Nov. 14, 2017

CONGRESSIONAL NEWS

AAAS RELEASES STATEMENT ON HOUSE TAX REFORM BILL

Last week, AAAS CEO Rush Holt sent a letter to Reps. Kevin Brady (R-TX) and Richard Neal (D-MA), the chair and ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee, raising concerns about provisions in the House version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (H.R.1) that would repeal parts of existing law that reduce the financial burden of higher education for graduate students. “While the goal of the House tax reform plan is to help grow the U.S. economy, the language to repeal the student loan interest deduction and the Lifetime Learning Credit would have the opposite effect by making advanced education less affordable and driving students away from key areas of study in science, technology, engineering, and math,” Holt wrote in the November 7 letter. The bill passed the House Ways and Means Committee last week by a vote of 24-16 along party lines. It is scheduled to go to a vote on the House floor on Thursday, November 16.


USDA WITHDRAWS RULE ON GENETICALLY MODIFIED CROPS

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has withdrawn proposed rules, released in January, that would overhaul how it regulates genetically engineered crops. The rules would have not only exempted some gene-edited plants from regulation, but also would have potentially added more burdensome requirements for safety assessments. 

EXECUTIVE SPOTLIGHT

ADMINISTRATION ANNOUNCES HHS NOMINEE

On Monday, November 13, President Trump tweeted his announcement of Alex Azar as nominee for Health and Human Services Secretary, replacing Tom Price. Azar is a former president of Eli Lilly’s American affiliate, and was a high-ranking HHS official during the George W. Bush administration. 

NAS HOLDS THIRD SACKLER COLLOQUIUM ON THE SCIENCE OF SCIENCE COMMUNICATION

This Thursday, November 16, and Friday, November 17, the Arthur M. Sackler Colloquia of the National Academy of Sciences will host its third Science of Science Communication event to survey the art of empirical social science research in science communication. This year’s theme focuses on exploring “ways to build capacity for and foster the use of evidence-based strategies for engaging the public with science and ensuring its appropriate use.” AAAS is part of one of the teams that received a partnership award from the NAS and the Rita Allen Foundation, and will be presenting at the colloquium. Register for the webcast here. 

NIH LEADERS DISCUSS NEXT GENERATION RESEARCHERS INITIATIVE

NIH Director Francis Collins, along with Principal Deputy Director Lawrence Tabak and Deputy Director for Extramural Research Michael Lauer, wrote about the Next Generation Research Initiative in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences last week. The initiative centers on funding more early- and mid-career researchers than in previous years. 


MUST READ REPORTS

NEWS OUTLETS HAVE SIGNIFICANT IMPACT ON PUBLIC DISCOURSE, STUDY FINDS

According to a study published in the November 10 issue of Science, people talk more about major issues of public policy and politics when small news outlets publish articles on broad topics—such as jobs, the environment and immigration—at the same time as larger news outlets. The findings demonstrate that the news media can wield considerable power in generating national dialogues that are essential to a healthy representative democracy, the researchers concluded. A team of social and political scientists measured the increase in public discourse by tallying the number of social media posts on key topics in the week after the articles’ publication. The increase in social media posts held true across different political affiliations, geographies and other subgroups, highlighting how the role of U.S. journalism remains highly influential across a broad section of people — more so than many have thought.


PEOPLE IN THE NEWS

TWO LONGTIME REPUBLICAN HOUSE MEMBERS ANNOUNCE RETIREMENT

Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ) and Ted Poe (R-TX) both announced their retirements last week, adding to the list of veteran lawmakers who will not seek re-election next year. 

NEW UK CHIEF SCIENTIFIC ADVISER APPOINTED

Patrick Vallance, president of research and development at GlaxoSmithKline, has been appointed as the UK’s next chief scientific adviser. He will assume the position in April 2018. Vallance replaces Mark Walport, who recently became head of a new funding body called UK Research and Innovation.


OTHER NEWS

HIGHER ED COMMUNITY MAKES STATEMENT ON EPA SCIENCE ADVISORY BOARDS

The American Council on Education, the Association of American Medical Colleges, the Association of American Universities, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, and the Council on Governmental Relations wrote a letter to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, urging him to reconsider his decision to bar scientists who receive EPA grants from serving in advisory capacities to the agency. AAAS issued a statement denouncing Pruitt’s decision to disallow qualified scientific experts from serving on science advisory boards on October 31.

NATIONAL ACADEMIES HOLDS CONVOCATION TO REVITALIZE UNIVERSITY-INDUSTRY-GOVERNMENT PARTNERSHIP

On Wednesday, November 15, the National Academy of Science will host a national convocation on “Revitalizing the University-Industry-Government Partnership in Support of Research in Science, Engineering and Medicine.” The conference will convene leaders of business, industry, government and higher education to explore the central role of research universities in our nation’s economic, social and cultural growth and advancement, and to form partnerships between research universities and the private sector. AAAS CEO Rush Holt will speak at the event on “The History of the Government-University-Industry Partnership.” 

Liana BirkePolicy Alert