FY 2019 Appropriations Process Update

FY 2019 Appropriations Process Update – During the August recess Congressional negotiators met and seemingly made progress to resolve differences a number of pending appropriations bills including: Energy and Water; Military Construction and Veterans; and the Legislative Branch.  Conferees have been named for the minibus containing Agriculture, Foreign Service, Interior-EPA, and Transportation/Housing.  The Senate has passed 9 or 12 bills, including both the Defense and Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bills.  Neither the Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) appropriations bill in the House or Senate have been scheduled for floor action – and given issues related to immigration and migrant enforcement matters – the CJS bill is not likely to go to the floor any time soon.  The CJS bill includes funding for NOAA, NSF, NASA, OSTP, and NIST.  For similar reasons the Homeland Security appropriations bill has not yet gone to the floor in either the House or Senate.  While Congress has said it is working to try and finalize as many appropriations bills as it can by the start of the fiscal year on October 1, most observers believe a stop-gap continuing resolution will be needed and will likely last at least through the mid-term elections in November.

Nomination of Dr. Kelvin Droegemeier to be White House Science Advisor Approved By Senate Committee – On September 5 the full Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee gave voice vote approval for the nomination of Dr. Kelvin Droegemeier to be the next Science Advisor to the President.  The next step in the confirmation process will be a Senate vote which has not yet been scheduled.  A number of Administration nominees related to science and technology are awaiting Senate floor action in addition to Dr. Droegemeier, including James Morhard to be Deputy NASA Administrator; Barry Meyers to be NOAA Administrator; and Lane Genatowski to be the Director of DOE’s ARPA-E.

On August 23, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, chaired by Senator John Thune (R-SD), held a confirmation hearing for the President’s nomination of Dr. Kelvin Droegemeier, Vice President for Research at the University of Oklahoma, to be the next White House Science Advisor.  Dr. Droegemeier was warmly received by the Committee and was applauded by a number of Members for his help in the development of the last America COMPETEs bill.  He was also recognized for his comments that the Committee’s development of the bill – led by Senator Cory Gardner and Senator Gary Peters -- was a return to the development of science policy as a bipartisan issue.  During his testimony and the ensuring discussion with the Committee, Dr. Droegemeier highlighted the Administration’s science priorities contained in the most recent OMB-OSTP memorandum to the agencies including interagency coordination, regulatory reform, a strong world class academic enterprise, and efforts to ensure the integration of science to help solve pressing problems. In his discussions with various Senators during the hearing he stressed the importance of and pledged to keep science and scientists free from political interference. 

Along with the Committee, Dr. Droegemeier endorsed the importance of focusing on quantum computing, artificial intelligence, and advanced computing – for reasons that related to economic security, national security, and advancement in many fields of science.  During the questioning, he discussed the challenges the U.S. research enterprise faces on the international front – especially with China.  Dr. Droegemeier also stressed the importance of the social sciences to help in the integration of research advancements into societal applications – using as an example the integration of social sciences into severe storm warnings.  On the issue of climate, Dr. Droegemeier was clear that research along with modelling, observations, and data was vital to understanding near term weather issues as well as longer term climate challenges.  STEM education was stressed as was the importance of ensuring a work place free from sexual harassment.  More information on this hearing can be found here.

NIH Issues Notice of Intent to Publish a Funding Opportunity Announcement for Clinician-Scientists Transdisciplinary Aging Research -- The National Institute on Aging intends to publish a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) to solicit applications for a Clinician-Scientists Transdisciplinary Aging Research (Clin-STAR) Coordinating Center. This Center will organize activities and provide research resources for clinician-investigators across the United States who are focusing their careers on aging research. This FOA is intended to build upon the substantial investments made by NIA through the GEMSSTAR program and related career development efforts by supporting expanded activities to reach a broader community of clinician-investigators. This Notice is being provided to allow potential applicants sufficient time to develop meaningful collaborations and responsive projects. The FOA is expected to be published in September 2018 with an expected application due date in November 2018. 

NIH Issues Notice of Future Funding Opportunity for Collaborative Pediatric Critical Care Research Network -- The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) intends to publish Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOAs) to re-issue Requests for Applications (RFAs) for both the Collaborative Pediatric Critical Care Research Network (CPCCRN) Clinical Centers and Data Coordinating Center.  This re-competition will differ from prior competitions in that the CPCCRN grants will no longer be awarded using a Cooperative Agreement mechanism, because NIH will no longer have a substantive scientific role in performing the research along with the investigators. Instead, grantees will now be expected to work independently, with NIH staff providing the level of monitoring and oversight typically found in investigator-initiated grants. This Notice is being provided to allow potential applicants sufficient time to develop meaningful collaborations and responsive projects.  The FOA is expected to be published in Winter 2019 with an expected application due date in Summer 2020.

NSF Issues Solicitation – Infrastructure Capacity for Biology (ICB) -- The Infrastructure Capacity for Biology (ICB) supports the development, expansion, or improvement of infrastructure that will enable fundamental research within the biological sciences. Infrastructure supported under this solicitation may include cyberinfrastructure, instrumentation, biological collections, living stocks, field stations, marine labs, or other resources that are shared and openly accessible. Proposals submitted to the ICB solicitation must make a compelling case that the proposed infrastructure will advance or transform research in areas of science that are supported by the Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO) at the National Science Foundation.  While other programs in the Division of Biological Infrastructure (DBI) focus on innovative research leading to new infrastructure or sustained operation of mature infrastructure, this solicitation focuses on supporting projects that seek to deliver, enable access to, or substantially improve infrastructure that will advance the capacity of today’s scientific community to conduct leading edge research. The impacts of the activities funded by awards made through this solicitation will be reflected not just in the quality of their products, but by the novel and transformative science outcomes that will be achieved by the users of these resources. Infrastructure projects that will advance any field of research supported by the Directorate for Biological Sciences are eligible for support under this program.  More information on this funding initiative can be found here.

NSF Issues Funding Opportunity for Field Stations and Marine Laboratories -- Biological Field Stations and Marine Laboratories (FSMLs) are off-campus facilities for research and education conducted in the natural habitats of terrestrial, freshwater, and marine ecosystems. FSMLs support environmental and basic biological research and education by preserving access to study areas and organisms, by providing facilities and equipment in close proximity to those study areas, and by fostering an atmosphere of mutual scientific interest and collaboration in research and education. To fulfill these roles, FSMLs must offer modern research and educational facilities, equipment, communications and data management for a broad array of users. Requests must fall exclusively into one of two classes: Improvement or Planning. Improvement proposals should focus on well-defined projects of major equipment acquisition, data management and communication systems modernization, or physical plant improvement. Planning proposals are for strategic institutional planning for the long-term research and education goals of the station.

In addition to a clear description of the proposed improvement or planning project, proposals are expected to present a compelling justification based on demonstrated need for the project, and a realistic appraisal of its potential impact on biological and environmental research and education activities at the proposing facility. Depending on the nature of the intended improvement, the proposal may need to address its potential for extensibility, portability, or interoperability as appropriate for enhancing the station's capacity to support larger scale or replicated biological research. Improvements that directly benefit multiple stations may also be proposed provided the PI consults with the program regarding eligibility in advance of submission. More information on this funding opportunity is available here.

Senate Commerce Committee Marks Up Bipartisan Bycatch Legislation – On September 5, by a voice note the full Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee marked up and reported out S. 2773, the Driftnet Modernization and Bycatch Reduction Act.  Cosponsored by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Roger Wicker (R-MS), the bill This legislation updates the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act to phase out  the use of harmful drift gillnets and replace it with more sustainable fishing gear.

NSF Launches Competition to Identify Next Set of “Big Ideas” -- Last week, the National Science Foundation announced the launch of the NSF 2026 Idea Machine, a public prize competition to identify new “Big Ideas” that will inform the agency’s research activities and investments over the next decade and beyond. NSF says the new ideas will build on the original 10 Big Ideas selected in 2016 to guide the agency’s future direction.

Through Oct. 26, NSF will accept proposals from eligible individuals and small groups for ideas that “address compelling challenges” in STEM research fields. Entries will then face several rounds in which expert reviewers will judge them against a pre-established set of criteria. The first round will be led by NSF staff and a second by a blue-ribbon panel of outside experts from foundations, nonprofits, startup companies, and other stakeholders. NSF will then announce “approximately four” winning ideas in the summer of 2019.

The winners will receive $26,000 cash awards, but NSF says that the real reward is that winning entries could help shape its programs and research agendas. The agency will also showcase up to 100 of the top submissions on the competition website.

Administration Appoints Dr. William Happer to National Security Council -- President Trump is appointing William Happer to the National Security Council (NSC).  Dr. Happer, a prominent atomic physics professor at Princeton University who has questioned human involvement in climate change, will head up the NSC's office for emerging technologies as senior director.  Dr.

Happer has questioned how much human activity has contributed to global warming.  Dr. Happer has been a member of JASON, a group of scientists and engineers who advise the federal government on matters of defense, intelligence, energy policy, and other technical problems. From 1987 to 1990, Dr. Happer served as chair of the steering committee of JASON.

From 1991 to 1993, he served in President George H. W. Bush’s administration as the director of energy research in the Department of Energy, where he oversaw a basic research budget of roughly $3 billion. His responsibilities included directing much of the federal funding for high energy and nuclear physics, materials science, magnetic confinement fusion, environmental science, the human genome project, and other areas. More recently, he chaired the National Academy of Sciences’ Panel on Nuclear and Radiological Issues and the National Research Council’s standing committee on improvised explosive devices.

NIH to Hold Regional Grants Seminar October 17-19, 2018 in San Francisco – NIH will hold its next regional grants seminar in San Francisco in October.  This seminar is intended to: demystify the application and review process; clarify federal regulations and policies; and highlight current areas of special interest or concern. The seminar and optional workshops are appropriate for those who are new to working with the NIH grants process – administrators, early stage investigators, researchers, graduate students, etc. For those with more experience, the seminar offers a few more advanced sessions, updates on policies and processes direct from NIH staff. The NIH Regional Seminar involves approximately 65 NIH and HHS staff who are brought to a central location in order to educate, share, and hear the extramural community’s questions over the course of two days, plus the pre-seminar workshops.  This seminar is an opportunity to make direct contact with NIH policy officials, grants management, program and review staff, and representatives from the HHS Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP), HHS Office of the Inspector General (OIG), and others. More information on this seminar, including registration and housing information, is available here.