A Periodic Federal Science Update

Shutdown Begins – Tonight, facing a January 19 deadline to either extend funding for Federal agencies or shutdown the government, the Senate failed to pass the stop-gap funding resolution that would have extended government funding until February 16.  Senate Democrats in sufficient numbers, opposed the bill because it lacked provisions to deal with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) issue.  With the defeat of this legislation on the eve of the anniversary of President’s first year in office, the Federal Government has begun the process to shut down and suspend all non-essential operations.  Essential operations will continue such as those associated with national security, air traffic control, Medicare and social security payments.  But most other activities, such as the National Institutes of Health, the Center for Disease Control, the National Science Foundation, the national parks, visa and passport processing, the National Weather Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Gallery of Art, and most other non-defense agencies and programs will be put on hiatus until the Congress and the White House can reach an agreement on funding the Federal Government along with other issues such as DACA, childrens’ health insurance, spending caps for defense and nondefense programs, disaster relief, etc.

NSF Releases Latest Science and Engineering Indicators Report – According to the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Science and Engineering Indicators 2018 released this week, the United States is the global leader in science and technology (S&T). However, the U.S. global share of S&T activities is declining as other nations -- especially China -- continue to rise.

The 2018 report shows the U.S. invests the most in research and development (R&D), attracts the most venture capital, awards the most advanced degrees, provides the most business, financial and information services, and is the largest producer in high-technology manufacturing sectors. The complete report, which covers data on the domestic and global science and engineering landscape, is available online.

Dr. Maria Zuber, NSB Chair and Vice President for Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said, “This year's report shows a trend that the U.S. still leads by many S&T measures, but that our lead is decreasing in certain areas that are important to our country," said. That trend raises concerns about impacts on our economy and workforce, and has implications for our national security.”

According to Science and Engineering Indicators 2018, China's growth in S&E continues at an exceptional pace.  R&D expenditures reflect a nation's commitment to expanding capabilities in S&T, which in turn drive innovation. While the U.S. led the world in R&D expenditures at $496 billion (26 percent share of the global total), China was a decisive second at 21 percent ($408 billion). China has grown its R&D spending rapidly since 2000, at an average of 18 percent annually. Its focus is geared primarily toward development rather than basic or applied research. During the same time frame, U.S. R&D spending grew by only 4 percent. Although emerging economies start at a lower base and therefore tend to grow much more rapidly, China's growth rate is exceptional.

Venture capital investment, which supports the commercialization of emerging technologies, totaled more than $130 billion globally in 2016. While the U.S. attracted the most investment (nearly $70 billion), accounting for slightly more than half of the global share, 26 percent of total venture capital funds went to China. Venture capital in China rose from approximately $3 billion in 2013 to $34 billion in 2016, climbing from 5 percent to 27 percent of the global share, the fastest increase of any economy.

Knowledge and technology-intensive industries -- in which S&T advances are key inputs -- are a major part of the global economy, comprising nearly one-third of world gross domestic product (GDP). America leads in providing business, financial and information services, accounting for 31 percent of the global share, followed by the European Union (EU) at 21 percent. China is the third largest producer of these services (17 percent global share) and continues to grow at a far faster rate (19 percent annual growth) than the U.S. and other developed countries. The U.S. is the largest producer of high-technology manufacturing (31 percent global share). This includes production of aircraft and spacecraft, semiconductors, computers, pharmaceuticals, and measuring and control instruments. China is second at 24 percent, more than doubling its share over the last decade.

Higher education provides the advanced work skills needed in an increasingly knowledge-intensive global economy. According to the most recent estimates, the U.S. awarded the largest number of S&E doctoral degrees (40,000) of any country, followed by China (34,000), Russia (19,000), Germany (15,000), the United Kingdom (14,000) and India (13,000). In contrast, the U.S. lags in bachelor's level degrees. India earned 25 percent of the more than 7.5 million awarded S&E bachelor's level degrees in 2014, followed closely by China (22 percent), the EU (12 percent) and the U.S. (10 percent). Nearly half of all degrees awarded in China are in S&E fields. Since 2000, the number of S&E bachelor's degrees awarded in China has gone up by 300 percent.

Over the past twenty years, students have become more mobile and countries increasingly compete for them as potential recruits for the S&E workforce. International student numbers in the U.S. dropped between the fall of 2016 and the fall of 2017, with the largest declines seen at the graduate level in computer science (13 percent decline) and engineering (8 percent decline). International students account for over 57 percent of graduate enrollments in computer sciences and engineering in the U.S. These students are a critical component of the U.S. workforce in these high demand fields. Seventy-nine percent of foreign doctoral graduate students choose to stay and work in the U.S. upon completion of their degree.

The business sector is by far the largest performer of R&D in the U.S., accounting for 72 percent of the $495 billion total in 2015. For several years, the annual rise in business R&D performance has accounted for most of the growth in overall U.S. R&D. Of the three main types of R&D -- basic research, applied research and experimental development -- businesses lead in both applied research (58 percent of $97 billion total) and experimental development (88 percent of $314 billion total). Higher education institutions continue to perform the largest share of U.S. basic research (49 percent of $83 billion total).  The business sector also leads in R&D investment, providing 67 percent ($333 billion) of the national total in 2015. In contrast, the federal government -- which was once the primary funder of R&D (67 percent in 1964) -- reached a historic low in 2015, funding 24 percent of the U.S. total. This decline has primarily been due to the faster growth in R&D investment by the business sector. In addition, federally funded R&D has been on a declining trend since 2011 (from $127 billion in 2011 to $120 billion in 2015).

The federal government remains the largest funder of basic research ($36.9 billion, 44 percent of total share), and is the primary driver of both innovative research and the training of the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workforce. The business sector accounted for $22.7 billion (27 percent of total share) in 2015.

Novim Report Analyzes Impact of Budget Reductions Proposed for Federal Environmental and Climate Research Programs -- The administration’s FY 2018 budget contains $7.8 billion for federally funded CE R&D–a roughly $2 billion (21 percent) drop between FY 2017 and 2018–with significant reductions to most of the thirteen Federal agencies in the climate and environment portfolio. According to a new report released this week by Novim, if the proposed cuts become law, they will have profound impacts on U.S. capabilities, including dismantling programs that provide the scientific basis for policies that protect Americans’ health, economic prosperity, and safety; breaking the chain of longstanding observational and research infrastructure needed for climate and environment modeling; constraining the nation’s ability to detect and understand critical climate and environmental trends and influences on natural resources; curbing the training of the next generation of scientists, resource managers, and decision-makers who translate basic science into climate and environmental policies and approaches; degrading the U.S. Global Change Research program; and restricting the nation’s ability to meet legal and international climate and environment commitments. The report includes a summary of the proposed FY 2018 reductions and a detailed agency-by-agency analysis.  The full report, a fact sheet, and a press release can be downloaded here.

DOD Releases Funding Announcement for New Manufacturing Engineering Education Program (MEEP) -- The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2017 established the “Manufacturing Engineering Education Program,” (MEEP) (10 U.S.C. § 2196) which authorizes the Department of Defense to support industry-relevant, manufacturing-focused, engineering training at United States institutions of higher education, industry, nonprofit institutions, and consortia of such institutions or industry. DOD will administer this new program through the Office of Naval Research (ONR).  The purpose of this program is to establish new or to enhance existing programs (or collections of programs) to better position the current and next-generation manufacturing workforce to produce military systems and components that assure technological superiority for DOD. Interested parties should focus programs on manufacturing education to support one or more distinct manufacturing technologies; e.g. manufacturing of lightweight structures, systems and materials; robotics for manufacturing; manufacturing to exploit nanotechnology; manufacturing of components and systems for power generation, storage, or distribution; manufacturing of multi-functional electronics and/or optical devices; or other manufacturing technologies of regional or industrial sector of interest. Proposed efforts should develop and enhance curricula and programs to effectively develop skills sets needed for students to operate in multidisciplinary design and manufacturing environments, including those for which manufacturing schema are informed by computational tools for modeling and simulation. Students also should be prepared to work effectively in environments where multiple engineering disciplines are engaged during design, development and manufacturing, and where the roles of manufacturers and suppliers in businesses of various sizes, from start-ups to major systems integrators, are optimized.  ONR intends to award approximately three (3) awards for an estimated total value of $5,400,000, subject to the availability of funds. Each individual award will be up to a maximum of $600,000 per year for up to three (3) years.

NOAA Announces $3 Million in Great Lakes Restoration Funding -- NOAA is announcing the availability of up to $3 million in Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grant funding for restoration projects in 2018. This federal funding opportunity (FFO) is intended for habitat restoration in the Great Lakes region, supporting healthy ecosystems and resilient coastal communities in Great Lakes states. Special focus for this FFO are locations beyond the Great Lakes Areas of Concern (AOCs) targeted in previous years. The closing date is March 12, 2018. In 2018, approximately $3 million may be available to institutions of higher education, non-profit organizations, commercial (for profit) organizations, and governments of U.S. territories, states, and local municipalities, as well as Native American tribal governments. The amount of funding available for this FFO is subject to FY2018 budget appropriations.  Priority will be given to projects that fulfill the following goals: Creating functional habitats for native fish species migration, reproduction, growth, and seasonal refuge, including improvements for fish passage, wetlands, and nearshore habitats; Restoring sites outside of AOCs including delisted AOCs and AOCs in recovery with all management actions complete; and Ensuring the long term protection of the restored site through partner-supported acquisition of land or a conservation easement at the restored site, or land with an ecological relationship to the restored site  (e.g. land in proximity or within the same watershed). Detailed description and requirements can be found at  http://www.grants.gov/, funding number NOAA-NMFS-HCPO-2018-2005487.

Secretary of Energy Appoints Chanette Armstrong as Director of DOE Office of Technology Transfer – On January 8, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry announced the appointment of Chanette Armstrong to head up the Department’s Office of Technology Transitions (OTT).  As the Director of the OTT, Ms. Armstrong’s responsibilities will extend across Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) program offices, its 17 national laboratories and its other research and production facilities across the country. She will also oversee DOE’s Energy Investor Center, the Technology Commercialization Fund, and the coordination of technology transfer activities and best practices across the DOE complex.  In addition to serving as the Director of the OTT, she will also serve as the U.S. Department of Energy Technology Transfer Coordinator, an advisor to the Energy Secretary Perry on technology transfer and commercialization activities. OTT was established in 2015 in order to expand the commercial impact of the Department of Energy’s research and development portfolio to advance the economic, energy, and national security interests of the nation. Ms. Armstrong is a registered patent attorney, holding a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Carnegie-Mellon University, an M.B.A. from Long Island University, and a J.D. from State University of New Jersey-Rutgers Law School. 

Statement by Leaders of the National Academies on the Political Review of Science Grants – On January 16 the Presidents of the National Academies issued the following public statement:

The highest standards of scientific integrity, transparency, and accountability are critical to maintaining public confidence in our nation’s research enterprise and in the wise use of the public investment in research.  The public expects policymakers and agencies to base those investments on independent advice and assessment from unbiased experts without political interference.  For these reasons, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine view any political review of scientific proposals as inappropriate, as it gives the appearance of political interference in science.  At the same time, we recognize the prerogative of federal agencies to align funding programs with their mission priorities in their calls for proposals and in their requests that reviewers assess the relevance of proposals to agency priorities as one of the criteria in proposal evaluation.

House Bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus Grows to 66 Members -- The bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus welcomed four new members to its growing membership: Congressman David Cicilline (RI-01), Congressman Mark Sanford (SC-01), Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty (CT-05), and Congressman Daniel Donovan (NY-11).  Co-Chaired by Congressman Ted Deutch (FL-22) and Congressman Carlos Curbelo (FL-26), the Caucus now has 66 members, split evenly between Democrats and Republicans, representing diverse districts from across the country.  The mission of the Climate Solutions Caucus is to educate members on economically-viable options to reduce climate risk and to explore bipartisan policy options that address the impacts, causes, and challenges of our changing climate. As determined by the Co-Chairs, the Caucus membership will consist of equal representation by Democrats and Republicans.  The full membership of the Climate Solutions Caucus can be accessed here.