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The (Potential) New Class

With Republicans taking control of the US Senate, researchers can expect an overhaul of the various committees overseeing science and research, writes Joshua Krisch at Scientific American's Observations blog.

The appropriations committee, which controls just about all federal science funding, will likely be headed by Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS), Krisch says, as Cochran held that post between 2005 and 2007, a prediction that ScienceInsider also makes.

According to ScienceInsider, Cochran or Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) will likely lead the subcommittee that oversees the National Science Foundation, NASA, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and other agencies. Meanwhile, Senator Jerry Moran (R–KS) will likely chair the subcommittee that funds the National Institutes of Health, ScienceInsider adds.

Both Cochran and Barbara Mikulski, the Democratic senator he is likely to replace as the appropriations committee chair, are both "pretty science-friendly," Krisch says.

That, though, may not hold true for other possible incoming committee chairs, Krisch adds.

Krisch predicts that Ted Cruz (R-Texas) will likely take over as the chair of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation committee, which controls not only interstate commerce, but also is involved in overseeing science, engineering, and technology research and policy. Krisch says this potential leadership change may be harmful to science as Cruz is a climate change skeptic and helped orchestrate last year's government shutdown.

ScienceInsider, though, predicts that Senator John Thune (R–SD) will take over this committee. It also envisages that Senator Lamar Alexander (R–TN) will be the new chair of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pension committee, which oversees federal education and biomedical research policy.

Both Krisch and ScienceInsider say that Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) is the most likely candidate to succeed Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) as the chair of the Environment and Public Works committee, the committee that oversees the Environmental Protection Agency, as Inhofe previously held this post between 2003 and 2008. Krisch notes that Inhofe climate-change deniers, having written a book on the topic in 2012.