(THIS BLOG POST WAS FIRST PUBLISHED ON AUGUST 31, 2012. )
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Welcome to Federal Policy Week, a blog covering activities impacting federal policy, with an emphasis on higher education, K-12 education, research, intellectual property, innovation, energy, and environment.
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IN THIS ISSUE:
-The Republican Platform: What a Romney-Ryan Administration Might Advance.
-Court Upholds Federal Funding for Stem Cells
-Patents and Biotech: The Myriad Case
-Spending and Education: Sallie Mae Survey.
-The Debate Continues: Is Algebra Necessary?
-University Earnings from IP: $1.5 Billion in FY2011.
-Federal Lawsuit Challenging Constitutionality of Patent Law.
-US Investment vs China and India: A CAP Report.
The Republican Platform
While the Romney-Ryan campaign may not embrace the Republican Party’s platform in its entirety, the platform does lay the groundwork for what may be expected from a Romney-Ryan Administration. The platform contains several statements of interest to the research and education communities. Some highlights include:
–Calls for the reinstatement of private-sector loans and rejects the government’s direct-loan program.
–Encouraging state officials who oversee public universities ensure that universities “be places of learning and the exchange of ideas, not zones of intellectual intolerance favoring the Left.”
–Extending the “Bush tax cuts,” eliminating the estate tax, repealing the ATM, and making permanent the research and development tax credit.
–Granting more work visas to foreigners with STEM degrees.
–Supporting English as the official national language.
–Rejecting affirmative action.
–Supporting for federal investment in basic and applied biomedical research while opposing embryonic stem-cell research.
–Supporting the block-granting of education funds to states, and supporting “school choice” (ie homeschooling, charters, etc.)
A recent Inside Higher Ed article provides additional details on several of these aspects of the Republican Platform.
Capitol News: Legislation, Administrative Actions, and Court Action.
While Members of Congress were in Florida for the Republican Convention (see story on Republican Platform above), campaigning in their districts, or preparing to head to North Carolina for the Democratic Convention, federal policy developments forged ahead.
Federal Funding for Stem Cells
A recent decision by the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit upheld the Obama Administration’s decision to provide federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research. The Court upheld a lower court’s rejection of the plaintiff’s claim that funding, provided by NIH, violates prohibition on funding that destroys human embryos under the Dickey-Wicker Amendment. NIH Director Francis Collins issued a statement lauding the opinion.
Patents and the Biotech Industry – A Case Worth Watching.
In a split decision, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit upheld the validity of Myriad Genetic Inc.’s patents on isolated human genes again as an invention. This decision comes as a result of a Supreme Court ruling that the Court should reevaluate the validity of the patents based on its decision against Prometheus Laboratories, Inc. In that decision, the Supreme Court denied Prometheus’ patents on correlating levels of a metabolite and effectiveness because “the claimed processes are not patentable unless they have additional features that provide practical assurance that the processes are genuine applications of those laws rather than drafting efforts designed to monopolize the correlations a natural phenomenon.”
Many groups, including The Association for Medical Pathology, Breast Cancer Action, as well as the ACLU and cancer patients alleged that Myriad’s work. The Court declined to accept the argument that Myriad’s product is simply a “product of nature” and, therefore, not patentable. Had the plaintiffs succeed, Myriad would have lost the exclusive rights patents on these isolated genes that are used in diagnostic tests to screen for breast cancer.
Why should you care about this decision?
Had the Court of Appeals reversed its early decision and declare the patents entirely invalid, the entire biotechnology sector would have been thrown into disarray. Billions of dollars of research and testing, by universities and private businesses, could have been wasted. The uncertainty would have made biotech so risky investments likely would have plummeted leading to less innovation. This may not be the final word, as the plaintiffs consider another appeal to the Supreme Court and other cases are certain to be brought in the future. Congress may decide to join the fray, as seen when it recently passed the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (AIA).
Look for future issues to discuss legislation impacting university Intellectual Property.
How We Pay for College
Sallie Mae, the financial services giant specializing in education, recently published a survey How America Pays for College 2012, that provides insights on the cost of education, peoples’ views on the cost and worth of education, and how the cost is impacting students’ decisions. Some highlights (as quoted directly from Sallie Mae’s website) include:
- 83% of college students and parents strongly agreed that higher education is an investment in the future, college is needed now more than ever (70%), and the path to earning more money (69%).
- Drawing from savings, income and loans, students paid 30% of the total bill, up from 24% four years ago, while parents covered 37% of the bill, down from 45% four years ago.
- The percentage of families who eliminated college choices because of cost rose to the highest level (69%) in the five years since the study began. Virtually all families exercised cost-savings measures, including living at home (51%), adding a roommate (55%), and reducing spending by parents (50%) and students (66%).
- In 2012, families continued the shift toward lower-cost community college, with 29 percent enrolled, compared to 23 percent two years ago. In fact, overall, families paid 5 percent less for college compared to one year ago.
- 35% percent of students borrowed education loans to pay for college: 25% borrowing federal loans only, 9% using a mix of federal and private loans, and 1% tapping private loans only.
Algebra: The Debate Continues.
The debate over the value of algebra (and the push for advanced STEM education for all students) continues since the first opinion piece by a political science professor, Andrew Hacker, published “Is Algebra Necessary?” in the NY Times. Mr. Hacker opined that the conventional wisdom the all students must take algebra is wrong. In rebuttal, The Washington Post education blog published a post by Professor Daniel Willingham entitled “Yes, algebra is necessary.” The Washington Post blog recently published another post from cognitive scientist Roger Schank entitled “No, algebra isn’t necessary-and yes, STEM is overrated.” Schank argues “We can teach people the skills they need if we allow them to choose what interests them and then teach them to predict, evaluate, diagnose, etc., within their area of interest. Teaching algebra and then hoping those skills will transfer to other areas of life is simply fantasy…”
AUTM: Universities and IP Revenues
The Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM) recently released its US Activities Licensing Survey for FY2011, which is an annual survey on the state of university intellectual property. This year the data was compiled from responses from over 150 universities, 28 research institutes and hospitals, and a single third-party technology investment firm. Key highlights from the AUTM survey, as laid out in its Highlight document include (percent changes compared to FY2010):
–Running royalty (royalties on product sales): $1.5 billion (+5%)
–19,905 total U.S. patent applications filed (+6 %)
–13,271 new patent applications filed (+11%)
–4,700 issued U.S. patents (+5.2%)
–4,899 licenses executed (+14%)
–671 startup companies formed (+3%), 487 of which had their primary place of business in the licensing institution’s home state (-2%)
–591 new commercial products created (-10%)
Constitutional Challenge to the Patent Law
While the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (AIA) passed overwhelmingly in Congress, it did not escape serious criticism from various sectors, including small, independent inventors. On-going concerns with the AIA are addressed in a recent NY Times article about a lawsuit filed by a small inventor questioning the constitutionality of the “first to file” provision of the law.
Center for American Progress (CAP) report on Competiveness: The US, India, & China
A recent report from CAP,“The Competition that Really Matters: Comparing U.S., Chinese, and Indian Investments in the Next-Generation Workforce”advocates for increased investment in education as a means of staying ahead of our rapidly advancing global competitors, especially China and India. Without a skilled and educated labor force, innovation will become more difficult and impair our Nation’s economic success.