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Vol. 2011, No. 11 (7 September 2011)


Patent Reform Legislation Set for Final Vote

Republican Jobs Agenda August 29, 2011

Concern Over Prospect of Empty Space Station


Obama Responds to House Request for List of Proposed Regulations Costing $1 Billion or More

FERC Decides Not To Adopt Smart Grid Standards

White House Unleashes Teen Innovators at Libraries and Museums

HHS Announces $11.9 Million to Implement Health Information Technology in Rural Areas






Patent Reform Legislation Set for Final Vote

7 SEPT: The Senate voted, 93-5, to invoke cloture on a procedural motion to call up the House-passed patent reform bill (HR 1249).  Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) encouraged colleagues to file amendments to the legislation quickly and work with leaders to advance the bill, although he indicated he would oppose efforts to derail the measure, irritating Tom Coburn (R-OK). The cloture vote clears the way for the Senate to pass the un-amended bill without requiring the House to take additional action.

Senator Coburn, a frequent foe of appropriators, supports the language of the Senate-passed version of the bill that allows the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to retain all of the user fees collected – essentially making the fees no longer subject to the appropriations process. The House bill does not contain a similar provision, but it does – in a convoluted way – ensure that the PTO receives all of the funding collected through user fees.

Coburn skeptical of the House bill and pledged to delay Senate passage of the legislation unless lawmakers agree to adopt his amendment to allow the patent office to control its own funds.  Coburn argued that his amendment addresses the concern that the leaders of the House and Senate Appropriations panels might redirect patent office user fees to general revenue to pay for other federal spending.

“If my amendment fails, I will do everything in my power to slow the bill and highlight this egregious tax on innovation,” Coburn wrote. Coburn’s insistence on extended debate if the chamber does not agree to his amendment would delay passage of the measure until next week, at the earliest.

The underlying patent reform bill changes the basis for awarding patents from a “first to invent” system to a “first inventor to file” process, bringing U.S. patent law in line with some foreign competitors. It also establishes a process for resolving disagreements over “business methods” patents without requiring lawsuits in federal courts.

Republican Jobs Agenda August 29, 2011

Concern Over Prospect of Empty Space Station - Some Senators working on space policy are alarmed by the possibility that the International Space Station might be left unmanned later this year. Without a means of sending U.S. scientists into space, and with Russia reassessing its own space vehicles after last week’s crash of an umanned cargo flight to the station, there maybe be no way of getting folks into space. The station is currently manned by six astronauts — three Russians, two Americans, and one Japanese — who can return to Earth in two Russian Soyuz capsules docked at the station.

NASA official Michael Suffredini told reporters Monday that three of the astronauts will leave the station in mid-September aboard one of the capsules. The other three astronauts will have to return to Earth on the second capsule by mid-November. If Russia is not ready to launch a fresh crew before then, the station would be left unmanned.

Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.) of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, and Bill Nelson (D-Fl.), chairman of the Space and Science Subcommittee, are continuing to push NASA to move faster on developing a new rocket and capsule, as mandated under a 2010 authorization law (PL 111-267).


Letter to President Obama from the Governors' Wind Energy Coalition Regarding Wind Energy

Obama Responds to House Request for List of Proposed Regulations Costing $1 Billion or More - House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) requested that President Obama produce a list of proposed regulations with annual costs that could exceed $1 billion.  Obama responded, though he cautioned that none would be implemented without “careful consideration to cost-saving possibilities and alternatives.”

“Your letter draws attention to the rules listed on this year’s regulatory agenda,” said Obama in a letter answering the request. “Under both Republican and Democratic administrations, the agenda is merely a list of rules that are under general contemplation, provided to the public in order to promote transparency.”

Obama noted that before any rules can be imposed, they are subject to internal review, public comment and his own executive order imposing new requirements to reduce regulatory burdens and costs. He added, “I would add that the costs of final, economically significant rules reviewed by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs were actually higher in 2007 and 2008 than in the first two years of my administration,” the president added. “And in 2009 and 2010, the benefits of such rules — including not only monetary savings but also lives saved and illnesses prevented — exceeded the costs by tens of billions of dollars.”

House Republicans — who contend that regulation by the Democratic administration hinders job creation — are trying to sell their campaign as the centerpiece of their “jobs” agenda for the fall.  Democrats argue that the assault on rules protecting consumers and the environment has nothing to do with jobs and is driven by ideology. They contend the Republican effort is designed to disguise inaction on job creation. A review of the proposed rules reveals that they do focus on regulations that would have a strong, positive health and safety impact.  The rules that could carry a cost of more than $1 billion are:

• A delayed EPA rule restrictions hazardous emissions by coal- and oil-fired electric utility steam generators, at $10 billion.

• New emissions standards for emissions by major industrial and commercial boilers, $3 billion.

• Standards for disposal of coal ash from power plants, $0.6 billion to $1.5 billion.

• New vehicle safety regulations for rear view mirrors, $2 billion.

• Electronic on-board recorders and documents for supporting restrictions on the hours that commercial truck drivers can operate their vehicles, $2 billion.

• New hours of service rules for commercial truck drivers, $1 billion.

FERC Decides Not To Adopt Smart Grid Standards - White House In a recent decision, FERC decided not to set rules adopting five of the smart grid standards "families" that have been in the works since 2009. FERC claims that almost everyone who commented on the standards recommended against adoption.

White House Unleashes Teen Innovators at Libraries and Museums - When President Obama launched his Educate to Innovate campaign—outlining a vision for moving American students from the middle to the top of the pack in math and science—he made one point clear:  “Our future is on the line.”

It’s important to remember that education is not limited to just schools; that’s why libraries and museums are teaming up with teens outside of the classroom. Together, they’re working to build new and creative spaces across America that will provide young innovators with skills in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM)—skills necessary to the nation’s future.

Fueled by a partnership between the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the MacArthur Foundation, 25 learning labs will be created in libraries and museums across the country. Much like the Chicago Public Library’s YOUmedia Center, where high school teens can access thousands of books, over 100 laptop and desktop computers, and a variety of media creation tools and software, these labs will help students stretch their imaginations and develop indispensable new skills. These new environments will help teens prepare for work in the 21st century global economy, where problem solving, digital literacy, and critical thinking are basic requirements for an increasing number of jobs.

Hundreds of U.S. libraries and museums are already on board and have taken the first step to learning about how this transformation is taking shape.  And there’s no need to wait for their arrival to get involved. Visit your local library or museum today, or enter your zip code at the Connect a Million Minds “Connectory” to search for programs and opportunities in your neighborhood.

HHS Announces $11.9 Million to Implement Health Information Technology in Rural Areas - Rural health networks across the nation will receive more than $11.9 million to support their adoption of Health Information Technology (HIT) and certified Electronic Health Records (EHR). The funding announced today by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will also help these rural health networks’ participating eligible providers qualify for Medicare and Medicaid EHR incentive payments, administered by the Centers for Medicare &Medicaid Services.


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National Science Foundation Recent opportunities can be found here.

AAAS GrantsNet Express - A weekly American Association for the Advancement of Science listing of science funding opportunities from private foundations and organizations, and new U.S. government grant announcements in the sciences. AAAS will send GrantsNet by e-mail to AAAS member subscribers.

Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Solicitations - The majority of EERE financial opportunities are for business, industry, and universities. - The President's 2002 Fiscal Year Management Agenda established as a central storehouse for information on over 1,000 grant programs. The site provides access to approximately $400 billion in annual awards. Most agencies, such as the DOE's Office of Science, use only to list all funding opportunities. Other funding opportunities of interest include the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and NASA.

AAAS: Communicating Science, Tools for Scientists & Engineers - Scientists and engineers who foster information-sharing and respect between science and the public are essential for the public communication of and engagement with science. Although traditional scientific training typically does not prepare scientists and engineers to be effective communicators outside of academia, funding agencies are increasingly encouraging researchers to extend beyond peer-reviewed publishing and communicate their results directly to the greater public. In response to this need in science communications, the AAAS Center for Public Engagement with Science and Technology has partnered with the National Science Foundation to provide resources for scientists and engineers, both online and through in-person workshops to help researchers communicate more broadly with the public.


Sizing the Clean Economy: A National and Regional Green Jobs Assessment - A new study from the Brookings Institution found that from 2003 to 2010, the clean economy grew by 8.3 percent—almost double what the overall economy grew during those years. Further, the clean economy currently employs 2.7 million workers across a diverse group of industries—more than the biosciences and fossil fuel sectors.

New NSF Investment to Accelerate Innovation Research - Last week, the National Science Foundation (NSF) granted a set of 22 awards to spur innovations from research discoveries across many fields of science and engineering.  Through the Accelerating Innovation Research (AIR) program, the NSF Division for Industrial Innovation and Partnerships invested $9.2 million into two types of awards that will foster innovative technology and thinking at different scales.

Solar Energy Industries Association

U.S. Solar Energy Trade Assessment 2011: Trade Flows and Domestic Content for Solar Energy-Related Goods and Services in the United States

Congressional Budget Office

Estimated Impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act on Employment and Economic Output from April 2011 Through June 2011

National Science Foundation

Interface between Computer Science and Economics & Social Sciences (ICES) - An important research interaction has emerged at the interface of computing and economics and social sciences. The synergy between these fields creates a rich opportunity for studying questions that involve interconnected systems with economic and social aspects. This research interaction has already led to the identification of a number of underlying principles and research themes. These include network structures in economic interaction, theories of learning in the context of such networks, welfare properties of equilibria, the design of mechanisms with constraints, the complexity of computing equilibria, the robustness of equilibria, and the roles of information, reputation, and trust in economic and social interactions. These principles provide lines of attack on a set of important applications. These include the emergence of new kinds of on-line markets, the roles of economic issues in the architecture of the Internet, the design and analysis of markets in the developing world, and the roles of social and economic networks in innovation and knowledge creation.

Congressional Research Service

U.S. Energy: Overview and Key Statistics

Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program

A Legal Analysis of S. 968, the PROTECT IP Act

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What's New @ IEEE-USA's Eye on Washington highlights important federal legislative and regulatory developments that affect U.S. engineers and their careers. In addition to this biweekly newsletter, subscribers receive legislative bulletins and action alerts on IEEE-USA priority issues, including: retirement security, employment benefits, research & development funding, computers and information policy, immigration reform, intellectual property protection and privacy of health/medical information.

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