Federal Science Partners Periodic Update

White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Director -- America Leading the World in Science and Technology – To commemorate the 50th anniversary since the Apollo 11 mission landed on the Moon, Dr. Kelvin Droegemeier released a statement highlighting the Administration’s commitment to ensure the US continues to lead the world in science and technology.  Dr. Droegemeier emphasized the need to provide the environment that allows scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs to explore, discover and be creative.  He called for the elimination of unnecessary administrative burdens that “preoccupy our researchers with pushing paper rather than making new discoveries.”  He noted the Administration’s strong emphasis on lifelong learning and nontraditional education pathways to ensure that all have access to STEM education and skills.  He also linked our global scientific progress by promoting core principles of freedom of inquiry, scientific integrity, collaboration, and openness.  However, he noted “real security concerns that arise when our resources fall into the hands of those attempting to do us harm. The Trump Administration recognizes the importance of striking the balance of an open research environment and safeguarding American assets and intellectual property.”

His statement then went on to provide a few examples of the Administration’s accomplishments that are more thoroughly discussed in Science and Technology Highlights in the Second Year of the Trump Administration. The examples highlighted include: revival of the National Space Council and directing NASA to return astronauts to the Moon in five years; ramping up of the Artificial Intelligence Initiative; a decadal vision for research for America’s oceans and actions taken to promote the ocean (blue) economy; and $200 million annually in grant funding for STEM education which is matched by private industry with an additional $300 million.

NSF Announces Funding Opportunities Related to Coastlines and People (CoPe) – Via an April 24th Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) (NSF 19-059), NSF has announced its intent to support Research Coordination Networks (RCNs), a select type of Early-Concept Grants for Exploratory Research (EAGER), conferences, and Non-academic Research Internships for Graduate Students (INTERN) supplements that relate to Coastlines and People (CoPe). NSF first publicly explored this topic with 4 workshops held in September 2018. In those workshops, participants were challenged to think about the interdisciplinary science necessary to advance understanding of coastlines and people, the ways that broadening participation can be integral to research in this area, and what type of research infrastructure, referred to as "hubs", is needed to enable both interdisciplinary science and broadening participation efforts. See coastlinesandpeople.org for the products of these workshops. Through CoPe, NSF is interested in supporting projects to build capacity and explore research focused on understanding the impacts of coastal environmental variability and natural hazards on populated coastal regions. CoPe projects should explore the complex interface between coastal natural processes, geohazards, people and their natural and built environments. CoPe will include coastal variability and hazards on a range of spatial and temporal scales, from local to global and seconds to millenia to put current changes in context of pre-anthropogenic changes. The landscape of individuals interested in coastal research is diverse, including but not limited to researchers, decision-makers, practitioners (individuals dealing with the day to day operations in coastal areas), and stakeholders (communities impacted by coastal change). For more information and the funding mechanisms available for CoPe activities consult the DCL available here.

Legislation Re-introduced to Create a Steady, Predictable, Mandatory Funding for Research -- Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and U.S. Representatives Bill Foster (D-IL) and Lauren Underwood (D-IL) were joined by researchers from Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine to announce their bicameral legislation to restore the United States’ commitment to breakthrough scientific and biomedical research. The American Cures Act and the American Innovation Act would create a mandatory fund to provide steady, predictable funding for breakthrough research at America’s top research agencies, allowing the United States to remain a leader in development and discovery for decades to come. 

The American Cures Act—of which Representative Underwood is the lead House sponsor—would provide annual budget increases of five percent plus inflation at America’s top four biomedical research agencies: the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Defense Health Program, and the Veterans Medical and Prosthetics Research Program.

The American Innovation Act—of which Representative Foster is the lead House sponsor—would provide annual budget increases of five percent for cutting edge research at five important federal research agencies: The National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy Office of Science, the Department of Defense Science and Technology Programs, the National Institute of Standards and Technology Scientific and Technical Research, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Science Directorate. This steady, long-term investment would allow the agencies to plan and manage strategic growth while maximizing efficiencies.

According to Senator Durbin’s press release, research and development (R&D) funding in the United States has been lagging in recent decades. In 1960’s the United States invested 17 percent of its discretionary budget on research and development—that number is now down to 9 percent. Between 1960 and 1980, federal R&D spending as a share of GDP averaged 1.52 percent per year.  However, federal R&D investments now average just under 0.8 percent year.  This steady decline has led to a cumulative $1.5 trillion research investment deficit. Meanwhile, China’s research intensity (GDP expenditures on R&D) has increased sharply since the early 2000s – if this trend continues, China will soon surpass the U.S.The American Cures Act is supported by: the American Heart Association, Research! America, the National Association of Veterans’ Research and Education Foundations, the American Association for Cancer Research, the Alzheimer’s Association, the Arthritis Foundation, ZERO – The End of Prostate Cancer, the Michael J. Fox Foundation, the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, as well as many Illinois health and hospital systems, including Advocate Aurora Health, University of Chicago Medicine, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, Loyola University Health System, Sinai Health System, Northwestern Medicine, and AMITA Health.

The American Innovation Act is supported by: Association of American Universities, Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, American Geophysical Union, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and the Task Force on American Innovation.

NSF Announces Funding Opportunity for Physics Frontier Centers -- The NSF’s Physics Frontiers Centers (PFC) program supports university-based centers and institutes to foster major breakthroughs at the frontiers of physics by providing needed resources such as combinations of talents, skills, disciplines, and/or specialized infrastructure, not usually available to individual investigators or small groups, in an environment in which the collective efforts of the larger group can be shown to be seminal to promoting significant progress in the science and the education of students.  Activities supported through the program are in all sub-fields of physics within the purview of the Division of Physics: atomic, molecular, optical, plasma, elementary particle, nuclear, particle astro-, gravitational, and biological physics. Interdisciplinary projects at the interface between these areas and other disciplines and physics sub-fields may also be considered, although the bulk of the effort must fall within one of those areas within the purview of the Division of Physics. More information including a copy of the solicitation can be found here.

DARPA Announces Funding Opportunity in Biological Technologies – DARPA’s Biological Technologies Office (BTO) is interested in novel research, discoveries, and applications that integrate biology, engineering, computer science, mathematics, and the physical sciences. BTO’s investment portfolio goes far beyond life sciences applications in medicine to include areas of research such as human-machine interfaces, microbes as production platforms, and deep exploration of the impact of evolving ecologies and environments on U.S. readiness and capabilities. BTO’s programs operate across a wide range of scales, from individual cells to the warfighter to global ecosystems. BTO responds to the urgent and long-term needs of the Department of Defense (DoD) and addresses national security priorities. This is a broad area announcement wit proposal abstracts and full proposals accepted on a rolling basis until April 23, 2020.  For more information consult the funding announcement available here.

New OceanReports Tool Improves Ocean Mapping and Planning -- A new web-based interactive tool for ocean mapping and planning created by NOAA and the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, will enable everyone from ocean industries to coastal managers, students, as well as the general public the opportunity to explore the ocean from their own computer.  The new OceanReports web tool provides users specialized “ocean neighborhood analyses” including maps and graphics by analyzing more than 100 ocean datasets instantaneously. U.S. ocean waters comprise nearly four million square miles and is one of the largest Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) in the world. When users outline an area in the U.S. EEZ using the OceanReports tool, they get detailed information about habitats and species, industries in the area, potential hazards such as undersea cables or shipwrecks, economic value of ocean commerce, and other detailed oceanographic information.

National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) Announces Availability of $29 Million for Coastal Resiliency Funding -- NFWF will make investments to restore and strengthen natural systems so they can protect coastal communities from the impacts of storms, floods, and other natural hazards and enable them to recover more quickly, while also enhancing habitats for important fish and wildlife populations.  NFWF will award approximately $29 million in grants to create, expand, and restore natural systems in areas that will both increase protection for communities from coastal storms, sea- and lake-level changes, inundation, and coastal erosion while also improving valuable habitats for fish and wildlife species. Many of the projects will support natural restoration efforts proven to restore natural storm mitigation services and reduce flood risk from episodic events. NFWF is also interested in funding innovative projects that seek to re-shape thinking on how to protect communities in light of projected environmental stressors that may go beyond neighboring habitat restoration alone, to truly novel approaches to address these challenges. NFWF seeks to incorporate adaptation to the projected future conditions of each investment.  More information on this funding opportunity can be found here.

NSF Releases Funding Opportunity for Research Career Initiation Support in Computer and Information Science and Engineering -- The NSF Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) seeks to award grants intended to support research independence among early-career academicians who specifically lack access to adequate organizational or other resources. It is expected that funds obtained through this program will be used to support untenured faculty or research scientists (or equivalent) in their first three years in a primary academic position after the PhD, but not more than five years after completion of their PhD. Applicants for this program – the CISE Research Initiation Initiative (CRII) -- may not yet have received any other grants or contracts in the PI role from any department, agency, or institution of the federal government.  Importantly, the CRII program seeks to provide essential resources to enable early-career PIs to launch their research careers. For the purposes of this program, CISE defines “essential resources” as those that (a) the PI does not otherwise have, including through organizational or other funding; and (b) are critical for the PI to conduct early-career research that will enable research independence. In particular, this program is not appropriate for PIs who already have access to resources to conduct any early-career research. It is expected that these funds will allow the new CRII PI to support one or more graduate students for up to two years. Faculty at undergraduate and two-year institutions may use funds to support undergraduate students.  NSF estimates that $10 million will be available for this program in FY 2019.  Proposals are due by August 14, 2019.

NOAA Sea Grant Announces $2 Million Funding Opportunity for Research on Highly Migratory Species -- Atlantic highly migratory species (HMS), which include tunas, billfish, and sharks, are important to both the ecological health of ocean ecosystems and to commercial and recreational fisheries. However, knowledge gaps in the life history, biology, and population status of many of these species limit understanding and the collective ability to sustainably manage these species.  HMS and the coastal communities that rely on the health of these stocks could greatly benefit from improved information, upon which science-based management and conservation can be based.  Congress has directed NOAA Sea Grant to spend up to $2 million to initiate an HMS research initiative focused on HMS species in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico, including the interactions between yellow-fin tuna and oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. This direction, and priorities identified in the 2014 Atlantic HMS Management-Based Research Needs and Priorities document developed by NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service in collaboration with HMS stakeholders, was used to identify priorities for this initiative that will support research to address critical gaps in knowledge about HMS in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean regions.  For more information, download a copy of the funding opportunity announcement here.