House Appropriators Goose NSF Funding in Opening Mark
This week, a House Appropriations subcommittee pleased the university community with an opening mark of $7.4 billion for the National Science Foundation (NSF). This amount was more generous than President Obama's request and improves funding over last year's levels by more than $200 million. NSF is the top funding agency for the entire University of Illinois and its three campuses. OGR is grateful to the House Members of the Illinois delegation who stood up for a strong NSF number by writing to the Appropriations Committee, including: Representatives Cheri Bustos, Danny Davis, Bill Enyart, Bill Foster, Robin Kelly, Dan Lipinski, Bobby Rush, Jan Schakowsky, Brad Schneider and Rodney Davis.
Urbana Chancellor Phyllis Wise thanked Rep. Rodney Davis personally this week when she was in DC for a meeting of AAU presidents and chancellors. More information about NIST, NASA and other programs can be found here.
White House Focuses on Campus Sexual Assault
A White House task force released a report this week that gives college campuses more ideas to prevent and respond to sexual assault. It urges institutions to conduct a campus climate survey, models reporting and confidentiality protocols, and offers a checklist for campuses to develop sexual assault policies. It also launched a new website, www.NotAlone.gov, which helps students file complaints with the Department of Education and the Department of Justice.
Yesterday, DoEd’s Office of Civil Rights released a list of institutions under investigation for possible violations of federal law over the handling of sexual violence and harassment complaints. No University of Illinois campuses were listed.
“Patent Troll” Bill Stalls Again in Key Senate Committee
The University of Illinois, and the Urbana-Champaign and Chicago campuses, joined more than 100 universities on a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee leadership expressing grave concern about a Senate bill poised for committee consideration. While the university supports some litigation reform, the current draft lacks balance between curbing abusive patent practices and protecting legitimate patent enforcement.
At the same time, Monday's Supreme Court decision on attorney's fees in patent litigation could potentially obviate the need for a contentious “fee shifting” provision in the Senate bill. As a result, the Senate Judiciary Committee delayed its consideration of “patent troll” legislation for the fourth time.
“Universities are not patent trolls,” declared Urbana’s Office of Technology Management Director Lesley Millar, in a recent Governing article that examined UI’s perspective. Millar has been an able advocate, articulating the unique role that universities play in the innovation ecosystem and why the proposed legislation could inhibit our ability to translate discovery to commercial applications. OGR is grateful for her efforts.
Senators Examine “Innovation Deficit”
On Tuesday, Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) chaired a rare full Senate Appropriations Committee hearing that examined the budgetary pressures on federal research funding. The hearing, titled “Driving Innovation through Federal Investment,” featured the heads of several federal research agencies including OSTP, DOE, NIH, NSF, and DARPA. More than 100 outside institutions or groups—including University of Illinois President Robert Easter—submitted testimony in advance of the hearing. “The University of Illinois has always been—and hopes to always be—an innovator that shapes our nation’s economic growth, physical health, and national security,” wrote Dr. Easter. “However, to achieve these goals, we need stronger leadership from Congress.”
Fourteen Senators attended the hearing, including Sen. Dick Durbin, who promoted his American Cures Act and amplified UI concerns about retaining talent in the United States. Senators from both parties recognized the need to invest in science and research funding but that the tight funding environment created difficult choices.
ILLINOIS IN DC
NCSA Makes Case for National Supercomputing Strategy
In conjunction with the House Science & National Laboratories Caucus, Urbana's National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) hosted a Congressional briefing Monday evening for Hill and agency staff to commemorate the first anniversary of NCSA's Blue Waters supercomputer and to celebrate its many accomplishments. Rep. Randy Hultgren, who serves as co-chair of the Caucus, provided opening remarks about the significant value of high-performance computing. NCSA Director Ed Seidel moderated the panel discussion, which included scientists from all around the country who use Blue Waters. University, industry, and national lab researchers articulated how advanced supercomputing capabilities are enabling new discoveries and accelerating the process of innovation. Representing Urbana on the panel was Klaus Schulten, whose use of Blue Waters ultimately led him to be the first to define the chemical structure of the protein capsule of HIV.
Farnam Jahanian, Assistant Director of the Computer & Information Science & Engineering Directorate (CISE) at NSF, made remarks at the reception that followed, where he was introduced by Urbana Chancellor Wise.
Special thanks to NCSA's John Melchi and Barbara Jewett who helped plan this successful event.
IGPA Honors Justice John Paul Stevens with Paul Douglas Award
Sen. Dick Durbin and UI's Institute for Government & Public Affairs (IGPA) hosted its annual Paul H. Douglas Ethics in Government Award. This year's Paul Douglas Award, which honors elected or career government officials who have demonstrated high standards of ethics and public service, was presented to Justice John Paul Stevens. Justice Stevens' award marks only the second time the Paul Douglas award has been presented to a Supreme Court justice. President Easter and IGPA Director Chris Mooney made remarks.
In addition to Sen. Dick Durbin, several Illinois delegation Members attended the event, including Rep. Aaron Schock, Rep. Bill Enyart, and Rep. Jan Schakowsky. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer and former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood attended as well.
Pictured above: President Easter and Vice President for Academic Affairs Christophe Pierre look on as Justice Stevens accepts his award.
Easter, Pierre Press UI Priorities on Hill
With both the House and Senate education committees looking to introduce draft Higher Education Act (HEA) reauthorization language by late spring / early summer, President Easter and VPAA Pierre met with education committee staff from both chambers to communicate UI's priorities in the areas of accountability, transparency, completion, and affordability.
They also met with Members of the Illinois delegation, including Representatives Adam Kinzinger, Rodney Davis, and Aaron Schock to urge them to support federal funding for research and help close the innovation deficit. They thanked Reps. Kinzinger and Schock for their leadership on supporting immigration reform, including DREAM Act students and STEM visas.
Laura Frerichs Featured in IL Chamber Congressional Briefing
UI Research Park Director Laura Frerichs spoke today at an event hosted by the Illinois Chamber of Commerce with staff representation from the Illinois congressional delegation. The event highlighted the burgeoning Illinois high tech industry and included speakers from Orbitz, Motorola, and 1871. Frerichs was the only representative from downstate Illinois south of I-80 and brought the perspective of the Research Park and EnterpriseWorks. Frerichs discussed the growing technology sector in Champaign-Urbana at the Research Park, successful startup activity at EnterpriseWorks incubator, recruitment of students and internships, and a recent study completed by the EDA funded University Center at Illinois that profiled 18 incubators across the state of Illinois.
CONGRESS ON CAMPUS
Rep. Rodney Davis appeared on the Urbana campus today, along with state representatives and senators, to address the threats of potential contamination of the Mahomet Aquifer, which is the only source of water for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a large swath of the central Illinois region. Chancellor Wise asked the EPA last month to provide additional environmental safeguards to the water source as a sole source aquifer. Urbana's Prairie Research Institute, whose researchers will more deeply investigate these concerns, arranged the event. Sen. Mark Kirk’s district staff also attended.
Jon Pyatt and Melissa Haas
OGR Federal Relations