ESA Policy News: April 9

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Science Policy Analyst Terence Houston.  Read the full Policy News here. HOUSE: GOP BUDGET SETS FURTHER DISCRETIONARY SPENDING CAPS On March 29, the U.S. House of Representatives passed House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) proposed budget resolution for Fiscal Year (FY) 2013. The bill passed by a vote of 228-191 with 10 Republicans joining all Democrats in voting against the bill. The non-binding resolution sets discretionary spending at $1.028 trillion, $19 billion below the $1.047 trillion agreed upon during the compromise enacted under the Budget Control Act (P.L. 112-25). The budget resolution typically serves as a maximum funding ceiling for congressional appropriators to work from as House and Senate appropriation bills are drafted and marked-up in the spring and summer. Under the House-passed resolution, H. Con. Res. 112, environmental spending, including the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other agencies, would take a $4.1 billion hit, sinking to budget authority levels not seen since 2001. The funding cut is nearly double the $2.3 billion reduction proposed by President Obama’s FY 2013 budget request. At the same time, the House budget bill would seek to increase revenue by expanding oil and gas drilling. The 10 Republicans voting against the budget were Reps. Justin Amash (MI), Joe Barton (TX), John Duncan (TN), Chris Gibson (NY), Tim Huelskamp (KS), Walter Jones (NC), David McKinley (WV), Todd Platts (PA), Denny Rehberg (MT) and Ed Whitfield (KY). The rationale for the opposition varied. Some members supported a more far-reaching resolution offered by the far-right conservative Republican Study Committee that claims it would balance the budget in five years through more severe cuts. Other Republicans objected to the proposed changes to Medicare. For additional information on Chairman Ryan’s budget, see the March 23 edition of ESA Policy News. HOUSE: SCIENCE COMMITTEE REVIEWS NOAA WEATHER FORECASTING SYSTEMS On March 28, the House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Energy and Environment convened to examine the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) weather forecasting methods. The hearing focused on the broad range of technologies available to gather weather and climate data and whether those technologies could improve weather forecasting methods. In addition to representation from NOAA, the committee heard from several witnesses from the private sector who discussed how they could provide the same weather collection data for less money. Committee Republicans were critical of NOAA for allocating 40 percent of its proposed $5.1 billion Fiscal Year 2013 budget towards its two satellite programs, the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) and the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite R-Series (GOES-R), at the expense of...

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Open access: friend or foe?

Open access to scientific journals is a contentious issue in the sciences. A recent article in the (open-access) journal PLoS Biology makes the case that open access is the way of the future and is good for science, scientists and universities alike. In his essay, David Shulenburger of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities says that limiting access to scientific publications not only prevents the public from knowing what goes on at universities, but also impedes scientific research itself. Citing a 2007 AAAS survey of scientists, he says that 29 percent of science researchers have had their research affected by difficulty accessing literature. His bottom line? The only solution that gives science the maximum chance for advancement is one that ensures that all science findings are available to all researchers. Shulenberg conceded that the current model will not allow all scientific journals to instantly become free, since of course they have bills to pay. He proposes instead a transition period in which journals go “public access”: papers are embargoed for one year after their publication, during which access is restricted to subscribers only. Once that year is up, the paper then goes open-access. Shulenburger applauds the moves made by the NIH to mandate that all articles produced from NIH-funded research be deposited in the online archive PubMed Central. But he maintains that this is only half the battle: While deposit mandates should be universally adopted by funders, such agencies support only a fraction of the work that is published in scholarly journals. Large portions of important work in most fields originate beyond US borders. Most work outside the physical and biological sciences is not funded by grants external to the university and will not be touched by such mandates. Given that important problems are seldom bounded by a single discipline’s research, access to the non-science scholarly literature is potentially important to all researchers. What your (and your university’s) opinion about open access? Will open-access journals pave the way for more rigorous and transparent research practices? Or will open access simply put time-tested institutions out of business? And with those last words, I sign off as moderator of EcoTone. I have thoroughly enjoyed running this blog over the last year, and I thank all of our readers for your thoughtful e-mails, comments and feedback. The rest of the ESA Public Affairs Office will pick up where I have left off, so…don’t change that dial. Cheers! – Christine...

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