A Periodic Federal Science Update

House Passes Omnibus Appropriations Bill for FY 2018 – On September 14, 2017, after several long days of debate, the House gave final approval to HR 3354.  This bill contains all twelve individual appropriations bills marked up and reported out the House Appropriations Committee earlier this summer.  Four of the twelve were passed prior to the start of the August recess (Defense, Military Construction/VA, Energy and Water, Legislative Branch).  These four served as the so-called security appropriations bill.  The remaining eight, which are primarily non-defense discretionary bills (Commerce-Justice-Science, Agriculture, Labor-HHS-Education, Financial Services, Interior/EPA, Transportation and Housing, State and Foreign Operations, and Homeland Security), were brought to the floor as a single bill and during the debate, the House considered 342 amendments to the bill.  The following is the disposition of some of the amendments adopted that are of interest to our readership:

·      Rep. Lamar Smith, Chairman of the House Science Committee successfully offered an amendment to increase by .5% the amount of funding within the NSF research account for physical and biological sciences;

·      Rep. Flores from Texas and others passed an amendment prohibiting the use of funds to implement the National Ocean Policy Executive Order in the CJS title of the omnibus appropriations act. Yet, Rep Cicilline and others were successful in their amendment that deleted language restricting funding in the Agriculture title of the bill for the National Ocean Policy Executive Office;

·      Reps. Lipinski and LoBiondo were successful in their amendment to restore $10.1 million for on-site information technology officers in each National Weather Service Forecast office.  These members also successfully restored $1.2 million in funding to eliminate staff reductions at the National Centers for Environmental Prediction;

·      Led by Rep. Bonamici, the House voted to increase funding for ocean acidification and decrease by the same amount to highlight the importance of ocean acidification to coastal communities;

·      Reps Buchanan and Mast from Florida successfully increased $8 million the funding within the National Ocean Service to address harmful algal bloom issues while reducing the Department of Commerce’s management account by the same amount; and

·      Rep Soto successfully increased funding for EPA’s National Estuary Program by nearly $500,000.

The bill was adopted largely along party lines by the vote of 211 to 198.  It is considered very unlikely the Senate will take up this bill anytime soon.

DARPA Young Faculty Award Program -- The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Young Faculty Award (YFA) program aims to identify and engage rising stars in junior faculty positions in academia and equivalent positions at non-profit research institutions and expose them to Department of Defense (DoD) and National Security challenges and needs. In particular, this YFA will provide high-impact funding to elite researchers early in their careers to develop innovative new research directions in the context of enabling transformative DoD capabilities. The long-term goal of the program is to develop the next generation of scientists and engineers in the research community who will focus a significant portion of their future careers on DoD and National Security issues. DARPA is particularly interested in identifying outstanding researchers who have previously not been performers on DARPA programs, but the program is open to all qualified applicants with innovative research ideas.  Final proposals are due by December 4, 2017.  Get more information here.

President to Nominate Walter Copan as Next NIST Director -- Walter Copan of Colorado is to be nominated by the President to be Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and Director of the National Institute for Standards and Technology, according to a September 12th announcement from the White House. Dr. Copan is President and CEO of IP Engineering Group Corporation and Board member of Rocky Mountain Innovation Partners, supporting Federal labs, academic institutions, and entrepreneurial businesses. He was Managing Director—Technology Commercialization and Partnerships at Brookhaven National Laboratory, and Technology Transfer at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Among his entrepreneurial ventures was Clean Diesel Technologies, Inc. (CDTi) which he led as CTO and Executive VP onto NASDAQ. During his 28 years with Lubrizol Corporation, he held top leadership positions including research, development, and business unit management. Dr. Copan earned dual undergraduate degrees, and a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from Case Western Reserve University. He has served as board member and advisor to many organizations, including the Federal Laboratory Consortium.  Mr. Copan’s nomination will be considered by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

Senator Pete Domenici Dead at 85 – Senator Pete Domenici from New Mexico has died according to his son’s law firm.  The Senator was, among other things, an incredibly strong advocate for scientific research and STEM education.  As Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee and his positions on the Senate Appropriations Committee positioned him to successfully protect and strengthen the Nation’s investment in science and technology.  For more information on the Senator’s career and accomplishments read the story in Roll Call available here.

Business R&D in the U.S. Reaches $356 Billion in 2015 – According to a new report from the National Science Foundation, businesses spent $356 billion on research and development (R&D) performed in the United States in 2015, a 4.4 percent increase over the $341 billion spent in 2014. Of the total R&D expenditures in 2015, companies spent $22 billion (6 percent) on basic research, $56 billion (16 percent) on applied research, and $278 billion (78 percent) on development. The spending shares did not change from 2014. Those data points come from the Business R&D and Innovation Survey (BRDIS), developed and cosponsored by the National Science Foundation's (NSF) National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau. Funding from companies' own sources was $297 billion in 2015, a 5 percent increase from the $283 billion spent in 2014. Funding from other sources was $59 billion in 2015 and $58 billion in 2014. In 2015, companies in manufacturing industries performed 66 percent of domestic R&D. Most of the funding (83 percent) was from the companies' own funds. Companies in nonmanufacturing industries performed 34 percent of total domestic R&D, 84 percent of which was paid from the companies' own funds.  A copy of the report is available here.