October 21, 2014


Public-College Leaders Rail Against Education Department’s ‘Regulatory Culture’

After laying out some details of the department’s major policy proposals, [Ted Mitchell, under secretary of education,] invited the audience to tell him how the federal government was impeding new and more-effective approaches in higher education. The Education Department’s own regulatory actions -- its "regulatory culture" -- are the principal impediments to innovation, said George A. Pruitt, president of Thomas Edison State College, in New Jersey. Pruitt and others cited, in particular, several rules meant to crack down on perceived abuses by for-profit colleges that rely primarily on distance learning. (Chronicle of Higher Education - Oct. 20, 2014)

Student Loans and Political Ads

As Democrats look to keep control of the U.S. Senate and hold on to House seats, they are continuing to raise student loans as an issue in this fall's election. After several Democrats last month pushed student loan refinancing on the campaign trail, some Democratic candidates in both House and Senate races are now trying to put their Republican opponents on the defensive on higher education issues. In a handful of competitive races, Democrats are aiming to tie GOP candidates to student aid cuts in the budget proposed by Representative Paul Ryan, a prominent Republican advocate of reducing federal spending, and also pouncing on calls by some Tea Party-backed candidates to shutter the federal Education Department. (Inside Higher Ed - Oct. 21, 2014)

After Election 2014: Biomedical Funding

Biomedical lobbyists are hoping that Congress will soon give the National Institutes of Health (NIH) a big budget increase, despite tight caps that lawmakers have placed on overall federal spending. But even if that campaign succeeds -- and the odds are very long -- victory could come with some undesirable side effects. [A] major topic of discussion on all sides will be how to deal with the spending caps mandated under the 2011 Budget Control Act. [The sequester] will come roaring back in FY 2016 (which begins on Oct. 1, 2015). [Research leaders] argue that such automatic cuts will only exacerbate what they have dubbed the innovation deficit. (ScienceInsider - Oct. 20, 2014)

Institute of Medicine Elects 70 New Members, 10 Foreign Associates

2014 Nobel Laureates in Chemistry and Economics Supported by the National Science Foundation

Two scientists whose work was supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) were among the 13 Nobel Prize winners announced earlier this month. During the last five years, 13 awardees have been supported by NSF and 214 overall since the foundation was established in 1950. W.E. (William Esco) Moerner, the Harry S. Mosher Professor of Chemistry at Stanford University, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry "for having bypassed a presumed scientific limitation stipulating that an optical microscope can never yield a resolution better than 0.2 micrometers." Jean Tirole became the first French economist since 1988 to win the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel "for his analysis of market power and regulation." (National Science Foundation - Oct. 17, 2014)

Workshop on “Gain of Function” Research Announced

For some weeks, the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine have been working with the National Institutes of Health and others in the U.S. government research community to organize a public workshop on the potential risks and benefits of “gain-of-function” research with, for example, SARS, MERS, or pandemic influenza. The goal is to help inform the deliberations of the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity as well as the design of risk and benefit assessments to be commissioned by the U.S. government. This workshop will focus on the potential risks associated with the research, in particular those related to biosafety and biosecurity, as well as such possible benefits as improved surveillance methods and accelerated vaccine and antiviral therapeutic development. (National Academies - Oct. 17, 2014)

U.S. Fusion Plan Draws Blistering Critique

Many U.S. fusion scientists are blasting a report that seeks to map out a 10-year strategic plan for their field, calling it “flawed,” “unsatisfactory,” and the product of a rushed process rife with potential conflicts of interest. One result: Last week, most members of a 23-person government advisory panel had to recuse themselves from voting on the report as a result of potential conflicts. (ScienceInsider - Oct. 15, 2014)


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