April 15, 2016

Washington’s Week in Science

Policy News and Selected Funding Opportunities

Top Stories of the Week

  • Congress: Senate Begins Action on Appropriations Bills, Draft Bills Released in House
  • Congressionally Directed Medical Research: Lung Cancer Research Proposals Solicited
  • Defense Basic Research: Multidisciplinary University Research Initative Announced
  • Climate Science: Study of Consensus Shows Sensitivity to Specific Climate Expertise

Congress

The Congressional Budget Act requires that by April 15, Congress must complete action on a budget resolution, after which, annual appropriations bills (normally initiated in the House) may be considered after May 15th. With the prospect of moving a budget resolution in the House looking increasingly difficult, this year’s budget process is charting new territory. This week, the Senate took the unprecedented step of moving aggressively to establish an alternative budget framework, and planning action on spending bills which may precede that in the House.

The Senate Appropriations Committee voted to adopt spending allocations, called 302 (b) allocations, for the twelve appropriations subcommittees. The overall top-line allocation will adhere to last year’s bipartisan budget agreement but exclude the proposed mandatory spending, a portion of which was for science agencies. Subcommittees formally began the process of moving their bills forward based on the 302 (b) numbers.

The Senate Subcommittee on Energy and Water marked up its Energy and Water spending bill  containing a total of $30.74 billion, a $762 million reduction from the request level. The bill provides $5.40 billion for the DOE Office of Science, a $50 million increase over FY16, but $172 million short of the President’s discretionary funding request. Within this, the bill zeros out funding for the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) fusion project. However, it also expresses strong support for the key programs contained in the Particle Physics Prioritization Panel (P5) report and provides an increase of $15 million above the request level for High Energy Physics.

Although the House Budget Committee has not developed a clear plan to establish a top-line spending allocation or 302 (b) allocations, the House Appropriations Committee began its own action on spending bills by releasing several draft bills based on assumed levels. The Committee released a draft Energy and Water spending bill bearing some similarities to the Senate bill. For the DOE Office of Science, the bill also provides $5.40 billion.

The House Appropriations Committee also released a draft Agriculture Appropriations Bill. The much anticipated doubling in funding for the Agriculture Food Research Initiative (AFRI) and the flagship extramural grants program failed to materialize in the bill. The overall $2.85 billion in funding for agricultural research includes the requested $375 million in discretionary spending for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative but does not include the additional $325 million that had been proposed for mandatory spending.

Read More: Science Insider,  The Hill

Congressionally Directed Medical Research

The Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP), within the Department of Defense, has released a set of program announcements for lung cancer research including solicitations for Clinical Exploration Awards, Idea Development Awards, Translational Research Awards, and Career Development Awards. “Military Relevance” is a requirement for all award categories. Because of increased rates of smoking and exposure to environmental carcinogens during their service, military personnel are at a higher risk of developing lung cancer than the general population.

Read More: CDMRP Press Release

Defense Basic Research

The University Research Initiative (URI) is a DOD-wide program aimed at enhancing universities’ capabilities to perform basic science and engineering research of relevance to defense interests. One of the URI components, the Multidisciplinary Research Program (MURI), supports basic research in science and engineering areas intersecting more than one discipline.

The Air Force Office of Scientific Research has released solicitation N00014-16-R-FO05 inviting proposals for FY17.  The solicitation lists 23 specific topics identified by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the Office of Naval Research, and the Army Research Office.  Mutlidisciplinary teams may consist of investigators from different universities, or from different departments within the same university.  White Papers are due August 1, with full proposals November 15.

Climate Science

One recurring issue in public debates over climate science is whether an overwhelming majority of climate experts actually agree with the statement of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: “…human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.”  A new study entitled Consensus on consensus: a synthesis of consensus estimates on human-caused global warming examines a large number past public opinion surveys, and surveys of various pools of technical and policy experts, including climate scientists publishing in peer-reviewed literature.  The surveys analyzed represent a diverse array of sampling techniques and framing of the definition of consensus.  The range of survey results varies from as low as 40% to over 90%.

The study concludes this variation results from the conflation of general scientific opinion with expert scientific opinion. The degree of consensus is strongly affected by the degree of specific expertise in climate science.

Read More: Phys.org , The Hill

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