A Periodic Federal Science Update

Transition Update — President-Elect Trump and his senior advisors continue in their efforts to identify and name individuals to head up key Cabinet Secretary posts and other senior positions.  On November 23, the President-Elect announced his intention to nominate Betsy DeVos as the Secretary of Education.  A native of Michigan, Betsy DeVos has spent decades advocating for school choice reforms and helping underserved children gain access to quality education. Ms. DeVos is chairman of the American Federation for Children whose mission is to “improve our nation’s K-12 education by advancing systemic and sustainable public policy that empowers parents, particularly those in low-income families, to choose the education they determine is best for their children.”  Ms. DeVos is chair of the Windquest Group and has also served on national and local charitable and civic boards, including the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, American Enterprise Institute, The Philanthropy Roundtable, Kids Hope USA, and Mars Hill Bible Church.

On that same day, the President-Elect announced his intention to nominate the Honorable Nikki Haley as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.  Born in Bamberg, South Carolina, the daughter of Indian immigrants, Governor Haley became the first female governor of her home state in 2011 and is currently the youngest governor in the country. Prior to becoming governor, she represented Lexington County in the South Carolina House of Representatives from 2005 to 2011. Governor Haley is a graduate of Clemson University where she earned a degree in accounting. Governor Haley and her husband, Michael, a Captain in the Army National Guard and combat veteran who was deployed to Afghanistan’s Helmand Province, have two children, Rena, 18, and Nalin, 15.


Universities Report Four Years of Declining Federal Funding — Federal funding for research at higher education institutions declined for a fourth straight year, according to a new report from the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES).  During a peak in Fiscal Year (FY) 2011, federal funding accounted for 62.5 percent of total higher education research and development (R&D) expenditures. That figure dropped to 55.2 percent in FY 2015, the most recent year for which data are available. Overall, universities reported $68.8 billion in R&D expenditures for FY 2015; federal funding accounted for $37.9 billion of that.  Adjusted for inflation, federal funding for higher education R&D declined 1.7 percent between FY 2014 and FY 2015, and 13 percent since a peak in FY 2011. The latest figures continue the longest multi-year decline since the beginning of annual data collection in FY 1972.  

Despite the drop in federal dollars, three agencies -- the Department of Defense, NASA and the Department of Agriculture -- reported increases. All other major providers reported decreases. That included the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), by far the largest source of federal funds, which provided $20 billion in FY 2015, down from $23 billion in FY 2011. While federal funds and funds from state governments decreased, other sources of university R&D funding saw increases. Universities' own funding of R&D rose by 5.9 percent in FY 2015, business expenditures by 7.5 percent, nonprofit expenditures by 6.9 percent and expenditures funded by other sources (including donations and foreign sources) by 6.4 percent. Even with the federal decrease, overall university expenditures were up by 2.2 percent compared with the previous year. 

Three fields -- medical science ($21.3 billion), biological science ($11.7 billion) and engineering ($11.1 billion) -- together accounted for 64.3 percent of total higher education R&D. Medical science showed modest growth between years, while biological science and engineering essentially remained level. Among subfields, atmospheric science grew by 14.7 percent, to $576 million, and astronomy by 18.7 percent, to $673 million. Aeronautical and astronautical engineering increased by 10.9 percent, to $734 million. For more information, including a list of the top 30 university performers of R&Dread the full report.


NDD United Briefing:  Impact of a Long Term CR on Science — NDD (Non-Defense Discretionary) United Co-Chair Ben Corb will moderate a Capitol Hill briefing November 29 on how a long-term continuing resolution (CR) would harm science. NDD United groups are invited to attend, and will be able to participate in an "informal broader discussion" with the press about the effects of a CR across the spectrum of NDD programs.  The briefing will be Tuesday, November 29, 2016, 12:00 p.m. ET, in 562 Dirksen Senate Office Building. Those interested in attending are asked to RSVP.  The moderator and speakers are: Benjamin Corb - Public Affairs Director, American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology/Co-Chair, NDD United/board member, Coalition for Health Funding; Thomas Baldwin, President-elect, Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology;  James Brown - Executive Director, STEM Education Coalition; and Harry Stein, Director of Fiscal Policy, and Scott Lily, Senior Fellow, at the Center for American Progress.

For those interested in how Congress could use budget reconciliation to change tax and spending policies in both FY17 and FY18, David Reich, a senior fellow at the Center for Budget and Policy priorities, has developed these resources: blog on reconciliation and his paper,Introduction to Budget "Reconciliation.” 


National Science Foundation Issues RFP for the Management and Operation of the Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI) — NSF has released its long awaited program solicitation seeking proposals for the management and operation of OOI.  The OOI is a large scale ocean observing system constructed and deployed under NSF sponsorship and oversight as a Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction (MREFC) Project. The system includes an integrated network of cabled and uncabled arrays of instrumentation, distributed in various coastal and global ocean locations, to facilitate Ocean Science research. Since construction was completed in 2016, the OOI has been in operational status at an approximate funding level of $55,000,000 ($55M) per year.  The existing Cooperative Agreement (CA) for Construction and Initial Operation of the facility extends from September 2009 through April 2017. A National Research Council (NRC) review commissioned by NSF to examine the balance of Ocean Science research and infrastructure costs over the next decade resulted in NSF developing an implementation plan that will require significant changes to the facility operation envisioned by the current CA. The new approaches required for managing and operating the OOI in the best interest of U.S. science will most effectively be implemented by a new operating model that encourages greater efficiency, innovation, and collaboration. This solicitation seeks the services of a qualified organization to provide scientific and technical management and operation of the OOI consistent with National Science Board policy and NSF's decisions regarding NRC recommendations. The initial period of the award is intended to cover five years, plus a maximum 6 month transition period if required, with performance expected to begin in late-2017.


National Institute of Justice Issues New Funding Opportunity in Forensic Science —NIJ is seeking proposals for basic or applied research and development projects. An NIJ forensic science research and development grant supports a discrete, specified, circumscribed project that will: increase the body of knowledge to guide and inform forensic science policy and practice; and lead to the production of useful material(s), device(s), system(s), or method(s) that have the potential for forensic application. The intent of this program is to direct the findings of basic scientific research; research and development in broader scientific fields applicable to forensic science; and ongoing forensic science research toward the development of highly discriminating, accurate, reliable, cost-effective, and rapid methods for the identification, analysis, and interpretation of physical evidence for criminal justice purposes. The deadline for applications under this funding opportunity is February 28, 2017.  More information is available here.