Federal Science Partners Periodic Update

Continuing Resolution Expires December 7, Congress Working on Next Steps – According to press reports and other information, House and Senate Members of the Appropriations Committees and their staff have been working to resolve their differences between the remaining seven unfinished FY 2019 appropriations bills.  The unfinished bills cover such agencies as NSF, NOAA, NASA, EPA, USGS, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Interior, and the Department of Homeland Security.  For the time being, the agencies in these seven bills are operating under the authority of a continuing resolution that expires on December 7.  According to some observers, most of the funding issues associated with these bills have been resolved.  The major outstanding issue, however, remains funding for the southern border security wall.  In the past the President has said he might veto any appropriations measure that does not include funding for the border security wall.  Members seem anxious to complete the FY 2019 appropriations process before the 115th Congress adjourns by the end of this calendar year leaving a “clean slate” for the 116th Congress in January 2019.

Congress Prepares for the 116th Congress – With the Democrats picking up nearly 40 seats in the House, they will now have majority status when the Congress convenes in January.  This week House Democrats elected Rep. Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House for the 116th Congress.  Democrats also returned Rep. Steny Hoyer and Rep. James Clyburn to their leadership positions in the caucus.  Committee chairmanship and memberships will be decided in the coming weeks.

According to a report from the Congressional Research Service (CRS), “The “steering committee” for each party (the House Democratic Caucus and the House Republican Conference), or the specific party entity responsible for committee assignments, traditionally is constituted during the early organization meetings. Party rules govern each party’s process for selecting committee members and designating committee and subcommittee chairs or ranking minority members…Each party’s steering committee also typically makes most committee assignment recommendations during early organization, although that process may take longer as the majority and minority parties negotiate committee party ratios… In some instances, the party’s leader—the Speaker or minority leader—is the appointing official…The Democratic Caucus and Republican Conference meet to confirm the recommendations of their respective steering committees and party leaders. The majority party tries to complete the chairmanship selection process during this transition period. The official election of chairs and Members to committees occurs after the new Congress convenes, with the adoption of two or more House resolutions making committee assignments recommended by the party caucuses.

“The Democratic Caucus and Republican Conference meet to confirm the recommendations of their respective steering committees and party leaders. The majority party tries to complete the chairmanship selection process during this transition period. The official election of chairs and Members to committees occurs after the new Congress convenes, with the adoption of two or more House resolutions making committee assignments recommended by the party caucuses…”

Administration Publishes Fourth National Climate Assessment – On November 23, the U.S. Global Change Research Program released the fourth national climate assessment report as required by the Global Change Research Act of 1990. This act requires that no less than every four years such a report is delivered to the Congress and the President that integrated, evaluates, and interprets the findings of the Program…;analyzes the effects of global change on the natural environment, agriculture, energy production and use, land and water resources, transportation, human health and welfare, human social systems and biological diversity; and analyzes current trends in global change, both human-induced and natural, and projects major trends for the subsequent 25 to 100 years.  This report, available here, fulfills that mandate. 

The report makes the following findings:

·               Communities -- Climate change creates new risks and exacerbates existing vulnerabilities in communities across the United States, presenting growing challenges to human health and safety, quality of life, and the rate of economic growth;

·               Economy -- Without substantial and sustained global mitigation and regional adaptation efforts, climate change is expected to cause growing losses to American infrastructure and property and impede the rate of economic growth over this century;

·               Interconnected Impacts -- Climate change affects the natural, built, and social systems we rely on individually and through their connections to one another. These interconnected systems are increasingly vulnerable to cascading impacts that are often difficult to predict, threatening essential services within and beyond the Nation’s borders;

·               Actions to Reduce Risks -- Communities, governments, and businesses are working to reduce risks from and costs associated with climate change by taking action to lower greenhouse gas emissions and implement adaptation strategies. While mitigation and adaptation efforts have expanded substantially in     the last four years, they do not yet approach the scale considered necessary to avoid substantial damages to the economy, environment, and human health over the coming decades;

·               Water – The quality and quantity of water available for use by people and ecosystems across the country are being affected by climate change, increasing risks and costs to agriculture, energy production, industry, recreation, and the environment;

·               Health -- Impacts from climate change on extreme weather and climate-related events, air quality, and the transmission of disease through insects and pests, food, and water increasingly threaten the health and well-being of the American people, particularly populations that are already vulnerable;

·               Indigenous Peoples -- Climate change increasingly threatens Indigenous communities’ livelihoods, economies, health, and cultural identities by disrupting interconnected social, physical, and ecological systems; Ecosystems and the benefits they provide to society are being altered by climate change, and these impacts are projected to continue;

·               Ecosystems and Ecosystem Services -- Without substantial and sustained reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions, transformative impacts on some ecosystems will occur; some coral reef and sea ice ecosystems are already experiencing such transformational changes;

·               Agriculture and Food -- Rising temperatures, extreme heat, drought, wildfire on rangelands, and heavy downpours are expected to increasingly disrupt agricultural productivity in the United States. Expected increases in challenges to livestock health, declines in crop yields and quality, and changes in extreme events in the United States and abroad threaten rural livelihoods, sustainable food security, and price stability; and

·               Infrastructure -- Our Nation’s aging and deteriorating infrastructure is further stressed by increases in heavy precipitation events, coastal flooding, heat, wildfires, and other extreme events, as well as changes to average precipitation and temperature. Without adaptation, climate change will continue to degrade infrastructure performance over the rest of the century, with the potential for cascading impacts that threaten our economy, national security, essential services, and health and well-being.

A 186-page Report-in-Brief is available here.

White House to Release Strategic STEM Education Report – Next week the White House, via the Office of Science and Technology Policy, is expected to release a strategic plan related to STEM education.  This report is expected to focus on ways in which the various research agencies can work together to meet workforce needs and improve STEM education at various levels. 

Update on NIH Policy on Preventing Harassment -- The National Institutes of Health issued a notice stating that applications for training grants from extramural institutions must include a letter on institutional letterhead and be signed by a “key institutional leader” describing their commitment to ensuring that policies and procedures exist to prevent harassment and other discriminatory practices.

OECD Publishes Science, Technology and Innovation Outlook -- The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Committee for Scientific and Technological Policy has released its STI Outlook 2018, a biennial publication that discusses recent and future trends in global science funding and policy. According to the report, since 2010, overall government R&D expenditures have stagnated or decreased, not only in absolute amounts and relative to gross domestic product, but also as a share of total government expenditure. The OECD finds that current trends in R&D spending may not be commensurate with the challenges of mission-oriented science, technology and innovation policy, whereby governments seek to steer the direction of science toward ambitious, socially relevant goals. 

National Science Foundation Support for Mid-Scale Research Infrastructure (Mid-scale RI-1) -- Within this new initiative, Mid-scale RI-1, proposers may submit two types of projects, “Implementation” and “Design”. Design and Implementation projects may comprise any combination of equipment, infrastructure, computational hardware and software, and necessary commissioning. Design includes planning (preliminary and final design) of research infrastructure with an anticipated total project cost that is appropriate for future Mid-scale RI-1, Mid-scale RI-2 or MREFC-class investments. Mid-scale RI-1 uses an inclusive definition of implementation, which can include traditional stand-alone construction or acquisition and can include a degree of advanced development leading immediately to final system acquisition and/or construction. Mid-scale RI-1 "Implementation" projects may have a total project cost ranging from $6 million up to below $20 million. Projects must directly enable advances in fundamental science, engineering or science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education research in one or more of the research domains supported by NSF. Implementation projects may support new or upgraded research infrastructure. Only Mid-scale RI-1 "Design" projects may request less than $6 million, with a minimum request of $600,000 and a maximum request below $20 million as needed to prepare for a future mid-scale or larger infrastructure implementation project. Preliminary proposals are required and are due by February 19, 2019.  Full proposals, by invitation only, are due by May 20, 2019.  More information can be found here.

Office of Naval Research (ONR) Announces FY 2019 Funding Opportunity for STEM Workforce Development -- ONR seeks a broad range of applications for solutions that directly maintain, or cultivate a diverse, world-class STEM workforce in order to maintain the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps’ technological superiority. The goal of any proposed effort must provide solutions that establish and maintain pathways of diverse U.S. citizens who are interested in uniformed or civilian DoN (or Navy and Marine Corps) STEM workforce opportunities. As the capacity of the DoN Science and Technology (S&T) workforce is interconnected with the basic research enterprise and STEM education system, ONR recognizes the need to support efforts that can jointly improve STEM student outcomes and align educational efforts with Naval S&T current and future workforce needs. This announcement explicitly encourages projects that improve the capacity of education systems and communities to create impactful STEM educational experiences for students and workers. Submissions are encouraged to consider including active learning approaches and incorporating 21st century skill development. Projects must aim to increase student and worker engagement in STEM and enhance people with needed Naval STEM capabilities. While this announcement is relevant for any stage of the STEM educational system, funding efforts will be targeted primarily toward projects addressing: secondary education communities; post-secondary communities; informal science communities; and current naval STEM workforce communities. A copy of the funding announcement is available here.