Federal Science Partners Periodic Update

Congress Returns – Funding Deadline Looms -- Congress has until October 1 to fund the government in order to avoid a shutdown.  Most believe Congress will enact a short-term continuing resolution (CR) to extend current spending levels. Though the House has passed 10 of its 12 annual funding bills, the Senate has yet to pass any of their FY 2020 appropriations bills as they waited until a deal was reached to re-set the spending caps for FY 2020 and FY 2021.  The Senate Appropriations Committee is expected to start marking up bills on September 12.  Some Senators are hopeful they can clear a sizable portion of government funding measures this month by combining appropriation bills for the Departments of Defense, Labor, Education and Health and Human Services, and potentially energy and water development funding.  Even if the Senate is successful in passing this legislation before October 1, they would still need to work out their differences with the House.  The House leadership, acknowledging the need for a CR, suggests the CR will be a short-term CR lasting no more than 60 days.

Administration Releases FY 2021 R&D Priorities – On August 30 the annual OMB-OSTP R&D Priorities Memorandum was released by the White House.  This document informs the relevant Federal agencies of the Administration’s priorities for science and technology to guide them in the development of their FY 2021 budget proposals.  This memo is the first one co-authored by Dr. Kelvin Droegemeier, who was sworn in as the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy earlier this year.  The memo can be viewed here.

In the memo, jointly signed by Acting OMB Director Russell Vought and OSTP Director Kelvin Droegemeier, the Administration stresses its commitment to American S&T.  The Administration emphasizes that success will depend on the ability to leverage – in new and creative partnership and collaborative frameworks – the current multi-sector (public, private, philanthropic, etc.) S&T enterprise.

“…It will depend upon striking a balance between the openness of our research ecosystem and the protection of our ideas and research outcomes. It will depend upon ensuring that our research environments are diverse, safe, inclusive, and accommodating as well as free from unnecessary administrative burdens. Success will depend upon ensuring that research is conducted with integrity and respect, which are foundational not only to the research process, but to the trust placed in the research enterprise by American taxpayers and reflective of America's values…”

The Administration lays out five specific priority areas along with a number of crosscutting or foundational activities that underpin the R&D enterprise. 

·      American Security – including R&D to deliver advanced military capabilities; critical infrastructure resilience; semiconductors; and critical minerals.

·      American Leadership in Industries of the Future – including artificial intelligence, quantum information science, and computing; advanced communications networks and autonomy; and advanced manufacturing.

·      American Energy and Environmental Leadership – including support for early stage innovative research and technologies inclusive of nuclear, renewable, and fossil energy; oceans via support for new and emerging technologies and collaborative approaches to efficiently map, explore, and characterize the Exclusive Economic Zone; and advance earth system predictability.

·      American Health and Bio-economic Innovation – including biomedicine; veteran health and wellness; and bio-economy.

·      American Space Exploration and Commercialization – including support for efforts that call for a return of Americans to the Moon by 2024 and a future human mission to Mars.

Priority Crosscutting Actions include: support for the development of a diverse, highly skilled American Workforce; create and support research environments that reflect American values; support transformative research of high risk and potentially high reward; leverage the power of data; and build and strengthen strategic multi-sector partnerships.

National Academies’ Report Says NIH Needs $1.3 Billion for Research Infrastructure at Bethesda Campus – In the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017, the Congress expressed concern about the backlog of infrastructure repairs and renovation growing with respect to the buildings and facilities on the NIH campus that support the Intramural Research Program (IRP).  To that end, the Congress directed NIH to contract with the National Academies to identify and prioritize facilities and structures in most need of repair; and provide estimates and approaches NIH should take to develop and comprehensive capital strategy for its facilities. The National Academies’ committee recommended a total of $1.3 billion in new funding to address NIH Bethesda Campus’ needs to upgrade its buildings and facilities.  The Committee recommended an immediate infusion of $700 million for the purpose of replacing or improving infrastructure serving current and future facilities.  An additional $600 million should be made available over time in accord with further assessment of various facilities within the context of an overall Master Plan to be developed by NIH.  A copy of this report can be found here.

NOAA Announces Funding Opportunity for Weather, Air Quality, and Earth-system Modeling Research -- NOAA’s Office of Weather and Air Quality is soliciting proposals for weather, air quality, and earth-system modeling research reflecting multiple science objectives spanning time scales from hours to seasons, and from weather and water observations and earth system modeling to social and behavioral science.  There will be three grant competitions from this notification valued at approximately $7 million: Joint Technology Transfer Initiative (JTTI); Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes Experiment - Southeast U.S. (VORTEX-SE); and 3) Climate Testbed (CTB). In alignment with the Weather Forecasting and Innovation Act of 2017, the funded projects should improve NOAA’s understanding and ultimately its services of weather and water forecasting through engagement with the external scientific community on key science gaps of mutual interest. Through this funding opportunity, NOAA will support new weather, water, climate, earth system, and air quality observing and forecasting applications, including improved analysis techniques, better statistical or dynamic forecast models and techniques, and communication of that information to better inform the public.  More information and a copy of the funding opportunity can be found here.