Highlights of Science and Technology Policy Developments of 2008

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Publication date: 
9 January 2009

The following are selected highlights from the 124 issues of FYI in 2008.  Note that the month refers to the FYI issue date.


Reaction to FY 2008 S&T appropriations outcome is strongly negative.  National Science Board releases 600-page "Science and Engineering Indicators 2008" report and an accompanying policy document warning of stagnation and decline of indicators in some discipline areas.   American Geophysical Union releases a statement warning "Earth's climate is now clearly out of balance and is warming."


S&T organizations call for an additional $300 million in FY 2008 emergency funding for the DOE Office of Science.  Bush Administration's FY 2009 budget request includes impressive increases for DOE Office of Science, National Science Foundation, and core research programs of the National Institute of Standards and Technology.  NIST's Industrial Technology Services programs would be ended. NASA science program budget would decline 5.6 percent.


Letters circulate on Capitol Hill to demonstrate support for FY 2009 NSF and DOE Office of Science requests, and for additional FY 2008 funding.  Democratic and Republican members of House Science and Technology Committee offer contrasting views in a report on FY 2009 budget request.   NIH seeks comments on public access policy.  Budget hearings start in the House and Senate.


House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) signals support for additional FY 2008 science funding.  Senators and representatives submit letters in support of FY 2009 budget requests for NSF and DOE Office of Science, and supplemental money for the current year.  House passes a resolution honoring John Archibald Wheeler.  DOE Office of Science issues a Funding Opportunity Announcement for the proposed Energy Frontier Research Centers.   Senior DOE official testifies that the "best achievable date" of March 2017 for the opening of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository is "no longer achievable."


Senate hearing with the directors of the three weapons laboratories highlights the disparity between funding for the laboratories and their missions.  Senate Appropriations Committee approves a bill to provide $1.2 billion in additional science funding for the current year.  House and Senate defense authorization bills incorporate provisions for a nuclear forensics program.  Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) and Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA) introduce bills to coordinate nation's STEM education initiatives.  Panelists at National Summit on American Competitiveness stress importance of education.  House and Senate defense authorization committees recommend significant increases in FY 2009 basic research funding.   House Science Committee sends nanotechnology legislation to the floor.


House and Senate agree on a spending and revenue blueprint to guide FY 2009 appropriations.  DOE files Yucca Mountain application with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.  House considers one year NASA reauthorization bill.  House appropriators recommend significant increase in FY 2009 funding for the Office of Science.  House passes bill to increase current year funding for NASA, NSF, the DOE Office of Science, and NIH.  Senate appropriators recommend full funding of FY 2009 NSF request.  Senate appropriators recommend 3.9 percent increase in funding for NASA's science programs.  In the same bill, appropriators provide 11.1 percent increase for NIST research programs, and reject Administration's request to end NIST's Industrial Technology Services and increase its funding 13.0 percent.


President Bush signs bill providing additional $337.5 million in current year science funding.  DOE and NSF announce the completion, on budget and ahead of schedule, of the US contribution to the construction of the Large Hadron Collider.  NASA Astrophysics Subcommittee discusses funding shortfall for new Science Mission Directorate programs.  House appropriators recommend 20.5 percent increase in FY 2009 funding for DOE Office of Science, and provide full funding of fusion energy sciences request; Senate appropriators provide 15.0 percent increase and full funding of fusion request.  Senate bill recommends flat funding for Department of Education's Math and Science Partnerships.  House and Senate appropriators take divergent approaches to Administration's request for National Nuclear Security Administration.


President signs Higher Education Opportunity Act.  Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert Byrd (D-WV) drafts bill that would provide almost $1 billion more for science programs in FY 2008.


Report offers recommendations on strengthening White House science policy advisor and OSTP.  Nuclear Regulatory Commission announces that Yucca Mountain application is "sufficiently complete," allowing years-long review process to commence.  New letter circulates in House in support of increasing NSF, DOE Office of Science, and NIST funding.  House subcommittee holds hearing on Fair Copyright in Research Works Act.  Organizations call on next President "to develop, fund and implement a comprehensive, multi-agency, basic research strategy to address our nation's energy crisis and future energy security."  Briefing stresses importance of basic research in energy; one of the speakers is now Energy Secretary Designate Steven Chu.  Passage of most FY 2009 appropriations bills is delayed until 2009.


FY 2009 Defense Appropriations bill signed into law with 6.4 percent increase for defense science and technology programs (+12.7 percent for basic research.)  Defense authorization bill with nuclear forensics provision becomes law.  Congress passes NASA authorization bill.   Presidential candidates Obama and McCain discuss STEM education during televised debate.


House Energy and Science Subcommittee holds hearing on importance of basic research to new energy technologies.  President-Elect Obama urged to promptly name his science advisor.  Fusion energy advisory committee told US cannot meet its ITER commitment with current level of funding.  NRC committee gives positive review to US plan for ITER participation.  NASA and DOE sign Memorandum of Understanding on Joint Dark Energy Mission.


Obama transition document highlights science, technology, and STEM education agenda.  NRC panel starts decadal study on astronomy and astrophysics.  Steven Chu nominated as next Secretary of Energy.  Appropriators work toward conclusion of FY 2009 funding cycle.  Mixed results for US students in 2007 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study.  NRC releases a generally negative review of current federal research strategy for assessing nanotechnology safety.  John Holdren nominated as Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and OSTP Director.  House Science Committee Chairman Gordon outlines ambitious agenda for 2009.

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