March 4, 2015
To: Council on Federal Relations
· Associations Urge Congressional Budget Leaders to Raise FY16 Spending Caps
· House Science Committee Approves R&D Efficiency Bill
· Senator Coons Introduces the STRONG Patents Act
· Deadline Extended for Signing Community Letter Opposing Secret Science Reform Act
· AAU Cosponsors UIDP Webinar on Innovative Models for University-Industry Collaboration
· AAU Modifies its FY16 Programmatic Request Memorandum
ASSOCIATIONS URGE CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET LEADERS TO RAISE FY16 SPENDING CAPS
Three major higher education associations, including AAU, sent a letter to House and Senate Budget Committee leaders on February 27 urging them to repeal sequestration and give high priority to scientific research and higher education in the FY16 budget resolution. (The accompanying press release is here.)
The associations-AAU, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), and the American Council on Education-noted that current law would hold FY16 discretionary spending at essentially its FY15 level, a cut in purchasing power for a part of the federal budget that funds the nation's investments in the future. The associations urged the congressional leaders to craft an FY16 budget resolution that addresses the real drivers of the nation's budget deficits by providing "a path for comprehensive tax reform" and "meaningful entitlement reform."
HOUSE SCIENCE COMMITTEE APPROVES R&D EFFICIENCY BILL
The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee today approved the Research and Development Efficiency Act (H.R. 1119), legislation that aims to reduce the burden of federal regulations on government-sponsored research by harmonizing, streamlining, and eliminating duplicative federal regulations and reporting requirements. AAU strongly supports the bill, which is essentially the same as the measure (H.R. 5056) introduced last year by Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-IN) and approved by the House.
The bill would task the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) with establishing a working group to review federal research regulations affecting research and research universities. OSTP would report back to Congress within one year on what steps have been taken to carry out the recommendations of that working group.
During committee consideration, the panel approved an amendment offered by Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-IL) that would add a third area to the OSTP working group's review: to "identify and update specific regulations to refocus on performance-based goals rather than on process while still meeting the desired outcome." AAU strongly supports this language.
SENATOR COONS INTRODUCES THE STRONG PATENTS ACT
Senator Christopher Coons (D-DE) on March 3 introduced the Support Technology and Research for Our Nation's Growth (STRONG) Patents Act of 2015, legislation aimed at targeting the harmful litigation practices of patent trolls without damaging the broader U.S. patent system.
The bill would give the Federal Trade Commission powers against abusive demand letters and make changes to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's process for challenging patents after they have been issued, reports Politico.
AAU issued a statement on March 2 endorsing the bill. The statement said:
"...AAU supports this legislation because it targets the abusive practices of patent trolls through judicious, carefully calibrated measures that would not make it more difficult and costly for all patent holders to enforce their patents and thus diminish the overall strength of the U.S. patent system. Universities' ability to move their discoveries to the private sector for the benefit of the public through technology transfer depends on a strong patent system. It is our hope that Congress will take up this legislation in the coming weeks."
DEADLINE EXTENDED FOR SIGNING COMMUNITY LETTER OPPOSING SECRET SCIENCE REFORM ACT
The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has extended the deadline for institutions to co-sign a letter to Members of the House which expresses strong concerns about the Secret Science Reform Act of 2015 (H.R. 1030). The new deadline for sign-ons is Friday, March 13.
AAU and many other associations, scientific societies, and individual institutions have already signed on to the letter, and member institutions are encouraged to do so, as well. The reason for the sign-on extension is that the House has postponed floor consideration of the bill from March 5 to the week of March 16.
H.R. 1030 is the same as the bill (H.R. 4012) that passed the House last year but failed to be considered in the Senate. (Last year's organizational letter is here.) The re-introduced bill was approved by the House Science, Space and Technology Committee on February 25 on a party-line vote, with floor consideration originally planned for this week.
The bill 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 AAAS-led letter reviews concerns about the definition of such terms as "data" and "reproducibility," as well as the potential for imposing additional uncompensated costs on research grant recipients if they are expected to cover the costs of sharing and archiving research results that support EPA actions.
The letter also addresses reproducibility of research, noting that "some scientific research, especially in areas of public health, involves longitudinal studies that are so large and of great duration that they could not realistically be reproduced. Rather, these studies are replicated using statistical modeling."
AAU COSPONSORS UIDP WEBINAR ON INNOVATIVE MODELS FOR UNIVERSITY-INDUSTRY COLLABORATION
The University-Industry Demonstration Partnership (UIDP) last week held a webinar with representatives from two AAU universities to discuss their pioneering work in developing new models for collaborating with industry in technology transfer and commercialization. AAU cosponsored the session.
The webinar featured faculty and administrators from Pennsylvania State University and the University of Minnesota describing their new approaches to improving industry engagement, increasing the depth and breadth of collaborative arrangements, and accelerating the commercialization of basic and applied research. The webinar can be viewed here.
AAU MODIFIES ITS FY16 PROGRAMMATIC REQUEST MEMORANDUM
Based on discussions with APLU and other organizations, AAU has modified the funding requests for student aid and NASA in the AAU FY16 Programmatic Requests document that was circulated to the CFR last Thursday. The updated document can be viewed here in the Advocacy section of the AAU website (member log-in required); the updated AAU Funding Priorities table can be viewed here on the public section of the website.
For student aid, the new funding requests are: Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants ($757 million), Work-Study (at least $990 million), TRIO (at least $860 million), and GEAR UP ($321.6 million).
For NASA's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate, the AAU request is $651 million, the same as the FY15 level.