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AWIS in Action! April 2013 - FY2014
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AWIS In Action!

 Advocacy & Public Policy Newsletter   ~   April 2013
In This Issue
Revamping STEM Ed Funding and Walking on Asteroids
President Obama rolled out the FY2014 budget earlier this month. While not a concrete funding plan because Congress will have to develop its own budget, it is helpful for understanding the administration’s priorities. There were winners and losers, both expected and surprising. The Center for Disease Control (CDC), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) all saw cuts. Climate change and alternative energy research received boosts through the Department of Energy. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) was allocated funds for a big push to increase high tech manufacturing. The National Science Foundation (NSF) got a surprisingly large boost compared to most of the other agencies with a recommendation to increase funding 10.8% above the current operating budget for FY2013. And a little surprisingly, NASA got a big bump to study asteroids with the intent of learning how to redirect any future ones that may threaten Earth (I am not permitted to make any jokes or references to Armageddon, but please do so at your leisure).
One of the biggest changes is the result of a study performed by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that examined STEM programs funded by the government. In 2010, $3.4 billion was invested in 209 programs across 13 federal agencies. The study concluded that 83% of these programs demonstrated overlap with at least one other program. The study emphasized the need to more effectively coordinate programs and evaluate outcomes for STEM education as well as to better align the programming. Consequently, in an attempt to better align outcomes and planning, the President’s budget proposes shifting 90 programs at 11 agencies, worth $180 million, into the Department of Education, Smithsonian, and NSF. However, that is only 5% of the more than $3 billion budgeted so it remains to be seen how effective the effort would be.
There does seem to be solid support for the proposed NSF budget from the left based on a letter of support from Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-NC) that got many signatures from fellow members. However, on the right, there seems to be an increased desire for government to have more oversight on what Congress regards as "valuable” research. Coming on the heels of the House bill that cuts all political science funding not directly related to national security, this increased interest by Congress to determine what is "valuable science” is very worrisome. In his opening statements during a hearing last week with Dr. John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy as well as Dr. Cora Marrett, acting director of the NSF, and Dr. Dan Arvizu, chair of the National Science Board, the Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chair Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) said, "It requires recognition that we might be able to improve the process by which NSF makes its funding decisions."  A bill currently being put forth by that committee, scheduled for markup after next week’s recess, would seriously damage basic research in this country with the stipulation that that NSF funded research projects "is ground breaking, and answers questions or solves problems that are of utmost importance to society at large.” One hopes that with a general lack of bipartisan consensus on anything at the moment, this will not be the piece that helps both sides of the Hill set aside their differences.
In This Issue


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