Federal Science Partners Periodic Update

Congress on Recess for Midterms; CR Covers NSF, NOAA, NASA, EPA, and USGS Until December 7; NIH and DOD Fully Funded for the Fiscal Year – As FY 2019 began on October 1, for the first time in recent memory, the Congress passed and the President signed into law an appropriations act that funds the Department of Health and Human Services, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Department of Defense (DOD).  Attached to that bill was also a continuing resolution (CR), a stop-gap funding measure, that will keep many other agencies such as NSF, NASA, NOAA, EPA, USGS, FAA, FEMA, and USDA operating at FY 2018 levels until the first week in December.  Within the DOD/Labor-HHS-Ed bill, defense basic research would increase by nearly 12%; applied research grows by 7%; and DOD science and technology grows by 8%.  The Labor-HHS-Ed portion of the bill includes $39.1 billion for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), an increase of $2 billion, and $3.8 billion to combat the opioid crisis, an increase of $206 million.  In the Energy and Water bill, which was also signed into law apart from the DOD/Labor-HHS-Ed bill, the Department of Energy’s Office of Science would receive a 5 percent funding increase for fiscal year 2019, bringing its total budget to $6.59 billion. The additional funding will advance work on exascale computing, user facility upgrades, and quantum information science, among other priority areas. 

NSF Moving to Establish Funding Opportunities for Mid-Scale Infrastructure – On the heels of the latest National Science Board (NSB) report to cite the need for NSF support for mid-scale infrastructure, NSF has issued a Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) announcing its intent to provide funding opportunities for Mid-Scale Infrastructure.  Mid-Scale Research Infrastructure (Mid-scale RI) is an NSF-wide Big Idea designed to address the research community's growing needs for contemporary research infrastructure to support the advancement of science and engineering research, as well as science, technology, engineering and mathematics education research. Mid-scale RI will fund the implementation of experimental research capabilities in the mid-scale range (i.e., with a total project cost of between $6 million and $70 million). The overall objective of Mid-scale RI is to transform scientific and engineering research fields by making available new capabilities, while simultaneously training researchers in the acquisition, implementation, development, design, and/or construction of cutting-edge infrastructure.

Mid-scale research infrastructure has been identified as critical for scientific advances in many research areas. In recognition of this scientific importance, the 2017 American Innovation and Competitiveness Act (AICA) directed NSF to "evaluate the existing and future needs, across all disciplines supported by the Foundation, for mid-scale projects" and to "develop a strategy to address the needs identified." NSF issued a Dear Colleague Letter (NSF 18-013) and received responses whose execution would require $8 billion to $10 billion in funding for projects in the $20 million to $100 million range.

This fall, NSF intends to announce Mid-scale RI funding opportunities. These will be for research infrastructure that will advance the frontiers of discovery in any of the research domains supported by NSF. These forthcoming funding opportunities are intended to encompass research infrastructure broadly defined, from the creation of mid-scale disciplinary instrumentation to the implementation (including acquisition and construction) of mid-scale facilities, cyberinfrastructure and other infrastructure that are demonstrated to be necessary to support specific science, engineering or education research objectives associated with current or future NSF-supported research activities. This portfolio may also include mid-scale upgrades to existing research infrastructure.  Additional information may be found in the DCL which is available here.

Sea Grant Announces 2018 Aquaculture Research Awards -- NOAA Sea Grant announced the award of $11 million in grants for 22 projects to further advance the development of a sustainable marine and coastal aquaculture industry in the U.S.  The research will address specific priorities of the 2018 Sea Grant National Aquaculture Initiative including, supporting the development of emerging systems or technologies that will advance aquaculture in the U.S., developing and implementing actionable methods of communicating accurate, science-based information about the benefits and risks of U.S. marine aquaculture to the public; and increasing the resiliency of aquaculture systems to natural hazards and changing conditions. The projects, which will be conducted over a three-year period, include a 50% match by non-federal partners. One hundred proposals were submitted requesting a total in $48 million in federal grant funds.  Between February 2017 and January 2018, Sea Grant invested $11 million in aquaculture research, with additional funds and resources dedicated to outreach and technology transfer, and reported $78 million in economic impacts, including support of 792 businesses and 1,387 jobs.  As part of the Department of Commerce, NOAA facilitates the growing uses of and demands on our ocean resources. One of the most urgent opportunities in the “Blue Economy” is the need to expand sustainable seafood production in the U.S. —both through the better utilization of our wild-capture fisheries and the expansion of marine aquaculture. A list of the funded projects can be seen here.

NSF Announces Funding Opportunity for New Class of Engineering Research Centers (ERCs) – NSF has released its Gen-4 Engineering Research Centers (ERC) program announcement.  The ERC program supports convergent research that will lead to strong societal impact. Each ERC has interacting foundational components that go beyond the research project, including engineering workforce development at all participant stages, a culture of diversity and inclusion where all participants gain mutual benefit, and value creation within an innovation ecosystem that will outlast the lifetime of the ERC.  A number of adjustments to the program have been made via this new solicitation including: a great emphasis on convergence, positive societal impact; and effective leadership with respect to management and infrastructure.  NSF anticipates awarding up to $14 million to support the first year of four new ERCs depending on availability of FY 2020 funding.  Additional information on this solicitation can be found here.

National Weather Services (NWS) Announces CSTAR Funding Opportunity -- Through the Collaborative Science, Technology, and Applied Research (CSTAR) Program, the NWS Office of Science and Technology Integration is soliciting proposals to conduct research and development activities.  NWS believes its warning and forecast mission will benefit significantly from a strong partnership with outside investigators in the broad academic community.  The CSTAR Program represents an NWS effort to create a cost-effective transition from basic and applied research to operations and services through collaborative research between operational forecasters and academic institutions which have expertise in the environmental sciences. These activities will engage university researchers and students in applied research of interest to the operational meteorological community for the provision of improving the accuracy of forecasts and warnings of environmental hazards. This announcement is for research and development topics identified as priorities by the NWS to support field forecasting operations.  There is one grant competition under this announcement valued at $700,000 for approximately four to seven new projects.  A copy of the CSTAR solicitation can be found here.

National Ocean Service’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) Announces Funding for Ecological Effects of Sea Level Rise Program – NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS)/Competitive Research Program is soliciting proposals for the Ecological Effects of Sea Level Rise Program (EESLR). This solicitation is to improve adaptation and planning in response to regional and local effects of sea level rise and coastal inundation through targeted research on key technologies, natural and nature-based infrastructure, physical and biological processes, and model evaluation. The overall goal of EESLR is to facilitate informed adaptation planning and coastal management decisions through a multidisciplinary research program that results in integrated models and tools of dynamic physical and biological processes capable of evaluating vulnerability and resilience under multiple SLR, inundation, and management scenarios. Approximately $1.5 million is expected to be available to support 3 to 6 projects, 2 to 3 year in duration.  A copy of the EESLR solicitation can be found here.