research (for reference: the U.S. Global Change Research Program Strategic Plan)
  • Information technology (this year high-performance computing receives a specific mention);
  • Biological innovation, including in neuroscience (for reference: the National Bioeconomy Blueprint; National Strategy for Biosurveillance);
  • National security;
  • and R&D for informed policy-making.
  • Plus, a new priority in this year's memo is Earth observation data (for reference: recently released National Strategy for Civil Earth Observations). (Source: AAAS, CU)

 

RESEARCH

House Approves Five Science Committee Bills

The House on July 14th approved three science-related authorization bills with bipartisan support. Two of the measures are noncontroversial portions of Committee Chairman Lamar Smith’s (R-TX) larger bill, the FIRST Act (H.R. 4186), which the panel approved on May 28th on a party-line vote over the strong objections of many in the university research community.

The two bills from the FIRST Act support international science and technology collaboration (H.R. 5029), and add computer science to the federal definition of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education (H.R. 5031). The third bill, the Research and Development Efficiency Act (H.R. 5056), was introduced by Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-IN). It calls for the National Science and Technology Council to conduct a comprehensive review of the regulatory burden of federally sponsored research. A fourth Committee bill (H.R. 1786) approved by the House reauthorizes research on storm damage mitigation. 

On July 22nd,  the House also passed a bill representing a third piece of the FIRST Act, to reauthorize the National Institute of Standards and Technology (H.R. 5035), and the Department of Energy Laboratory Modernization and Technology Transfer Act of 2014 (H.R. 5120 ), which aims to improve management of the DOE Natioanl Lab, enhance technology transfer, and facilitate public-private partnerships. (Source: AAU/APLU)

Senate Releases Draft America COMPETES Bill

The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee last week released proposed America COMPETES Act legislation, calling on Congress to increase NSF’s budget by nearly 40%, to $9.9 billion, by 2019. It also endorses NSF’s current policies for reviewing grant proposals and—in sharp contrast to the House's FIRST Act—emphasizes the importance of the social sciences as part of a balanced research portfolio.

The Senate language strikes a much more supportive tone than the FIRST Act, passed in May by the science committee of the U.S. House of Representatives. That bill questions how NSF manages its research grants and takes an especially dim view of the social and behavioral sciences. The broader FIRST Act, has been denounced by the U.S. academic community and leading scientific organizations.

Given the short and crowded legislative calendar in both bodies, few observers expect the Senate or House to complete action on their reauthorization bills before the November election. That means it won’t be until a lame-duck session, or next year, before the two bodies have a chance to reconcile their conflicting visions for NSF. Read more here. (Source: Science)

AAAS Solicits Nominations for Early Career Awards for Public Engagement with Science 

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has issued a call for nominations for its AAAS Early Career Award for Public Engagement with Science. 

The recipient of the award will win a prize of $5,000, a commemorative plaque, and complimentary registration and travel to the AAAS annual meeting in San Jose, California. Nominations are due October 15. Information about the award, including eligibility and nomination requirements, is available here. (Source: AAAS)

The White House Announces Action to Prepare Communities for the Impacts of Climate Change

Last week, President Obama released a series of initiatives to help communities prepare for climate change. These actions are drawn from recommendations put forth by the State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, and include a National Disaster Resilience Competition and a new U.S. Geological Survey $13.1 million 3-D Elevation Program partnership, designed to bring Federal agencies, academia, corporate entities, states, tribes, and communities together to develop advanced 3-dimensional mapping data of the United States. (Source: White House)

July 14, 2014

Both Chambers are in session this week.

APPOINTMENTS

William “Bro” Adams Confirmed as Chairman of the NEH

The Senate voted on July 9th to confirm William D. “Bro” Adams as the 10th chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Adams is expected to begin as Chairman in the coming days.Adams, president of Colby College in Waterville, Maine from 2000 until his retirement on June 30, 2014, is a committed advocate for liberal arts education and brings to the Endowment a long record of leadership in higher education and the humanities. (Source: NEH)

Donovan Wins Bipartisan Support to Head OMB

The Senate also gave broad backing last week to Shaun Donovan, the outgoing secretary of Housing and Urban Development, to head the Office of Management and Budget. Donovan won confirmation to the post, 75-22, with only Republicans opposing his nomination.  (Source: CQ)

Obama Nominates Deputy Secretary of Energy

With Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman set to leave this fall, President Obama has nominated one of his special advisers on weapons and defense policy to fill the post, the White House announced on July 8th. If confirmed by the Senate, Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall would become Secretary of Energy Ernie Moniz’s second in command. (Source: E&E News)

 

APPROPRIATIONS

House Approves FY 15 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill 

The House on July 10 approved the FY15 Energy and Water appropriations bill (H.R. 4932), the sixth of 12 FY15 funding bills that the chamber has passed. Although the measure would level-fund the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science at its FY14 level of $5.071 billion, it raises and lowers funding for specific programs within that total (See AAU Weekly Wrap-up, June 20, 2014 for details). The bill also would level-fund ARPA-E at the FY14 level of $280 million.  The Obama Administration has threatened to veto the bill for a variety of reasons, including that the bill  would significantly cut funding for the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy—at about $1.8 billion, a cut of nearly $113 million from the FY14 level—and contains environmental policy riders that it opposes.  

The other FY15 appropriations bills approved so far in the House are:  Commerce-Justice-Science, Defense, Homeland Security, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction-Veterans. The Senate so far has passed no FY15 funding bills. (Source: AAU)

House Subpanel Approves FY 15 Funding Bill With Large Cut to NEH

Last week, the House Interior-Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee approved its FY 15 funding bill. Included in this legislation is $138 million for the National Endowment for the Humanities, which is $8 million below the FY 14 funding level and also the President’s FY 15 budget request. Also included is $717 million for the Office of Science and Technology at the Environmental Protection Agency, which is $42 million below the FY 14 funding level and $46 million below the President’s FY15 budget request. Finally, The bill includes $1 billion for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), a $4 million increase above the fiscal year 2014 enacted level. (Source: APLU, CU)

 

EDUCATION

Amicus Brief Filed in Northwestern University Athletics Class

The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), with several other organizations, has joined the American Council on Education (ACE) in filing an amicus brief in the appeal on the Northwestern University athletics case.  The other organizations are the Association of Governing Boards, the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU), and College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR).  The appeal is to the full NLRB from the NLRB Chicago Regional ruling in April 2014. The regional office ruled that the Northwestern scholarship football players are employees of the institution and may be allowed to unionize and collectively bargain. 

While this case technically only covers private universities and colleges, many believe that the outcome of the case could influence future state labor board decisions on public universities.  Some intercollegiate athletic reform and change is needed and some reforms are now under consideration, but the APLU and other associations believe that changes should not involve the determination that student athletes are employees with the many implications to that decision. (Source: APLU)

Associations Weigh in on House HEA Reauthorization Bills

A group of higher education associations, including the Association of American Universities (AAU), ACE, and APLU, sent a letter last week to the chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee providing their initial observations about a package of three committee bills that would reauthorize portions of the Higher Education Act (HEA).  

The first bill, Advancing Competency-Based Education Demonstration Project Act (H.R. 3136) – co-sponsored by Rep. Polis – was agreed to and reported to the House with the Amendment in the nature of a substitute (HR 3136).  A student loan refinancing amendment offered by Rep. John Tierney (D-MA) failed along party lines. The next bill, Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act (H.R. 4983) was agreed to and reported to the House with the Amendment in the nature of a substitute (HR 4983). An amendment to include repayment rates on the College Dashboard, was offered by Ranking Member George Miller (D-CA), but it also failed along party lines.  Lastly, the Empowering Students Through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act (H.R. 4984) was agreed to and reported to the House with the Amendment in the nature of a substitute (HR 4984). An amendment, offered by Susan Davis (D-CA) and Mark Takano (D-CA), to include veteran tuition assistance and GI bill benefits within the federal funds definition for the 90-10 revenue rule for proprietary institutions also failed.

The letter to Chairman John Kline (R-MN) says that the three bills—the Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act (H.R. 4983), the Advancing Competency-Based Education Demonstration Project Act (H.R. 3136), and the Empowering Students through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act (H.R. 4984)—are a “welcome step toward reauthorization.” (Source: AAU/APLU)

Senator McCaskill Releases Results of Campus Sexual Assault Survey

Last week Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) released the results of her survey on how colleges and universities are addressing the issues of reporting, investigating, and adjudicating sexual violence on campus. CU-Boulder was one of almost 400 schools which received and completed the survey.  The executive summary of the report says, “The survey results showed that many institutions are failing to comply with the law and best practices in how they handle sexual violence among students. These problems affect nearly every stage of the institutions’ responses to sexual violence.” (Source: AAU)

 

PATENT/IP

House Subcommittee Approves Patent Demand Legislation

On July 9th, APLU, AAU, ACE, and the Council on Governmental Relations (COGR) sent a letter to Chairman Lee Terry (R-NE) and Ranking Member Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade. The letter expresses support for the July 7 draft of the Targeting Rogue and Opaque Letters (TROL) Act of 2014.

On July 10th, the Subcommittee approved the TROL Act by a vote of 13 to 6, with 11 Republicans and 2 Democrats voting for the bill, and 6 Democrats voting against it. During the markup, Chairman Terry withdrew an amendment to the affirmative defense section and indicated his commitment to working with the Ranking Member to reach an agreement on this amendment. Ranking Member Shakowsky, who voted against the bill, said she hopes to be able to support the bill at the full Committee markup after the Committee continues to work on an agreement. A full Committee markup will be scheduled after these discussions.  (Source: APLU)

APLU Joins Higher Education and Library Groups in Releasing Net Neutrality Principles 

A group of higher education and library organizations, including AAU and APLU, on July 10th released a set of Net Neutrality Principles, which they said should form the basis of an upcoming Federal Communications Commission (FCC) decision to protect the openness of the Internet. The groups said in a statement accompanying release of the principles that network neutrality protections are essential to protecting freedom of speech, educational achievement, and economic growth. As further described in the statement:

“…Institutions of higher education and libraries do not object to paying for the high-capacity Internet connections that they need to support their students, faculty, administrators, and library patrons; but once connected, they should not have to pay additional fees to receive prioritized transmission of their content, services, or applications. (Source: APLU/AAU)

 

RESEARCH

  Associations Express Views on House DOE Research Bill

The AAU and APLU sent a letter to leaders of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee on July 8th offering their views on the Committee’s bill to reauthorize basic and applied research programs in the Department of Energy (DOE) (H.R. 4869).

The letter expresses the associations’ appreciation for the proposed five-percent increase in authorized funding for the DOE Office of Science in FY15, as well as for a provision that would exempt universities and nonprofit organizations from the statutory 20-percent matching requirement for conducting DOE applied research and development.

The letter expresses strong concern, however, about the proposed 18-percent cut in authorized funding for the Biological and Environment Research program in the Office of Science, as well as a 14-percent cut in authorized funding for ARPA-E and a 29-percent cut in Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. The associations also express concern about a provision that would require researchers to demonstrate they have tried unsuccessfully to obtain private funding for their work before applying to ARPA-E for funding, and opposition to a provision that would remove the ARPA-E goal of developing energy technologies to reduce energy-related emissions.  (Source: AAU)

House Science Committee Members Introduce Pieces of the FIRST Act

Last week, four separate research-related bills were introduced that are drawn from sections of the controversial Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science, and Technology (FIRST) Act of 2014. Of note, each of these bills is sponsored by both Democrats and Republicans, and none include the NSF reauthorization portion of the FIRST Act which has caused controversy in the scientific community for its attempt to defund certain areas of science and potential impacts on the the peer review process at NSF.

The International Science and Technology Cooperation Act, HR 5029, calls for the establishment of a body under the National Science and Technology Council aimed at identifying and coordinating international science and technology cooperation. To do this, the body would be responsible for identifying opportunities for new partnerships with international science and technology research, soliciting input and recommendations from non-Federal science and technology stakeholders, and reporting to Congress annually on their findings, among other responsibilities.

The Research and Development Efficiency Act, HR 5056, aims to establish a working group under the authority of the National Science and Technology Council to review Federal regulations affecting research and research universities and look for ways to streamline and eliminate duplicative Federal regulations.

The STEM Education Act of 2014, H.R.5031, defines STEM education to include computer science as a discipline. The STEM Education Act also includes a section on Informal STEM Education, which gives authority to the National Science Foundation (NSF) Director to award grants to entities that research and develop innovative out-of-school STEM learning. This legislation also includes a section which would amend the NSF Noyce Master Teaching Fellowship Program to allow students with a bachelor’s degree working towards a Master’s degree the opportunity to participate.

Finally, A bill to reauthorize the National Institute of Standards and Technology, H.R. 5305, would authorize funding and programs for that agency. (Source: House Science Committee, CU)

 

TAX REFORM

Community Submits Tax Credit Testimony to Finance Committee

Under the leadership of the American Council on Education, a group of nine higher education associations last week submitted testimony for the record of the Senate Finance Committee’s June 24th hearing on higher education and the federal tax code. The testimony notes the associations’ longstanding support for consolidating and simplifying tax incentives for higher education, and urges that any reforms “address the needs and circumstances of the broad range of students in higher education.” It expresses strong support for the American Opportunity Tax Credit Permanence and Consolidation Act of 2013 (S. 835), introduced by Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), and urges retention of Section 127 Employer-provided Educational Assistance and Section 117(d) Qualified Tuition Reduction. 

The statement also includes data to refute a number of misperceptions about college costs; reviews the cost to higher education institutions of maintaining technological infrastructure to support research and education; and describes the heavy financial impact of increasing federal, state, and local government regulations on colleges and universities. (Source: AAU)

June 30, 2014

Both Chambers are in recess this week for the Fourth of July holiday.

APPOINTMENTS

New House Majority Leader And Whip Selected

House Republicans elected Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) as their new majority leader on June 19th, elevating the 49-year-old Californian to the No. 2 position in GOP leadership. McCarthy defeated Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) in the race to replace Eric Cantor, whose shocking primary loss set the stage for the special election. Shortly after McCarthy's victory, Republicans elected Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), who chairs the conservative Republic Study Committee, to replace him as whip on the first ballot. McCarthy and Scalise will not officially assume their new roles until July 31st, when Cantor steps down. (Source: National Journal)

President Obama Announces New Appointees to National Science Board

Last week, President Obama announced his intent to appoint six new members to the National Science Board, the policymaking body of the National Science Foundation (NSF) and advisor to Congress and the President on science and engineering policy. The nominees include:

John L. Anderson (Illinois Institute of Technology) is a professor of chemical engineering and is currently serving as the eighth president of the Illinois Institute of Technology.
Roger N. Beachy (University of California, Davis) is the founding executive director of the World Food Center at UC Davis.  
Vicki L. Chandler (Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation) is a distinguished plant biologist and former director of the BIO5 Institute at the University of Arizona.  
 Robert M. Groves (Georgetown University) is a sociologist and expert in survey methodology. He was the 23rd director of the United States Census Bureau and is currently the provost and Gerard Campbell SJ Professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at Georgetown University. James S. Jackson (University of Michigan) directs the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research where his work focuses on racial and ethnic influences on life course development among African Americans.  Sethuraman Panchanathan (Arizona State University) is the senior vice president for knowledge enterprise development at Arizona State University. 

Appointments to the two remaining Board vacancies are anticipated in the coming months. Learn more about the nominees here. (Source: NSF)

NIST Director Gallagher Departs; Dr. Willie May to lead Agency

NIST staff, past and present, bid a fond farewell to Dr. Pat Gallagher at a reception on June 12th. After twenty one years at NIST, Gallagher will begin his tenure as the Chancellor of the University of Pittsburgh in September. Effective Monday June 16th, Willie May will officially be designated Acting Under Secretary for Standards and Technology and Acting Director of NIST.  (Source: NIST)

 

BUDGET/APPROPRIATIONS

FY15 Appropriations Process Stalls in Senate 

The Senate began work on a package of three FY15 appropriations bills (H.R. 4660) — Commerce-Justice-Science (C-J-S), Agriculture, and Transportation-HUD—but the so-called “minibus” was scuttled when Democrats and Republicans failed to reach agreement on the amendment process. It is unclear how the impasse might be resolved and what impact it may have on the overall FY15 appropriations process. The C-J-S bill funds NSF, NOAA, NIST, and NASA. With both chambers in recess this week and few legislative days left before the end of the fiscal year, there is much uncertainty about whether or not any funding bills will be passed before September 30th, or if we will be facing a continuting resolution (CR) until after the mid-term elections in November.  (Source: AAU, CU)

House Finishes Work on FY15 Defense Appropriations Bill     

Following three days of work, the House approved the FY15 Defense appropriations bill (H.R. 4870). The vote was 293 to 123. The measure would cut defense basic research (6.1) programs by 6.4 percent and applied research (6.2) programs by 2.4 percent. Basic research funding in all four branches and Defense–wide would receive less than their FY14 levels. Only the Defense-wide program would receive more than the Administration’s FY15 request, an additional $10 million. (Source: AAU)

House and Senate Panels Approve FY15 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill

The House Appropriations Committee and a Senate subcommittee have approved their versions of the FY15 Energy and Water funding bill. Although details are not yet available for the Senate bill, approved in subcommittee on June 17th, both House and Senate bills would fund the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science at about $5.1 billion (the House at $5.071 billion, the Senate at $5.086 billion). Both bills would level fund the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy at the FY14 amount of $280 million.  The House bill would fund the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy at $1.789 billion, which is $527.7 million below the President’s request and $112.7 million below the FY14 level. The full Senate Appropriations Committee had been scheduled to consider the subcommittee-passed bill, but that markup was postponed when appropriations legislation reached an impasse on the Senate floor.  (Source: AAU, CU)

 

EDUCATION

House and Senate Education Committee Chairs Offer Plans for HEA Reauthorization 

Both the House and Senate Education Committees have begun to release details outlining the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) released his 785-page Higher Education Affordability Act (HEAA) last week. Chairman Harkin’s proposal includes a number of provisions that aim to target reducing costs, student over-borrowing, school accountability, and availability of information. The bill also includes year-round Pell eligibility, allowing the use of prior-prior year income tax data on the FAFSA, an incentive grant program to encourage state support of higher education, among others. Further comments from Harkin are available in last week’s press release, found here. Directs links to the summary released by the HELP Committee can be found here, and the text of the bill is available here. 

Just before Harkin's release, Committee Ranking Member Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Committee member Michael Bennet (D-CO), introduced bipartisan legislation to simplify the process of applying for and receiving federal student financial aid. In addition to simplifying the financial aid application process, the legislation would allow families to use income data from two years prior and receive information earlier than is possible under the current system. The measure also would authorize year-round Pell Grants; consolidate the six federal loan programs into three: one each for undergraduates, graduate students, and parents; simplify repayment options to one income-based plan and one standard 10-year plan; and limit borrowing. 

On the House side, House Education and the Workforce Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and Higher Education and Workforce Training Subcommittee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-VA), released a statement and white paper outlining the House Republican priorities for the HEA reauthorization. The plan aims to improve access to information, simplify student aid, promote innovation, access, and completion, and improve accountability, while limiting the federal government’s role in higher education.  Similar to the Senate bill, the House mentions their support of the “Flex Pell” model allowing continuous year-round use of Pell grants and use of prior-prior year income tax data for FAFSA.  The House principles also make many mentions of their efforts to reduce regulatory burden on institutions of higher education.

The House Committee is expected to move a series of bills versus one large bill, and hopes to get them to the House floor by the August recess. The bills will focus on improving data, increasing financial literacy, simplifying the FAFSA, encouraging innovation in education delivery, reducing regulatory burden, and reducing reporting burden. Last week, the Committee announced the introduced of the first three of these HEA related bills:

The bipartisan Simplifying the Application for Student Aid Act, which allows the use of income data from two years prior to the date of the FAFSA application (prior-prior year data), which is co-sponsored by Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO)
The Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act, which aims to have the Department develop a consumer tested College Dashboard while streamlining and eliminating some current transparency requirements
The Empowering Students through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act, which recommends more frequent financial counseling of students with grants and loans. (Source: APLU, AAU, CU)

ED Releases Proposed Changes to Clery Act

The Department of Education has published a set of proposed rules to implement changes in the Clery Act under the Violence against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013. The new proposed rules, published in the Federal Register on June 19th, are based on the consensus reached by a negotiated rulemaking panel in April that included Jessica Ladd-Webert of CU-Boulder’s Office of Victim Assistance as an alternate negotiator.

Among other changes, the proposed rules would require colleges to compile statistics about incidents of dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking, in addition to the currently compiled statistics for sexual assaults and certain other crimes. The rules also would add gender identity and national origin as categories of bias under the Clery Act’s definition of hate crimes, and adopt the FBI’s revised, more inclusive definition of rape. Institutions also would be required to:

Ensure that their disciplinary proceedings in alleged incidents of dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking are prompt, fair, and impartial; Strengthen protections for victim confidentiality, while helping victims to access the support, services, and disciplinary and legal options available to them; and Specify requirements for programs to prevent dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking, including prevention and awareness programs and campaigns.

Comments on the proposed rule are due by July 21st, with publication of the final regulation expected by November 1st. The new rule would go into effect on July 1, 2015. (Source: AAU, CU)

ED Delays Implementation of State Authorization Proposed Rule

In a Federal Register notice released last week, the Department of Education announced the delayed implementation of the state authorization regulations for the second time. The implementation date is now delayed to July 1, 2015. Additionally, ED Under Secretary Ted Mitchell announced that the department would pause action on the proposed state authorization rule regarding online programs for the time being. Given the complexity of issue, Mr. Mitchell said, the department hopes a timeout will allow the government and stakeholders to get the regulations right. Under a draft rule, on which stakeholders and the department failed to reach agreement during negotiations this year, colleges’ online programs would have to obtain approval to operate in each state where they enrolled students. (Source: ED, AAU)

 

RESEARCH

NIH and NSF Announce New Collaboration on I-Corps

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced a new collaboration between the two agencies to empower entrepreneurial scientists and advance the Lab-to-Market priorities set forth in the President’s Management Agenda. Some academic researchers and entrepreneurs who receive Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) or Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) funding from NIH will now be eligible to participate in a pilot of the NSF Innovation Corps (I-Corps™) program that is specially tailored for biomedical technologies. First launched in 2011, the NSF I-Corps program is based on the “Lean Launchpad” curriculum developed by entrepreneurship expert Steve Blank to improve how tech start-ups bring their products into the marketplace. This intensive, mentor-driven experience is changing the way that NSF-funded researchers think about the commercialization process, and now it will be available for NIH-funded researchers as well. Learn more here. (Source: NIH)

President Obama Announces New Actions To Spur Innovation And Entrepreneurship To Revitalize American Manufacturing

Last week, President Obama outlined new actions to accelerate an emerging trend in U.S. manufacturing: new technologies and entrepreneurship in manufacturing that are providing advantages for the United States. A new report prepared by the National Economic Council, Making in America: U.S. Manufacturing Entrepreneurship and Innovation, asserts new game-changing technologies are reducing the cost, increasing the speed, and making it easier for entrepreneurs and manufacturers to translate new ideas into products made in America.  These new technologies are already having an impact, with the growth rate in manufacturing entrepreneurship at its fastest pace in over 20 years.  

On Wednesday June 18th, the President hosted the first-ever White House Maker Faire, where he announced new actions by Federal agencies and new public-private commitments to spur local entrepreneurship and inspire young people to pursue careers in manufacturing and engineering, including an expansion of the $150 million Materials Genome Initiative. CU-Boulder was one of 150 universities cosigning a letter announcing support for the Maker Faire and maker programs. The White House Press release may be seen in its entirety here.  (Source: White House, CU)

House Science Committee Approves “Secret Science” Bill

The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee on June 24th approved the “Secret Science Reform Act of 2014” (H.R. 4012), legislation that would prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from proposing or issuing regulations unless the scientific information on which they are based is “specifically identified and publicly available in a manner that is sufficient for independent analysis and substantial reproduction of research results.” The bill was approved on a party-line vote of 17 to 13. Chairman Smith’s (R-TX) opening statement can be viewed here. Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson’s (D-TX) opening statement can be viewed here. (Source: AAU)

Senators Introduce Transfer Act To Strengthen Research Commercialization     

On June 26th, Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Daniel Coats (R-IN) introduced the TRANSFER Act (S. 2551), a bill that would establish the “Innovative Approaches to Technology Transfer Grant Program” to improve or accelerate the commercialization of federally funded research being conducted at universities, federal laboratories, and other non-profit research organizations. Under the legislation, federal funds could be used to support proof of concept work, technology maturation activities, technical validation, technical assistance to licensees, outreach to small business, and other efforts to facilitate translation of early-stage technology to market viability.

 

The bill would allow institutions of higher education, technology transfer organizations, federal laboratories, public or private non-profit entities, or consortia of any of these types of organizations to apply for grants. The program would be funded through a small set-aside (.05 percent in 2015, .1 percent in 2016 and 2017) of federal agency extramural research or R&D budgets, to be drawn from the STTR expenditure requirements for each agency.

Representatives Derek Kilmer (D-WA) and Chris Collins (R-NY) originally introduced the TRANSFER Act in the House (H.R. 2981), in August 2013. AAU, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, and other organizations sent a letter of support for the Kilmer-Collins bill. The House-passed National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 4435), which passed the House on May 22, includes the TRANSFER Act language. (Source: AAU)

 

TAXES

House Ways and Means Committee Passes Higher Education Tax Benefit Consolidation Bill

The House Ways and Means Committee passed on a party-line vote, H.R. 3393, the Student and Family Tax Simplification Act, sponsored by Representative Diane Black (R-TN).  The bill consolidates the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC), Lifetime Learning Credit, Hope Credit, and deduction for tuition and fees into a new, permanent, and inflation-indexed AOTC.  The bill simplifies higher tax education benefits at the expense of graduate students and non-traditional students who take longer to graduate as the AOTC would only be available for four years. The APLU and AAU noted that the repeal of tax relief that benefits graduate students would be in addition to recent changes in graduate student aid policy that have negatively impacted graduate students, such as higher interest rates on graduate student loans and elimination of in-school interest subsidies.  Democrats on the committee focused most of their opposition based on the lack of an offset for the bill.  However, a few members did express concerns about the impact on graduate and non-traditional students.  The future prospects of the bill are not clear at this time. (Source: APLU)

 

CU at DC

CU-Boulder Representative Participates in DC Roundtable on Sexual Assault

On June 24th, Jessica Ladd-Webert, of CU-Boulder’s Office of Victim Assistance, participated in a Capitol Hill roundtable in Washington, DC on June 24th hosted by Senator McCaskill (D-MO) to discuss sexual assault on campuses. During the roundtable, Senator McCaskill asked experts from campuses, advocacy groups, and prosecutors to share insights and recommendations on how the federal governemtn can help universities better prevent and respond to sexual assaults on campus. You can read more here(subscription may be required). (Source: CU)

CU-Boulder Professor Visits Capitol Hill to Discuss Space Exploration and Science

On June 27th, CU-Boulder Professor Jack Burns visited Washington, DC last week to discuss space exploration issues, a recent report on the future of human spaceflight,  and collaboration between science and exploration. While in DC, Professor Burns visited with Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, and staff from the offices of Colorado Senators Bennet and Udall, and Reps. Gardner and Perlmutter. (Source: CU)

June 17, 2014

Both the House and Senate are in session this week.

APPOINTMENTS

Eric Cantor, Defeated In Primary, Steps Down As House Majority Leader

In a stunning political upset that surprised Washington, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) was defeated by Tea Party opponent David Brat in the Virginia Republican primary on June 10th. A largely unknown candidate, Brat is a professor in economics at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, VA. Cantor announced this week that he will step down as majority leader, the number two majority position in the House, at the end of July.  Cantor endorsed California Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to succeed him as majority leader. With potential opponents Pete Sessions (R-TX) and Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) dropping out of the race on June 12th, McCarthy’s lone declared rival for the leadership position, is Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID), representing the hard right corner of the Republican conference. The election will be held June 19th, and Cantor plans to leave his post by the end of July. He’ll stay in the House until December. Canter has played an active role on R&D policy issues, championing medical research in particular while seeking to limit federal spending on social and behavioral sciences Cantor has been a central figure in rallying his caucus and other supporters in favor of the FIRST Act.  (Source: CU, COSSA, CQ)

 

BUDGET/APPROPRIATIONS

House Energy and Water Subcommittee Approves FY15 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill 

On June 10th the House Appropriations Energy and Water Subcommittee approved the FY15 Energy & Water Appropriations bill by voice vote, with total funding of $34 billion. The bill provides $5.071 billion for the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science, an increase over the FY14 level of $5.066 billion. The bill included $280 million for the Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy  (U.S. Department of Energy) (ARPA-E), consistent with FY14 funding and below the President’s request of $325 million. In other energy programs, the bill would cut spending on renewable energy R&D in order to boost spending on nuclear and fossil fuel development. DOE’s fossil fuel programs would get $593 million, $30.9 million above current spending, while nuclear energy research would rise by $9.8 million to $899 million. In contrast, renewable energy programs would drop $113 million from current levels to $1.8 billion. For more information or to read a copy of the bill, please visit the Subcommittee website here. (Source: AAU APLU, CQ, Science)

 

Senate Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee Increases FY15 Funding for NIH 

The FY15 Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill marked up last week in the Senate L-HHS-Ed Subcommittee would provide $30.5 billion for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), an increase of $606 million above the FY14 level. Within that total, the bill would provide $100 million for the second year of the multi-agency Brain Research through Application of Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) initiative, an increase of $60 million. 

The measure also would maintain the discretionary portion of the maximum Pell grant award at $4,860 for the 2015-2016 school year. When combined with mandatory funding, this would raise the maximum award by an estimated $100, to $5,830. The bill also would increase funding for several campus-based student aid programs. For the campus-based aid programs, the Senate bill would:

--Raise funding for Federal Work Study by $35 million;

--Raise funding for TRIO by $8.4 million;

--Raise Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants by $15 million; and

--Raise funding for GearUP by $3 million. 

In addition, the bill would fund Title VI International Education programs at $81.2 million, an increase of $9 million. Some $5 million of the increase is for study abroad. The bill also includes $75 million for the President’s First in the World initiative, with $20 million set aside for minority-serving institutions. For the Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need (GAANN) program, the bill would provide $31 million, an increase of $1.7 million. The full committee markup of the bill originally scheduled for June 12th has been postponed. At this time it is not known when the markup will occur. (Source: AAU)

House Appropriations Committee Approves FY15 Defense Appropriations Bill

On June 10th, the House Appropriations Committee approved the FY15 Defense Appropriations bill by voice vote. This legislation includes $11.936 billion for Science and Technology (6.1-6.3) programs at the Department of Defense, a decrease from the FY14 level of $12.185 billion. This legislation includes $2.028 billion for basic research (6.1) at the Department of Defense, a decrease below the current funding level of $2.167 billion. Basic research funding in all four branches and Defense–wide would receive less than their FY14 levels.  Only the Defense-wide program would receive more than the Administration’s FY15 request, an added $10 million above that level.  AAU issued a statement on June 10th criticizing the reduced FY15 funding level for Defense basic research in the House bill, saying that it was “only a modest improvement” over the President’s proposed cut of 6.9 percent. (Source: AAU)

Business for Federal Research Funding Holds Washington Fly-In 

A delegation of business representatives from around the country, led by the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, came to Washington, DC on June 9th to meet with legislators about the importance of strong, sustained support for federally funded research. The Chamber’s press release is available here. Members of the Business for Federal Research coalition urged Washington lawmakers to support a strong innovation economy by providing steady growth above inflation for federal research programs across the government, beginning with the FY15 appropriations process. They cited such agencies as the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, NASA, and the Departments of Agriculture, Defense, Energy, and Homeland Security.   

The Business for Federal Research Funding is a national coalition of 57 chambers of commerce and business groups (including the Boulder, Denver, and South Denver Metro Chambers) that was formed earlier this year through the leadership of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce. The delegation that participated in the Washington, DC fly-in included participants from the CEO Council for Growth (PA, NJ, DE), the Dayton Development Coalition (OH), and the Atlanta, Pittsburgh, and Centre County (PA) chambers, in addition to Greater Boston. (Source: AAU, CU)

 

EDUCATION

Senate Fails to Invoke Cloture on Student Aid Refinancing Bill 

Last week, the Senate took up the Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act (S. 2432), a bill led by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and co-sponsored by 44 other Senators including both Senators Bennet and Udall.  Supporters of the bill could not, however, secure the 60 votes needed to invoke cloture. The vote was 56 to 38 in favor of cloture. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, issued a statement saying that reauthorization of the Higher Education Act would present another opportunity to help borrowers with existing student debt. 

On June 9th, a group of 12 higher education associations, including ACE, AAU, and APLU, sent a letter to Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), the primary sponsor of S. 2432, expressing support for the bill.  The letter notes that the bill makes several important reforms to the federal student loan programs, and it offers some suggestions for improvement. The letter adds, “A greater commitment to students upfront, in the form of increased grant aid and reduced rates on new loans, would lower their costs and limit debt burden even more efficiently than refinancing existing debt.” (Source: AAU)

Congressional Opposition To College Rating System Grows

Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Michael E. Capuano (D-MA) introduced a resolution on June 10th that opposes the Department of Education’s controversial plan to design a ratings system for colleges and universities.  And on June 12th, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) said that he plans to attach an amendment to the labor, health, and education appropriations bill that would stop the Obama administration from moving ahead with a ratings system. Goodlatte and Capuano also issued a joint statement calling the department’s proposal, which much of academe has greeted with skepticism, “misguided.”

Under the plan, which the Obama administration has said is needed to provide better consumer information and hold colleges more accountable for their use of taxpayer money, an institution’s federal financial aid would be tied to its rating. The rating would be based on several factors, including affordability and student outcomes. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has said that, even if the agency doesn’t receive the $10 million from Congress that it requested to fund the project, it will still move forward with the plan. President Obama mentioned the ratings system on Tuesday during a Tumblr Q&A about student-loan debt, saying the proposed system would help push colleges to be more affordable. (Sources: Inside Higher Education, The Chronicle Of Higher Education)

 

RESEARCH

House Science Subcommittee Fails To Mark Up Energy Research Authorization Bill  

The energy subcommittee of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee met June 1th1 to mark up a bill to reauthorize DOE basic and applied research programs, but was unable to conduct substantive business. Following a difference of opinion between Republicans and Democrats over committee procedures and availability of the bill in advance of the markup, Subcommittee Chairman Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) ended the session. The bill is now expected to bypass the subcommittee and go straight to full committee. Chairman Lummis’s follow-up statement is available here.

The measure, which covers just FY15, incorporates the EINSTEIN Act (which would reauthorize the DOE Office of Science) and reauthorization of R&D programs in the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (EERE), Nuclear Energy, Fossil Energy, Energy Delivery & Energy Reliability, and ARPA-E. It would cut authorized funding by $232 million in FY15. The bill would increase authorized funding for the DOE Office of Science by five percent to $5.3 billion, but would significantly cut authorized funding for ARPA-E and eliminate references to “climate” from that agency’s goals. The bill also would significantly cut authorized funding for biological and environmental research and for energy efficiency and renewable energy. (Source: AAU, CU)

House Science Subcommittees Hold Hearing On Administrative Burden On Research  

Two subcommittees of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee held a hearing on June 12th to examine the administrative workload for those conducting federally funded research. Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Paul Broun (R-GA) and Research and Technology Chairman Larry Bucshon (R-IN) both expressed support for efforts to eliminate red tape and harmonize and streamline requirements, while still preserving research accountability. Rep. Dan Maffei (D-NY) noted that with an 80-percent rejection rate for federal research grants, scientists can spend significant time reapplying for grant funding. Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-IL) added that both grant-writing and too-frequent progress reports delay progress in science, but he said it was important to ensure that researchers are not wasting the public’s money and are taking appropriate safeguards in their research, such as in protecting human subjects. 

Witnesses for the hearing were Arthur Bienenstock, chair of the National Science Board’s task force on administrative burden; Susan Wyatt Sedwick, chair of the Federal Demonstration Partnership; Gina Lee-Glauser, Vice President for Research at Syracuse University; and Allison Lerner, Inspector General of the National Science Foundation. Read more about the hearing here.   (Source: AAU, AIP)

House Passes 1- Year NASA Reauthorization, While Senate Continues Work On Multiyear Bill

On June 9th, the House passed a bill to reauthorize the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) programs by a 401-2 vote. Authorities in the House bill include $3 billion for the International Space Station and $658 million for the James Webb Space Telescope. But the measure, which would authorize a total fo $17.6 billion for space exploration, space operations, education and technology efforts, only covers the current fiscal year. House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) said the measure would boost U.S. space exploration efforts. "This bill provides the necessary funds to push us into the Cosmos and beyond," Smith said. Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD) said during floor debate that she wished the committee had been able to agree on a multi-year bill. The Senate, which approved a three-year bill last year on a party line vote, is working to update that bill, retaining the multiyear timeline. But no timetable for Senate action is set.

The authorizing committees in each chamber--the Senate Commerce Committee and the House Science, Space and Technology Committee-- approved a bill last year on party line votes and they did not progress past the committees. Intense disagreements between Republicans and Democrats over top-level funding caps were an obstacle to further progress, but the Ryan-Murray budget agreement for FY2014 and FY2015 has opened the door to compromise as evidenced by the House bill. The Senate committee similarly may now be able to reach bipartisan agreement on budget matters, but policy differences remain. One key issue is whether the goal is for a two-year Senate bill or if the committee pushes for maintaining the three-year time horizon, which would take the bill beyond the Ryan-Murray framework. (Source: The Hill, Space Policy Online)

 

VETERANS

Senate Passes VA Medical Bill With In-State Tuition Provision

Last week, the Senate passed a veterans’ medical bill, S. 2450, Veterans' Access to Care through Choice, Accountability and Transparency Act, which was introduced by Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (D-VA) as well as Committee Ranking Member Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), and several other Senators. While this bill primarily covers Veterans’ Affairs medical issues, is also includes a section requiring public institutions to charge in-state tuition for veterans, for a period of three years post-discharge, and for certain eligible dependents in order for that institution to remain eligible for Post-9/11 GI and Montgomery GI bill benefits. (Source: APLU, CU)

June 10, 2014

Both Chambers are in session this week. 

APPOINTMENTS

Burwell Confirmed as Secretary of HHS

On June 5th, the Senate confirmed Sylvia Mathews Burwell as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), in a 78-17 vote. She will replace Kathleen Sebelius, the previous Secretary and former Kansas governor. Ms. Burwell, a 48-year-old West Virginia native, was sworn in yesterday. She leaves her post as director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to take this position. She previously held high-level positions in the Clinton White House, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Walmart Foundation, but has never held elected office.(Source: Wall Street Journal)

Veterans Affairs Secretary Resigns

On June 6th, Eric K. Shinseki resigned as Secretary of Veterans Affairs, apologizing for a scandal in which employees throughout the VA’s massive hospital system conspired to hide months-long wait times that veterans faced when seeking care. President Obama has named Sloan D. Gibson, the deputy secretary of Veterans Affairs, to take over the VA until a new secretary is named. (Source: Washington Post)

 

NASA Names Schmidt Director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies

NASA has named Gavin A. Schmidt to head the agency’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York, a leading Earth climate research laboratory. Currently deputy director of the institute, Schmidt steps into the position left vacant after the retirement of long-time director James E. Hansen and becomes only the third person to hold the post. Read more here. (Source: NASA)

 

BUDGET/APPROPRIATIONS

Senate Commerce, Justice, Science Subcommittee Approves FY15 Funding Bill

The Senate Appropriations Committee on June 5th approved its FY15 Commerce-Justice-Science (C-J-S) funding bill. At $51.2 billion, the bill reflects a reduction of $398 million from the FY14 level and equals the House-passed level. 

NSF: The bill provides $7.2 billion for National Science Foundation (NSF), which is $83 million above the FY14 funding level, equal to the President’s FY15 request, and $200 million below the House-passed FY15 level.  The measure would allocate $5.8 billion for Research and Related Activities; the House-approved level is $5.9 billion. Education and Human Resources would be funded at $889.7 million, which is $13.7 million above the House level. Both House and Senate bills would fund the Major Research and Equipment and Facilities Construction Directorate at $200.7 million, which is $100,000 less than the Administration’s request of $200.8 million. The bill also expresses continued concerns about a proposal to consolidate STEM programs across government agencies and directs NSF and OSTP to continue to work together on this issue. 

NASA:  The Senate bill provides $17.9 billion for NASA, which is $254 million above the FY14 level, $439 million above the President’s FY15 request, and the same as the House-approved level. Within that total, the bill includes $5.2 billion for the Science Mission Directorate, which is $7 million above the House level; $580.2 million for Space Technology, which is $39.8 million below the House level of $620 million; and $551 million for Aeronautics, which is $115 million below the House level of $666 million. The Senate bill would fund Space Grant at $40 million, which is $10 million more than the House level of $30 million.

NOAA: Within the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the bill funds Oceanic and Atmospheric Research programs at $430 million, in line with the President’s budget request. Within OAR, the committee recommended $40 m for NOAA's Regional Climate Data and Information line, a slight increase over the FY2014 funding level of $37 m and $17 m more than the House mark. The Regional Climate Data and Information line funds the Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments (RISA) program and the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS). The bill does not provide funding for the SIDAR program, which would fund the Total Solar Irradiance Sensor (TSIS) built by LASP, but directs NASA and NOAA to work together to ensure progress forward on this program. 

NIST: The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is funded at $900 million, which is $50 million above the fiscal year 2014 enacted level and the same as the request. This funding enables a set of initiatives that will catalyze innovations, develop measurements, and provide technical resources to promote the global competitiveness of U.S. manufacturers and aspiring start-ups. 

During the Senate markup, the committee also adopted 22-8 an amendment to the C-J-S bill to allow for industrial hemp research by blocking the Justice Department from spending money in contravention of research provisions in the 2014 farm bill. Those provisions let academic institutions or state agriculture departments grow hemp for research purposes, as long as it is legal under the relevant state law.  Last week, House appropriators added language to their C-J-S measure to block federal law enforcement authorities from interfering with growers and state agencies. Federal agents recently seized seeds intended for Kentucky’s agriculture department, prompting congressional concern. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, is a co-sponsor of Merkley’s proposal. 

It is not yet clear when the C-J-S bill will be considered by the full Senate. (Source: AAU, Ocean Leadership, CU, CQ )

 

EDUCATION

President Announces Measures to Curb Student Debt

Yesterday, President Obama delivered remarks at the White House announcing new executive actions to further lift the burden of crushing student loan debt, including a Presidential Memorandum that will allow an additional 5 million borrowers with federal student loans to cap their monthly loan payment at 10% of their income.  The Presidential Memorandum also outlines a series of new executive actions aimed to support federal student loan borrowers, especially for vulnerable borrowers who may be at greater risk of defaulting on their loans. You can read more about this announcement by reading the White House Fact Sheet here.

In other education related news, Dr. Jill Biden and Secretary Arne Duncan discussed college affordability and student loans with more than a dozen recent graduates at a White House roundtable event last week. Read about it here. (Source: White House, ED)

Task Force on Higher Education Regulatory Burden Meets in Washington

The Task Force on Government Regulation of Higher Education held its second meeting in Washington DC on June 6th. CU President Bruce Benson, who serves on the Task Force, attended. The panel, created last fall by a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators including Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO), has been charged with conducting a comprehensive review of the Department of Education regulations that affect colleges and universities, particularly those stemming from the Higher Education Act.  The Task Force is being staffed by the American Council on Education, and hopes to produce a set of recommendations for action next year.  

The major topics under discussion include student financial aid, institutional finances, campus crime and campus security, the Americans with Disabilities Act, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data Systems (IPEDS), inconsistent definitions across Department of Education data systems, state authorization of institutions and of distance education programs, disclosure and reporting requirements, accreditation-related regulations, and discretion for Department of Education enforcement actions. (Source: CU, AAU)

Senator Mccaskill Plans Legislation To Improve Response To Campus Sexual Violence

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) used a roundtable discussion of sexual violence on campuses June 2nd to announce that she planned to propose legislation to improve colleges’ response to the issue, which has drawn attention in recent months from the White House, the Education and Justice Departments, and student victims and their advocates across the country. The roundtable, the second of three held by Sen. McCaskill, was attended by advocates for survivors, college administrators, two other U.S. senators, and the official in charge of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. The discussion focused on institutional enforcement of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which protects students from discrimination based on sex in education programs that receive federal aid. 

A third roundtable will be held on June 23rd in Washington, DC. (Source: Chronicle of Higher Education)

 

RESEARCH

NIH Embraces Bold, 12-year Scientific Vision for BRAIN Initiative

Last week, the long-term scientific vision of the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative was presented to National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. 

The report drafted by the Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD) BRAIN Working Group maps out a sustained commitment of $4.5 billion in new federal funding over 10 years beginning in fiscal year 2016 to achieve seven primary goals. NIH already announced an investment of $40 million in fiscal year 2014 and President Obama has made a request for $100 million for NIH’s component of the initiative in his fiscal year 2015 budget.

The NIH efforts on the BRAIN Initiative will seek to map the circuits of the brain, measure the fluctuating patterns of electrical and chemical activity flowing within those circuits, and understand how their interplay creates our unique cognitive and behavioral capabilities. The report identifies a series of scientific goals that are viewed as a high priority, and that will be achieved through a core set of seven principles, which you can read more about here.

The Working Group outlined an investment ramping up to $400 million a year for fiscal years 2016-2020 to focus on technology development and validation. They called for $500 million a year for years 2020-2025 to increasingly focus on the application of those technologies in an integrated fashion to make fundamental new discoveries about the brain. The working group emphasized that its cost estimates assume that the budget for the BRAIN Initiative will supplement — not supplant — NIH’s existing investment in the broader spectrum of basic, translational, and clinical neuroscience research.

The BRAIN Initiative is jointly led by NIH, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency of the U.S. Department of Defense, National Science Foundation, and Food and Drug Administration. Private organizations are also committed to ensuring success through investment in the initiative.   (Source: NIH)

Group Publishes Report on Personnel Issues in Biosecurity

A group of FBI and association representatives that have been working together on biosecurity issues has published the report from the last of its five workshops, this one on personnel issues in biosecurity.  Previous reports dealt with security risks of biological research in academia (2010), dual use review and oversight (2012), implementing select agent and toxin regulations (2013), andinternational science and security (2013).

The project, “Bridging Science and Security for Biological Research,” was initiated four years ago by the FBI’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate (WMD). Working with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), in collaboration with AAU and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), the WMD Directorate held a series of five workshops with the research, policy, and security communities to discuss outreach and policy issues in biosecurity.  The goal was to share and summarize in a series of reports the lessons learned, challenges faced, and areas for improvement in local and national biosecurity initiatives.  (Source: AAU)

House Science Committee To Consider Energy Research Bill

Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), the Chairwoman of the House Science Subcommittee on Energy, has plans to introduce the Energy Research and Development Act of 2014 for markup later this month. This legislation would reauthorize Department of Energy (DOE) programs within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, including basic research supported by the Office of Science and the applied research and development programs supported by other DOE offices.

The bill incorporates two pieces of legislation previously circulated in draft form—the Enabling lnnovation for Science, Technology, and Energy in America Act of 2014 (EINSTEIN), and the Our Nation's Energy Future Act of 2014 (ONE Future). Provisions from EINSTEIN would set appropriations authority for the DOE Office of Science at $5,325 billion, exceeding the $5,111 billion request in the President’s Budget and the $5.066 billion appropriated for FY14 by 5% and 4% respectively. But provisions from ONE Future would drastically cut R&D programs in DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). EERE would be reduced $489M, or 29%, vs. current level of  $1.683 billion. The President requested an increase to $2.317 billion. The bill would also decrease authorization for the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) by $40 Million, or 14%, and "removes climate goals and inserts safeguards to protect taxpayer funds" within the ARPA-E program. (Source: House Science Subcommittee on Energy)

House Passes NASA Authorization Act

The House passed the 2014 NASA Authorization Act, H.R. 4412 yesterday under a legislative procedure called suspension of the rules.  No amendments are allowed under that procedure, which is used for bills expected to be non-controversial.  The bill passed by a vote of 401-2. The chairmen and ranking members of the full House Science, Space and Technology (SS&T) Committee and its Space Subcommittee were the main speakers:  Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Rep. Steve Palazzo (R-MS), and Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD).    

Bipartisanship prevailed, although several Democrats noted how far the two sides had come since last year when sharp political divisions on an earlier version of the bill resulted in tense party-line votes in committee.   Much of the rancor was because Republicans were working under strict budget limits adopted by the House for FY2014 while Democrats rejected those limits. In December, the Ryan-Murray budget agreement for FY2014 and FY2015 eased those limits, which has enabled significantly greater cooperation between the two parties on many issues this year, including authorization and appropriations legislation. Read more here. (Source: SpacePolicyOnline)

NASA Should Maintain Long-Term Focus on Mars as “Horizon Goal” for Human

A 
new congressionally mandated report from the National Research Council concludes that the expense of human spaceflight and the dangers to the astronauts involved can be justified only by the goal of putting humans on other worlds.  The report recommends that the nation pursue a disciplined “pathway” approach that encompasses executing a specific sequence of intermediate accomplishments and destinations leading to the “horizon goal” of putting humans on Mars.  The success of this approach would require a steadfast commitment to a consensus goal, international collaboration, and a budget that increases by more than the rate of inflation. The study was sponsored by NASA. Read more here. (Source: National Academies)

Decadal Survey Members Argue For More Funding For NASA Researcher Workforce

In a June 3rd commentary for Space News, Daniel N. Baker, director of CU-Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP); Lennard A. Fisk, Thomas M. Donahue Distinguished Professor of Space Science at the University of Michigan; and Harlan E. Spence, director of the Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans and Space at the University of New Hampshire, wrote that “decreasing space research budgets” over the past two years, coinciding with “NASA’s continued emphasis on large flight missions,” has resulted in a dearth of “money needed for support of individual space scientists, their students and the university research infrastructure.”

The article says that “younger scientific researchers” have borne the brunt of this “crisis,” even as they “daily are pushing back the frontiers of solar science, space physics and planetary exploration.” The authors, who were members of the US National Academies’ 2012 decadal survey in solar and space physics, say that they “argued strenuously that NASA and other space agencies needed first and foremost to have a healthy, vibrant and productive scientific workforce.” (Source: Space News)

 

TAX

Wyden, Hatch Outline Path Forward On Comprehensive Tax Reform

On June 5th, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-UT) reinforced their commitment to overhauling the nation’s tax code through comprehensive reform, announcing the first in a series of committee hearings this summer to examine several issue areas that are essential to a modern, effective tax code. Scheduled hearings include: Education tax incentives (June); ID theft and taxpayer privacy protection and modernizing corporate taxation (July).

“This summer, the Senate Finance Committee will forge ahead with hearings that examine reforming the broken, dysfunctional tax code in areas ranging from taxpayer privacy protection to education to corporate taxation,” Wyden and Hatch said. “When it comes to tax policy, comprehensive tax reform is our ultimate objective, and we are committed to using these hearings as the building blocks to that goal. (Source: U.S. Senate Committee on Finance)

June 3, 2014

 

The House is in recess this week. The Senate is in session.

 

BUDGET/APPROPRIATIONS

House Approves FY15 Commerce-Justice-Science Funding Bill 

Last week, the House approved the FY15 Commerce-Justice-Science (C-J-S) appropriations bill (H.R. 4660), which funds the National Science Foundation (NSF) and NASA. The vote was 321-87. Despite reduced overall funding in the bill, the House Appropriations Committee approved a three-percent increase for NSF and a one-percent increase for NASA. The House sustained the committee-approved funding levels for both agencies, but Members voted to move $7 million in NASA funding from Space Operations to Space Technology. 

During floor action, House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) offered an amendment that they said would take $15.3 million out of the NSF Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBE) Directorate and reallocate it to other research directorates. The amendment passed by a vote of 208-201.  However, since this legislation does not include explicit funding levels for each Directorate, the Smith amendment is more of a messaging piece, albeit a harmful one, and would have no actual impact on the funding levels for the various directorates.

Speaking on the House floor in support of NSF social sciences research were Science Committee Ranking Member Chaka Fattah (D-PA) and Reps. David Price (D-NC) and Rush Holt (D-NJ), all of whom discussed examples of social, political, and economics research that have made important contributions to the economy and public life. Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL) discussed the importance of NSF’s activities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education.   

The legislation also greatly reduces the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) funding for climate research. Representative Polis (D-CO) spoke on the floor about the importance of funding for climate research (and CU-Boulder’s expertise in this area) in response to an amendment offered by Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) to restore that funding. The amendment was ultimately not adopted. You can watch Rep. Polis’ remarks here. The House also provided zero funding for NOAA's new Solar Irradiance, Data, and Rescue (SIDAR) initiative, which would provide support for the Total Solar Irradiance Sensor (TSIS) built by LASP.  We anticipate the Senate will provided funding for TSIS in its version of the FY15 bill, which the Senate Commerce, Justice, Science Subcommittee will begin marking up today. (Source: AAU, APLU, CU)

House Defense Appropriations Committee Releases FY15 Bill

The House Appropriations Committee released the subcommittee draft of the fiscal year 2015 (FY15) Defense Appropriations bill last week. The subcommittee began to markup the draft in a closed session the following day. As described by the Appropriations Committee, the legislation funds critical national security needs, military operations abroad, and health and quality-of-life programs for the men and women of the Armed Forces and their families.

In total, the bill provides $491 billion in discretionary defense funding, an increase of $4.1 billion above the fiscal year 2014 enacted level and $200 million above the President’s request. The bill contains $63.4 billion – $368 million above the fiscal year 2014 enacted level but $171 million below the President’s request – for research, development, testing, and evaluation (RDT&E) of new defense technologies. (Source: Coalition for National Security Research)

 

HIGHER EDUCATION

AAU Submits Comments on Accreditation Policy to NACIQI

On May 22, the Association of American Universities (AAU) submitted comments to the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI) in response to the panel’s request for comments on accreditation policy reform. NACIQI is drafting its second report to the Secretary of Education on accreditation for the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA). AAU was actively involved in drafting the firstreport, providing four sets of written comments and oral testimony at that time.

AAU’s latest comments express support for retaining the link between accreditation and eligibility for federal Title IV student aid funds. The comments also highlight several current problems with accreditation, including the disparity between the costs and benefits of the accreditation process, the regulatory burden, and the use of inappropriate assessment measures. The association argues that many of these problems could be addressed by an amendment to the HEA that gives accreditors the authority to create expedited review for institutions with longstanding records of strong performance. (Source: AAU)

Associations Comment on Department of Education’s Proposed Gainful Employment Rule 

A group of 20 higher education associations, including the AAU,  the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), and the American Council on Education (ACE) submitted comments to the Department of Education on May 27th regarding the Department’s proposed rule on gainful employment. 

The comments makes it clear that the associations strongly support gainful employment regulations that would exclude from Title IV federal financial aid eligibility those programs that fail to serve their students well. But the letter expresses concern that instead of risk-based regulations focused on areas of potential abuse, the proposed regulations include metrics too weak to be effective against underperforming schools while adding excessive layers of reporting and disclosure requirements for all institutions with gainful employment programs. (Source: AAU, APLU)

 

RESEARCH

House Science Committee Approves FIRST Act 

Last week, the House Science, Space, and Technology (SST) Committee approved the Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science and Technology Act (FIRST Act), legislation to reauthorize programs in the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST), as well as STEM education programs. The bill (H.R. 4186), authored by Committee Chairman Smith, was approved on a party-line vote of 20-16. The research university community continues to have strong concerns with this bill.

The bill would cap overall funding for NSF below the level of inflation, impose new grant conditions on the agency’s peer review system, and target the Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences and the Geosciences directorates for significant cuts in authorized funding. During committee consideration, the panel approved an additional $50 million cut in authorized funding for SBE, on top of the $56 million cut in the underlying bill.    

The committee made an important improvement in the bill regarding public access. Members approved by voice vote an amendment offered by Reps. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) to lower the embargo period for public access to the results of federally funded research from the basic embargo period of 24 months to 12 months.  It is not clear if or when this bill will advance to the House floor. (Source: AAU, CU)

Secretary Pritzker Designates Twelve Manufacturing Communities

Last week, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker announced the first 12 communities that will be designated Manufacturing Communities as part of the Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership (IMCP) initiative. The U.S. Commerce Department-led program is designed to accelerate the resurgence of manufacturing in communities nationwide by supporting the development of long-term economic development strategies that help communities attract and expand private investment in the manufacturing sector and increase international trade and exports.

In order to earn the designation, communities had to demonstrate the significance of manufacturing already present in their region and develop strategies to make investments in workforce and training, advanced research, infrastructure and site development, supply chain support, trade and international investment, operational improvement and capital access.

Seventy communities across the country applied – including the Denver metro region, through the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT), with support from CU-Boulder – and twelve were selected by an interagency panel. The Colorado application was not selected. The Administration plans to launch a second IMCP competition later this year, as well as convene the 70 communities that applied for designation to share best practices in economic development planning. (Source: U.S. EDA)

 

TAX

House Ways and Means Committee Approves IRA Charitable Deduction Extension 

Last week, the House Ways and Means Committee approved legislation that would extend permanently the Individial Retirement Account (IRA) charitable deduction. The committee voted to approve the Permanent IRA Charitable Contribution Act of 2014 (H.R. 4619) by a vote of 23-14. (Source: AAU)

 

CU at DC

CU-Boulder Professor Visit Washington to Discuss Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

Assistant Professor Eric Frew, Director of CU-Boulder’s Center Research and Engineering Center for Unmanned Vehicles (RECUV), visited Washington DC last week to participate in discussions with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on an upcoming Center of Excellence Opportunity. While in DC, Professor Frew visited with staff in Senator Udall and Bennet’s office, and Congressman Lamborn’s office, to discuss their support for CU’s UAV research.

CIRES Senior Scientist Testifies Before House Science Committee on IPCC

Dr. Roger Pielke Sr., Senior Research Scientist at CIRES and Emeritus Professor at Colorado State University (CSU), testified last week before the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee during their hearing on Examining the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Process. (Source: CU)

 

DC at CU

CU-Boulder Representatives Participate in White House Energy Roundtable

Last week, Dr. Kristen Averyt, CIRES Associate Director for Science and Kevin Doran, Assistant Research Professor at RASEI, participated in a White House Business Council luncheon and briefing with Alice Madden, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Intergovernmental & External Affairs at the Department of Energy, to discuss the clean energy economy and the President's Climate Action Plan. (Source: CU)

May 27, 2014

The House is in session Wednesday and Thursday of this week, the Senate is in recess.

APPOINTMENTS

President Names New Heads of HUD, OMB

President Obama reshuffled his cabinet and other top advisors last week, nominating current Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan to be the next director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and Mayor Julián Castro of San Antonio as the next secretary of HUD. Mr. Donovan would take the place of Sylvia Mathews Burwell, whose nomination as Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) is now being considered by the Senate. (Source: NYTimes, White House)

 

BUDGET/APPROPRIATIONS

Senate Appropriations Committee Approves Subcommittee Allocations

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved discretionary spending limits for the fiscal year (FY) 2015 spending bills by a party-line 16-14 vote on May 22nd. The so-called 302(b) allocations adhere to the overall $1.014 trillion discretionary top line established by the Bipartisan Budget Act, as well as the separate caps on defense and non-defense spending.

 The Senate’s 302(b)s are comparable to the House’s figures, though they do incorporate slightly increased levels for Transportation-HUD, Labor-HHS-Education and Financial Services. (Source: CQ)

 

EDUCATION

Ed Department Rule-Making Panel Fails To Find Consensus On 2 Key Issues

The federally appointed negotiators who have been working since February on a package of proposed consumer-protection regulations for the U.S. Department of Education failed to reach consensus on May 20th, their final day of talks. That means any actions on new rules—covering such matters as college-sponsored bank cards, the terms under which PLUS loans can be denied, and requirements for colleges that operate distance-education programs beyond their own state borders to receive specific authorization from other states—will be left to the discretion of the department to develop or not. The Department is likely to propose rules following the panel’s recommendations in areas where consensus was reached, but is not bound to (as it would have been if the negotiators reached agreement on all of the matters under its charge). How they will handle the remaining issues is less clear.

In previous meetings, negotiators had come to agreement on three issues: clock to credit hour conversion, state authorization requirements for foreign branch locations, and rules for retaking courses for credit. In the final session, the parties did find common ground on a fourth issue, involving adverse credit reporting and PLUS-loans eligibility. But two big sticking points left them divided: state authorization and bank cards. Read more from The Chronicle here (subscription may be required). (Source: Chronicle of Higher Education).

Ed Department Releases Progress Update On Postsecondary Institutions Ratings System

Deputy Undersecretary of Education Jamienne Studley has released an update on the activities and progress surrounding the Postsecondary Institutions Ratings System (PIRS) on the U.S. Department of Education’s official blog, “Homeroom.” While work continues on continue on President Obama’s charge to create a rating system, progress has been slow.  The Department remains committed to developing a tool, however, and plans to post a proposal for public comment this fall. An excerpt from the blog post follows:

“The scope of responses, complexity of the task, and importance of doing this thoughtfully and usefully led us to decide that it is worth taking more time before publishing a proposal for comment, interchange and improvement. In the meantime we are continuing conversations with educators, families, leaders and researchers. We are on track to come out with a proposal by this fall and a final version of the new ratings system before the 2015-16 school year. I look forward to updating you again on progress in the coming months.” (Source: NAICU)

 

RESEARCH

DOE Announces New Commission to Review National Labs

Last week, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz announced the Commission to Review the Effectiveness of the National Energy Laboratories, a congressionally-mandated committee that will evaluate the effectiveness of the Energy Department’s 17 national laboratories. The Commission will be co-chaired by Jared Cohon, President Emeritus and Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, and T.J. Glauthier, President, TJG Energy Associates, LLC. This independent Commission will examine if the priorities of the labs are in line with the broader strategic priorities of the Energy Department.  The Commission will conduct a two-part study and present the first phase of its study by February 1, 2015. Learn more here. (Source: DOE)

NOAA Releases OAR Strategic Plan

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has recently developed the Oceanic and Atmospheric (OAR) OAR Strategic Plan to create a framework aligned with the NOAA 5-year Research & Development Plan released last year.  NOAA will soon begin developing a companion document, the multiannual OAR Implementation Plan, which will provide additional details on goals, objectives, and performance expectations. NOAA will be reaching out for input over the next several months as it develop OAR's priorities, which will inform development of an Implementation Plan.  (Source: NOAA)

House Science Committee Begins Consideration of FIRST Act 

Last week, the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee began markup of the Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science and Technology Act (FIRST Act), but has not completed consideration of pending amendments. During consideration of H.R. 4186, the committee debated 28 amendments. Roll call votes on 15 of those amendments have been postponed until next week, possibly Wednesday or Thursday. The markup also featured strong debate between Committee Republicans and Democrats on funding levels and policy provisions related to the National Science Foundation (NSF).  You can read more about the markup in Science here.

One of the amendments approved by voice vote during the session modifies public access language that was a major concern of the research university community. The amendment, offered by Reps. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), significantly revises language in the original bill that would have extended to two years or beyond the period between the publication of the results of federally funded research and their being made available freely to the public. The Sensenbrenner-Lofgren amendment would reduce the embargo period to 12 months, with a mechanism for extending the embargo up to six months. 

Last week, university leaders expressed deep concerns about the FIRST Act in two op-eds that appeared in the Washington Post and in the on-line version of Scientific American. In the Washington Post, Cornell University President David Skorton argues that the FIRST Act contains two flaws that could “limit its effectiveness in producing future discoveries and the understanding to make use of them.” One is a substantial reduction in funding for social science research, the other is the addition of a “potentially devastating layer of review to ensure any research is ‘worthy of federal funding’ and ‘in the national interest.’” 

In Scientific American, Association of American Universities (AAU) President Hunter Rawlings and Association of Public and Land-grant University (APLU) President Peter McPherson contend that the FIRST Act fails to live up to the vision of the America COMPETES Act, which it partially reauthorizes, and could widen the nation’s innovation deficit, the difference between what the U.S. is investing in research and higher education and what it needs to invest to remain the world’s innovation leader.  

The op-ed is paired with an op-ed by House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX), who writes that the FIRST Act appropriately refocuses limited NSF funds on engineering, biology, mathematics, and computer science and that it is the role of Congress “to set priorities for research that are in the national interest.” (Source: AAU, CU)

 

TECH/IP

Senator Leahy Removes Patent Reform from Judiciary Committee’s Agenda 

Last week, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) announced that the committee would not hold a markup of patent litigation legislation (S. 1720) tomorrow and that he was removing the measure from the committee’s agenda.  Senator Leahy said in his announcement:

“…Unfortunately, there has been no agreement on how to combat the scourge of patent trolls on our economy without burdening the companies and universities who rely on the patent system every day to protect their inventions. We have heard repeated concerns that the House-passed bill went beyond the scope of addressing patent trolls, and would have severe unintended consequences on legitimate patent holders who employ thousands of Americans.” 

He then added: “If the stakeholders are able to reach a more targeted agreement that focuses on the problem of patent trolls, there will be a path for passage this year and I will bring it immediately to the Committee.”

The group of six higher education associations that have been working together on patent reform, released a statement last week applauding Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) for delaying markup of potential patent legislation. The organizations had been concerned that the latest language shared in advance of the potential markup would have overly burdened the legitimate enforcement of patents. (Source: AAU)

 

CU at DC

CU-Boulder Participates in Citizens for Space Exploration DC Day

Claire Yang, Undergraduate Academic Advisor in CU-Boulder’s Department of Aerospace Engineering Sciences, and Kirstyn Johnson, a student in the Department, represented the Colorado chapter of the Citizens for Space Exploration (CSE) group in its annual advocacy visit to Washington, DC last week. During their visit, Yang and Johnson met with staff from several members of the Colorado delegation and other states with CSE chapters. (Source: CU)

May 19, 2014

The House returns today from last week’s recess. Both the House and Senate are in session this week.

BUDGET / APPROPRIATIONS

Senate Appropriators Begin FY15 Markups 

The Senate Appropriations Committee will take up its first FY15 funding bills this week, with subcommittee markups on May 20th of the Agriculture and Military Construction-Veterans Affairs bills.  The two bills will be considered by the full committee on Thursday, May 22nd, along with the subcommittee spending allocations, the so-called 302(b)s.  

The House Appropriations Agriculture Subcommittee will also mark up its FY15 bill on Tuesday, May 20th.  The full committee will consider its FY15 Transportation-Housing and Urban Development bill on Wednesday, May 21. (Source: AAU)

Senate Appropriations Panel Holds Hearing on Defense, Science, and Technology 

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense held a hearing on May 14th on defense science and technology (S&T) in the FY15 budget.  Witnesses included research leaders from the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the three military services, and DARPA.  Although the session focused largely on applied research and development programs and projects at DOD, it was clear that budget cuts, particularly those imposed by sequestration, are having harmful effects on the entire defense S&T ecosystem.  In his prepared testimony, Assistant Secretary for Defense Research and Engineering Alan Shaffer focused on the effects on the DOD S&T workforce:  

“This past year has been unlike previous years in our community; the collective impact of the sequester-forced civilian furlough and program curtailment, the October 2013 government shutdown, and the indirect impacts of the sequester, such as restrictions on our young scientists and engineers attending technical conferences, has impacted the health of our workforce and the programs they execute in ways that we are just beginning to understand.” You can watch the webcast here. (Source: AAU)

 

EDUCATION

Dept. of ED to Offer $75 Million in Grants for College Affordability and Attainment

The U.S. Department of Education is inviting colleges to apply for $75 million in grants through its inaugural "First in the World" innovation competition. According to the department, the grants will finance the "development and testing of innovative approaches and strategies … that improve college attainment and make higher education more affordable." Of the total $20-million will be set aside for minority-serving institutions. President Obama is seeking another $100-million more for the competition in the 2015 budget.

The department says it seeks proposals that aim to raise enrollment and attainment for low-income and underrepresented students; minimize enrollment gaps between those students and their peers; improve transfer rates between community colleges and four-year institutions; reduce time to completion; and increase college affordability. Applications are due by June 30th. Grants will be awarded by September. (Source: Chronicle of Higher Education, CU)

 

RESEARCH

Presidential Commission on Bioethics Release Report on BRAIN Initiative

Last week, the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues released its first set of recommendations for integrating ethics into neuroscience research in the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative. Last July, President Barack Obama charged the commission with identifying key ethical questions that may arise through the BRAIN Initiative and wider neuroscience research.

Specific areas of concern identified in the report include questions of brain privacy raised by advances in neuroimaging research; whether research participants and patients with dementia can give informed consent to participate in experimental trials; and research into cognitive enhancement. The report suggests funding research into both innovative and successful efforts to integrate ethics into neuroscience research and education, including grants similar to the Ethical, Legal and Social Implications (ELSI) research program grants issued for the Human Genome Project. It also calls for all advisory groups and funding review panels for neuroscience research to include a trained bioethicist. The report makes no mention of ethical concerns surrounding future animal research, but Gutmann says the commission may address that topic in its next two meetings, scheduled for June and August. Learn more here. (Source: Science)

NIH to Require Gender Balance in Subjects of Animal Studies

The National Institutes of Health announced on May 14th a new policy requiring that both sexes be represented among the subjects of preclinical biomedical research it finances involving animal and cell models. More than two decades after requiring gender balance among human beings in the trials themselves, NIH leaders said they now realize that the same step should be applied to the laboratory experiments that inform those trials.

The policy reflects a widespread recognition of differences in how men and women differ in their responses to medical treatments, the NIH’s director, Francis S. Collins, and the director of the NIH’s Office of Research on Women’s Health, Janine A. Clayton, wrote in an article in Nature announcing the policy. The change also represents another attempt by the NIH to counter a growing problem of biomedical-research studies that don’t fare well in attempts at replication, Dr. Collins and Dr. Clayton wrote, adding that "this move is essential, potentially very powerful, and need not be difficult or costly."  Read more here.  (Source: Chronicle, Nature)

Satellite Export Regulation Revisions Released

On May 13th, the State and Commerce Departments issued interim final rules revising satellite export controls. The long-awaited revisions to the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) will allow easier export of commercial satellites to most countries. However, exports to China are still prohibited.

The reforms are part of a broader Obama Administration-led Export Control Reform Initiative intended to make American companies more competitive in international markets. Draft rules were released last year, allowing interested parties to comment on the planned changes. The rules released yesterday reflect the input that was received and will remain "interim final rules" for the next six months to allow additional comments. The State Department's interim final rule and the Commerce Department’s companion revisions were published in the May 13, 2014 Federal Register. The two departments share responsibility for export controls. The State Department oversees exports of ITAR-controlled items on the U.S. Munitions List (USML).  The Commerce Department regulates "dual-use" items under the Export Administration Regulations (EAR).  Read more here. (Source: Space Policy Online)

 

VETERANS

DoD Releases Final MOU on Tuition Assistance  

On May 15th, the Department of Defense (DoD) published the final memorandum of understanding (MOU) for its tuition assistance program for active service members, veterans, spouses, and other family members.  Colleges and universities will have 60 days to sign the MOU in order to participate in the Defense Department’s tuition assistance program.

The final MOU incorporates the principles of excellence for educational institutions serving military service members and others that were laid out in an Executive Order the President signed in April, 2012. 

The MOU requires all educational institutions that participate in the tuition assistance program to provide “meaningful” information to students about the financial cost and attendance at the institution, agree to avoid using unfair, deceptive and abusive recruiting practices, and to provide academic and student support services to service members and their families.  

Educational institutions with a current DoD Voluntary Education Partnership MOU that have initiated their application for Title IV eligibility with the Department of Education will have 18 months following the publication of this final rule to successfully meet the Title IV requirement. New applicants will be required to meet the Title IV requirement before signing a DoD Voluntary Education Partnership MOU.    (Source: AAU)

May 12, 2014

The House is in recess this week, the Senate is in session.

 

APPOINTMENTS

U.S. Under Secretary of Education Confirmed

Last week, the Senate confirmed Dr. Ted Mitchell to serve as the next U.S. Under Secretary of Education.  As Under Secretary, Dr. Mitchell will oversee all programs and policies in postsecondary education; career, technical and adult education; federal student aid; and six White House Initiatives.  He previously served as the President of Occidental College and Vice Chancellor for External Affairs and Dean of the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at the University of California at Los Angeles.  He also has held leadership roles at Stanford University and Dartmouth College. (Source: U.S. Department of Education)

Director of Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship Named

Last week, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker announced the appointment of Julie Lenzer Kirk, an award-winning entrepreneur and advocate, as the new Director of the Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship.  Housed within the Economic Development Administration, the Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship works to foster a more innovative U.S. economy focused on turning new ideas and inventions into new products and technologies that spur job growth and competitiveness and promote economic development. (Source: U.S. Department of Commerce)

Chief Scientist of NOAA Named

Last week, the Obama Administration named Dr. Richard W. Spinrad as NOAA's Chief Scientist.  An internationally recognized scientist and executive with more than 30 years of experience, Dr. Spinrad will be the senior scientist for the agency, driving policy and program direction for science and technology priorities. Until this appointment, Dr. Spinrad served as vice president for research at Oregon State University (OSU) in Corvallis, Oregon, and from 2005 until 2010, was the head of NOAA's Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research and the head of the National Ocean Service.  Spinrad will be the agency’s first chief scientist since former astronaut and earth scientist Kathryn Sullivan—now NOAA’s Administrator—held the position in the mid-1990s. (Source: NOAA, Science)

 

BUDGET / APPROPRIATIONS

House Appropriations Committee Approves FY15 CJS Bill 

On May 7th, the House Appropriations Committee 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), NASA, and NIST while keeping NOAA essentially flat from FY14.  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” – notably leaving out the Geosciences and Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences directorates.

The bill would provide about $7.4 billion for NSF, 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.” 

The bill would provide $17.9 billion overall for NASA, 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.  

NOAA was provided $5.3 million, essentially flat funding from FY14, with increased investments in satellite and weather forecasting programs.  Within that total, NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) received $379.8 million, an 11% cut, which includes a 24% cut to climate research. NIST would receive $855.8 million, an increase of $5.8 million or 0.7 percent above FY 2014. For additional details on the CJS bill, please contact Abby Benson. (Source: AAU, AIP, Ocean Leadership)

 

EDUCATION

Udall Leads Effort to Lower Student Loan Rates

Last week, Senator Mark Udall introduced legislation that would help more than 760,000 Coloradans who have outstanding federal loans, according to U.S. Department of Education estimates. The Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act, which Udall co-sponsored along with Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), would give borrowers the option to refinance their loans at this year's low rates, 3.86 percent for undergraduates and 5.41 percent for graduate students. The Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act would allow all students with Stafford Loans, Unsubsidized Stafford Loans, Federal PLUS Loans and Federal Consolidation Loans to refinance at this year's low rates. The bill also would allow students in good standing the option of refinancing their high-interest private student loans down to the rates offered to new federal student borrowers under the Federal Direct Loan Program. (Source: Office of Senator Udall)

Interest Rates On New Federal Student Loans Will Rise For 2014-15

Interest rates on new federal student loans will rise for the 2014-15 academic year, with the rate on undergraduate Stafford loans increasing to 4.66 percent, Bloomberg has reported. Congress voted last year to tie interest rates to the high yield on the 10-year Treasury note. This year’s auction took place on Wednesday, with the yield on the note set at 2.61 percent. The interest rate on Stafford loans for undergraduates will rise to 4.66 percent, up from 3.86 percent. For graduate students, the rate on unsubsidized Stafford loans will rise to 6.21 percent, up from 5.41 percent. The rate on PLUS Loans for parents and graduate students will increase to 7.21 percent, up from 6.41 percent. (Source: Chronicle of Higher Education)

House Approves Legislation To Enhance Education Research

The House of Representatives approved the Strengthening Education through Research Act on May 8th with bipartisan support. Introduced by Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education Chairman Todd Rokita (R-IN) and Ranking Member Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY), the bill reauthorizes the Education Sciences Reform Act, which established the Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences, and makes it easier for states and school districts to access timely information on successful education practices. Learn more about the Supporting Education through Research Act (H.R. 4366) at the link above. (Source: APLU)

Departments of Education and Justice Issue Guidance on Affirmative Action Decision

On May 6th, the Departments of Education and Justice issued a “Dear Colleague” letter confirming that the decision of the United States Supreme Court issued on April 22, 2014 in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action et. al., leaves intact the Court’s prior holdings recognizing that institutions of higher education and elementary and secondary schools may use all legally permissible methods to achieve their diversity goals. These include programs that consider the race of the applicant as one of the many factors in the process to achieve the educational benefits in a diverse student body.

The Departments issued related guidance documents in 2011, “Guidance on the Voluntary Use of Race to Achieve Diversity in Postsecondary Education” and “Guidance on the Voluntary Use of Race to Achieve Diversity and Avoid Racial Isolation in Elementary and Secondary Schools.” Late last year the Departments  also issued “Questions and Answers about the Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin.”  All three documents remain in effect after the Schuette decision. (Source: U.S. Department of Education)

 

IMMIGRATION

DHS Proposes Rules To Attract, Retain High-Skilled Immigrants

On May 6th, the Obama administration proposed some changes to make it easier for some high-skilled immigrant workers as well as the spouses of some workers to stay and work in the U.S. The first would extend employment authorization to the spouses of H-1B foreign workers who have started the process to become legal permanent residents. Usually companies in fields like science, computer and engineering petition for an H-1B visa to make one of their workers a lawful permanent resident, but it does not include their dependents. The second proposed rule would update regulations making it easier for H-1B1 and E-3 professionals from Chile, Singapore and Australia to work and stay in the U.S. It would also significantly broaden and expand the kinds of evidence professors and researchers from abroad can present to make it easier for them to request employment-based first preference (EB-1) visas. (Source: NBC, White House)

 

RESEARCH

CU-Boulder Participates in White House Release of National Climate Assessment

Climate change is already making itself felt across the United States in many concrete ways, but it is still not too late to do something about the magnitude of its future impacts, according to a highly anticipated report released Tuesday with major contributions from Boulder scientists. The 840-page U.S. National Climate Assessment, released by the White House and the product of four years of work by hundreds of the nation's top scientists, states, "Climate change, once considered an issue for the distant future, has moved squarely into the present. The report states that average U.S. temperatures have increased from 1.3 to 1.9 degrees Fahrenheit since record keeping started in 1895, but most of that change has occurred since 1970. The most recent decade is the nation's warmest on record, and temperatures are expected to continue climbing.

Kristen Averyt, associate director of CU-Boulder’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) was at the White House for the assessment's release. She was a lead author for its chapter on energy, water and land.  Read more here. A White House fact sheet on the assessment can be found here. (Source: Daily Camera)

Report Outlines Areas For Federal Investment And Cooperation In Optics And Photonics

A report outlining opportunities for investment and cooperation in applied optics and photonics research has been prepared by the Fast-Track Action Committee on Optics and Photonics (FTAC-OP) and presented to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy’s Physical Sciences Subcommittee of the Committee on Science, National Science and Technology Council.  The report, “Building a Brighter Future with Optics and Photonics” is aimed at highlighting research and capability opportunities and describes a need for “affordable and convenient access to experimental fabrication facilities to test new device designs, fabrication approaches, and materials.”

FTAC-OP is comprised of representatives from 14 federal agencies including the Departments of Commerce, Defense, Health and Human Services, and Energy as well as the National Science Foundation, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the White House Offices of Management and Budget and Science and Technology Policy. The purpose of FTAC-Op was to “identify cross cutting areas of optics and photonics research” and “to prioritize these research areas for possible federal investment” as well as to set long term goals for research in optics and photonics. (Source: AIP, OSTP)

ITIF Report Shows U.S. Investments in University Research Lagging 

On May 7th in Washington DC, 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.”  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 discussion has been posted on the ITIF website here.  (Source: AAU)

House Roundtable Explores State of U.S. Biomedical Innovation

The “21st Century Cures Initiative” organized by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) held its first roundtable meeting on May 7th. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) opened the session saying the United States “ought to be a country that promotes a culture of cures” and that he looks forward to playing an active role in the initiative. Chairman Upton said the bipartisan initiative would “spend the next six months reviewing the full arc of the discovery, development, and delivery process to determine what steps we can take to accelerate new cures and treatments and ensure we keep America as the innovation capital of the world.” He said they will hold roundtables in Washington, D.C., and across the nation; hold hearings in the Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee; and solicit feedback from experts and interested parties through white papers such as the one released May 1st.

Upton said the roundtable participants had been asked to address four questions:

What is the state of biomedical innovation in the United States?
What does biomedical innovation mean for American patients and jobs?
How does the U.S. compare to the other countries with respect to biomedical innovation and how can we make sure that we lead the way in the 21st century?
What steps can Congress take to accelerate the discovery-development-delivery cycle in the U.S. to foster innovation, bring new treatments and cures to patients, and keep more jobs in the U.S.?

National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D., said the agency most desperately needs a steady, predictable trajectory of support.  The most worrisome aspect of the current funding situation is that it has cast a pall on young investigators, who are not lacking in talent or ideas. He also described the negative impact of regulations, including restrictions on travel by NIH staff and time and effort reporting by grantees. Read more about the roundtable here. (Source: AAMC)

 

TECH/IP

Senate Judiciary Committee Again Postpones Markup of Patent Legislation 

On May 8th, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) postponed markup of a bill (S.1720) that was scheduled for that day, due to a lack of necessary support to pass the bill.  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.  (Source: AAU)

 

CU at DC

CU-Boulder Professor Jason Glenn Meets with Delegation in D.C.

On May 7th, CU-Boulder Professor Jason Glenn participated in the annual Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF) Capitol Hill reception and exhibit in Washington, DC. While at the reception, Professor Glen met with senior officials from the NSF, the Office of Science and Technology Policy, and members of Congress including Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ). Before the exhibit, Professor met with science staffers from the offices of Senators Udall and Bennet and Representatives Gardner, Polis, and Perlmutter, and the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology to discuss CU-Boulder’s involvement in CCAT, a planned 25-meter telescope for sub millimeter astronomy located in northern Chile. (Source: CU)