Federal Science Partners Periodic Update

Dr. Kelvin Droegemeier Outlines Science Policy Priorities -- On February 11, Vice President Mike Pence swore in Dr. Kelvin Droegemeier as Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.  Four days later, Dr. Droegemeier made his first public appearance as director, addressing an audience at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C.  In laying out his agenda, Dr. Droegemeier grouped his ideas into three “pillars.”

The first pillar entails taking a long-term, holistic view of research and called for a quadrennial assessment of the U.S. R&D enterprise.  In addition, he stressed the benefits of viewing R&D efforts in terms “thematic portfolios” that cut across research topics and disciplines. He spoke broadly of a need to rethink how federal research programs are governed and emphasized the private sector’s role in the U.S. R&D enterprise. He also expressed his aim to address more specific matters such as sexual harassment in science and the administrative burdens that impede research. The second pillar involves improving partnerships among the federal government, industry, academia, and nonprofit sector, focusing on “intersection points” such as data use, workforce development, and access to facilities.

The third pillar, Dr. Droegemeier said, entails ensuring the “safety and security of our researchers and our innovations,” and working to “maximize the contributions of our collective intellectual endeavors.” He stressed the importance of preventing sexual harassment and fostering diversity and inclusiveness to create “safe, welcoming, and accommodating environments for performing research.” He also discussed his desire to relieve administrative burdens on research that are “unnecessary and wasteful,” citing estimates that their cost “runs into a few billion dollars a year.” 

Dr. Droegemeier also grouped under his third pillar the need to prevent the misappropriation of U.S. research. The federal government is currently seeking to prevent other nations, particularly China, from using both licit and illicit means to exploit U.S.-funded R&D. Its efforts include imposing new export controls on certain kinds of technology and barring Department of Energy employees, contractors, and grantees from participating in talent recruitment programs operated by nations deemed “sensitive.” Without mentioning specific efforts or nations, Droegemeier said the issue is among his “top priorities,” and that “several university presidents, various associations, and government officials” had already told him it is one of the top matters they are grappling with. 

Coincident with Dr. Droegemeier’s speech, the Office of Science and Technology Policy released Science and Technology Highlights in the Second Year of the Trump Administration. The highlights coincided with many of the R&D priorities laid out by the Trump Administration in its July 31, 2018 memorandum to relevant agencies.  The highlight report included discussions on such topics as 5G and Rural Connectivity; Advanced Manufacturing; Artificial Intelligence; Advanced Transportation; Cybersecurity; the Digital Economy; the Environment; Energy Dominance; Health and Medicine; High Performance Computing; and Homeland and National Security.

National Association of Marine Laboratories (NAML) Holds its Annual Public Policy Meeting in Washington – Close to 50 marine and freshwater laboratory directors and others associated with these labs met in Washington on February 21 and 22 for their annual public policy meeting.  During this two-day meeting NAML members heard from policy and decision makers from key Federal agencies as well as important House and Senate Congressional committees that oversee the health of ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes research and education.  Mr. Joel Widder and Ms. Meg Thompson provided a briefing to NAML members on the budget and policy environment facing ocean, coastal and Great Lakes research and education.  Then NAML members heard from Mr. Deerin Babb-Brott, Principal Assistant Director, Oceans and Environment, Office of Science and Technology Policy; The Chief of Staff and Deputy Chief of Staff from NOAA; the Chief of Staff from the National Science Foundation; staff from the Senate Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Subcommittee, the House Water, Oceans, and Wildlife Subcommittee, and the Senate Science , Oceans, Fisheries, and Weather Subcommittee; the Office of Naval Research, an overview of the NOPP program; Dr. Terry Quinn from NSF Division of Ocean Sciences on the forthcoming Coasts and People initiative; and a panel of NSF and NOAA program directors responsible for the management of vital ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes networking programs.

House Science Committee’s Subcommittee on Environment to Hold Hearing on Impacts of Climate Change on Our Oceans and Coasts – On Wednesday, February 27, the House Environment Subcommittee chaired by Representative Lizzie Fletcher (D-TX) will hold a hearing on the impacts of climate change on our oceans and coasts.  Witnesses scheduled to testify include:  Dr. Sarah Cooley, Director, Ocean Acidification Program, Ocean Conservancy; Dr. Radley Horton, Lamont Associate Research Professor, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University Earth Institute; Dr. Thomas K. Frazer, Professor and Director, School of Natural Resources and Environment, University of Florida; and Ms. Margaret A. Pilaro, Executive Director, Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers Association.  The hearing will start at 10AM (Eastern) in Room 2318 of the Rayburn House Office Building.  More information, including a link to view the hearing live can be found here.

DOD Releases Request for Proposals for University Research Instrumentation -- The Department of Defense (DoD) has just announced the Fiscal Year 2020 Defense University Research Instrumentation Program (DURIP). DURIP is designed to improve the capabilities of accredited United States (U.S.) institutions of higher education to conduct research and to educate scientists and engineers in areas important to national defense, by providing funds for the acquisition of research equipment or instrumentation.  DURIP is part of the DOD’s University Research Initiative (URI).  DoD interests include the areas of research supported by the Army Research Office (ARO), the Office of Naval Research (ONR), and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR).  DOD anticipates having about $47 million available in FY 2020 to make grant awards in this program with instrumentation costing between $50,000 and $1.5M. A copy of the solicitation with all relevant information can be found here.