April 29, 2016

Washington’s Week in Science

Policy News and Selected Funding Opportunities

Top Stories of the Week

  • Congress: Senate Fails to Pass Energy Bill
  • NASA: Citizen Science Programs for Earth Systems Research Solicited
  • NSF: Shared Computational Infrastructure Sought for Brain Research
  • Agriculture Research: Agriculture and Food Research Initiative – Food Safety Challenge
  • Research Enterprise: House Science Committee Introduces Facility Management Reform Bill

In an attempt to honor their commitment to pass all appropriations bills on time, the Senate proceeded with consideration of the Energy and Water Appropriations Bill this week. The Senate bill would provide $5.4 billion for the DOE Office of Science, a 0.9% increase over FY16, but short of the $5.572 billion request. Notwithstanding warnings from Democrats to keep appropriations bills free of “poison pill” objectionable policy provisions, floor action was brought to a halt by a proposed amendment by Senator Tom Cotton. The amendment would prohibit the purchase of heavy water from Iran, a byproduct of nuclear fuel processing that can be used in the production of nuclear weapons. The Energy and Water Bill, which was to be a model for other appropriations bills, now faces an uncertain future.
On the House side, the Committee on Armed Services released the FY17 National Defense Authorization Act, addressing policy issues and recommending funding levels for DOD programs including research and development. The bill recommends a slight increase of 0.5% over the request level for basic research and 0.3% for science and technology overall. This slight increase falls short of restoring the 4.1% reduction in science and technology funding contained in the President’s FY17 request.
Read More: Morning Consult

Citizen science is an emerging tool for researchers in many disciplines ranging from astronomy to national security threat assessment. Now NASA intends to solicit proposals to develop voluntary contributions from members of the general public to conduct earth science research that complements NASA’s existing earth science observations program. The solicitation will target innovative citizen science research concepts, and low cost sensors for the collection of well calibrated citizen science data.
Read More: Federal Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science Toolkit, Issues in Ecology

Earlier this year, the NSF announced a new initiative for a Brain Observatory. One underlying rationale for this initiative was to encourage shared research infrastructure and interdisciplinary, multi-institutional collaborations.
The NSF has now issued a Dear Colleague Letter specific to advanced computing resources and cyberinfrastructure. The intent is to introduce high-performance computing into workflow systems, software infrastructure, and networking capabilities enabling the integration of data derived from different systems. The letter encourages two types of proposals: (1) conferences and community workshops that bring together neuroscientists and computational infrastructure developers, and (2) Early-Concept Grants for Exploratory Research (EAGERs) proposals for innovative concepts which will lead to the deployment of computational infrastructure resources for a broad base of users.

Agriculture Research
The Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) is a competitive grant program to provide funding for fundamental and applied research, education, and extension projects in food and agricultural sciences. The Food Safety Challenge, one of six major priority areas, is aimed at understanding foodborne pathogens and reducing foodborne illnesses and deaths.
This solicitation focuses on two specific goals. First, the solicitation invites applications that will develop effective mitigation strategies for antimicrobial resistance. Second, the solicitation aims to develop a comprehensive assessment of the impacts of the Food Safety Challenge Area over the past five years and an understanding of the linkages between overall program priorities, investments, and outcomes.

Research Enterprise
Based on hearings held over the past year, and a recent report issued by the National Academy of Public Administration, the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology will take up legislation entitled H.R. 5049 NSF Major Research Facility Reform Act of 2016. The bill seeks to address management and oversight of major multi-user research facilities funded by the National Science Foundation, to increase transparency and accountability for major construction projects.


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