A Periodic Federal Science Update

House Natural Resources Committee Approves Oversight Plan for New Congress – On February 7, the House Natural Resources Committee approved and released its agenda for the 115th Congress (2017-2018).  This committee has jurisdiction for a wide portfolio of environmental issues such as public or federal lands and national parks, energy and minerals, wildlife, water and power, and oceans.  Under the energy and minerals section the Committee calls out outer continental shelf oil and gas and the coastal zone management act for oversight and review: The committee will examine and conduct oversight of the Coastal Zone Management Act and its implementation and impacts on OCS oil and gas exploration and development. Furthermore, the Committee will review coastal zone management programs with expired authorizations and determine if such programs need to be reauthorized, updated, or terminated.

With respect to federal mapping programs the committee’s plan says:  The federal government has spent billions each year on new geospatial data. This spending, including tens of billions in the stimulus act, is frequently wasteful, duplicative, and uncoordinated. During hearings in previous congresses, witnesses were clear that multiple Administrations have had this problem with little control, central oversight, or effective management. Going forward with the new Administration, the Committee intends to reexamine this issue and may consider legislation to simplify the Department’s geospatial programs for greater efficiency. Furthermore, the Committee intends to conduct oversight of federal agencies and how they track and monitor their land management responsibilities and purposes.

On the subject of oceans, the committee’s plan focuses on budget and spending issues, reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Act, the National Ocean Council, and ensuring fishing access in light the recent expansion of marine national monuments by the previous Administration.  Below is the “oceans section” of the committee’s plan.  Download a copy of the committee’s entire plan here

Budget and Spending Review - The Committee will conduct oversight of the budgets of the National Marine Fisheries Service and certain “wet” programs of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), within the Department of Commerce. In addition, programs under NOAA that have lapsed authorizations will need to examined to determine if such programs ought to be reauthorized, updated, or terminated.

 Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act Reauthorization – The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act of 2006 (P.L. 109-479) is the primary statute regulating commercial and recreational fishing in federal waters. The Act was last reauthorized in the 109th Congress and a number of issues related to the reauthorization were examined by the Committee in the 114th Congress. In the 115th Congress, the Committee will look closely at the Act and how the Executive branch has implemented its authorities. Furthermore, the Committee will review programs with expired authorizations under the statute to determine if such programs should be reauthorized, updated, or terminated.

 National Ocean Council and Ocean Zoning - Through an Executive Order, the previous Administration created a new National Ocean Council (NOC) and a structure for a new Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning initiative, otherwise known as ocean zoning. The Committee will continue to examine the authority used to create this entity and initiative, what sources of funding it has used, and what effect any new policy initiatives from the NOC will have on other departments and agencies.

 Ensuring Access - The Committee focused extensively on legislative and oversight efforts aimed at ensuring fishing access to our oceans’ resources in the 114th Congress. With the recent expansion and designation of marine national monuments, the Committee will focus on the impacts of such Executive branch declarations have on access as well as other actions that have hindered commercial and recreational fishing in federal waters. 

Scientific Integrity Act Introduced in Senate – Earlier this week Senator Bill Nelson, with the co-sponsorship of 25 other Senators, introduced a bill to protect science and scientists from political interference.  The legislation is designed to ensure that federal scientists can communicate their findings with the public, new media, and Congress.  It also requires federal agencies to implement and enforce scientific integrity policies and ensure procedures are in place to report instances when integrity policies are violated.  A copy of the bill, as introduced, can be downloaded here.

Former Astronaut to Serve on the National Science Board -- Ellen Ochoa, Director of the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center and a veteran of four space flights, is the National Science Board’s (NSB) final member of the class of 2022.  Dr. Ochoa is Director of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Johnson Space Center based in Houston, Texas. She previously served as Deputy Director and Director of Flight Crew Operations at the Center. From 1990 – 2007, Dr. Ochoa was an Astronaut at the Center and first traveled to space in 1993 when she served on a nine-day mission aboard the space shuttle Discovery. She flew three additional missions, logging nearly 1,000 hours in orbit. Previously, Dr. Ochoa was Branch Chief and Group Lead at NASA’s Ames Research Center and began her career as a research engineer at Sandia National Laboratories after receiving her Ph.D. from Stanford University.  Dr. Ochoa is a co-inventor on three patents and holds NASA’s highest award, the Distinguished Service Medal. She is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. In October 2016, the White House appointed new members W. Kent Fuchs, President of the University of Florida, Victor R. McCrary, Vice President for Research and Economic Development at Morgan State University, Emilio F. Moran, Professor at the Center for Global Change and Earth Observations at Michigan State University, and Julia M. Phillips, Executive Emeritus of Sandia National Laboratories.  President Obama reappointed Arthur Bienenstock, Professor Emeritus of Photon Science at Stanford University, W. Carl Lineberger, Professor of Chemistry at the University of Colorado, and Anneila I. Sargent, Professor of Astronomy at California Institute of Technology to each serve a second six-year term. Together with Ochoa, these eight members will serve on the NSB until May of 2022.

Call for Nominations: Committee to Advise the U.S. Global Change Research Program -- The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine is seeking nominations for individuals to serve on the Committee to Advise the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP). This standing committee provides ongoing and focused advice to the USGCRP. The committee convenes key thought leaders and decision makers at semiannual meetings, provides strategic advice and reviews, and supports climate communication activities across the Academies. The committee is supported by the expertise of many units across the National Academies. Its membership is broadly constituted to bring expertise in all the areas addressed by the USGCRP, spanning the physical, ecological, and social science of global change. Some areas of expertise particularly needed at this time include (but are not limited to): climate dynamics and variability, Earth system modeling and observations, atmospheric composition and circulation, hydrology and hydrological modeling, extreme event risk, and energy technologies.  Members typically serve 3-year terms with an option to reappoint after the first term. Nominations are sought for the next rotation in membership to be conducted in the summer of 2017.  More information can be found here.

Fellowship Opportunity: Gulf Research Program -- The National Academies' Gulf Research Program is accepting applications for its 2017 early-career research fellowships and science policy fellowships. These fellowships offer early-career researchers and professionals in the social and behavioral sciences, health and medicine, engineering and physical sciences, earth and life sciences, and relevant interdisciplinary fields a unique opportunity to focus on leadership development while conducting research or work that is relevant to the mission and goals of the Gulf Research Program. Learn more and apply here.

NSF to Host The Arc of Science: Research to Results on February 15 -- The National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF) are hosting The Arc of Science: Research to Results on Wednesday, February 15. The Capitol Hill event will highlight NSF-funded researchers and include remarks from Dr. France Cordova, the Director of NSF and leadership from the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. See the invitation for details and to register.

NIH’s All of Us Research Program Releases Funding Opportunity -- The National Institutes of Health's (NIH) All of Us Research Program (formerly the Precision Medicine Initiative Cohort Program) within NIH Office of the Director has issued a new funding opportunity for organizations interested in helping engage volunteers. The funding opportunity is open to national and regional organizations, as well as local community groups. The program is designed to support activities to promote enrollment and retention in the All of Us Research Program across diverse communities. All of Us, unlike the majority of NIH-supported research, is not focused on a particular disease or population. The program is intended to "serve as a national research resource to inform thousands of studies, covering a wide variety of health conditions." The agency plans to launch the All of Us program later this year.

New Alliance for Integrative Approaches to Extreme Environmental Events Accepting Nominations for Steering Committee -- The Alliance for Integrative Approaches to Extreme Environmental Events, a new organization of stakeholders seeking to improve our understanding, prediction of, and response to extreme environmental events, is soliciting applications and nominations for individuals to serve as inaugural members of its steering committee. More details about this emerging alliance as well as nomination procedures can be found here.  Applications are due on February 28, 2017.