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Beltway Briefs

OSTP Seeks Public Comment on Definition of Research Misconduct
The Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) is seeking comment on a proposed uniform, government-wide definition of research misconduct. Public feedback to OSTP on the proposal must be postmarked no later than DECEMBER 13, 1999. The result of four years of consideration and extensive consultation with the primary federal R&D agencies, OSTP and the National Science and Technology Council have drafted a single definition of research misconduct that will apply to all federally-sponsored research, along with uniform guidelines for conducting fair and timely investigations into allegations of misconduct, which appeared in the October 14 issue of the Federal Register.

Research misconduct, as defined in the proposal, comprises "fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism in proposing, performing or reviewing research, or in reporting research results." Each of these terms is then defined in more detail. It is noted that "research misconduct does not include honest error or honest differences of opinion." A finding of research misconduct requires that "there be a significant departure from accepted practices of the scientific community for maintaining the integrity of the research record; the misconduct be committed intentionally, or knowingly, in reckless disregard of accepted practices; and the allegation be proven by a preponderance of evidence." The entire notice can be found online at www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs/fedreg/a991104c.cfm, under "Science and Technology Policy Office, Notices". [Item courtesy of Audrey Leath, AIP Public Information]

Report Urges State Department To Place Higher Value on S&T Expertise
In October, members of a National Research Council committee unveiled a long-awaited blueprint for improving scientific and technical expertise within the State Department. The report was requested last year by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, in response to concerns both within the State Department and from the science community that the department lacked the capability to foresee relevant developments in science and technology and incorporate those issues into its foreign policy-making process. "As the world becomes more technologically interdependent, the trend at the State Department has been to downplay science and technical expertise. It's time to reverse that trend," said Robert Frosch, chair of the NRC Committee on Science, Technology and Health Aspects of the Foreign Policy of the United States, which issued the report. The committee's recommendations focus on raising awareness of the importance of S&T at all levels of the department. While it calls for improvement of the department's in-house S&T capability, the report recognizes the reality of budget constraints and also suggests tapping into outside expertise, including a S&T Advisory Committee, and rotating specialists from other departments and agencies. Entitled "The Pervasive Role of Science, Technology and Health in Foreign Policy: Imperatives for the Department of State," the full 111-page report can be purchased from the National Academy Press at 1-800-624-6242 or national-academies.org. [Item courtesy of Audrey Leath, AIP Public Information]

Robb Introduces Bill for New Category of High-Tech Workers
In September, Senator Charles Robb (D-VA) introduced the Helping Improved Technology Education and Competitiveness Act (HITEC Act) (S. 1645), new legislation that would establish a five-year pilot program allowing non-immigrant aliens completing an advanced degree in mathematics, science, engineering, or computer science at a U.S. college or university to apply - through an employer willing to provide a job with total compensation of $60K or more per year - for a new five year "T" or "Tech" visa. The bill was co-sponsored by democratic Senators Tim Johnson (D-SD), John Kerry (D-MA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) and Charles Schumer (D-NY). The HITEC Act requires participating companies to pay a $1000 per visa fee on applications for the T-visa and $500 for visa extensions or to change employers. The fees would be used to help fund public-private partnerships between schools and businesses to improve K-12 math, science and technology education.

Robb's bill is the latest piece of legislation introduced in response to industry lobbying to raise the H-1B visa cap on entry of high tech guest workers. A H-1B visa bill is expected shortly from Presidential-hopeful Senator John McCain (R-AZ). Senate Republican leaders have indicated that they are unlikely to move forward H-1B visa increases this year, but Senator Gramm (R-TX) and others are hopeful that measures will receive early consideration in 2000. The full text of the bill and current status can be found online at: thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d106:s.01645.

Final A-110 Revision on Access to Research Data
In October, the Office of Management and Budget issued the Final Revision of the Circular A-110 administrative requirements to comply with a law "to require Federal awarding agencies to ensure that all data produced under an award will be made available to the public through the procedures established under the Freedom of Information Act." This legislation came about through the efforts of Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), with the support of Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS).

The October 8 issue of the Federal Register has a thorough discussion of the revisions in this regulation. OMB was charged with the revision of the circular, and received over 12,000 comments since it first proposed changes in early February - an extraordinary response to an OMB regulation. The revision went into effect on November 8, 1999. It applies to grants and other financial assistance provided to institutions of higher education, hospitals, and non-profit institutions, from all Federal agencies, but not to procurement contracts. For the entire citation, see Management and Budget Office/Notices at www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs/fedreg/a991008c.cfm. [Item courtesy of Richard Jones, AIP Public Information]

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Editor: Barrett H. Ripin
Associate Editor: Jennifer Ouellette