A Periodic Federal Science Update

AAAS to Host Webinar on Science in the New Administration – On Thursday, January 26 at 2PM Eastern the AAAS is sponsoring a free webinar discussion of the future of science and technology policy in the first 100 days of the new Administration and beyond.  The webinar will be moderated by AAAS CEO and former Congressman Rush Holt and feature the remarks of Norman Orenstein, Resident Scholar, American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C.  The topics to be covered include:  the outlook for research funding; how the administration and the Congress may view science-based policymaking, particularly issues related to the environment and public health;  and areas where the new Administration and the Congress may disagree.  Register for this free webinar here.


NOAA Announces $15 Million Funding Opportunity for Coastal Resilience -- The objective of the NOAA Coastal Resilience Grants program, jointly administered by NOAA's National Ocean Service and National Marine Fisheries Service, is to implement projects that build resilient U.S. coastal communities, economies and ecosystems. Resilience is the ability to prepare and plan for, absorb, recover from, and successfully adapt. This program is intended to build resilience by reducing the risk to coastal communities, economies and ecosystems from extreme weather events and climate-related hazards. Projects that build resilience include activities that protect life and property, safeguard people and infrastructure, strengthen the economy, and/or conserve and restore coastal and marine resources.


The NOAA Coastal Resilience Grants Program will support two categories of activities: 1) Strengthening Coastal Communities: activities that improve capacity of multiple coastal jurisdictions (states, counties, municipalities, territories and tribes) to prepare and plan for, absorb impacts of, recover from, and/or adapt to extreme weather events and climate-related hazards; or 2) Habitat Restoration: activities that restore habitat to strengthen the resilience of coastal ecosystems and decrease the vulnerability of coastal communities to extreme weather events and climate-related hazards. Proposals focused on improving capacity of multiple coastal jurisdictions should identify and describe how the project will address: 1) the vulnerability, issue(s) or problem limiting the resilience of coastal jurisdictions to be addressed, 2) the proposed project’s expected outcomes and the actions to be undertaken, and 3) how the proposed actions will enhance resilience within the jurisdictions expected to benefit from the project.  An estimated $15 million is available for this solicitation which can be downloaded here.


Federal Budget for Research and Development Continues to Grow -- Federal budget authority for research and development (R&D) rose in Fiscal Year (FY) 2016, the third straight year of current dollar increases, according to a new report from the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES).  The FY 2016 budget authority total for R&D and R&D plant (facilities and fixed equipment) came to $149 billion in current dollars, up $10.5 billion from the previous year. Federal budget authority is the primary source of legal authority for federal agencies to enter into spending commitments.  The three-year increase follows a period of notable decline for R&D, facilities and equipment budget authority. From FY 2010 to FY 2013, it steadily declined, falling a cumulative 11 percent. But in FY 2014, that trend began to reverse when the budget authority rose by $3.7 billion, followed by another $2.4 billion the following year.  In current dollars, the three years of increases roughly offset the years of decline, bringing R&D and R&D plant budget authority back to the FY 2010 level. Adjusted for inflation, however, the FY 2016 total remains below the FY 2010 level by about 10 percent.  The down-and-up shifts in funding levels were largely due to a challenging policy environment in which the administration and Congress sought to agree upon spending levels and priorities for the entire federal government, according to the NCSES report.


NIH Funding Opportunity for National Cryo-EM Centers -- NIGMS and the National Eye Institute (NEI) are leading a new NIH Common Fund program: Transformative High Resolution Cryo-Electron Microscopy. This initiative will establish national service centers to increase research capacity for molecular structure determination by high resolution cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM). The centers will provide access to state-of-the-art equipment, technical support and cross-training for the production and analysis of high resolution cryo-EM data. An open application process will offer equal-opportunity access to researchers nationwide.  The NIH Common Fund recently issued a funding opportunity announcement for these national centers. The application deadline is June 30, 2017, with optional letters of intent due by May 30. For more information about the cryo-EM centers announcement, please email Dr. Mary Ann Wu.


NOAA Releases Chief Scientist’s Annual Report – Dr. Richard Spinrad, who up until the end of 2016 served as NOAA’s Chief Scientist, released a report that highlights NOAA’s progress towards meeting agency priorities in R&D, scientific integrity, and workforce development.  The report is comprised of the: NOAA research portfolio logic model; fived themed chapters with numerous examples of important NOAA research results; a presentation of comprehensive analytics evaluating the agency’s research; and an assessment of the quality and performance of NOAA’s scientific workforce.  A copy of the report can be found here; an executive summary of the report is available here.


HHS Finalized Rule to Enhance Protections for Participants in Research -- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and 15 other federal agencies issued a final rule to update regulations that safeguard individuals who participate in research.  The current regulations, which have been in place since 1991, are often referred to as the “Common Rule.” They were developed at a time when research was conducted predominantly at universities and medical institutions, and each study generally took place at a single site. Since then, research with human participants has grown in scale and become more diverse. In response to concerns expressed by many of the commenters, the final rule contains a number of significant changes from the proposed rule, including the removal of a provision that would have required researchers to obtain consent before using a study participant’s non-identified biospecimens.  The new rule is intended to strengthen protections for people who volunteer to participate in research, while ensuring that the oversight system does not add inappropriate administrative burdens, particularly to low-risk research.  The Federal Policy for the Protection of Human Subjects was published in the federal register on January 19th.  View the statement from HHS here.  View the rule here.


ARPA-E to Hold Annual Summit February 27 to March 1 at National Harbor, Maryland -- The Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) will host its annual Energy Innovation Summit from February 27, 2017 - March 1, 2017 at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Md. The ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit draws more than 2,200 participants to discuss cutting-edge energy issues and cultivate relationships with leaders from industry, government and academia to advance technologies towards deployment. The ARPA-E Summit will also feature a variety of breakout sessions.  The Technology Showcase at the ARPA-E Summit features more than 275 innovative technologies from across all energy sectors, including prototypes and commercial-ready products. The showcase brings ARPA-E awardees and other top technologists together with investors and corporate decision makers who are looking to transform how energy is created, used, and stored.  Get more information on the ARPA-E Energy Summit here.


ARPA-E Announces Funding Opportunity to Increase Performance of Power Converters -- ARPA-E has announced up to $30 million in funding for a new program to accelerate the development and deployment of innovative electric power converters that would save energy and give the United States a critical technological advantage in an increasingly electrified economy.  ARPA-E’s Creating Innovative and Reliable Circuits Using Inventive Topologies and Semiconductors (CIRCUITS) program seeks to develop a new class of efficient, lightweight, and reliable power converters based on wide bandgap (WBG) semiconductor technology for use in powering transportation, information technology, grid, and other applications.  The deadline to submit a Concept Paper for CIRCUITS is 5 p.m. ET on February 21, 2017. Additional information, including the full FOA and how to find project teaming partners, is available on ARPA-E’s online application portalARPA-E eXCHANGE


NOAA Announces $6M for Ocean Technology Transition Project -- The U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) is a national and regional partnership working to provide ocean, coastal and Great Lakes observations, data, tools, and forecasts to improve safety, enhance the economy, and protect our environment. To increase observational and technical capabilities we need smart investments to innovate sensors, data management, decision support products, and other technical capabilities that will improve our ability to monitor and forecasts environmental conditions with greater efficiency. The primary objective of IOOS’ Ocean Technology Transition Project (OTT) is to reduce the Research to Operations transition period for ocean observing, product development, and data management technologies for the ocean, coastal and Great Lakes. This announcement specifically funds activities needed to progress these technologies through the transitional stages between research and full operations such as system integration, testing, validation, and verification. Funding will not be awarded to continue projects previously funded through the Ocean Technology Transition Project.  The funding announcement can be downloaded from here.


National Institute of Justice (NIJ) Funding Opportunity on Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of Elderly Individuals -- NIJ is seeking applications for funding for research and evaluation related to the abuse, neglect, and exploitation of elderly individuals. As the elderly population grows, crimes against this population are expected to increase. NIJ has identified the following two priority areas: defining and operationalizing polyvictimization among elderly individuals; and developing a taxonomy of case outcomes that can be used to define success in elder abuse intervention research from multiple perspectives. The deadline for applications under this funding opportunity is March 20.  Get a copy of the funding solicitation here.