A Periodic Federal Science Update – June 24, 2016

A Periodic Federal Science Update – June 24, 2016

Senate Commerce Committee to Mark Up the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act – introduced on June 22, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee plans to mark-up S. 3084, the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act on June 29. The bipartisan bill maximizes basic research by reducing administrative burdens for researchers, enhancing agency oversight, improving research dissemination, and reforming federal science agencies to increase the impact of taxpayer-funded research.  The bill most directly affects programs within the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). Last July, Sens. Gardner and Peters kicked off efforts to build a consensus way forward for federal research policies. Their competitiveness working group held three roundtables with research community stakeholders and collected hundreds of submissions and comments sent to SciencePolicy@commerce.senate.gov to inform the group’s work.  In May, the Commerce Committee held a formal hearing with research community witnesses who praised the committee for its efforts to build a bipartisan consensus. Said former National Science Board official Dr. Kelvin Droegemeier in hearing testimony:  “This committee has already addressed one of the greatest long-term threats to American innovation: You’ve made science bipartisan again, countering rhetoric that has at times made the research community feel under siege.” As introduced the legislation does not contain an authorization for funding though an amendment is expected at the full committee mark-up that if adopted would include an estimated 4% increase for each of the next two years.  Read a copy of S. 3084 as introduced here.  Read a summary of the bill here.

 White House Announces Funding Opportunity for Five New Manufacturing Institutes -- The President announced the launch of five new manufacturing hub competitions, which will invest nearly $800 million in combined federal and non-federal resources to support transformative manufacturing technologies from collaborative robotics to biofabrication of cells and tissues, to revolutionizing the ways materials can be reused and recycled. With the new competitions underway, the Administration is on track to meet the President’s goal of a National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI) of 15 institutes underway across the country before the end of his Administration. The newly announced institute topics include: 

·       Robotics in Manufacturing Environments Manufacturing Innovation Institute;

·       Advanced Tissue Biofabrication Manufacturing Innovation Institute;

·       Modular Chemical Process Intensification Institute;                

·       Reducing Embodied Energy and Decreasing Emissions in Materials Manufacturing Institute; and

·       Industry-proposed Institutes Competition. 

 More information on these funding opportunities can be found here.

 NSF Announces International Funding Opportunities -- Partnerships for International Research and Education (PIRE) is an NSF-wide program that supports international activities across all NSF-supported disciplines. The primary goal of PIRE is to support high quality projects in which advances in research and education could not occur without international collaboration. PIRE seeks to catalyze a higher level of international engagement in the U.S. science and engineering community. International partnerships are essential to addressing critical science and engineering problems. In the global context, U.S. researchers and educators must be able to operate effectively in teams with partners from different national environments and cultural backgrounds. PIRE promotes excellence in science and engineering through international collaboration and facilitates development of a diverse, globally-engaged, U.S. science and engineering workforce. This PIRE competition will be open to all areas of science and engineering research which are supported by the NSF.  Total anticipated funding is between $8 million and $12 million.  Preliminary proposals are due by September 14, 2016.  Full proposals are due April 24, 2017.  Get more details here.

 NIH and NSF Announce Joint Program Quantitative Approaches to Biomedical Big Data -- The National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recognize that fundamental questions in basic, clinical, and translational research could benefit greatly from multidisciplinary approaches that involve experts in quantitative disciplines such as mathematics, statistics, and computer science.

The Quantitative Approaches to Biomedical Big Data Program is designed to support research that addresses important application areas at the intersection of the biomedical and data sciences by encouraging inter- and multi-disciplinary collaborations that focus on innovative and transformative approaches to address these challenges.  Recent advances in medical and healthcare technologies are creating a paradigm shift in how medical practitioners and biomedical researchers approach the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of diseases. New imaging technologies, advances in genetic testing, and innovations in wearable and/or ambient sensors are allowing researchers to predict health outcomes and develop personalized treatments or interventions. Coupled with the rapid growth in computing and infrastructure, researchers now have the ability to collect, store, and analyze vast amounts of health- and disease-related data from biological, biomedical, behavioral, social, environmental, and clinical studies. The explosion in the availability of biomedical big data from disparate sources, and the complex data structures including images, networks, and graphs, pose significant challenges in terms of visualization, modeling, and analysis. While there have been some encouraging developments related to foundational mathematical, statistical, and computational approaches for big data challenges over the past decade, there have been relatively few opportunities for collaboration on challenges related to biomedical data science.  This joint program is designed to address that need.  NSF and NIH estimate that about $5 million will be available to support up to 20 awards.  More information can be found here.

 Department of Homeland Security Announces Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) Initiative – Congress has provided DHS with $10 million in FY16 to fund a CVE initiative help states and local communities prepare for, prevent, and respond to emergent threats from violent extremism.  All funds under the CVE initiative are to be provided on a competitive basis directly to states, local governments, tribal governments, nonprofit organizations, or institutions of higher education. Eligible activities for the CVE initiative include, but are not be limited to, planning, developing, implementing, or expanding educational outreach, community engagement, social service programs, training, and exercises, as well as other activities as DHS determines appropriate.  More information on this forthcoming DHS funding opportunity can be found here.

 Senate FY17 Commerce-Justice-Science Bill Remains the Pending Business on the Senate Floor – Last week the Senate formally started debate on the FY 17 appropriations bill that funds NSF, NOAA, and NASA, as well as the Justice Department, FBI, other Commerce Department programs.  The debate has been slowed by the Senate’s debate on gun violence, the terrorist watch list, the no-fly list and the sale of firearms.  Four different gun-related amendments were considered this week and each one failed to win the necessary 60 votes needed for a final vote.  Senators are said to be working to develop a new approach to address the gun violence issue.  While those discussions are ongoing, the CJS bill remains pending in the Senate.