DC Digest – January 30, 2017

As the pace of news accelerates over the coming weeks and months, the Office of Government Relations will similarly speed up our newsletter regularity. In order to better inform the Duke community of both policy changes and their implications we are shortening the length and increasing the frequency of our DC Digest for the immediate future.

The Bottom-Line Up-Front

Over the past week, there have been, and will continue to be, countless news reports, action alerts, emails, and tweets about proposed and rumored policy changes coming out of Washington. These challenges aren’t unexpected, and our Office of Government Relations (OGR) has heard from a number of faculty, students, and staff seeking confirmation or asking for predictions.

With this in mind, we are working closely with other coalitions, associations, peer universities, advocacy groups, and the private sector on many of these issues to ensure that Duke’s interests are clearly and forcefully stated. We take the threats to federal research funding and changes in policy that may negatively impact students and faculty very seriously.

One way to mobilize in support of issues and policies important to Duke is to encourage your faculty and senior leaders to take part in advocacy days and fly-ins organized by disciplinary groups and associations to meet with members of Congress. A number have already been scheduled (see below), and Duke will be represented at all of them. If you are attending or are aware of a similar event this year, and it isn’t listed below, please contact the Office of Government Relations:

ASEE Engineering Deans Public Policy Colloquium

February 6-8, 2017

Coalition for International Education

Date TBD – early March

National Humanities Alliance Annual Meeting and Advocacy Day

March 13-14, 2017

NASFA Advocacy Day

March 13 – 14, 2017

Arts Advocacy Day

March 20-21, 2017

COSSA Science Policy and Social Science Advocacy

March 29-30, 2017

Science Engineering Technology (SET) Working Group Congressional Visit Day

April 25-26, 2017

Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF) Exhibition

Date TBD

In Today’s Issue:

  • Immigration Update
  • Government-Funded Grant Uncertainty
  • New Life in Energy Authorization Bill
  • Enhanced Protections for Research Participants
  • DeVos Developments
  • Collins to Stay at NIH
  • Government Relations Staff at Work


On Friday, President Trump signed an executive order shutting the borders to refugees and others from seven predominantly Muslim countries. The order has been contested in federal courts and President Brodhead has released a statement detailing the order’s potential ramificaitions and gray areas for the Duke community:

“We want to assure you that Duke has reached out to our students, faculty, and staff from the affected countries to offer support and guidance during this difficult time…While the current environment remains unsettled, we want to restate that Duke University cannot and will not share confidential student records with law enforcement agencies—local, state, or federal—without a subpoena.”


The current administration has imposed a temporary freeze on grants and contracts by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), pending a review which was scheduled to be completed this weekend. Details about this freeze have been limited, and the OGR is closely monitoring the situation for updates. Duke has not received any official notifications from the EPA that would impact pending or active funding.


On January 24th the House approved the Department of Energy Research and Innovation Act (H.R. 589). The bipartisan bill, introduced by House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX), includes provisions drawn from several measures passed by the House during the last Congress. There is no confirmation that the Senate will act on this legislation.

The bill includes the Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Title IV. This title authorizes nuclear R&D activities at DOE and harnesses and combines the strengths of the national labs, universities, and the private sector in a joint innovation initiative. It also provides a clear timeline for DOE to complete a research reactor facility that will enable proprietary and academic research to develop supercomputing models and design next generation nuclear energy technology.


On January 18th the Obama Administration issued its revised regulations covering the use of human subjects in research – the Common Rule – with many of the university community’s concerns addressed. The American Association of Universities (AAU) and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities issued a joint statement praising the new rule and thanking the Obama Administration for considering the concerns of universities and other stakeholders .

University compliance will not be much affected by the Trump Administration’s freeze on pending regulations because the revisions are not dramatic and would not take effect until January 18, 2018.


The committee is scheduled to vote Jan. 31 on DeVos’ nomination. Despite a rocky confirmation hearing, she has widespread support among Republican senators and is expected to be confirmed.


President Trump asked Francis Collins to remain as director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This move was welcomed by the higher education and research community, and the AAU issued a statement of support


In early January, the Duke Government Relations staff participated in the American Association of Universities (AAU) Council on Federal Relations Annual Planning. AAU programs and projects address issues facing its 62 member research-intensive universities, as well as government actions that affect the greater higher education community.

Our staff is hard at work tracking appointments, anticipating incoming policy directives, communicating with congressional leaders, and mapping out the impacts the new administration will have on the Duke community. Follow the Office of Government Relations on Facebook or Twitter and subscribe to our digests to stay better informed on the year ahead and its policy implications.