News and Articles – NIH releases budget cut specifics for FY2013, Rep. Lamar Smith’s war against NSF, and Plan B

Posted: May 12, 2013 in Ethics, Events, Funding, Jobs, Policy, Religion, Science

“After weeks of worrying about how the mandatory across-the-board 2013 budget cuts known as the sequester would play out at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the biomedical research community now has final figures. The bottom line is as grim as expected: The agency’s overall budget will fall by $1.71 billion compared to 2012, to $29.15 billion, a cut of about 5%, according to an NIH notice today. That is essentially what NIH predicted as part of the 5.1% sequestration. (Including transfers to other agencies and other adjustments in the spending bill funding NIH in 2013, the total reduction is $1.71 billion or 5.5% compared to 2012.)”

Recent blog post from Dr. Sally Rockey, NIH’s Deputy Director for Extramural Research. “Today we announced NIH policies for fiscal operation for the remainder of the 2013 fiscal year (FY). These policies implement the continuing resolution signed by President Obama on March 26, and also incorporate the provisions of the sequester (formally known as the 2011 Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act).”

According to, this is the first page of an actual “science” quiz given to fourth graders at a school in South Carolina…..My complaint is one of simple reality. Young-Earth creationism is wrong, and it’s certainly not science. For that reason alone, ideally it shouldn’t be taught as truth anywhere, let alone a science class.”

“Several former top officials at the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the chairs of its oversight body yesterday wrote to Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX) urging him to withdraw a bill proposing changes to grant-making at the agency.”

“Now it’s the U.S. Senate’s turn to take a crack at heading off a looming shortage of helium. Today, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources heard testimony on a bill sponsored by chair Ron Wyden (D-OR) and ranking member Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) that would authorize sales of federally owned helium past this fiscal year, which ends on 30 September. Without such legislation, those sales will cease, cutting off 42% of the U.S. supply of helium and 35% of the global supply. The only element that remains a liquid at absolute zero temperature, helium is indispensable for cooling the superconducting magnets in MRI machines, purging rocket engines, and performing low-temperature physics experiments. It’s also key to manufacturing optical fibers and microchips. The House of Representatives passed a similar bill 2 weeks ago.”

“The National Science Foundation needs one more week to reply to a controversial request from the chairman of the House of Representatives science committee to explain why five social sciences grants were approved. And NSF wants its oversight body to weigh in first.”

“A Roundup of Editorials Criticizing President Obama’s Plan B Emergency Contraception Decision”

“U.S. agriculture is at a crossroads: continue the polluting, soil-depleting industrialized farming methods of the past, or invest in modern practices of the future. A policy brief and interactive web feature released today by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) shows how several key practices can produce the food we need today while protecting precious natural resources for the long term—benefiting American farmers, consumers and the environment.”

“More than 150 neuroscientists descended on Arlington, Virginia this week to begin planning the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative—an ambitious but still hazy proposal to understand how the brain works by recording activity from an unprecedented numbers of neurons at once.”

“In short: the D-Wave quantum computer is thousands of times faster than other commercial computers at the very specific problem it was designed to solve. The computer is  about average on other types of problems, and, importantly, it is still not clear whether the speed advantage will scale up as the computer gets bigger. That would be necessary to fulfil one of the big promises of quantum computing: making otherwise-intractable problems solvable.”

“The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants has voted for a global ban of hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD), a common flame retardant in insulation, textiles, and electronics. HBCD now joins two other such compounds on the convention’s list of restricted chemicals.”



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