A Periodic Federal Science Upate

Norman Sharpless of North Carolina To Be Nominated by President Trump as Next Director of the National Cancer Institute at NIH – On June 9 the President Announced his intent to nominate Dr. Norman E. “Ned” Sharpless, MD, director of the University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and a Wellcome Distinguished Professor in Cancer Research at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine to be the next Director of the NIH’s National Cancer Institute. Dr. Sharpless earned his undergraduate and medical degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He completed his internal medicine residency at Massachusetts General Hospital and his hematology/oncology fellowship at Dana-Farber/Partners Cancer Care. A practicing oncologist caring for patients with leukemia, Dr. Sharpless also leads a research group studying the cell cycle and its role in cancer and aging. He has authored more than 150 original scientific papers, reviews and book chapters. He holds 10 patents that form the core intellectual property of two NC-based biotechnology startup companies. Dr. Sharpless is an elected member of the American Society of Clinical Investigation and the Association of American Physicians. He serves on the Association of American Cancer Institutes’ board of directors, and on the National Institute of Aging’s National Advisory Council on Aging.

DARPA Releases Funding Announcement for High-Risk, High-Payoff Research Opportunities -- The mission of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Defense Sciences Office (DSO) is to identify and pursue high-risk, high-payoff research initiatives across a broad spectrum of science and engineering disciplines and to transform these initiatives into disruptive technologies for U.S. national security. In support of this mission, the DSO Office-wide BAA invites proposers to submit innovative basic or applied research concepts that explore Physical and Natural Systems, Human-Machine and Social Systems, and/or Math and Computational Systems through the lens of one or more of the following technical domains: Complexity Engineering, Science of Design, Noosphere, Fundamental Limits, and New Foundations. Proposals must investigate innovative approaches that enable revolutionary advances. DSO is explicitly not interested in approaches or technologies that primarily result in evolutionary improvements to the existing state of practice.  More information on this funding opportunity is here.

DHS Announces $35 Million Funding Opportunity for New Center of Excellence in Cross-Border Threat Screening and Supply Chain Defense -- The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) announced $35 million in funding opportunities for a new DHS Center of Excellence (COE) for Cross-Border Threat Screening and Supply Chain Defense (CBTS). Accredited United States colleges and universities may submit proposals as the Center lead or as an individual partner to work with the lead institution in support of the Center’s activities. These two related funding opportunities are posted here. The deadline for submitting proposals is August 4, 2017. DHS intends to fund this new COE for 10 years for a total of approximately $35 million through a cooperative agreement.

ARPA-E Announces $32 Million in Awards for Advanced Technologies -- The Department of Energy (DOE) announced this week up to $32 million in funding for 16 projects as part of two new Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) programs: ENergy-efficient Light-wave Integrated Technology Enabling Networks that Enhance Datacenters (ENLITENED) and Power Nitride Doping Innovation Offers Devices Enabling SWITCHES (PNDIODES).

ENergy-efficient Light-wave Integrated Technology Enabling Networks that Enhance Datacenters – $25 Million -- The growth of the internet has led to an increase in energy consumption by the Information Communications Technology sector, particularly by datacenters that store and process information in the “cloud.” Datacenters currently consume 2.5 percent of U.S. electricity – a figure that is projected to double in just eight years. Efforts to improve their energy efficiency will ultimately be limited by metal interconnects currently used to transmit information between the devices within a datacenter.  ENLITENED seeks to overcome these limitations by advancing high density, energy-efficient photonic interconnects and related novel network designs that take advantage of integrated photonics technologies. Because photonic interconnects do not rely on electrons flowing through metal to transmit information, instead relying on light, it is possible to transmit information with far greater speed and bandwidth using significantly less energy. If successful, ENLITENED projects could result in an overall doubling in datacenter energy efficiency.  Details on the nine ENLITENED projects can be found here.

PNDIODES: Power Nitride Doping Innovation Offers Devices Enabling SWITCHES – $6.9 Million -- Power electronics devices convert one form of electricity to another so that it can be used in a specific device. Most power electronics are silicon based, which becomes much less efficient as power demands increase due to the physical limitations of the material. Power converters based on wide-bandgap semiconductors such as gallium nitride (GaN) and its alloys offer improved efficiencies over silicon, particularly for higher voltage devices – while also dramatically reducing size and weight. However, fabrication of these specialized materials is difficult and expensive.  With PNDIODES, ARPA-E is tackling a specific challenge in wide-bandgap semiconductor production – focusing on a process called selective area doping to allow for the fabrication of devices at a cost competitive to their traditional, silicon-based relatives. The doping process consists of adding a specific impurity to a semiconductor to change its electrical properties, altering its physical makeup to achieve performance characteristics that are useful for electronics. Developing a reliable and usable doping process that can be applied to specific regions of GaN and its alloys is an important obstacle in the fabrication of GaN-based power electronics devices that PNDIODES seeks to overcome. Ultimately, the PNDIODES project teams will develop new ways to build semiconductors for high performance, high-powered applications like aerospace, electric vehicles and the grid.  Details on the seven PNDIODES projects can be found here.

Six Major Higher Education Organizations Submit Letter to Congress on Indirect Costs – Following up from the May 24th hearing by the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee on Facilities & Administrative (F&A) costs, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) with five other higher education organizations released a letter discussing the long standing partnership where the Federal Government provides resources so that universities will conduct research on behalf of the government.  The letter puts into perspective the role of F&A cost reimbursement regarding their calculation and application in the research grant process.  A copy of this letter is available here.

AAAS Releases FY 2018 R&D Budget Dashboard to Track Federal R&D -- As Congress considers President Donald Trump’s fiscal 2018 budget proposal, the American Association for the Advancement Science has launched an interactive resource to help keep track of congressional appropriations decisions and their impact on research and development spending levels.  The R&D Appropriations Dashboard, created by AAAS’ R&D Budget and Policy Program, provides an accessible way to monitor a vital process.  The appropriations process involves a dozen separate House and dozen separate Senate measures that impact 12 departments and agencies and multiple offices responsible for carrying out leading science programs. Since the White House released its budget proposal, the R&D Budget and Policy Program has analyzed the impact of the budget blueprint on science programs throughout federal agencies. The latest budget analysis, for instance, reports that while the president’s fiscal 2018 budget proposal calls for 9.4% increase in defense spending, very little of that increase would benefit the Pentagon’s science and technology programs. Indeed, the Defense Department’s S&T programs would decline by about 5.4% below current fiscal 2017 funding levels. Still, the proposed funding level, while a decline, would represent a 3.5% spending increase above FY 2016 levels.  The dashboard – launched on June 5 – displays the president’s requests and will track changes made by the House and Senate appropriations subcommittees and the full committees as they move through each chamber and the final version sent to the president to sign into law. Observers will be able to follow bills through each step of the decision making process. The tool currently presents data from the White House’s May 23 budget proposal. The R&D Budget team will update the dashboard as the House and Senate appropriations panels work through the appropriations system.