December 31, 2015

Washington’s Week in Science

Policy News and Selected Funding Opportunities

Top Stories of the Week

  • Congress: Budget Agreement, Omnibus Package, Provide Budget Certainty for Agencies
  • NSF/USDA: Agencies Announce Opportunity for Innovations at the Nexus of Food, Energy and Water Systems
  • NASA: Future Astrophysics Explorer Mission Opportunities Announced


The budget process during election years is notoriously unpredictable. However, successful enactment of a final FY 16 Omnibus Appropriations Bill, and a two year high-level agreement on overall spending levels has provided budgetary certainty for many Federal agencies and allowed them to begin releasing solicitations that were contingent on future funding.

Although the high-level bipartisan agreement increases the sequestration caps, overall non-defense spending will be held relatively flat in FY17. With the President’s budget set to be released as early as February 1, OMB and the agencies are finalizing the details of their spending plans.

Read More: AAAS Budget Primer


The NSF and USDA have jointly released an announcement under the Innovations at the Nexus of Food, Energy and Water Systems (INFEWS) initiative. The INFEWS program addresses the complex interactions between populations, changes in land use, and increasing geographic and seasonal variability in precipitation patterns all of which place stress on the critical resources. The program seeks to promote research that leads to new means of adapting to future challenges. In addition to its inherently interdisciplinary focus, this interagency solicitation also strongly encourages international collaboration.

A wide range of awards is anticipated in this solicitation. These include: food/energy/water system modeling; visualization and decision support for cyber-human-physical systems; research to enable innovative solutions; and education and workforce development.


Explorers are principal investigator led missions that are intended to provide frequent flight opportunities extending down to small and medium class missions. NASA has released a Community Announcement notifying the community of its intent to solicit proposals for the Astrophysics Explorer program. In mid-2016, the agency expects to issue an announcement of opportunity for a Medium Explorer (MIDEX), a cost-capped mission at $250M. In addition, a Second Stand Alone Missions of Opportunity Notice (SALMON-2) will also be released. The explorer missions of opportunity are cost-capped at $70M, or $35M for sub-orbital programs. NASA envisions that one MIDEX and one MO will be selected within the current budget guidelines.

In other news, the NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center has released a solicitation for a Center for Research and Exploration in Space Science.  The center is intended to carry out observational, experimental, and theoretical research in support of NASA’s space science program through close collaboration between Goddard and external scientists.  It will initially focus on astrophysics with future possible work to include solar system exploration and heliophysics.


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