Federal Science Partners Periodic Update

House Passes First FY 2020 Minibus Appropriations Bill – This week the House of Representatives passed along party lines (226-203), HR 2740 a package of appropriations bills that combines the Labor-HHS-Education, Defense, Energy and Water, and State-Foreign Operations appropriations bills into “Minibus #1”.  This is the first of several ‘minibuses’ that will be coming to the House floor between now and the end of June. A fact sheet summarizing this minibus, by chapter or division, is available here. Over 200 amendments were considered while HR 2740 was on the floor last week and this.  To see the amendments adopted for this minibus click here.

House Set to Take Up Second Minibus; Administration Opposes Increases in Science Funding – This week the House, after finishing “Minibus #1” began consideration of “Minibus #2” or HR 3055, which includes the Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS); Agriculture; Interior-EPA; Military Construction-VA; and Transportation-HUD appropriations bills.  Nearly 300 amendments have been made in order which can be viewed here.  The CJS bill contains funding for NSF, NOAA, and NASA.  The Interior-EPA bill contains funding for USGS and EPA. The Transportation-HUD bill contains funding for the transportation research and the FAA. 

The Administration has issued a Statement of Administration Position (SAP) for HR 3055 which strongly opposes this appropriations bill and says that if presented to the President in its current form, his senior advisors would recommend he veto the bill.  Within the SAP, the Administration says the following about Commerce Department and key extramural NOAA programs:

…The Administration is disappointed the bill continues to fund DOC bureaus and programs proposed for elimination in the FY 2020 Budget request, including the Economic Development Administration, and Sea Grant.  The Administration urges the Congress to discontinue funding for these duplicative, unauthorized, and lower priority programs…

For the NASA portion of the bill, the SAP says:

…The Administration appreciates the bill’s investments in NASA. However, the Administration is disappointed that the bill provides far less funding than is needed to support the Administration’s goal of a near-term human lunar landing. Instead, the bill diverts funding to support lower-priority activities within the Agency. The Administration strongly urges the Congress to redirect this funding to allow the United States to return astronauts to the Moon by 2024 as an important step on our way to Mars…

With respect to NSF, the SAP says: 

…The Administration is concerned that the bill funds NSF at $1.6 billion above the level in the FY 2020 Budget request.  This unrequested funding undermines the Administration’s efforts to rein in non-defense discretionary funding…

In discussing the bill’s recommendations for EPA R&D, the SAP says:

…The Administration continues to recommend reductions to the Science and Technology account, which is funded at $301 million above the FY 2020 Budget request.  Reductions to this account would reduce extramural Federal funding for environmental research and development activities that would more appropriately be funded and conducted by entities outside of the Federal Government…

Next week, the House leadership expects to complete action on the remaining appropriations bills with a third minibus containing the Homeland Security, Financial Services, and Legislative Branch appropriations bills.

DOE Issues Policy Statement with Restrictions on Foreign Government Talent Recruitment Programs -- The Department of Energy has finalized and issued a policy statement, DOE O 486.1, designed to combat foreign efforts to recruit U.S. workers for research projects. The DOE order bars federal personnel and contractors from joining lucrative talent recruitment programs sponsored by foreign governments deemed to be "of risk." The Director of DOE's Office of Intelligence and Counterintelligence will determine which programs are safe and which are considered potential fronts for stealing intellectual property and government secrets from American researchers. The agency directive took effect this week and applies to the National Nuclear Security Administration, which oversees the domestic U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile, as well as DOE-affiliated contractors spread across 17 U.S. national laboratories. 

White House Issues Executive Order to Reduce Advisory Committees – On June 14, the President issued an Executive Order directing agencies to terminate at least one third of its current advisory committees not required by statute and operating under the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) by the end of fiscal year 2019.  The Executive Order caps the total number of advisory committees employed by the Federal Government at 350 which means an agency may not be able to establish a new advisory committee unless the agency terminates an existing one or is able to obtain a waiver from the Office of Management and Budget.  It should be noted however; this Executive Order does not apply to merit review panels or advisory committees whose primary purposed is to provide scientific expertise to support agencies making decisions related to the safety or efficacy of products to be marketed to consumers. 

House Science Committee Marks Up Sexual Harassment in Science Legislation – On Thursday, June 20 the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, chaired by Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), marked up and reported out H.R. 36, the Combating Sexual Harassment in Science Act of 2019.  H.R.36 is bipartisan legislation based in large part of recommendations made via a 2018 National Academies’ report, Sexual Harassment of Women: Climate, Culture, and Consequences in Academic Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.  Based on research conducted, this report makes a number of recommendations designed to reduce sexual harassment by making systemwide changes that demonstrate the seriousness institutions and their leaders take this issue.  Some of the recommendations include:  create diverse, inclusive, and respectful environments; improve transparency and accountability; diffuse the hierarchical and dependent relationship between trainees and faculty; and provide support for the target of sexual harassment.  The bill also directs the Federal science agencies to require their grantee institutions to report incidents of sexual harassment.  The bill also directs the Academies to conduct a follow-on study and to include a section on sexual harassment in its guide on responsible conduct in research.

NOAA Releases Draft R&D Plan for 2020-2026 – Earlier this week the NOAA Science Advisory Board met and received a briefing on NOAA’s Draft R&D Plan for 2020-2026.  A copy of this document can be found here. NOAA suggests it will use this plan to prioritize projects and investments for NOAA and NOAA-funded R&D areas.  With this R&D plan the agency is identifying opportunities and potential challenges as it moves towards its long-term goals.  The plan is designed to communicate the Agency’s scientific priorities to employees, partners, and stakeholders.  The NOAA R&D Plan highlights three broad areas of research and within each area, NOAA identifies key questions or issues to guide NOAA’s research and development investments.  These include:

Reducing societal impacts from severe weather and other environmental phenomena:

·      How can forecasts and warnings for severe weather and other environmental phenomena be improved?

·      What is the state of the global climate and how is it affecting local weather, increasing environmental hazards, and affecting water quality and water availability?

·      How can the utility of space weather products and services be enhanced?

·      How can NOAA enhance communications, products, and services to enable informed decision-making?

Sustainable use and stewardship of ocean and coastal resources:

·      How can knowledge, tools, and technologies be leveraged to better understand, protect, and restore ecosystems?

·      How can healthy and diverse ecosystems be sustained while meeting the needs of indigenous, recreational, and commercial fishing communities;

·      How can the growth of sustainable aquaculture in the United States be accelerated?

·      How can the conservation of coastal and marine resources, habitats, and amenities be balanced with growth in tourism and recreation?

·      How can efficiencies be maximized and safety improved under increasing maritime traffic and larger vessel sizes?

·      What exists in the unexplored areas of the ocean?

·      How can NOAA utilize and improve socioeconomic information to enhance the sustainability of ecosystem services, public engagement practices, and economic benefits?

A robust and effective research, development, and transition enterprise:

·      How can unified modeling be integrated and improved with respect to skill, efficiency, and adaptability for service to stakeholders?

·      How can earth observations and their associated platforms be optimized to meet NOAA’s needs?

·      How can Big Data and information technology be utilized and improved to accelerate and transition R&D efforts and form new lines of business and economic growth?

·      How can NOAA ensure its investments are informed by credible social science research?

Margaret A. Davidson Graduate Fellowship Program Accepting Applications – NOAA’s Office of Coastal Management via the National Estuarine Research Reserves program are accepting applications for a new fellowship program that will place graduate students at one of the 29 national estuarine research reserves.  Through a research project, fellows will address a key coastal management question to help scientists and communities understand coastal challenges that may influence future policy and management strategies. Specific fellowship benefits include the following: the ability to develop meaningful cross-discipline research projects in conjunction with scientists, community leaders, and other organizations; networking opportunities with the annual fellowship class of 29, plus the other professionals across the reserve system, NOAA, and community partners; professional guidance and mentoring in a variety of disciplines, including facilitation and communication. Fellows will also have quarterly career-readiness training; and the development of research partnerships between universities and reserves.  More information can be found here.