February 2011 Issue • Volume 39 • Issue 2

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Science Policy

National Academy of Sciences elects a president, home secretary, and four members to its governing council


Atmospheric scientist Ralph J. Cicerone has been elected to a second six-year term as president of the National Academy of Sciences. Cicerone, whose second term begins July 1, 2011, left his position as chancellor at the University of California-Irvine to become Academy president in 2005. As president, Cicerone also serves as chair of the National Research Council, which conducts independent science, engineering, and health policy studies under a congressional charter. The Council has an annual budget of approximately $300 million. During his first term, Cicerone commissioned a study that examined the collection, storage, and dissemination of data generated by scientific research, resulting in the report "Ensuring the Integrity, Accessibility, and Stewardship of Research Data in the Digital Age," and he continues to work with scientific leaders to create practical ways of providing better access to research data. Susan R. Wessler, Distinguished Professor of Genetics at the University of California-Riverside, has been elected home secretary of the Academy. During her four-year term, which begins July 1, 2011, Wessler will oversee the Academy’s membership activities. She is the first woman to serve as the Academy’s home secretary. Douglas S. Massey, Henry G. Bryant Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs, Princeton University, is among the four members elected to three-year terms on the Academy’s governing council. Massey; Carol A. Gross, University of California-San Francisco; Anne Treisman, Princeton University; and Irving L. Weissman, Stanford University, begin their terms on July 1, 2011.

Cuts to science and other programs proposed by House Appropriations Committee

On February 9 House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers "issued an agency-by-agency list of spending cuts it will seek in the federal budget for the 2011 fiscal year, which began last October" (Chronicle of Higher Education). The total proposed spending cuts, pegged to Obama’s 2010 Continuing Resolution (CR) bill—a placeholder that extends the previous year’s budget while spending bills for 2011 are enacted, will exceed $74 billion. The list of spending cuts to at least 70 programs including $58 billion in non-security discretionary spending reductions. The suggested spending cuts include sacred programs such as NASA as well as funding reductions to research institutions (e.g., $1 billion from the National Institutes of Health and $139 million from the National Science Foundation). All of the Committee’s reductions are based on President Obama’s fiscal year 2011 request. This means that those levels may mirror the amounts those agencies received in the 2010 fiscal year. For a list of the proposed cuts, see the House Committee on Appropriations press release at appropriations.house.gov/index.cfm?

A look at disaster risk and vulnerability

According to the Population Reference Bureau report, "Disaster Risk and Vulnerability: The Role and Impact of Population and Society," increasing disaster threats not only reflect actual events such as earthquakes or floods, but also the changing demographic and socioeconomic characteristics of the population. The authors, sociologists William Donner, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and Havidán Rodríguez, University of Texas-Pan American, write that, "While the intensity [of a natural disaster] is important, of equal or greater importance is the presence of a population whose demographic or socioeconomic characteristics may place its members at greater risk of harm before, during, and after a disaster." The "vulnerability perspective" in disasters, which is rapidly emerging as a dominant view in the field, assumes that a real disaster occurs when it strikes an underprivileged population. The report suggests that policies aimed at addressing risk and vulnerability must also take into account differential impacts and outcomes of disasters, and that some of the most important factors that affect vulnerability include population growth and distribution as well as social diversity. For more information, visit www.prb.org/Articles/2011/disaster-risk.aspx. logosmall

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