A Periodic Federal Science Update

NSF Announces Training Based Workforce Development Program for Advanced Cyberinfrastruture (CI) — This solicitation calls for developing innovative, scalable training programs to address the emerging needs in scientific and engineering workforce development of targeted, multidisciplinary communities, at the postsecondary level and beyond.  The program is designed to support transformative changes in the state of workforce preparedness for advanced CI in the short and long terms. A primary goal is to broaden CI access and adoption by:  increasing or deepening accessibility of methods and resources of advanced CI and of computational and data science and engineering by a wide range of institutions and scientific communities with lower levels of CI adoption to date; and harnessing the capabilities of larger segments of diverse underrepresented groups. Proposals from and in partnership with the aforementioned communities are especially encouraged. For student training, a key concern is not to increase the time to degree; hence the emphasis will be on out-of-class, informal training.

National Weather Service Funding Opportunity — The Collaborative Science, Technology, and Applied Research (CSTAR) Program represents a NWS effort to create a cost-effective transition from basic and applied research to operations and services through collaborative research between operational forecasters and academic institutions which have expertise in the environmental sciences. These activities will engage researchers and students in applied research of interest to the operational meteorological community and will improve the accuracy of forecasts and warnings of environmental hazards by applying scientific knowledge and information to operational products and services. The long-term objective of the CSTAR Program is to improve the overall forecast and warning capabilities of the operational hydrometeorological community by addressing science and technology research priorities through collaborative research efforts between the National Weather Service (NWS) and academic institutions that have expertise in the environmental sciences. These activities engage researchers and students in applied research of interest to the operational meteorological community. The research themes of this FFO focus on the application of new science, data, and technologies for the provision of improving the following: i) lead time and accuracy of forecasts and warnings for high impact weather, water, and climate events; ii) impact-based decision support services (IDSS) and the application and integration of physical and social sciences for improved messaging of weather, water, and climate hazards; and iii) water resource information for decision support and situational awareness on various temporal and spatial scales.  Get more information here.

Defense Forensic Science Center Broad Agency Announcement — The Department of Defense Forensic Research and Development Program is administered by the U.S. Army Research Office and the Defense Forensic Science Center (DFSC). The Program aims to enhance the capability of forensic science applications in traditional law enforcement/criminal justice purviews and in expeditionary environments. The Program accomplishes this mission by funding research projects that lead to the production of useful knowledge, materials, devices, systems, or methods that have forensic function.  The Program is seeking proposals for funding to support forensic research and its application. The requested proposals should focus on adding to general forensic knowledge and/or DFSC activities and needs. Forensic research proposals should focus on the creation of new and improved field or laboratory functional capabilities that result in faster, more robust, more informative, less costly, or less labor-intensive recognition, preservation, collection, and/or analysis of forensic evidence. Proposals involving the development of equipment that is portable, sustainable, and useful in an expeditionary or field environment are also solicited. The expeditionary and field environments require systems that are lightweight, portable, inexpensive, fast, and capable of operating in extreme environments of temperature, dust, humidity, etc. The systems must also be capable of secure data communications. Funding of research and development (R&D) within Program areas of interest will be determined by funding constraints and priorities set during each budget cycle.  Get more information on this funding opportunity here.

Vice President Releases Cancer Moonshot Report — On Oct. 17, Vice President Joe Biden submitted an implementation plan for the Cancer Moonshot Initiative to the president. President Obama announced the initiative during his final State of the Union speech and asked Biden – whose oldest son died of brain cancer in May 2015 – to lead the effort.  The report highlights accomplishments of the task force to date and lists planned actions for the upcoming year mapped to five strategic goals: (1) catalyze scientific breakthroughs, (2) unleash the power of data, (3) accelerate bringing new therapies to patients, (4) strengthen prevention and diagnosis, and (5) improve patient access and care.

The Vice President presented a vision of a research culture in which scientists are more receptive to sharing and analyzing huge datasets, leveraging multiple disciplines, and incorporating additional federal agencies, such as NASA and the Department of Energy. Among the actions highlighted in the report are the establishment of partnerships between the National Cancer Institute and both DOE and NASA. The intent of these pairings is to leverage DOE’s supercomputing capabilities and NASA’s radiation research expertise.

DOE Science Advisory Committee Releases Report on Biomedical Sciences — On November 21, 2015, Secretary of Energy Ernest J. Moniz requested that the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board (SEAB) constitute a task force to evaluate the prospects for increased collaboration between DOE researchers and biomedical scientists supported by other agencies, especially NIH. In particular, the Secretary asked that the Task Force identify “new areas of research by DOE investigators that could advance the pace of progress in biomedical sciences” and “new mechanisms for conducting research in coordination with scientists from government laboratories…universities, academic medical centers, and industry.” The Secretary’s request was endorsed by Francis S. Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health, who asked Dr. Roderick Pettigrew, Director of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, to serve as a liaison between NIH and the Task Force.  The Secretary’s task force was led by Dr. Steven Koonin, former DOE Undersecretary for Science and founding Director of NYU’s Center for Urban Science and Progress and Dr. Harold Varmus, former Director of NIH and President of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York.

The Task Force concluded that progress in the biomedical sciences has crucial implications for the Nation’s health, security, and competitiveness. Advances in biomedicine depend increasingly upon integrating many other disciplines—most importantly, the physical and data sciences and engineering—with the biological sciences. Unfortunately, the scientific responsibilities of the various Federal agencies are imperfectly aligned with that multidisciplinary need. Novel biomedical technologies could be developed far more efficiently and strategically with enhanced interagency cooperation. The Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) mission-driven basic research capabilities make it an especially promising partner for increased collaboration with the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Nation’s leading agency for biomedical research; conversely, NIH is well-positioned to expand its relationships with DOE. Particular DOE capabilities of interest include instrumentation, materials, modeling and simulation, and data science, which will find application in many areas of biomedical research, including cancer, neurosciences, microbiology, and cell biology; the analysis of massive heterogeneous clinical and genetic data; radiology and radiobiology; and biodefense.

To capitalize on these opportunities the Task Force recommended that the two agencies work together more closely and in more strategic ways to (a) define joint research programs in the most fertile areas of biomedical research and applicable technologies; (b) create organizational and funding mechanisms that bring diverse researchers together and cross-train young people; (c) secure funding for one or more joint research units and/or user facilities; (d) better inform the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Congress, and the public about the importance of, and potential for, enhanced DOE-NIH collaboration.

NSF Publishes Updated Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide — NSF has published its latest version of its proposal and award policies and procedure guide.  The changes highlighted in this document will go into effect in January 2017.  This document covers everything from eligibility information to categories of funding opportunities to the electronic proposal submission process.  Get more information on this issue here.