A Periodic Federal Science Update

Administration Releases FY 2018 Budget Request -- On May 23rd, the Administration released the details of its FY 2018 Budget.  Recall that in March, the Administration released a summary of its forthcoming budget with “top line” numbers.  This summary was called a “Budget Blueprint”.  With the details in hand, it is clear the Administration is moving to reduce non-defense discretionary funding by an estimated $54 billion or 11% from the FY 2017 level.  With a reduction of that magnitude, most non-defense discretionary agencies and programs are impacted.  As many Members of Congress have said, however, the President’s budget is a proposal and it will be up to the Congress via the appropriations process to determine actual funding levels.  The Administration’s budget proposes to spend $117.7 billion on research and development which represents an estimated 21% reduction from the FY 2017 level.  While basic research at the Department of Defense would grow by 6% and NASA basic research would grow by 3%, the overall support for basic research would decline by 13% with some of the largest reductions (on a percentage basis) taking place with the Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, and the Department of Commerce.  Overall Federal support for applied research would decline by an estimated 9%.  Missing from the FY 2018 Budget is the usual interagency cross-cuts of various research initiatives such as; the U.S. Global Change Research Program; nanotechnology; and Networking and Information Technology and Research.  A summary of the Administration’s FY 2108 budget request for selected R&D agencies is available here.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Re-opens Members’ Programmatic Request Database for a Limited Amount of Time – To accommodate Members of Congress who would like to respond to the President’s FY 2018 Request that was released this past week, the Chairman has informed House Members that the Committee will re-open its internal programmatic request process available only to Members of Congress.  The deadline for submissions to the subcommittees on Commerce, Justice, and Science; Defense; Energy and Water; Financial Services; Legislative Branch; and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs will be open until close of business on May 30.  The remaining subcommittees will receive new programmatic requests until close of business June 6, 2017.

House Appropriations Subcommittee Questions Secretary of Commerce on NOAA Funding Reductions – On May 25th the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, and Science held a hearing to examine the Department of Commerce budget request for FY 2018.  Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross presented the Department’s budget to the Subcommittee.  Full Committee Ranking Member, Rep. Nita Lowey, pressed Secretary Ross on the Administration’s proposal to scale back funding for climate and ocean/coastal research activities.  Secretary Ross responded by saying that in the current budget environment, the Administration decided to invest in NOAA’s core or primary programs related to weather, charting, mapping, and fisheries management.  Rep. Lowey called on Secretary Ross to join her in New York to see first-hand the value of such research.

Forty-one Members of the House Call for the Removal of NIH Director Francis Collins – On May 22, 41 Members of the House of Representatives wrote to the President urging him to appoint an NIH Director who aligns with the President’s priorities with respect to embryonic stem cell research and human cloning.  The signatories to this letter are concerned that Dr. Collins “will continue to pursue unethical human embryonic research priorities leftover from the previous Administration.” A copy of the letter can be found here.

NSF Releases Information on the Relocation of its Headquarters this Summer – NSF is moving to its new location in Alexandria, VA this summer.  Due to the move FastLane and Research.gov will be unavailable from June 30 to July 4.  Other information regarding the move and possible disruptions in proposal processing, submittal of project reports, cash requests, etc. can be found in NSF Important Notice 139.  NSF expects to be in its new location, 2415 Eisenhower Avenue, Alexandria, VA, effective October 2, 2017.

House Science Subcommittees Hold Joint Hearing on NSF Indirect Rates — The Subcommittee on Research and Technology and the Subcommittee on Oversight of the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology held a hearing titled Examining the Overhead Cost of Research on Wednesday, May 24, 2017  The purpose of the hearing was to examine the overhead costs for conducting federal taxpayer-funded research at universities and non-profit research institutions, including how the National Science Foundation and other federal research agencies negotiate and monitor indirect costs (facilities and administrative costs), and hear recommendations for improving efficiency and transparency.  Witnesses from NSF, GAO, Duke University and Ohio University testified at this hearing.  More information on this hearing can be found here.