August 12

Washington’s Week in Science

Policy News and Selected Funding Opportunities

Top Stories of the Week

August 12, 2016

NSF: Data Science Experts Urged to Partner With Brain Initiative Projects
NASA: Comments Solicited on Draft AO for New Frontiers Mission Competition
NIH: National Institute of General Medical Sciences to Establish Centers for HIV/AIDS-Related Structural Biology
Homeland Security: DHS To Establish Center of Excellence for Quantitative Analysis
Cybersecurity: White House Commission Solicits Input
Research Enterprise: National Academy of Sciences Releases Study on Science Literacy
Perspectives: The Real Data Revolution in Higher Education by Brandon Busteed

The Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative is a major research focus for both the NSF and for the NIH. The NSF has now issued a Dear Colleague Letter calling attention to the large and complex data sets being generated by the initiative and the emerging need to focus more attention on managing, integrating and analyzing these diverse data types. The letter encourages experts in informatics, software and cyberinfrastructure to partner with brain researchers. The letter recommends that researchers contact program managers in their respective program areas including Advances in Biological Informatics, Software Infrastructure for Sustained Innovation, and Data Infrastructure Building Blocks.

NASA’s New Frontiers planetary exploration program offers principal investigators the opportunity to pursue specific missions defined by the community as high priority. They are medium-class missions with a cost cap of $850 million not including a launch vehicle. Present missions include the New Horizons mission to Pluto, the Juno mission to Jupiter and the soon to be launched OSIRIS-Rex mission to the asteroid Bennu.
NASA has now released a draft AO and is requesting community comment for the next set of missions. In the past, community comments have led to notable changes and improvements in such NASA solicitations.
Read More: SpaceRef

The National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) has announced its intention to establish centers of excellence that will support the characterization of macromolecular complexes for HIV/AIDS. In addition to a scientific focus on HIV research, the Centers for HIV/AIDS-Related Structural Biology will be expected to possess capabilities for determination of high resolution molecular structures by one or more means. In addition to X-ray crystallography, these may include NMR and cryo-electron microscopy, small angle x-ray scattering, and mass spectrometry. It is expected that methods unique to one Center will be made available to other Centers on a collaborative basis. Each center is also expected to have a technology focus that would push the state-of-the-art in macromolecular structural determination.

Homeland Security
The Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) Office of University Programs (OUP) has issued a pair of solicitations to establish a lead and partners for a Center of Excellence (COE) for Homeland Security Quantitative Analysis (DHS-16-ST-061-HSQA-LEAD and DHS-16-ST-061-HSQA-PARTNER).). Valued at up to $40 million over a ten year period, the centers are intended to be university based and work closely with DHS and others to identify the most critical knowledge and technology gaps on an on-going basis. The Center and its partners would be expected to enhance the application of analytic tools that support real-time decision making to address homeland security-related threats and hazards and develop the next generation of mathematical, computational, and statistical theories to advance quantitative analysis capabilities of the homeland security enterprise.
Read More:Nextgov


The White House Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity was established earlier this year to make recommendations to the nation for actions that can be taken over the next decade to strengthen cybersecurity in both the public and private sector.  Now, a Request for Information has been issued to obtain community input on current and future challenges, and promising and innovative approaches to address those challenges.  Among the areas the Commission seeks to explore are: emerging technology trends and innovations; the effect these technology trends and innovations will have on the digital economy; the effect these technology trends and innovations will have on cybersecurity; and, economic and other incentives for enhancing cybersecurity.

Read More: Nextgov

Research Enterprise

Society’s willingness to undertake voluntary collective action, for example in addressing climate change or genetic engineering, is often predicated on assumptions about the role of public science literacy.  At the request of NIH, the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine convened a committee of science literacy and science communication experts to reexamine the state of science literacy in the US, compare it with other developed countries, and assess the linkages to science policy development and science funding.  The report, entitled Science Literacy:  Concepts, Contexts, and Consequences, has been released in pre-publication form.

In a Gallup Opinion piece, Brandon Busteed, Executive Director of Gallup Education and Workforce Development, comments on The Real Data Revolution in Higher Education.  He argues that to improve higher education, some of the most important outcome measures to track are related to expectations, experiences, emotions, and outcomes of students, alumni, staff and faculty. These consumer oriented measures are important indicators of the performance of academic instructions. He advocates a “Consumer Reports” type ranking of universities in addition to the traditional national rankings based on selectivity, endowment size, graduation rates, etc.