A Periodic Federal Science Update

Secretary of Commerce Nominee on Science at NOAA – As part of the hearing process for the Senate Commerce Committee’s consideration of the nomination of Wilbur Ross to be the next Secretary of Commerce, Senator Nelson asked Mr. Ross about his views regarding the causes and impact of sea level and ocean temperature changes.  Mr. Ross responded by putting aside the question of what is causing these changes and instead suggested focusing focus on the impacts of such changes.  Mr. Ross said, in his January 23, 2017 letter to Senator Nelson that the Department of Commerce should continue to research, monitor, and report on weather and climate information because that information is essential to everyday commerce and the safety of or citizens and communities.  Mr. Ross went on to say, “…one of my first orders of business will be to begin meeting with NOAA scientists to become fully briefed on what they are seeing with respect to weather and climate information and how the Department can ensure that the National Weather Service continues to make advances to improve the timeliness and accuracy of weather forecasting. I also look forward to meeting with scientists from the National Marine Fisheries Service to learn how changes in ocean temperature patterns are affecting fishery stocks and allocation decisions. In addition, I look forward to learning about NOAA's ongoing efforts to assist coastal communities in coping with changes in sea level rise and storm intensity...As you know from my hearing responses, I believe science should be left to scientists. If confirmed, I intend to see that the Department provides the public with as much factual and accurate data as we have available. It is public tax dollars that support the Department's scientific research, and barring some national security concern, I see no valid reason to keep peer reviewed research from the public. To be clear, by peer review I mean scientific review and not a political filter…”


National Association of Marine Laboratories to Hold Annual Public Policy Conference – On March 5 and 6, 2017, the National Association of Marine Laboratories (NAML) will hold its annual public policy conference in Washington, D.C.  March 5 will be limited primarily to association and member business matters.  On March 6, speakers from NOAA, NSF, the Senate Appropriations Committee, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, and like-minded non-governmental groups will meet with the NAML membership to provide advice and analysis on the current and future public policy environment for ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes research and education.  Register for the meeting here.  Register for hotel accommodations here.


Ocean Research Advisory Panel Prepares Recommendations for the New Administration – The Ocean Research Advisory Panel (ORAP) is a non-federal statutorily established committee appointed by the Secretary of Defense.  ORAP provides independent advice and recommendations to the heads of the federal agencies with ocean-related missions.  For several weeks ORAP has been working to develop their own set of recommendations and ocean and coastal research issues for the incoming Trump Administration.  The ORAP report will likely be released in the coming weeks and is expected to include such recommendations as:  calling on the new Administration to sustain U.S. leadership in science and technology by building a workforce that excels in science, technology, engineering and mathematics; rebuild the nation’s research infrastructure in the ocean and along the coasts; and sustain the U.S. lead in ocean science and technology and the new blue economy.


Heather Wilson, President of South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, Nominated as Air Force Secretary -- President Trump intends to nominate Dr. Heather Wilson, a former New Mexico representative and a graduate of the Air Force Academy, to be the next Air Force secretary. Dr. Wilson is now president of the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City, South Dakota, a position she has held since 2013. If confirmed, Dr. Wilson would be the first Air Force Academy graduate to ever serve as secretary. She graduated in 1982, as part of the third class to admit women in academy history. She also was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University in England, where she studied international relations and earned masters and doctoral degrees.  She would replace former Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, who left office on Friday with the Obama administration. Dr. Wilson left the Air Force in 1989 to join the National Security Council as its director for European defense policy and arms control. She represented New Mexico in the House of Representatives from 1998 to 2009, and chaired the House Subcommittee on Technical and Tactical Intelligence. She also served on the House Armed Services Committee and was a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. 


NSF Releases Solicitation for the Management of Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico -- The National Science Foundation (NSF) is accepting proposals to manage and operate the Arecibo Observatory (AO). The AO is a multidisciplinary research and education facility. AO’s cornerstone research instrument is a 305-meter diameter fixed spherical reflector, located on approximately 120 acres of U.S. Federal Government-owned land near Arecibo, Puerto Rico. AO conducts research in passive radio astronomy, solar system radar astronomy, and space and atmospheric sciences.  n cooperation with NSF and within available resources, the proposer will plan and execute a viable program of research and/or education, consistent with the objectives and priorities of the scientific community. The recipient will manage the facilities and equipment provided by NSF, and will provide support and technical personnel to manage AO as a well-integrated research and/or education facility. A significant portion of the AO program should be carried out in collaboration with its stakeholder communities, and other collaborators. NSF anticipates greatly reduced and decreasing funding over the life of this effort, to a total of $2M per year by the end of the five-year project period (and pending availability of funds). A viable proposal must demonstrate a feasible and reasonable approach to managing and operating AO in the face of the projected funding reductions.  A copy of the solicitation, with additional information, is available here.


DARPA to Establish Consortium for Execution of Rendezvous and Servicing Operations (CONFERS) -- The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is soliciting research to develop and publish consensus operational safety standards for on-orbit rendezvous and proximity operations (RPO) and robotic servicing operations. The awardee will establish and manage a consortium, to include both private sector and government technical experts, and entitled “Consortium For Execution of Rendezvous and Servicing Operations,” or CONFERS. CONFERS will leverage experience and best practices from both the private sector and Government and will make their published standards publicly available. DARPA intends to fund CONFERS through an administrator (performer) described as a “Secretariat” who will oversee the standards research effort and transition CONFERS into a sustained, self-funded organization. Under the contract, the performer is responsible for standing up the consortium, selecting its membership, setting the agenda for the consortium, managing its operations, and leading the standards research process. More information on this funding opportunity is found here.