Update on FY 2019 Appropriations Process

Update on FY 2019 Appropriations Process – The Senate continues to debate and pass appropriations measures for FY 2019.  By the end of this week, it is expected that the Senate will have passed 7 of the 12 appropriations bills – including Military Construction-VA; Energy and Water; Legislative Branch (in one minibus); and Interior and EPA; Financial Services; Agriculture; and Transportation-Housing (in a second minibus).  The Labor-HHS-Ed bill and Defense Appropriations bills are expected to be packaged into a third minibus and brought up for debate during the week of August 13.  That would leave three bills – Homeland Security; Commerce-Justice-Science; and State/Foreign Operations – to be packaged into a third minibus or be rolled into a continuing resolution.  The Homeland Security bill and CJS bill are both controversial since they deal with border security funding and immigration matters.

White House to Nominate Kelvin Droegemeier as Presidential Science Advisor – On July 31 the White House announced the President’s intent to nominate Dr. Kelvin Droegemeier as the next White House Science Advisor.  Dr. Droegemeier currently serves as Vice President for Research and Regents’ Professor of Meteorology at the University of Oklahoma and as Oklahoma Cabinet Secretary of Science and Technology. He co-founded and directed the National Science Foundation’s Science and Technology Center for Analysis and Prediction of Storms and the NSF Engineering Research Center for Collaborative Adaptive Sensing of the Atmosphere.  Dr. Droegemeier served two six-year terms (four years as Vice Chairman) on the National Science Board, under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. He earned his B.S. in meteorology from the University of Oklahoma and M.S. and Ph.D. in atmospheric science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Dr. Droegemeier is a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society and American Association for the Advancement of Science.  His selection drew early praise from the scientific community. “I think he’s a very solid choice,” said John Holdren, the former director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy under President Obama. “He’s been a serious climate scientist, and he’s been a serious science adviser to people in positions of influence.”  Dr. Droegemeier’s nomination will be considered by the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee before the full Senate can vote on his confirmation.

Administration Issues FY2020 R&D Priorities Memorandum – On July 31, the annual joint OMB-OSTP R&D priorities memorandum for FY 2020 was released by the Administration.  This document provides relevant Federal agencies with guidance for the preparation of their FY 2020 budget plans.  The joint memo says, “Building on a foundation of Federal research and development (R&D) investments, America will also be the nation that leads in today's emerging technologies, from artificial intelligence (AI) and quantum computing, to biotechnology, advanced wireless communications, and space commercialization. Federal R&D dollars focused primarily on basic and early-stage applied research, paired with targeted deregulation, and investment in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and workforce development, will strengthen the Nation's innovation base and position the United States for unparalleled job growth, continued prosperity, and national security.”

Priority areas highlighted in the guidance include:  security for the American people; leadership in artificial intelligence, quantum information sciences, and strategic computing; advanced communication networks; manufacturing; space exploration and commercialization; energy dominance; medical innovation; and agriculture.  Underpinning these areas is an emphasis on educating and training a workforce for the 21st century; managing and modernizing infrastructure for research and development; interagency cooperation; technology transfer; and increased partnerships with industry and academia.

NOAA Announces a Series of Nationwide Listening Sessions – The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has announced that its senior leadership will embark on a series of public conferences held across the nation from August through November 2018.  These meetings will provide information about the implementation of the Department of Commerce’s 2018-2022 Strategic Plan, and also offer citizens the opportunity to provide input.  Topics will include the Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act of 2017, reducing the seafood trade deficit, and supporting maritime commerce, fisheries, recreation, and tourism. More information on these listening sessions is available here

NIH Announces Intent to Publish Research Opportunity for End-of-Life and Palliative Care – NIH expects to issue a funding opportunity announcement in the fall of 2018 which will provide research support to examine the multi-dimensional foundations, expressions and management of advanced signs and symptoms specific to individuals with advanced serious illness with the period of end of life including:  pain, fatigue, neurological and behavioral signs and symptoms including agitation, confusion, delirium, hallucination, etc.  NIH encourages investigators and multidisciplinary teams with expertise and insight into end-of-life and palliative approaches to advanced signs and symptoms to begin to consider applying for this funding opportunity. Because of the complex, multi-factorial nature of this issue, multi-disciplinary teams are highly encouraged. Investigators are encouraged to consider using existing palliative care research networks, such as the Palliative Care Research Cooperative Group, to carry out small, multi-site trials when appropriate. Inclusion of patient- and family-representatives in the design of the study and in the development of interventions is strongly recommended. Inclusion of under-studied populations including NIH-designated health disparity, socioeconomically disadvantaged, rural and/or remote, and sexual and gender minority populations with advanced, serious illness at the end of life is encouraged. To fully explore the patient- and family-centered experience of advanced signs and symptoms, a wide variety of research methodologies may be appropriate including qualitative, mixed methods, quasi-experimental, laboratory, pragmatic techniques and innovative methods.  More information on this forthcoming opportunity can be found here.

NIH Seeking Input and Feedback on BRAIN Initiative through Request for Information (RFI) – NIH is soliciting input on how best to accomplish the ambitious vision for the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative® set forth in BRAIN 2025: A Scientific Vision. NIH is soliciting input from all interested stakeholders, including members of the scientific community, trainees, academic institutions, the private sector, health professionals, professional societies, advocacy groups, and patient communities, as well as other interested members of the public. The BRAIN Initiative aims to develop new tools and technologies to understand and manipulate networks of cells in the brain. BRAIN 2025: A Scientific Vision serves as the strategic plan for the BRAIN Initiative at NIH and outlines an overarching vision, seven high level scientific priorities, and many specific goals. Designed to be achieved over at least a decade, the first five years of BRAIN 2025 emphasizes development of tools and technology, and the next five years shifts emphasis to using these tools to make fundamental discoveries about how brain circuits work and what goes wrong in disease.

The BRAIN Initiative is approaching the midpoint. At this time, NIH is seeking feedback on the BRAIN Initiative's progress and on opportunities moving forward given the current state of the science. NIH has established a new BRAIN Initiative Advisory Committee of the NIH Director (ACD) Working Group that will provide scientific guidance to the ACD on how best to continue to accelerate the ambitious vision for the BRAIN Initiative.  The ACD-WG will use the responses to this RFI, along with information gathered through a series of public workshops, to help inform their discussions of the BRAIN Initiative's progress and potential updates to the plan moving forward.  More information on this RFI can be found here

DARPA Holding Three Day Anniversary Symposium in September 2018 -- D60 is a three-day Symposium hosted by DARPA in honor of its 60th Anniversary. The Symposium will highlight DARPA’s approach to creating breakthrough technologies and capabilities from the Agency’s past, present, and future. DARPA’s mission requires a constant stream of novel ideas and contributions from innovators looking beyond what is possible now. D60 will provide attendees the opportunity to engage with up-and-coming innovators, along with scientists and technologists, as they continue to provide these contributions. Through this conference, DARPA aims to inspire attendees to explore future technologies, their potential application to tomorrow’s technical and societal challenges, and the dilemmas those applications may engender. D60 participants will have the opportunity to be a part of the new relationships, partnerships, and communities of interest that this event aims to foster, and advance dialogue on the pursuit of science in the national interest.  D60 will feature six Plenary Sessions focused on topics of broad import and interest as well as 30 themed Breakout Sessions that will enable participants to dive more deeply into particular topics of interest. An Exhibit Hall will feature displays from each of DARPA’s six technical offices, detailing a selection of programs that reflect the breadth of DARPA’s research portfolio as well as the range of its performer base. More information on this upcoming conference can be found here.

Department of Education Announces Support for Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need (GAANN) -- The GAANN Program provides grants to academic departments and programs of institutions of higher education (IHEs) to support graduate fellowships for students with excellent academic records who demonstrate financial need and plan to pursue the highest degree available in their course of study at the institution.  Four broad areas have identified as national needs:  computer and information science; professional engineers to support the rebuilding of the Nation’s infrastructure; civic literacy; and workforce development via professional science master’s degrees.  More information on the GAANN funding opportunity can be found here.

National Wind Technology Center Facility and Infrastructure Investments – The National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL’s) National Wind Technology Center (NWTC) is poised to provide the integration, data collection, and test support services for a much broader and longer-term vision wherein renewables are a principal electricity provider for the nation. As a result, the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) is issuing a Request for Information (RFI) to gain input from industry, academia, research laboratories, government agencies, and other stakeholders regarding infrastructure or equipment investments that would enable expanded energy R&D opportunities at the NWTC. EERE’s vision is to enable the transition of the facility from a predominantly wind focus to a broader mix of energy research and development, including energy storage and grid integration. EERE’s Technology Offices are requesting public input on specific facility and infrastructure investments which would enable new research and development of value to industry. R&D technology areas of interest include: fuel cells and hydrogen, advanced manufacturing, solar, grid integration and storage, marine hydrokinetic, hydropower, and geothermal technologies.

The NSF 2026 Idea Machine -- The NSF 2026 Idea Machine is a competition to help set the U.S. agenda for fundamental research in science and engineering. Participants can earn prizes and receive public recognition by suggesting the pressing research questions that need to be answered in the coming decade, the next set of “Big Ideas” for future investment by the National Science Foundation (NSF). It's an opportunity for researchers, the public and other interested stakeholders to contribute to NSF's mission to support basic research and enable new discoveries that drive the U.S. economy, enhance national security and advance knowledge to sustain the country's global leadership in science and engineering.  More information will be available in late August here.

Federal R&D Obligations Increase 3% in FY 2017 – According to a report released by the National Science Foundation (NSF) on July 30, 2018 Federal obligations for research and development increased to an estimated $118.3 billion in FY 2017, up 2.8% from $115.0 billion in FY 2016. Obligations for R&D plant increased by 23.6% to $3.0 billion during the same period. Total obligation funding for research declined by 0.3% to $66.5 billion in FY 2017. Basic research remained stable at $32.3 billion in FY 2017, while obligations for applied research declined by 0.8% to $34.2 billion. Obligations for experimental development increased by 7.2% to $51.8 billion in FY 2017.  In FY 2017, obligations for research accounted for 56.2% of all federal R&D obligations. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) accounted for the largest share of federal research obligations (48.4%) with $32.2 billion in FY 2017. The Department of Energy (DOE) accounted for 14.9% ($9.9 billion) of total FY 2017 federal research obligations, followed by the Department of Defense (DOD) with 11.3% ($7.5 billion), NSF with 8.5% ($5.7 billion), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) with 6.0% ($4.0 billion), and the Department of Agriculture (USDA) with 3.4% ($2.3 billion). Agency shares of total research obligations in FY 2016 were similar to those in FY 2017.  More information on this new report is available here.