A Periodic Federal Science Update – June 30, 2016

Senate Commerce Committee Reports Out Bipartisan Legislation to Increase U.S. Competitiveness, Innovation, and Research Funding – On June 29 the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee marked up and reported out S. 3084, the American Innovation and Competitiveness Bill, the Senate’s alternative to the House’s America COMPETES legislation (H.R. 1806, the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015).  The Senate’s bipartisan bill maximizes basic research by reducing administrative burdens for researchers, enhancing agency oversight, improving research dissemination, and reforming federal science agencies to increase the impact of taxpayer-funded research. 

 S. 3084 most directly affects programs within the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). Last July, Sens. Gardner and Peters kicked off efforts to build a consensus way forward for federal research policies. Their competitiveness working group held three roundtables with research community stakeholders and collected hundreds of submissions and comments sent to SciencePolicy@commerce.senate.gov to inform the group’s work.  In May, the Commerce Committee held a formal hearing with research community witnesses who praised the committee for its efforts to build a bipartisan consensus.

During the mark up amendments were adopted that authorized a 4% increase for the National Science Foundation for fiscal year 2018; also included was a provision sponsored by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) to raise the threshold for micro-purchases from the OMB level of $3000 to $10,000.  Other amendments adopted related to informal science education, sustainable chemistry, and manufacturing research.  More information on the mark up can be found here.

Senate Debate on FY17 Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Bill Suspended – The Senate floor debate on the FY17 Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations bill, the bill that funds NOAA, NSF, NASA, and NIST remains pending due to attempts to place gun violence and terrorism-related provisions on to this appropriations bill.  No agreement as to how the Senate will proceed to take up the measure has been reached, thus leaving the bill in suspended animation for the foreseeable future.

Presidential Candidate Clinton Releases Initiative on Technology and Innovation – Secretary Hillary Clinton’s campaign for the Presidency has released an agenda for technology and innovation.  The agenda has five parts:  leverage technology to create jobs via commitments in computer science and STEM education, support for entrepreneurial ecosystems, increase the budgets of the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, and DARPA, other policies to build the human capital pipeline; Deliver high-speed broadband to all Americans and the lay the groundwork for the next generation of the mobile internet and the Internet of Things; Ensure the U.S. remains the global leader in technology by promoting more high-tech exports and ensuring the free flow of data; Establish rules that foster healthy competition, reduce barriers to entry and effectively protect intellectual property while safeguarding privacy and security; and Make government more efficient and responsive through the use of new technologies. Read the agenda here.

White House Seeks Information on Artificial Intelligence -- Artificial intelligence (AI) technologies offer the promise for creating new and innovative products, growing the economy, and advancing national priorities in areas such as education, mental and physical health, addressing climate change, and more. AI, however, carries risks and presents complex policy challenges along a number of different fronts. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) is interested in developing a view of AI across all sectors for the purpose of recommending directions for research and determining challenges and opportunities in this field. The views of stakeholders such as consumers, academic and industry researchers, private companies, and charitable foundations, are important to inform an understanding of current and future needs for AI in diverse fields. As a result, OSTP is soliciting feedback on questions in AI, including AI research and the tools, technologies, and training that are needed to answer these questions.  To find more information on this Request for Information (RFI), including the process and schedule for responding to this RFI here.

NAS Releases Part II of its Report, Optimizing the Nation’s Investment in Academic Research:  A New Regulatory Framework for the 21st Century – On June 29th, the National Academy of Sciences published part II of its study of federal regulations and reporting requirements as it relates to research universities.  Part I was released in September of 2015 which concluded that continuing expansion of federal regulations on research is diminishing the effectiveness of the U.S. research enterprise and recommended actions to reduce the regulatory burden.  The report recommends that Congress authorize and the president appoint an independent national commission to examine and update the ethical, legal, and institutional frameworks governing research involving human subjects. The commission should make recommendations for how the ethical principles governing human subjects research should be applied to unresolved questions and new research contexts.   The executive branch should withdraw the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for the “Common Rule” (formally known as the Federal Policy for Protection of Human Subjects), the report says. The regulatory structure protecting human research subjects should not be revised until the national commission has issued its recommendations and the research community, patient groups, and the public have had a chance to consider and react to them.  Legislation is pending in the House and Senate that is designed to help address some of these issues related to administrative burden reduction and regulatory reform. See S. 2742, Promoting Biomedical Research and Public Health for Patients Act, S. 3084, the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act, and H.R. 5583, University Regulation Streamlining and Harmonization Act of 2016.

National Academy of Sciences Gulf Research Program Joins with Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to Create a $10M Healthy Resilient Coastal Communities Program -- The Gulf Research Program (GRP) of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has joined with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to establish a $10 million grants program to fund projects that enhance the science and practice of coastal community resilience in the Gulf of Mexico region. These projects will explore the interrelated health, social, environmental, and economic impacts of disasters and other environmental stressors and inform strategies to address these challenges in Gulf communities. The new grants program will support the study of the human dynamics -- such as physical and mental health, social cohesiveness, and social and economic well-being -- that influence a community’s ability to respond to adverse events. The program will also encourage the development of research-informed strategies and practices for strengthening community health and resilience. More information can be found here.

NOAA Fisheries Service Cooperative Research Program Grants -- The NOAA Fisheries Service (NMFS) Cooperative Research Program (CRP) provides opportunities to compete for financial assistance for projects seeking to improve and strengthen the relationship between fisheries researchers from NMFS, state fishery agencies, and universities and the U.S. fishing industry (recreational and commercial) in the Gulf of Mexico (FL, AL, MS, LA, TX), South Atlantic (FL, NC, SC, GA) and Caribbean (USVI and Puerto Rico). The program bolsters partnerships by providing a way for involving commercial and recreational fishermen in the collection of fundamental fisheries information in support of management and regulatory options. This program addresses.  Eligible applicants may be institutions of higher education, nonprofits, commercial organizations, individuals, and state, local, and Indian tribal governments. An estimated $2 million is available to support approximately 8 awards.  Applications are due by September 1, 2016.  Download the full program announcement here.

American Meteorological Society (AMS) Releases Statement on Weather, Water, and Climate Priorities – Adopted by the AMS Council on May 26, 2016, the AMS has published a statement outlining key priorities that will enable the nation to effectively respond and adapt to changing weather, water and climate (WWC) conditions.  Among the priorities are the following items:  develop the next generation of WWC experts; invest in research critical to innovation and advanced services; invest in critical observations and computing infrastructure; create services that harness scientific advances for societal benefit; prepare informed WWC information users; build strong partnerships among WWC public, private, and academic sectors; and implement effective leadership and management.  Read the statement here.

NOAA Establishes new Advisory Committee for the Sustained National Climate Assessment -- NOAA today announced the appointment of 15 members to the new Advisory Committee for the Sustained National Climate Assessment. The committee will advise NOAA on sustained climate assessment activities and products, including engagement of stakeholders. NOAA will ensure the committee’s advice is provided to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) for use by the United States Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), a confederation of the research arms of 13 federal departments and agencies, which carry out research and develop and maintain capabilities to support the Nation’s understanding and response to global change. OSTP requested NOAA lead the federal advisory committee.  USGCRP is implementing a sustained National Climate Assessment process to help the Nation prepare for the effects of climate and global environmental change. The sustained process facilitates ongoing and transparent interactions among scientists and stakeholders across regions and sectors. This process enables information and insights to be shared as they emerge and supports the quadrennial National Climate Assessment required by the Global Change Research Act of 1990.

The advisory committee's members include experts in physical and social sciences, communication, education, and other topics reflecting the full scope of issues relevant to the sustained National Climate Assessment process. Members are appointed by Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA administrator, in consultation with the OSTP Director, Dr. John Holdren.  The members are:

 o   Dr. Susan Avery, President Emerita, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

o   Ms. Maxine Burkett, Professor of Law, University of Hawai’i William S. Richardson School of Law

o   Ms. Ann Marie Chischilly, Executive Director, Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals, Northern Arizona University

o   Ms. Jan Dell, Vice President, Strategic Development, AECOM (Vice Chair)

o   Dr. Riley Dunlap, Regents Professor of Sociology and Dresser Professor, Oklahoma State University

o   Mr. Paul Fleming, Climate Resiliency Group Manager, Seattle Public Utilities

o   Dr. Lucas Joppa, Lead Environmental Scientist, Microsoft Research

o   Dr. Kim Knowlton, Senior Scientist, Science Center Deputy Director, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Assistant Clinical Professor, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University

o   Dr. Maria Carmen Lemos, Professor of Natural Resources and Environment, University of Michigan

o   Dr. Jerry Melillo, Distinguished Scientist and Director Emeritus, The Ecosystems Center, Marine Biological Laboratory

o   Dr. Richard Moss, Senior Scientist, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory’s Joint Global Change Research Institute at the University of Maryland (Chairman)

o   Ms. Kristen Poppleton, Director of Education, Climate Generation: A Will Steger Legacy

o   Dr. Michael Prather, Professor of Earth System Science, University of California, Irvine

o   Dr. Jessica Whitehead, Coastal Communities Hazards Adaptation Specialist, North Carolina Sea Grant

o   Mr. Daniel Zarrilli, Senior Director, Climate Policy and Programs, and Chief Resilience Officer, New York City Office of the Mayor

Sea Grant Releases Brochure on Oil Spill Impacts on Fisheries – The Sea Grant programs of Florida, Mississippi-Alabama, Louisiana, and Texas have partnered to create an oil spill science outreach program.  Working with the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative, they have produced a brochure that synthesizes peer-reviewed oil spill science for a range of audiences, particularly those who live and work along the Gulf coasts.  The brochure, Impacts From the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill on Gulf of Mexico Fisheries, discusses topics such as individual-level impacts to fish, population impacts, community-wide impacts, and factors influencing impacts on fisheries.

PCAST Meeting -- The President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) is an advisory group of the nation's leading scientists and engineers, appointed by the President to augment the science and technology advice available to him from relevant Federal agencies.  On July 13 PCAST will meet to discuss its study on forensics and biological defense.  PCAST will also hear from speakers who will discuss hearing aids and hearing improvement technologies. The open portion of the meeting is scheduled to take place at the National Academy of Sciences, 2101 Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, D.C. in the Lecture Room.  Additional information can be found here.

Upcoming meetings of the NSF’s National Science Board and NOAA Science Advisory Board – The next full meeting of the National Science Board will be August 9 and 10 to take place at the NSF in Ballston, VA.  When available, the NSB agenda for the August meeting will be available here.  The next meeting of the NOAA Science Advisory Board (SAB) will take place on August 2 and 3 at the new National Water Center located in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  Additional information on this meeting, including the agenda, will be posted here once it becomes available.

Dr. Marcia K. McNutt Takes the Helm of the National Academy of Sciences on July 1 -- Marcia McNutt, editor-in-chief of Sciencewas elected president of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in February of this year. Dr. McNutt, who became the first female editor-in-chief of Science in 2013, will also be the first woman to lead the Academy when her six-year term begins on July 1. Dr. McNutt succeeds Ralph J. Cicerone, who is completing his second term as president, the maximum allowed by the Academy's bylaws. More information on Dr. McNutt can be found here.

House Environment Subcommittee Hearing on Current and Future Weather Satellites – On July 7 the House Environment Subcommittee will hear from officials from NOAA, GAO and the Air Force on the current and next generation weather satellite programs.  The hearing will start at 10AM and take place in Room 2318 of the Rayburn House Office Building.  The hearing can be streamed from here.