May/June Issue • Volume 42 • Issue 5

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Science Policy

Excessive Regulations Turning Scientists into Bureaucrats

Science Policy

Excessive regulations are consuming researchers’ time and wasting taxpayer dollars, says a report from the National Science Board (NSB), the policymaking body of the National Science Foundation and advisor to Congress and the President. The report, Reducing Investigators’ Administrative Workload for Federally Funded Research, recommends limiting proposal requirements to those essential to evaluate merit; keeping reporting focused on outcomes; and automating payroll certification for effort reporting. Thousands of federally funded scientists responded to NSB’s request to identify requirements they believe unnecessarily increase their administrative workload. The responses raised concerns related to financial management, grant proposal preparation, reporting, personnel management, and institutional review boards and animal care and use committees.

“Regulation and oversight of research are needed to ensure accountability, transparency and safety,” said Arthur Bienenstock, chair of the NSB task force that examined the issue. “But excessive and ineffective requirements take scientists away from the bench unnecessarily and divert taxpayer dollars from research to superfluous grant administration. This is a real problem, particularly in the current budget climate.”

To download the full report, visit nsf.gov/publications/pub_summ.jsp?ods_key=nsb1418.

Exploring the Future of the Aging Population

The nation’s 65-and-older population is projected to reach 83.7 million in the year 2050, almost the 2012 level of 43.1 million, according to two reports from the U.S. Census Bureau. Much of this growth is due to the aging of baby boomers (individuals born in the United States between 1946 and 1964), who began turning 65 in 2011. The first new report, An Aging Nation: The Older Population in the United States, looks at the demographic changes to the 65-and-older population that will comprise 21 percent of the U.S. population in 2050 and the impact that these changes will have on the composition of the total population. A second report, The Baby Boom Cohort in the United States: 2012 to 2060, focuses on the shifting size and structure of the baby boom population. These briefs use data from the 2012 national projections of the U.S. population. For more information, visit www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/aging_population/cb14-84.html.

Presidential Science Advisors Releases Report on Big Data and Privacy

Earlier this year, President Obama asked his counselor John Podesta to lead a comprehensive review of policy issues at the intersection of big data and privacy. As a contribution to that review, he asked the Presidential Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) to examine current and likely future capabilities of key technologies, both those associated with the collection, analysis, and use of big data and those that can help to preserve privacy. After reviewing the technical literature, consulting with additional experts whose research or product-development activity focuses on the key technologies, engaging complementary perspectives from social science and the law, and deliberating over what was learned, PCAST released its analysis, Big Data: A Technological Perspective. The report details the technical aspects of big data and privacy and begins by exploring the changing nature of privacy as computing technology has advanced and big data has come to the forefront.  The report outlines a number of recommendations. For more information, visit www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2014/05/01/pcast-releases-report-big-data-and-privacy.

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