A Periodic Federal Science Update – May 18, 2016

House Appropriations Subcommittee Marks Up NSF, NOAA, and NASA Funding for FY 2017The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, and Science marked up their recommendations for the FY 2017 CJS Appropriations bill on May 18.  The bill will likely go to full committee next week.  At that time, additional details about the bill and accompanying report will be available.  The bill funds the Departments of Commerce and Justice, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and other related agencies.  The legislation contains $56 billion in total discretionary funding, an increase of $279 million over fiscal year 2016 and $1.4 billion above the President’s request for these programs. The bill targets these increases to programs of national importance, such as federal law enforcement, national security (including cybercrime and counter-terror activities), economic development, illegal drug efforts, trade enforcement, and space exploration programs.  

  • The bill funds the National Science Foundation (NSF) at $7.4 billion – $57 million below the fiscal year 2016 enacted level and $158 million below the President’s request.  Research and Related Activities is increased by $46 million targeted to programs that foster innovation and U.S. economic competitiveness, including funding for research on advanced manufacturing, physics, mathematics, cybersecurity, neuroscience and STEM education. Reductions are made in equipment and construction costs. 
  • The bill funds National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) at $5.6 billion for NOAA, which is $185 million below the enacted level and $268 million below the President’s request. Funding is targeted to the National Weather Service, which receives $1.1 billion – $12 million above the President’s request.  The bill also includes full funding for the continuation of the current Joint Polar Satellite System weather satellite program and the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite program to help maintain and improve weather forecasting to warn communities about potentially devastating natural disasters. To make these investments, the bill reduces funding for climate research by an estimated 20%, ocean services, and other programs. 
  • The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is funded at $19.5 billion in the bill, $223 million above the 2016 enacted level and $1.2 billion above the President’s request. This funding includes:  $4.2 billion for Exploration – $153 million above the fiscal year 2016 enacted level. This includes funding to continue the development of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and Space Launch System flight program and related ground systems. $5.6 billion for NASA Science programs – $8 million above the 2016 enacted level and $295 million above the President’s request. This targets funding to planetary science, astrophysics, and heliophysics to ensure the continuation of critical research and development programs, while reducing funding for other research programs.

 NOAA Sea Grant, NOAA Fisheries Announce Funding Opportunity for Red Snapper Population Assessment:   The Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium, on behalf of the Sea Grant college programs in the Gulf of Mexico region and NOAA Fisheries, is accepting proposals to develop an experimental design(s) that will be incorporated into larger advanced technology and mark-recapture requests for proposals planned for Fiscal Year 2017. The design will be used to assess the population of red snapper on artificial reefs and other structures, and as the basis for a Gulf-wide estimate (with estimates also produced for natural habitats) of absolute abundance. The design may include traditional tagging methods and/or advanced technology for a large-scale field projects to be used in red snapper stock assessments. Some controversy surrounds the current stock assessment for red snapper, particularly with regard to accuracy of population estimates on artificial reefs and other structures considered to be difficult to sample using trawl surveys. Given this, interest exists in the development of an independent estimate of red snapper abundance in the U.S. portion of the Gulf of Mexico. There are two main objectives for the proposed program: assess the population of red snapper and provide a Gulf-wide estimate of red snapper that are two years old and older; and estimate biological parameters, such as growth and natural mortality rates.  A copy of the RFP can be found here.

 NSF Announces Funding Opportunity for US Ignite -- Gigabit Applications: US Ignite is an initiative that seeks to promote US leadership in the development and deployment of next-generation gigabit applications with the potential for significant societal impact. The primary goal of US Ignite is to break a fundamental deadlock: there is insufficient investment in gigabit applications that can take advantage of advanced network infrastructure because such end-to-end infrastructure is rare and geographically dispersed. And conversely, there is a lack of broad availability of advanced broadband infrastructure for open experimentation and innovation because there are few advanced applications and services to justify it. US Ignite aims to break this deadlock by providing incentives for imagining, prototyping, and developing gigabit applications that address national priorities, and by leveraging and extending this network testbed across US college/university campuses and cities.  Full proposals are due by June 14, 2016.  Download the program announcement here.

 Dr. Robert Gagosian Named Acting President of the Desert Research Institute:  On May 2, the Nevada Board of Regents approved the appointment of Dr. Robert Gagosian to serve as Acting President effective July 1.  Dr. Gagosian is the president emeritus of the Consortium for Ocean Leadership and served as that organization's first president and CEO from 2007 until 2015. He is also the president emeritus of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and served as the organization's president for 12 years. Dr. Gagosian earned a bachelor's degree in chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and received his Ph.D. in organic chemistry from Columbia University. In addition, he was a National Institutes of Health Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of California, Berkeley.  Dr. Gagosian will serve as acting president through June 30, 2017, or until a permanent president is hired through a national search undertaken by the Board of Regents.

 National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Requests Proposals for Sustainable Bioenergy and Bioproducts Research:  NIFA requests applications for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Sustainable Bioenergy and Bioproducts (SBEBP) Challenge Area Program for fiscal year (FY) 2016. In this challenge area, specific program areas are designed to achieve the long term outcome of reducing the national dependence on foreign oil through the development and production of regionally-appropriate sustainable bioenergy systems that materially deliver advanced liquid transportation biofuels, biopower, and bioproducts. Near- and mid-term outcomes comprise the commercial production at scale of biobased products including, but are not limited to, intermediate chemicals, materials, and finished products that replace fossil carbon-based products. As appropriate, biopower, animal feed, and other applications may be used as secondary products, potentially augmenting the economic value and feasibility of the supply chain to increase rural prosperity and advance a sustainable bioeconomy. In FY2016, the SBEBP is soliciting applications in the following priority areas: (1) Regional Bioenergy Coordinated Agricultural Projects (CAPs) that focus on the production and delivery of regionally-appropriate sustainable biomass feedstocks for bioenergy and bioproducts. While the focus of CAPs will be on feedstocks, competitive proposals must present the feedstock development and production in the context of a comprehensive regional sustainable bioenergy and bioproducts supply chain systems (2) Investing in America’s Scientific Corps: Preparing a New Generation of Students, Faculty, and Workforce for Emerging Challenges in Bioenergy, Bioproducts, and the Bioeconomy The anticipated amount available for grants in FY 2016 is approximately $21 million. Download a copy of this funding announcement here.

 NIFA Also Announces Availability of $10.7 Million for Critical Water Research:  Science funded by NIFA in the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) program is aimed at meeting food, fiber, and fuel demands as the world's population is projected to exceed nine billion by 2050 and natural resources are stressed under a changing climate. In addition, AFRI programs help develop new technologies and a workforce that will advance national security, energy self-sufficiency, and the health of people. This round of funding is offered through the AFRI Water for Agriculture Challenge Area, which funds projects that tackle critical water issues by developing both regional systems for the sustainable use and reuse, flow and management of water, and that address water issues focused on production and environmental sustainability efforts at the watershed and farm scale. There is also a focus on solutions for conserving higher quality water and understanding human behavior and its influence on decision making for agricultural water use in the Fiscal Year 2016 projects.  Applications are due August 4. See the request for applications for more information.