November 14, 2014
NATIONAL GROUPS PUSH FY15 OMNIBUS IN LAME-DUCK TO "CLOSE THE INNOVATION DEFICIT"
Some 133 national organizations, including AAU, sent a letter to all Members of Congress on November 12 urging them to enact an omnibus FY15 appropriations package during the lame-duck congressional session that provides strong funding for research and higher education, and, thus, helps Close the Innovation Deficit.
The letter was amplified through conventional and social media. It is part of a larger advocacy push - launched by the group of business, higher education, scientific, patient and other national organizations - which aims to secure greater investments for research and higher education programs and agencies in the final FY15 funding package. Universities and other institutions have been encouraged to amplify the message, as well.
MORE THAN 300 GROUPS URGE RESTORING NIH FUNDING TO PRE-SEQUESTRATION LEVEL
A group of more than 300 organizations, including AAU, sent a letter to all Members of the Senate on November 12 asking them to make approval of an FY15 omnibus appropriations package a priority in the lame-duck session and to use the measure to restore funding levels for the National Institutes of Health (HIH) to their pre-sequester levels.
The letter, spearheaded by the Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research, notes that the continuing use of short-term continuing resolutions (CRs) to fund medical research creates inefficiencies and impedes long-term planning by NIH and the institutions and scientists it supports across the nation. The letter adds:
"An omnibus spending bill with a Labor-HHS appropriation restoring NIH to at least pre-sequester funding levels would mark an important step toward a more sustainable, predictable research environment for patients and their families, as well as for those working to address disease. It also would be a step in the right direction to close the innovation deficit."
UNITED FOR MEDICAL RESEARCH ASKS APPROPRIATORS TO FUND NIH AT $30.45 BILLION FOR FY15
United for Medical Research (UMR), a leading advocacy coalition for National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding in which AAU actively participates, is calling on congressional appropriators to at least match the $30.45 billion in FY15 funding for NIH approved earlier this year by the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor-HHS-Education. Appropriations leaders are working to resolve differences between the House and Senate on appropriations in order to enact an omnibus appropriations bill for the remainder of FY15. In a November 12 letter to the Chairs and Ranking Members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, UMR called on them to "halt the negative trajectory of recent funding patterns" for NIH, noting that additional funding for NIH would help to close the nation's innovation deficit.
ASSOCIATIONS URGE APPROPRIATORS TO SUPPORT FUNDING FOR CLIMATE SCIENCE
A group of 20 higher education and scientific associations, including AAU, sent a letter to Senate appropriators on November 10 urging them to sustain funding for the climate sciences in FY15 appropriations.
The groups asked Senate
appropriators to reject a number of House-passed appropriations measures
and amendments that would defund or reduce federally funded climate
research and restrict the availability and use of climate information.
"We urge you to continue your support of the climate sciences for the
benefit of the American people," said the letter, "by restoring funding
for climate research and dropping all climate research riders and
prohibitions in the final FY2015 appropriations legislation."
AAU BOARD STATEMENT CRITICIZES SCIENCE COMMITTEE REVIEW OF NSF GRANTS; AAU RESPONDS TO CHAIRMAN'S COMMENTS
The AAU Board of Directors on November 10 issued a statement expressing deep concern about the House Science, Space, and Technology (SST) Committee's ongoing review of some 60 research grants issued by the National Science Foundation (NSF).
The AAU statement urges the Committee "to recognize how this ill-defined investigation" is harming the scientific enterprise by potentially violating the confidentiality of the merit review process and making NSF feel pressured to fund only "safe" research and not potentially important, but odd-sounding proposals.
"Scientists and engineers, particularly young ones, should not be discouraged from pursuing unconventional, often groundbreaking scientific research - the kind that sometimes ends up winning Nobel Prizes and transforming science and society," said the statement.
Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), chairman of the House SST Committee, issued a statement on November 11 criticizing the AAU statement, asserting that in his request for details on specific NSF grants he had not requested the names of specific grant reviewers.
AAU issued a response to Chairman Smith's criticism, noting that the Committee's letters to NSF had requested "every e-mail, letter, memorandum, record, note, text message, all peer reviews considered for selection and recommendations made to the National Science Foundation (NSF), or document of any kind that pertains to NSF's consideration and grant approvals." This makes evident, says the AAU response, that the requested materials would have included the names of outside scientific reviewers. Moreover, AAU said, the Chairman's response does not address the larger issues raised by the statement about damage to NSF and the merit review process.