Federal Science Partners Periodic Update

Senate Commerce Committee Approves Multiple Ocean/Coastal-Related Authorization Bills – On April 3, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, led by Chairman Roger Wicker (R-MS), marked up and reported out 13 bills, eight nominees and five Coast Guard promotions.  Among the bills reported out were: 

  • S. 910, the National Sea Grant College Program Amendments Act sponsored by Senators Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Brian Schatz (D-HI).  This bill would authorize appropriations for the Sea Grant until FY 2024;

  • S. 877, the Shark Fin Trade Elimination Act sponsored by Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), which would prohibit the sale of shark fins or products containing shark fins;

  • S. 494, the American Fisheries Advisory Committee Act, sponsored by Senators Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), and Ed Markey (D-MA).  This bill would establish the American Fisheries Advisory Committee to assist in the awarding of fisheries research and development grants by NOAA;

  • S. 914, the Coordinated Ocean Observations and Research Act, sponsored by Senators Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA).  This bill would reauthorize the Integrated Coastal and Ocean Observation System Act of 2009 and the establishment of a National Water Center;

  • S. 906, the Driftnet Modernization and Bycatch Reduction Act, sponsored by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV).  This bill Direct the Secretary of Commerce to conduct a transition program to facilitate the adoption of alternative fishing gear and to make grants to affected fishers through the Bycatch Reduction Engineering Program and prohibit the use of large-scale driftnet fishing not later than 5 years after the date of enactment of this Act;

  • S. 881, the Space Weather Research and Forecasting Act, sponsored by Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Cory Gardner (R-CO); and

  • S. 529, the National Landslide Preparedness Act, sponsored by Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Cory Gardner (R-CO), and Dan Sullivan (R-AK).  This bill includes the authorization for the USGS 3DEP mapping program.

Among the eight nominations passed out of Committee was the re-nomination of Mr. Barry Myers to be the next NOAA Administrator.  Mr. Myers was originally nominated in the 115th Congress but his nomination was never considered on the floor of the Senate.

Legislation Introduced and Reported from the House Budget Committee to Raise Discretionary Spending Limits for FY 2020 and FY 2021 – On April 2, House Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth (D-KY) introduced the Investing for the People Act of 2019.  This legislation sets out a two-year budget for the country, lifting the caps for defense and non-defense discretionary spending for 2020 and 2021. According to Chairman Yarmuth, the legislation will: adhere to the principle of parity – applying the same dollar increase to the defense and non-defense discretionary (NDD) caps; set the NDD cap for 2020 at $631 billion – a 5.7 percent increase over the 2019 cap – and $646 billion in 2021; set the defense cap for 2020 at $664 billion – a 2.6 percent increase over the 2019 cap – and $680 billion in 2021; allow for up to $8 billion per year for non-defense Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) activities that do not count against the cap, while limiting defense OCO for 2020 and 2021 to no more than this year’s level of $69 billion; provide upward adjustments to the NDD caps for two particularly important activities: carrying out the 2020 Decennial Census and supporting IRS tax enforcement activities.  This bill was marked up and reported out of the House Budget Committee on April 3.

NSF Releases Funding Opportunity for Operator for Third Regional Class Research Vessel – NSF’s Division of Ocean Sciences (OCE) is soliciting proposals from eligible organizations to serve as the Operating Institution (OI) for the third ship in the Regional Class Research Vessels (RCRV #3). The institution shall either be a current University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System (UNOLS) Vessel Operator or be capable of becoming one prior to taking over responsibility for full vessel operations.  Complete details associated with this funding opportunity can be found here.

NSF Releases Guidance on Convergence Accelerator -- The NSF Convergence Accelerator (C-Accel) is a new organizational framework within NSF that stands separately from the NSF research directorates. It has its own budget, staff, and initiatives. Each accelerator track will be time-limited and will focus on specific research topics and themes. The Accelerator will reward high-risk, innovative thinking by multidisciplinary teams of researchers and their partners who want to accelerate discovery and innovation. The Convergence Accelerator will be a new way of achieving rapid research outcomes. It will accelerate convergence research that is use-inspired and directed at solutions for important national challenges. NSF identifies Convergence Research as having two primary characteristics: Research driven by a specific and compelling problem -- Convergence Research is generally inspired by the need to address a specific challenge or opportunity, whether it arises from deep scientific questions or pressing societal needs; and Deep integration across disciplines -- As experts from different disciplines pursue common research challenges, their knowledge, theories, methods, data, research communities and languages become increasingly intermingled or integrated. New frameworks, paradigms or even disciplines can form sustained interactions across multiple communities.  Additional information on the NSF Convergence Accelerator can be found here.

NSF Announces Funding Opportunity for Convergence Accelerator Pilot (NSF C-Accel) -- NSF C-Accel brings teams together to focus on grand challenges of national importance that require a convergence approach. The teams are multidisciplinary and leverage partnerships; the tracks relate to a grand challenge problem and have a high probability of resulting in deliverables that will benefit society within a fixed term. The NSF C-Accel Pilot intends to support fundamental research while encouraging rapid advances through partnerships that include, or will include, multiple stakeholders (e.g., industry, academic, not-for-profits, government entities, and others). The NSF C-Accel Pilot will bring teams together in a cohort that are all focused on a common research goal of national importance, but which may be pursuing many different approaches. NSF is planning to fund approximately 50 Phase 1 awards (up to 9 months and up to $1 million each). Additional funds will be available for a smaller number of Phase 2 awards. The first-step to become part of the NSF C-Accel Pilot is to submit a 2-page Research Concept Outline (RCO), with a target submission date of April 15, 2019.  More information on this funding opportunity can be found here.