Welcome Back!  Although Congress was never officially on recess, Members are back in DC.  Several relevant hearings are scheduled in both the House of Representatives and Senate (all listed below).  Last week, we saw new deals (the NIH-NFL, for example), realignment within NSF, and Noteworthy News.


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Timely Topics:

The Democratic Platform: Education, Science, & Immigration.

Capitol News:

NIH and NFL: Perfect Together?

NSF: Realignment Plans.

IP: The Start-up Act.

DARPA: Seeking Public Input.

Noteworthy News:

Are Charters the Answer?

Science Supporters? Romney and Obama Campaigns on Science-Related Issues.

Post-Election Wars: Spending and Taxes

Athletes and Higher Ed: BU Hockey.

In the Know: A Preview of Upcoming Hearings and Events


Timely Topics

The Democratic Platform

The Democratic Party held its convention a week after the Republicans.  The Democrats’ Platform highlighted achievements of the Obama Administration and outlined new and continuing initiatives for a second term. Some Highlights worth mentioning:

— For K-12 education, the Platform advocates for a continuation of current policies, including Race To the Top, testing of students and accountability of teachers, and funding of public charters.

— For Higher Education, the Platform highlights actions taken, including the direct government loan program, doubling Pell Grants, investments in Community Colleges, and creating a new Tax Credit.  The Platform also addresses on-going initiatives, like bringing college costs down and preparing 100,000 science and engineering teachers.

— The Platform adopts the Administration’s support for doubling research agencies’ budgets and expanding and making permanent the Research and Experimentation Tax Credit.

— Comprehensive immigration remains a long-term goal and includes enabling foreign students who earn advanced STEM remain in the US.

— The Platform specifically mentions support for the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities, as well as art and music education in K-12.

— On spending, the Platform declares the Democrats intentions to “reduce the deficit while still making the investments we need in education, research, infrastructure, and clean energy” by asking “the wealthiest taxpayers to pay their fair share.”

— The Platform embraces an all-of-the-above approach, but favors renewables and newer technologies to reach the goal of “generating 80 percent of our electricity from clean energy sources by 2035.”

— In agriculture, the Platform promises continued support for a farm safety net, as well as increasing funding for R&D.

— The Platform calls out to Americans to continue their tradition of service, and pledges funding for various federal programs including AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps.

Capitol News: Legislation, Administrative Actions, and Court Action.

While Members of Congress were in North Carolina for the Democratic Convention (see story on the Democrats’ Platform above), campaigning in their districts, federal policy and program developments forged ahead.  Some recently introduced legislation needs a second look.


This week, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Football League (NFL) announced a $30 million donation to support medical research to the Foundation for the NIH on “serious medical conditions prominent in athletes.”  With this donation, the NFL becomes a founding donor to the Sports and Health Research Program.  As expected, the research will likely focus on the areas associated with traumatic brain injuries, impact injuries, cardiac arrest in youth, and joint injuries.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) Realignment Plans

NSF announced plans for realignment for four offices in the Office of the Director, which are scheduled to begin October 1, 2012, absent any obstacles.  The four impacted Offices are The Office of Cyberinfrastructure, the Office of Polar Programs would become a division within the Directorate for Geosciences and the Office of International Science and Engineering and the Office of Integrative Activities.  The last two Offices will be combined to form the Office of International and Integrative Activities.

The START-UP Act: Free Agency Section

Legislation in Congress impacting intellectual property (IP) continues, even after passage of the game-changing Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (AIA)

One such example is the START-UP Act.  While the START-UP Act contains important provisions to facilitate the formation of start-ups, Section 7 of the Senate bill, “Collaborative Commercialization Grants,” remains controversial. This new program allows the Secretary of Commerce to “award grants to support institutions of higher education pursuing initiatives that allow faculty to directly approach technology transfer programs outside of their institution of employment in an effort to commercialize research breakthroughs.”  This grant program creates a free agency provision, allowing universities professors to take their inventions to other university Technology Licensing Offices for IP support.  The Association of University Technology Managers opposes to this program as unworkable and counter-productive.

DARPA: Seeking Public Input

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, recently announced it is seeking ideas from the general public request for public ideas on the next infantry-fighting vehicle, as part of its Fast Adaptable Next-Generation Ground Vehicle (FANG) Program. This is not the first time DARPA has used crowdsourcing to solve a technical problem, and it is likely not the last time.

Noteworthy News:

K-12: Are Charter Schools the Answer?

As both public and private charter schools expand for K-12 education, data on their success rates begins to emerge.  The Obama Administration has embraced public school charters as part of its reform effort.  Recently, the Washington Post education blogger Valerie Strauss ran a “letter” to Education Secretary Arne Duncan questions the data behind some of his comments regarding charter schools in New Orleans worth reading.

Science Supporters? Romney and Obama Campaigns on Science
The Presidential Campaigns responded to questions from Science Debate, Inc., on a variety of science-related issues.  The side-by-side comparison provides a glimpse of the candidates’ views on climate change, innovation, research, pandemics and biosecurity, education, energy, food, fresh water, the Internet, ocean health, science in public policy, space, critical natural resources, and vaccination and public health.

Post-Election Wars: Spending and Taxes

According to the Wall Street Journal, don’t expect Members of Congress and the President would join hands and sing Kumbaya after the November elections.  A recent article surmises that a showdown will take place between the Democrats and Republicans after the election over federal policies for taxes and spending. To address the deficit, Congressional Democrats and the President favor some tax increases and some spending cuts. Congressional Republicans, however, generally favor deep spending cuts, except for Defense programs, and oppose tax increases.

Water: The New Battle in the Old West.

Farmers and oil and gas producers are battling over limited water resources in traditional agriculture production areas.  According to an article in the New York Times, new energy production techniques that require water are leading to clashes among oil & gas and agricultural interests. While farmers still control and use most of the water this could be a growing problem, especially as federal policies for energy potentially promote these new energy production techniques.


Athletes and Higher Education: BU Report on its Ice Hockey Team

In wake of two cases of sexual assault by members of the Boston University (BU) men’s ice hockey team, BU conducted an internal report on the team’s culture. According to Yahoo! News the team “has come under scathing criticism for an alleged culture of “sexual entitlement” and alcohol abuse.” The Task Force concluded that this occurred because the “players are isolated from the larger population of the university in housing and activities, and in some cases get involved in alcohol and substance abuse.” Mike Eruzione, a former BU player and Olympian said, “I think athletes, men and women, sometimes feel a sense of entitlement because of the stature that they carry at a university…I think it’s more the culture of college athletics.” In December 2011, in wake of the scandal at Penn State University, the Senate HELP Committee held a hearing on child abuse (which does not focus specifically on the events at PSU).  Perhaps Congress will hold hearings on sexual abuse against fellow students by athletes at colleges and universities.



Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Committee on Natural Resources

“The Chu Memorandum: Directives Could Increase Electricity Costs for over 40 Million Families and Small Businesses” 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Committee on Science, Space and Technology:

Examining NASA’s Development of the Space Launch System and Orion Crew Capsule

Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure,

A Review of and Update on the Management of FAA’s NextGen Program

Friday, September 14, 2012

Committee on Science, Space and Technology

Recent Developments in NASA’s Commercial Crew Acquisition Strategy

Committee on Energy and Commerce

“The American Energy Initiative: A Focus on H.R. 6172”


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources

The Nuclear Waste Administration Act of 2012” S. 3469

Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation

The Path from LEO to Mars

Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works:

“Oversight Hearing: NRC’s Implementation of Recommendations for Enhancing Nuclear Reactor Safety in the 21st Century.”

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP)

Improving College Affordability: A View from the States.


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