Federal Science Partners Periodic Update

FY 2019 Appropriations Process Update – With the new fiscal year, FY 2019, about to begin, the Congress overwhelmingly passed and the President is expected to sign the FY 2019 DOD/Labor-HHS-Education/Continuing Resolution appropriations measure.  This bill provides full year funding for the Departments of Defense, Labor, Health and Human Services (including NIH), and Education.  The Continuing Resolution (CR) covers those agencies not covered by this bill or the recently signed into law Energy and Water/Legislative Branch/Military Construction/VA appropriations “minibus”.  The CR provides funding at FY 2018 levels until December 7 for NSF, NOAA, NASA, Homeland Security, EPA, the Department of Interior (including the USGS), and other agencies.

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 recently signed into law, 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.

NOAA Announces Weather Research Opportunities – NOAA has announced eight separate research opportunities worth a total of approximately $16 million in FY 2019 to be supported by its Office of Weather and Air Quality Research Programs.  A copy of the funding opportunity can be found here.  The eight areas include:  1) High Impact Weather Testbeds; 2) Joint Technology Transfer Initiative (JTTI); 3) Air Quality Research and Forecasting; 4) Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes Experiment - Southeast U.S. (VORTEX-SE); 5) Infrasound Detection of Tornadoes and High Impact Weather; 6) Next Generation of Mesoscale Weather Observing Platforms; 7) Snowpack and Soil Moisture Observations and Data Assimilation to Improve the National Water Model (NWM); and 8) Subseasonal to Seasonal (S2S).  These eight reflect multiple science objectives spanning time scales from the very short-term (hours) to seasonal and from weather and water observations and modeling to social and behavioral science. It is focused on improving NOAA’s understanding and ultimately its weather and water forecasting services through engagement with the external scientific community on key science gaps of mutual interest through funded grant opportunities.

One of the key themes is supporting applied research and development that leads to the demonstration in NOAA’s testbeds during the project period of new high impact weather, water, and air quality observing and forecasting applications, including new data or products, improved analysis techniques, better statistical or dynamic forecast models and techniques, and communication of that information to better inform the public. It is expected that NOAA’s support of these new capabilities will speed the transition of this new research into operations in order to improve NOAA weather and water services for the public.  The sub-seasonal to seasonal objectives focus on baseline understanding of predictability, advancement of community-driven, NOAA modeling initiatives, and increasing the utility of multi-model ensembles for end users. By facilitating new capabilities on the sub-seasonal to seasonal range, NOAA seeks to increase resiliency of national infrastructure, support land- and marine-based economic vitality and mitigation efforts, advance month-to-month operational applications, and better position local, regional, and national decision-makers for successful responses to adverse weather events.  VORTEX-SE is a NOAA-led effort to understand the aspects of tornadoes in the Southeast U.S. that lead to an increased risk of death and injury in that region. The project emphasizes research, often interdisciplinary in nature, across the spectrum from meteorology to social, behavioral, economic, and engineering sciences. This year’s funding opportunity continues the emphases of previous years. Finally, this announcement includes three competitions focused on improving the critical observing system technologies needed to underpin improved forecasts. They are focused on improved snowpack and soil moisture observations, improved mesoscale observations, and innovation in infrasound technology for detection of severe weather.

NOAA’s National Weather Service (NWS) is also announcing a companion Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 federal grant funding opportunity to this OAR opportunity through their Collaborative Science, Technology, and Applied Research (CSTAR) Program in early October 2018. Search for funding opportunity number NOAA-NWS-NWSPO-2019-2005754 here to learn more about this additional NOAA funding opportunity. CSTAR funds research that is often directed toward local forecasting applications at NWS Weather Forecast Offices, while OAR/OWAQ funds research that is often directed at national forecasting applications at NWS national forecast centers, though there can be overlap.

Congress Moves To Reauthorize the FAA and the National Geospatial Program — The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) would be reauthorized through fiscal 2023 under the agreement announced by House and Senate negotiators. The measure would expand eligible uses of federal grants at airports, create new protections for passengers on commercial airlines, expand oversight of the Next Generation (NextGen) technology upgrade program, streamline aircraft certification procedures, and further regulate the use of drones.  The Transportation Department could use as much as $39 million per year from fiscal 2019 through 2023 for aviation weather reporting programs.  The measure would reauthorize the FAA’s civil aviation research and development programs through fiscal 2023. At least 70 percent of the programs’ funding would have to be used for safety research.  The FAA would have to appoint an assistant administrator for research and development. 

With respect to the National Geospatial Program, the measure includes several requirements and goals for data in the Federal Geographic Data Committee’s National Spatial Data Infrastructure, which is a repository for geographic data. The measure would authorize the committee’s GeoPlatform. The committee would have to identify “themes” of geospatial data where the federal government should focus maintenance and development, and designate agencies to lead work on the different themes. The committee would have to establish standards for each theme. The measure would bar the use of federal funds for geospatial data that doesn’t meet the committee’s standards beginning five years after the standards are set. The measure would set requirements for federal agencies to collect data and contribute to the committee’s databases.

Vaisala Breaks Ground on New U.S. Headquarters and Operations/R&D Center — Vaisala, a global leader in environmental and industrial measurement, including comprehensive lightning data, today broke ground on an expanded U.S. headquarters building as well as Operations and R&D Center in Louisville on the site of its current headquarters. The company serves a variety of customers around the world with a comprehensive range of innovative observation and measurement products and services. Vaisala's National Lightning Detection Network (NLDN) and Global Lightning Dataset (GLD360) provide both companies and weather services with the most accurate lightning tracking data, detecting more than 21 million cloud-to-ground lightning flashes globally last year alone. Vaisala was founded in 1936 in Helsinki, Finland, and today employs more than 1,600 people worldwide and has customers in 150 countries. The company is recognized for unparalleled quality and accuracy and invests nearly 12 percent of net sales to research and development. Vaisala' products can be found in the most demanding applications around the world and beyond, and Vaisala's cutting-edge technology has also been selected to be on the Mars 2020 Rover. Vaisala's sensors were previously used on the Curiosity Rover in 2012. The groundbreaking ceremony took place on September 27 at noon in Louisville. Vaisala hopes to complete construction in late 2019. 

Office of Naval Research (ONR) Releases $27M NOPP Funding Opportunities -- On behalf of the National Oceanographic Partnership Program (NOPP), the Office of Naval Research (ONR) has released a Broad Agency Announcement seeking research proposals in the following areas:  The BAA provides research opportunities for the following seven topics:  CubeSat Sensors for Investigating Littoral Ocean & Atmosphere Dynamics; Sustained observations of marine biodiversity for improved understanding of marine ecosystem responses to changing environmental conditions; Advanced Sensor Technology; Autonomous Profiling Floats for Investigating Tropical Pacific Ocean Biogeochemistry; Improving Arctic Operational Forecasts Arctic Observing System Simulation Experiments using Year of Polar Prediction data (Arctic OSSE); New Approaches for Data Assimilation to Improve Operational Ocean Prediction; and Autonomous Mapping.  Congress established NOPP to facilitate partnerships between federal agencies, academia, and industry to advance ocean science research and education. Through this collaboration, federal agencies can leverage resources to invest in priorities that fall between agency missions or that are too large for any single agency to support.  More information on NOPP, including other NOPP funding opportunities, can be found here.

AGU Releases Revised Position Statement – Ocean Research and Education Are Foundations for Economic Growth – On September 18, 2018, the American Geophysical Union’s (AGU’s) Position Statement Committee formally adopted an update to its 2005 statement Ocean Research and Education Are Foundations for Economic Growth.  The updated statement notes that “In 2016 in the U.S., 52% of the population lived in coastal watershed regions generating nearly 57% of the nation’s GDP. Commercial fishing generates over $36B in income and more than one million jobs, while recreational fishing supports $14B in income and hundreds of thousands of additional jobs. In 2015, over 22% of U.S. domestic oil was produced from coastal and offshore waters.”  However, increasing human populations are increasing pressures on the ocean’s ability to provide us with food, energy, and other essential materials. The statement asserts that “science provides the new knowledge we need to respond to rising sea levels and ocean temperatures, the decline of fisheries, expansion of low oxygen zones, and changes in the chemistry of the ocean caused by increased carbon dioxide such as ocean acidification.  The revised statement was prepared by a panel of AGU members including: Jess Adkins, Smits Family Professor of Geochemistry and Global Environmental Science, Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences, California Institute of Technology; Charles Colgan, director of research, Center for the Blue Economy at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies; Kristina M. Gjerde, senior high seas adviser, Global Marine and Polar Programme, International Union for Conservation of Nature; Christopher J. Gobler, Endowed Chair of Coastal Ecology and Conservation, School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences and codirector, Center for Clean Water Technology, Stony Brook University; and Susan Roberts, director, Ocean Studies Board, National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.  The AGU Position Statement Committee was chaired by Margaret Spring, Vice President of Conservation and Science at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Department of Transportation Announces Competition for Two New University Transportation Centers (UTCs) -- The U.S. Department of Transportation recently published a Notice of Funding Opportunity for $15 million to fund two new University Transportation Centers (UTCs).  As part of its UTC program, the Department is seeking applications from institutions of higher education to compete for recognition as new National UTCs.  One center will focus on “Congestion Relief,” while the other will focus on “Improving the Durability and Extending the Life of Transportation Infrastructure.” The funding for these two new UTCs was appropriated in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018.  Applications will compete for awards of $7.5 million for each center. Additional information on this funding opportunity is available here.