A Periodic Federal Science Update – June 10, 2016

Senate Appropriations Committee Marks Up NIH Funding for FY 2017 – This week the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the FY 2017 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bill.  This bill contains funding for the research programs of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  Committee is recommending a $2 billion increase for NIH which would bring the NIH budget to $34 billion.  This comes on top of the $2 billion increase Congress provided NIH last year. The Senate bill also includes $300 million for the Administration’s Precision Medicine Initiative, an increase of $100 million from current funding levels; $250 million for the BRAIN initiative to map the human brain, an increase of $100 million over last year; and $261 million, an increase of $126 million to target opioid abuse.  The bill also contains $1.39 billion for Alzheimer’s disease research, an increase of $400 million.  Additional details can be found here.

Leveraging the U.S. Science and Technology Enterprise -- U.S. Senator John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, convened a full committee hearing titled “Leveraging the U.S. Science and Technology Enterprise" on Wednesday, May 11, 2016. Witnesses testified on ways to improve the roles of the federal government, private sector, and academia in science and technology research and development, STEM education and workforce opportunities, and the application of research and development to commercial uses. The hearing also signaled the imminent release of a forthcoming Senate America COMPETES bill being developed by the Committee’s bipartisan Innovation and Competitiveness Working Group, led by Sens. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Gary Peters (D-Mich.). The Senate bill is expected to include sections on strengthening basic research; administrative and regulatory burden reduction; STEM education; leveraging the private sector; bolstering manufacturing research; and provisions to encourage innovation, commercialization, and technology transfer.

Hearing on Private Sector Weather Forecasting – Assessing Products and Technologies – on June 8 the House Environment Subcommittee of the House Committee on Science, Space & Technology conducted a hearing focusing on private sector weather forecasting.  The witnesses included:  Mr. Barry Myers, CEO, AccuWeather; Mr. Jim Block Chief Meteorological Officer, Schneider Electric; Dr. Neil Jacobs Chief Scientist, Panasonic Weather Solutions, Panasonic; Dr. Antonio Busalacchi, Director, Earth System Interdisciplinary Center, University of Maryland (and incoming President of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research); and Dr. Sandy MacDonald, Director, Numerical Weather Prediction, Spire Global.  

Dr. Busalacchi emphasized the roles and responsibilities among the key sectors making up today’s weather enterprise.  He said that today’s weather enterprise is a triumvirate that consists of academia, the public sector and the private sector.  The government’s traditional role within this triumvirate is the protection of life and property and the enhancement of national security.  The private sector’s traditional role is to create customized and tailored weather products and services to a broad customer base of private individuals and businesses in a multitude of sectors.  The academic community works to improve our common understanding of the Earth System.  The three work together in a public-private partnership to make clear these different roles and responsibilities, redefine them as necessary, and support each other when there is mutual benefit.  Dr. Busalacchi emphasized the importance of transparency and quality assurance of models and data, regardless which sector provides such information.  The other panelists, all representing the private sector, also spoke of the partnership between the public and private sector and their use of NOAA data, along with their own data and models, to develop value-added products and services.

NSF Releases Program Solicitation for PREEVENTS –Prediction of and Resilience Against Extreme Events -- NSF and the Directorate for Geosciences (GEO) have long supported basic research in scientific and engineering disciplines necessary to understand natural hazards and extreme events, including through the Interdisciplinary Research in Hazards and Disasters (Hazards SEES) program and multiple core programs in the GEO Directorate. PREEVENTS is designed as a logical successor to Hazards SEES and is one element of the NSF-wide Risk and Resilience activity, which has the overarching goal of improving predictability and risk assessment, and increasing resilience, in order to reduce the impact of extreme events on our life, society, and economy. PREEVENTS will provide an additional mechanism to support research and related activities that will improve our understanding of the fundamental processes underlying natural hazards and extreme events in the geosciences. 

PREEVENTS is focused on natural hazards and extreme events, and not on technological or deliberately human-caused hazards. The PREEVENTS portfolio will include the potential for disciplinary and multidisciplinary research at all scales, particularly aimed at areas ripe for significant near- or medium-term advances. PREEVENTS seeks projects that will (1) enhance understanding of the fundamental processes underlying natural hazards and extreme events on various spatial and temporal scales, as well as the variability inherent in such hazards and events, and (2) improve our capability to model and forecast such hazards and events. All projects requesting PREEVENTS support must be primarily focused on these two targets. In addition, PREEVENTS projects will improve our understanding of the effects of natural hazards and extreme events and will enable development, with support by other programs and organizations, of new tools to enhance societal preparedness and resilience against such impacts.  Total funding available is estimated to be between $18 million and $25 million with between 15 and 20 awards expected to be made. More information on PREEVENTS can be found here.

White House Releases Big Data Plan -- The Federal Big Data Research and Development Strategic Plan defines a set of interrelated strategies for Federal agencies that conduct or sponsor R&D in data sciences, data-intensive applications, and large-scale data management and analysis. These strategies support a national Big Data innovation ecosystem in which the ability to analyze, extract information from, and make decisions and discoveries based on large, diverse, and real-time datasets enables new capabilities for both Federal agencies and the Nation at large; accelerates the process of scientific discovery and innovation; leads to new fields of research and new areas of inquiry that would otherwise be impossible; educates the next generation of 21st century scientists and engineers; and promotes new economic growth. 

In March 2012, the Administration announced the Big Data Research and Development Initiative to leverage the fast-growing volumes of digital data to help solve some of the Nation’s most pressing challenges. The Initiative calls for increasing government support and R&D investment to accelerate the Federal agencies’ ability to draw insights from large and complex collections of digital data. To augment Federal agency activities, the Administration reached out to other Big Data stakeholders in private industry, academia, state and local governments, and nonprofits and foundations to collaborate on new Big Data innovation projects. In November 2013, dozens of public and private organizations gathered at an event, “Data to Knowledge to Action,” sponsored by the White House’s OSTP and the NITRD Program. Together, public and private partners announced an array of new projects that address such national priorities as economic development, healthcare, energy sustainability, public safety, and national security. In 2014, the NITRD Big Data Senior Steering Group (SSG) initiated a process to summarize findings and produce a coordinated Big Data R&D agenda. Through a series of internal workshops, NITRD agency representatives examined a range of ideas with the potential to drive Big Data innovations. The Big Data SSG then synthesized the body of ideas and information into a cross-agency framework. Public comment on this framework was solicited in a Request for Information and a workshop was convened at Georgetown University to engage non-government Big Data experts and stakeholders. This document is the result of these efforts.

DARPA’s Defense Science Office Releases Broad Area Announcement --The mission of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Defense Sciences Office (DSO) is to identify and pursue high-risk, high-payoff research initiatives across a broad spectrum of science and engineering disciplines and to transform these initiatives into important, radically new, game-changing technologies for U.S. national security. The current overarching office themes include accelerating scientific discovery, exploring fundamental limits, and expecting the unexpected. In support of this mission, the DSO Office-wide BAA invites proposers to submit innovative basic or applied research concepts in one or more of the following technical areas: Mathematics, Modeling and Design; Physical Systems; Human-Machine Systems; and Social Systems. Each of these areas is described below and includes a list of example research topics that highlight several (but not all) potential areas of interest. Proposals must investigate innovative approaches that enable revolutionary advances. DSO is explicitly not interested in approaches or technologies that primarily result in evolutionary improvements to the existing state of practice.  More information, including a copy of the BAA, can be found here.

White House Releases Revised Science, Technology and Innovation (ST&I) Strategy for National Defense -- America’s national security research and development system has been structured to respond to the military threats and economic opportunities of the last century. Recognizing the crucial role of technology in the Second World War, postwar America created an extensive infrastructure for national security science and technology that provided the foundation for the nuclear triad, the intelligence gathering infrastructure, and an array of other military capabilities and advanced tools to meet the threats of the Cold War era.  The technological implications of emerging threats such as climate change, pandemic disease, cyber-attacks, improvised weapons, and the rise of regional and non-state actors were not anticipated in the design of the current U.S. national security ST&I enterprise. Today, the best science and technology is often found outside the national security ST&I enterprise, in academic and commercial sectors in the United States or in other countries. While maintaining military technology overmatch remains a key national security objective, promoting technology development by the private sector at home and around the world and then harnessing that development in ingenious ways will be increasingly important for economic prosperity as well as for national security. A 21st Century Science, Technology, and Innovation Strategy for America’s National Security, lays out the needs, opportunities, and challenges facing America’s national security ST&I enterprise and sets forth a vision for its health and sufficiency enterprise in four critical areas: (1) workforce; (2) facilities and infrastructure; (3) governance roles and responsibilities; and (4) innovative capacity to transform ideas into working technology. 

American Meteorological Society (AMS) Releases Policy Statement on Weather, Water, and Climate (WWC) Priorities – A group of members of the AMS is completing the development of a statement of priorities on weather, water, and climate priorities.  The intended audience will be the new Administration and its team of decision and policy makers.  The AMS statement is expected to include the following priorities:  develop the next generation of WWC experts; invest in research critical to innovation and advanced services; invest in critical observations and computing infrastructure; create services that harness scientific advances for societal benefit; build strong partnerships among WWC public, private, and academic sectors; and implement effective leadership and management.  A copy of the AMS statement can be found here.

The American Geosciences Institute (AGI) -- Critical Needs Statement – The AGI has also released a document that outlines high-level actions to address major policy issues where the geosciences play a significant role.  Lie the AMS statement, this document provides information geared for the next set of decision and policy makers who will make up the next Administration.  The areas the AGI report covers are:  water; energy; natural hazards; soils; mineral resources; oceans and coasts; climate change; waste disposal; and workforce & education.  Get the AGI report here.  

DOE/NSF Nuclear Science Advisory Committee Meeting – On Monday, June 27, the joint DOE/NSF nuclear science advisory committee will be meeting in Bethesda, Maryland at the Doubletree Bethesda located at 8120 Wisconsin Avenue.  The purpose of the meeting is to provide advice and guidance on a continuing basis to the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation on scientific priorities within the field of basic nuclear science research.  The agenda will include discussions of the following:  Perspectives from Department of Energy and National Science Foundation; Update from the Department of Energy and National Science Foundation's Nuclear Physics Office's; Presentation of the Committee of Visitor's Report; Discussion on the Committee of Visitor's Report; and Presentation of New Charge on Molybdenum-99.  The meeting will broadcast live on the internet.  More information on this meeting can be found here

DHS Announces $40M Funding Opportunity for New Criminal Investigations Center of Excellence -- The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Science and Technology Directorate (S&T), has just announced a $40 million funding opportunity for an institution to lead a new DHS Center of Excellence (COE) for Criminal Investigations and Network Analysis. DHS S&T is additionally searching for potential partners to work with the lead institution in support of the Center’s activities.  These two related funding opportunities are open to receive proposals from accredited U.S. colleges and universities. The deadline for submitting proposals is September 1, 2016.  DHS intends to fund this new COE for 10 years for a total of approximately $40 million through a cooperative agreement.

DHS Seeking Nominations to Fill Eight Vacancies on Homeland Security Academic Advisory Council -- DHS is requesting qualified individuals who are interested in serving on the Homeland Security Academic Advisory Council (HSAAC) to apply for appointment. The HSAAC is composed of up to twenty-three (23) members, representing a diverse group of university and college presidents and academic association leaders who advise the Secretary of Homeland Security and DHS senior leadership on matters related to homeland security and the academic community, including: Academic research and faculty exchange; campus resilience; cybersecurity; homeland security academic programs; international students; and student and recent graduate recruitment.  The Department seeks to appoint individuals to eight (8) vacant positions on the Council. Additional information, such as requirements for participation, specific areas of expertise needed, and application instructions can be found in the Federal Register. Applications will be accepted until June 17, 2016.

Op-Ed on World Oceans Day – NOAA Chief Scientist, Dr. Richard Spinrad, has authored an opinion piece published in the June 8th edition of EOS that lays out a vision linking the new blue economy and the role science and technology play in realizing that vision.  Read the op-ed here.