A Periodic Federal Science Update

NOAA RESTORE Funding Opportunity Announced -- The NOAA RESTORE Science Program’s funding competition on long-term trends is now open. This funding competition continues the Science Program’s desire to producing timely and high-quality scientific findings and products to support the management and sustainability of the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem, including its fisheries. The priority for this competition is identifying, tracking, understanding, and/or predicting trends and variability in the Gulf of Mexico’s living coastal and marine resources and the processes driving them.  Applicants must propose work that addresses this priority in one or more of these areas of emphasis: exploring trends in multiple species; investigating the link between weather and/or climate and trends; and examining the relationship between trends and economic activity. To receive funding, applicants will need to directly address the needs of resource managers and have a clear plan for how their research findings or products will be used by resource managers. The Science Program is making approximately $15 million available now through this competition to fund approximately six projects for five years. An additional $15 million will be available for an additional five years of funding for high performing projects. In total, a project could receive 10 years of continuous support. Pre-proposals, which are required, are due by July 30, 2018 and the deadline for submitting a full application is October 29, 2018. See the full announcement for complete instructions on how to submit a pre-proposal and full application.

NIH Releases Strategic Plan for Data Science -- The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has released its Strategic Plan for Data Science to capitalize on the opportunities presented by advances in data science.  The plan describes NIH’s overarching goals, strategic objectives, and implementation tactics for promoting the modernization of the NIH-funded biomedical data science ecosystem. Over the course of the next year, NIH will begin implementing its strategy, with some elements of the plan already underway. NIH will continue to seek community input during the implementation phase. 

NIH Moves Ahead with HEAL Initiative – NIH has announced the launch of the HEAL (Helping to End Addiction Long-term) Initiative, an aggressive, trans-agency effort to speed scientific solutions to stem the national opioid public health crisis. Toward this effort, NIH is nearly doubling funding for research on opioid misuse/addiction and pain from approximately $600 million in fiscal year 2016 to $1.1 billion in fiscal year 2018, made possible from a funding boost by Congress. NIH’s efforts contribute to a government-wide push to meet the President’s goal of ending the opioid crisis.  HEAL will bolster research across the NIH to:

·       Launch a longitudinal study to follow patients 1) after acute onset of musculoskeletal pain and 2) after surgery to identify biomarkers that might predict which individuals are more likely to transition from acute to chronic pain. 

·       Leverage innovative imaging and -omics neurotechnologies developed through the NIH BRAIN Initiative and SPARC program to identify 1) potential new targets for treatment of chronic pain and 2) objective biomarkers to predict which individuals will respond to a treatment.

·       Pursue public-private partnerships to develop new non-addictive pain medicines by sharing data on past and present research projects, and matching researchers with a selection of potentially promising but abandoned pharmaceutical industry compounds to explore their effectiveness for the treatment of pain.

·       Build a clinical trials network that will allow multiple new and repurposed compounds to be tested simultaneously for effectiveness.  This allows ineffective compounds to be weeded out and new compounds to enter trials more swiftly.  The combination of testing compounds that already have received large investments and passed safety testing, and a flexible clinical trials network will significantly accelerate the development of effective therapies.

·       Working with federal and state partners, pilot demonstration projects to test the integration of multiple addiction prevention and treatment options in healthcare and criminal justice settings in states with the highest rates of opioid misuse and overdose to inform evidence-based practice.  Despite multiple effective prevention and treatment approaches, the majority of the 2 million Americans with opioid use disorder do not receive appropriate or adequate treatment for their addiction.

The Initiative will tap into the expertise of the NIH Pain Consortium, which was established to enhance collaboration among NIH institutes, centers and offices that conduct pain research.

Interagency Pain Research Coordinating Committee to Meet on July 9 – the NIH supported Interagency Pain Research Coordinating Committee will meet on July 9 to discuss an updated Federal Pain Portfolio Analysis and information about the NIH HEAL Initiative.  The existing pain portfolio analysis was originally developed in 2011.  The purpose of the portfolio analysis is to identify critical gaps in basic and clinical research on the symptoms and causes of pain and making recommendations to ensure the activities of the NIH and other federal agencies are free of unnecessary duplication of effort.  The current federal portfolio analysis is available here.  Information on the July 9 meeting, including instructions for submittal of written comments can be found here.

Congressional Briefing on a New Approach to the Opioid Epidemic – On June 15, the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering in cooperation with the Congressional Research and Development Caucus is holding a public briefing offering information on new developments in biomedical engineering that may contribute to dealing with the opioid epidemic.  Dr. Christina Smolke from Stanford University and Dr. Lori Setton from Washington University will conduct the briefing.  The briefing will take place on June 15 at noon in Room 2044 Rayburn House Office Building.  Contact AIMBE for additional information.

National Science Board Releases Report on Operations and Maintenance Costs for NSF Facilities – On June 6, the NSB released its new report, “Study of Operations and Maintenance Costs for NSF Facilities.” The report makes three recommendations:

·       NSB and the NSF Director should enhance agency-level ownership of the facility portfolio to elevate strategic and budgetary decisions and the agency’s Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction account (MREFC) should allow for greater flexibility. 

·       NSF and NSB should reexamine what share of the agency’s budget should be devoted to research infrastructure.

·       NSB and NSF should develop model funding and governance schemes for the next generation of partnerships at the agency, interagency, and international levels.

Between Fiscal Year (FY) 2002 and FY 2017, NSF’s budget grew, in real terms, an average of 1.1 percent per year while the number of proposals submitted to the agency grew by over 40 percent. This contributed to a decline in success rates across NSF from 29 percent in FY 2002 to 23 percent in FY 2017. At the agency level, O&M outlays grew 3 percent while NSF budgets grew 18 percent over this period.  According to the report, over the past 15-20 years, NSF invested 23.5 percent of its annual budget in research infrastructure--large facilities, midscale, and major research instruments. This is on the low end of the 22-27 percent range recommended by NSB in its 2003 report. The prospect of committing to the future O&M costs that come with new large projects may be discouraging directorates and divisions from embarking on them. The new report is available here.

Digital Coast Hearing and Coral Reef Reauthorization Bill – This week in Washington is Capitol Hill Ocean Week (CHOW 2018) – a week that celebrates the importance of healthy oceans and Great Lakes.  In that context the Senate Commerce Subcommittee chaired by Senator Dan Sullivan (Alaska) chaired a hearing that reviewed the accomplishment of NOAA’s Digital Coast program over the past ten years.  The Digital Coast was developed to meet the needs of the coastal management community. The website provides not only coastal data, but also the tools, training, and information needed to make these data truly useful. Content comes from many sources, all of which are vetted by NOAA.  Data sets range from economic data to satellite imagery. The site contains visualization tools, predictive tools, and tools that make data easier to find and use. Training courses are available online or can be brought to the user’s location. Information is also organized by focus area or topic.  The hearing focused on the value of the digital coast data for local and regional coastal community managers and set the stage for pending legislation that would formally authorize the program. 

In addition to Digital Coast hearing this week, Rep. Madeleine Bordallo (Guam) introduced her legislation to reauthorize the Coral Reef program within NOAA.  In particular, her bill aims to strengthen the federal National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) coral reef program, including establishing new federal grant opportunities for Guam’s coral reef projects, research, invasive/nuisance species control, and community monitoring programs.

Senate Appropriations Subcommittee Approves FY 2019 Transportation Appropriations Bill – On June 7, the Senate Appropriations Committee marked up and reported their version of the FY 2019 Transportation, HUD Appropriations Bill with funding to advance transportation infrastructure development and other key programs.  The bill prioritizes funding for critical transportation projects, programs to encourage economic growth and efficiency, and core housing programs for the nation’s most vulnerable individuals.  The bill includes $26.6 billion in discretionary appropriations for the U.S. Department of Transportation for FY2019.  This is $698 million below the FY2018 enacted level.  Within this amount, priority is placed on programs to improve the safety, reliability, and efficiency of the transportation system:  $1 billion for Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) grants, previously known as TIGER grants; $46 billion from the Highway Trust Fund for the Federal-aid Highways Program, consistent with the FAST Act.  In keeping with the two-year budget agreement’s emphasis on infrastructure investments, the bill provides $3.3 billion in additional funding for highway programs, including $90 million to eliminate hazards at railway-highway grade crossings and $800 million for bridge repairs.  The bill maintains flexibility for State Departments of Transportation to repurpose some stagnant project funding for current infrastructure projects; $17.7 billion in total budgetary resources for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which fully funds all air traffic control personnel, including more than 14,000 air traffic controllers, and more than 25,000 engineers, maintenance technicians, safety inspectors, and operational support personnel. 

The bill provides $1 billion for FAA Next Generation Air Transportation Systems (NextGen) programs and provides not less than $168 million for the Contract Towers program.  The bill also provides $750 million in additional funding for airport improvements; $2.8 billion for the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).  This includes $1.9 billion to Amtrak for the Northeast Corridor and National Network, continuing service for all current routes.  The bill provides $262 million for FRA safety and operations, as well as research and development activities.  Additionally, the bill provides $255 million for the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvement grants program, $300 million for Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair grants, and $10 million for Restoration and Enhancement grants. 

For the Maritime Administration, the bill provides $818 million to increase the productivity, efficiency, and safety of the nation’s ports and intermodal water and land transportation.  The Maritime Security Program is funded at $300 million.  The bill includes $40 million for State Maritime Academies (SMAs) and an additional $300 million for a new National Security Multi-Mission Vessel.  This training ship is essential for the SMAs to provide the nation with a strong merchant marine workforce.