Although the week was dominated by the media covering the false-starts of the roll-out of the President's health care portal, important conversations were happening around sealing a potential budget agreement and partially curbing sequestration.
Both the House and the Senate held hearings on strengthening our student financial aid programs, and the budget conference committee met publicly for the second time. During the budget conference meeting, several members noted the harmful impact of sequestration on scientific research and education.
The House Science Committee held its first hearing on legislation that could reauthorize some scientific agencies, including the National Science Foundation (NSF). Both the majority and minority have released discussion drafts of bills, which differ greatly. Notably, the majority's draft seeks to impose additional procedures and criteria on NSF to ensure that its research portfolio addresses broad national priorities. Illinois Rep. Dan Lipinski -- the top Democrat on its research subcommittee and an established defender of NSF's existing peer review process -- pushed back on some of these new measures as being overly burdensome. The measure still must be officially filed and revisions are likely. The panel will likely not mark up the bill this year. OGR continues to monitor the legislation, and Jon Pyatt will meet with NSF congressional affairs next week with AAU staff. Our campuses have signed on to America COMPETES principles, which can be found here.
APLU ANNUAL MEETING
At the 126th APLU annual meeting in Washington DC earlier this week, there was a great deal of energy around diffusing the sequester. AAU, APLU, and The Science Coalition released the results of the most recent sequestration survey which reflects the full 2013 fiscal year. Below are some highlights:
- "In the first seven months of sequestration, 70% of responding universities cited delays in research projects and 70% experienced reductions in the number of new research grants."
- "58% of respondents reported that sequestration had a negative effect on research-related personnel – researchers, staff and students."
Next week, Urbana Chancellor Phyllis Wise will be leading a select group of AAU & APLU university presidents and chancellors to visit with Congressional leadership and budget conferees about mitigating the sequester.
During the APLU meeting, Urbana's Soo-Yeun Lee was presented with one of the six regional awards for the National Teaching Awards for Food and Agricultural Sciences.
ILLINOIS IN WASHINGTON
Electrical and Computer Engineering Associate Professor Steven Lumetta and Computer Science Professor Roy Campbell were in DC earlier this week for a White House-sponsored Big Data event called "Data to Knowledge to Action: Building New Partnerships." The event is part of the Administration's "Big Data Research and Development Initiative" which was first announced in March of 2012.
As a distinguished Abraham Lincoln historian, Michael Burlingame from the University of Illinois at Springfield's History Department spoke at an event honoring Lincoln on Wednesday evening. The event took place at the Library of Congress and was attended by more than 100 U.S. Senators and Representatives.
On Thursday, the Illinois Science & Technology Coalition (ISTC) hosted a leadership forum on biomedical technology commercialization in conjunction with Rep. Randy Hultgren. Nancy Sullivan, CEO & Senior Managing Director of IllinoisVentures, LLC and Kapila Viges, Director of EnterpriseWorks Chicago made presentations. Nancy and Kapila touched on ways to bridge the gap between invention and commercialization and how to accelerate proof of concept to a viable startup.
S. 1704, the Affordable College Textbook Act
Sponsor: Senator Dick Durbin
Bill Description: Establishes a competitive grant program for universities and colleges to increase the use of open textbooks.
The legislation is modeled after a UI earmark that created an open source textbook for sustainability, which was featured in Senator Durbin's press release.
Building and Renewing Infrastructure for Development and Growth in Employment (BRIDGE) Act
Sponsor: Senator Mark Kirk
Bill Description: Creates a new independent financing authority to complement existing U.S. infrastructure funding.
Read Senator Kirk's press release.
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Chancellor Wise's blog: "Celebrating our Illinois veterans"
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Jon Pyatt and Melissa Haas
OGR Federal Relations