A Periodic Federal Science Update

New Report from the Center for American Progress – The Dividends of Coastal Conservation in the United States:  According to a new report on the economic impact of coastal and ocean parks, despite comprising just 22 percent of national park units, coastal parks host more than 29 percent of total visits to the National Park System, which in turn generate more than 29 percent of the total recreational spending within the communities surrounding the nation’s national parks. Of the $646 billion the nation spent on outdoor recreation in 2012, nearly $512 billion of it took place in coastal and Great Lakes states. Coastal parks also play a critical in upholding the mission of the National Park Service, by providing equitable access to the Great Outdoors for the 42 percent of Americans that live in coastal counties. For example, more than 1 million people visited the Everglades National Park in 2015.  These visitors spent more than $100 million in nearby communities, helping sustain over 1500 jobs and diversify the economies of the surrounding counties.  Read more about economic benefits of coastal conservation here.

Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council Releases Draft Comprehensive Plan Update:  The Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council (Council) today released a proposed update to its 2013 Comprehensive Plan. The draft provides important additional strategic guidance for the Council to follow as it makes decisions on funding projects and activities aimed at restoring the Gulf of Mexico.  The draft Comprehensive Plan Update is intended to improve Council decisions by:

·       Reinforcing the Council's goals and objectives;

·       Setting forth an initial Ten-Year Funding Strategy;

·       Establishing the Council's vision for Gulf restoration;

·       Increasing collaboration among Council members and partner restoration programs;

·       Providing for advancement of large-scale projects and programs;

·       Refining the process for ensuring that the Council's decisions are informed by the best available science; and

·       Improving the efficiency, effectiveness and transparency of Council actions.

The Council is updating its Initial Comprehensive Plan to take into account recent developments in Gulf restoration such as the resolution of civil claims against BP for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, a source of future funding for the Council’s projects. The update also includes public input and lessons learned from the process of developing and approving its initial Funded Priorities List (FPL), its first slate of restoration activities to be funded through the RESTORE Act, and positions the Council to make the most effective use of future funds as they become available beginning in 2017. Public comments on the draft Comprehensive Plan Update will be accepted from August 23, 2016 to October 7, 2016.

NSF Beginning Process to Update its Strategic Plan:  NSF is currently operating under a strategic plan that runs until 2018.  In accordance with the requirement of the Government Performance Results Act (GPRA), NSF will undertake a process to develop and articulate its vision, core values, and strategic goals from 2018 to 2022.  The development of the new strategic plan will be a joint effort of NSF and the National Science Board (NSB), in particular its Committee on Strategy and Budget, which is chaired by Arizona State University inventor and engineer Sethuraman Panchanathan. During advisory committee meetings this fall, NSF and NSB will engage with representatives from the research and education communities, industrial representatives, and organizational management experts to solicit their input into the plan. NSB and the foundation will also seek input from Congress.  NSF will develop the new strategic plan in 2017 and 2018, with an initial draft expected to be ready in May 2017.  NSF seeks input from individuals and organizations by Sept. 27, 2016. Comments can be submitted through the NSF website here, and any questions can be addressed to strategicplan@nsf.gov.

Defense Science Board (DSB) Proposes Two New Air Force Research Programs on Autonomous Applications: The Defense Science Board is recommending that the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) consider launching two new programs that could improve the service's ability to screen intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data and plan air campaigns more rapidly by introducing greater autonomy. DSB proposed the programs as part of a 123-page report that outlines more than $580 million in Pentagon investments in order to support greater and more rapid implementation of autonomous systems across the Defense Department. The report calls on AFRL to work with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to demonstrate the ability to adapt existing ISR data screening and fusion tools for "autonomous, real-time use." DSB estimates the program would cost $80 million over three years. The report notes that while the military services have fielded high-capability, wide-field-of-view sensors that have higher resolution and frame rates, limitations on communications networks makes it nearly impossible to transmit all of the data in high resolution, even in some uncontested environments. The report notes that autonomous sensor processing of high-resolution information could reduce the needed communications bandwidth and free up human analysts to focus on higher-level tasks.

Air Force Scientific Advisory Board to Meet in September:  The Air Force Scientific Advisory Board will hold its fall meeting on Sept. 15 in Arlington, VA, according to a Federal Register notice published this week. At the meeting, the board will provide updates to ongoing studies, including a 2016 look at directed-energy weapons, and will introduce new study topics for 2017. Other 2016 study areas include anti-access/area denial operations, data analytics to support decision making and adaptive threats in electronic warfare.

Air Force Report to Congress Highlights Risk to its Satellite Weather Program: The Air Force acknowledged in a new report to Congress that its plan to address impending weather requirement gaps does carry risks, particularly its reliance on international and civil partners for some of those capabilities. The Joint Requirements Oversight Council in 2014 directed the Defense Department to develop a strategy to address 11 space-based environmental monitoring requirements with the Air Force as the lead. In developing its strategy, the service determined that existing systems and partnerships could cover six of the requirements and established a two-part plan, the Weather System Follow-on (WSF) Program, to address three of the gaps.  Congress has criticized the WSF plan for excluding the remaining two gaps -- theater weather imagery and cloud characterization -- which have been labeled as the two most critical capabilities, and lawmakers in the Fiscal Year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act fenced off program funds until the Air Force submits a plan to address all 11 requirements.

In the FY17 National Defense Authorization Bill, the House Armed Services Committee proposed shifting responsibility for the two key requirements to the National Reconnaissance Office. Committee staffers have said lawmakers are frustrated with a perceived lack of interest on the part of the Air Force to provide these capabilities. The service delivered its response to the FY-15 mandate in an Aug. 11 report to Congress. In that report, the service said it is working to identify material and non-material options to address the two critical capabilities and will present an updated plan to the JROC in September. The service's overarching strategy includes a mix of material solutions as well as reliance on partner and commercial capabilities. Through WSF, the service's Operationally Responsive Space office will launch a demonstration mission in 2017 to prove technology that could reduce the cost of meeting space-based environmental monitoring (SBEM) requirements. Phase II of the WSF would launch two operational satellites -- one in 2022 and a second in 2027. The Air Force's FY-17 budget asks for $533 million over the future years defense plan for WSF and another $5.4 million over that time to make improvements to the legacy Defense Meteorological Satellite Program ground station.

NSF Solicitation for Partnerships for Innovation: Building Innovation Capacity:  The Partnerships for Innovation: Building Innovation Capacity (PFI:BIC) program supports academe-industry partnerships which are led by an interdisciplinary academic research team collaborating with a least one industry partner. In this program, there is a heavy emphasis on the quality, composition, and participation of the partners, including their appropriate contributions. These partnerships focus on the integration of technologies into a specified human-centered service system with the potential to achieve transformational benefits, satisfying a real need by making an existing service system smart(er) or by spurring the creation of an entirely new smart service system. The selected service system should function as a test bed.  PFI:BIC funds research partnerships working on projects that operate in the post-fundamental/translational space; the proposers must be mindful of the state of the art and the competitive landscape.

However, a clear path to commercialization does not need to be a central part of this proposal. These projects require additional effort to integrate the technology into a real service system, incorporating human factors considerations to assure the system's efficacy. The research tasks in turn might spawn additional discoveries inspired by this interaction of humans with the technology. Examples of partnership activities that drive sustained innovation include the targeted allocation of resources such as capital, time, and facilities; and sharing of knowledge in a cross-organizational and interdisciplinary context. The research tasks of the project must demonstrate a highly collaborative research plan involving participation of the primary industrial partner(s) as well as of any other primary partners with the academic researcher during the life of the award.

Department of Energy Report – ARPA-E:  The First Seven Years:  In 2007, the formation of the Advanced Research Project Agency for Energy (ARPA-E) within the Department of Energy was a key recommendation of the “Rising Above the Gathering Storm Report.” The formation of the agency was authorized, and ARPA-E began operations upon initial funding at the end of 2009. Now, after seven years of funding R&D activities, ARPA-E has a portfolio of present and alumni project teams that are moving their technologies into commercial applications, or significantly advancing the technical understanding in transformative areas of energy science and engineering.  Download a copy of the report here.

NIH Requesting Information – Metrics to Assess the Value of Biomedical Digital RepositoriesNIH is requesting input from the community on existing and desired approaches for measuring and assessing the value of biomedical data repositories. The request for information (RFI) seeks input on a number of topics related to these repositories, including but not limited to:

·       Utilization metrics.

·       Quality and impact indicators.

·       Service indicators.

·       Governance and infrastructure metrics.

·       Use case studies.

RFI responses should be sent to NIH_Repository_Metrics_RFI@mail.nih.gov by September 30, 2016. Please see the RFI for additional information on submitting input.