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This blog from ASPB's public affairs unit will provide updates on policy developments in Washington and other plant biology news impacting the ASPB community. Please send any news, comments, or suggestions to ASPB's public affairs director, Adam Fagen, at afagen@aspb.org Policy Archives available under Group Pages.

 

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Top tags: Congress  appropriations  House  USDA  NSF  Senate  NIH  DOE  President Obama  Farm Bill  OSTP  biofuels  award  education  event  fellowship  international  White House  workforce  COMPETES Act  energy  GMO  grants  NSB  Alert  funding  HHMI  National Academies  New York Times  nomination 

Farm Bill Approved by House Agriculture Committee

Posted By Lewis-Burke Associates LLC, Monday, July 16, 2012
On July 11, the House Committee on Agriculture approved a bipartisan 2012 Farm Bill on a vote of 35 to 11 following a marathon mark up in which approximately 100 amendments were filed to the bill. The House version of the Farm Bill, H.R. 6083, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2012 (FARRM), reflects a serious effort to reduce overall spending associated with agriculture-related and nutrition programs and sets up some major issues, including crop insurance and benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP/formerly food stamps), to be addressed with the Senate during eventual conference negotiations toward a final bill.

In introducing the House version of the Farm Bill, Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) noted that the bill is bipartisan and that his work with his Ranking Member, Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN) has "resulted in a reform-minded, fiscally responsible policy that is equitable for farmers and ranchers in all regions and will lead to improved program delivery.” Rep. Peterson characterized the bill as putting Congress a step closer to "complet[ing] work on the 2012 Farm Bill before the current bill expires” on September 30. Rep. Peterson called on the House leadership to take up the bill for debate by the full House of Representatives before the August recess so the House and Senate can conference a final bill in September.

The Chairman and Ranking Member highlighted that the House bill:

  • Saves more than $35 billion in mandatory funding, with nearly half of the savings associated with changes/reforms in the SNAP program;
  • Repeals or consolidates more than 100 programs across USDA;
  • Eliminates direct payments and countercyclical payments to farmers for commodity losses, as does the Senate bill, and makes changes to commodity policy that would save more than $14 billion;
  • Consolidates conservation programs, going from 23 programs to 13 for savings of about $6 billion; and
  • Makes changes to reduce the federal regulatory burdens on farmers, ranchers, and rural communities.

According to preliminary estimates by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the House version of the Farm Bill would reduce federal direct spending by an estimated $35.1 billion over ten years from current law projections. This bill governs spending on entitlement and mandatory programs that are not subject to annual appropriations action by Congress. It also authorizes appropriations for programs, such as the research and extension programs of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which Congress must fund each year in the appropriations bills.

The Committee adopts reforms to nutrition entitlement programs, including significant changes to the SNAP program, for net savings of nearly $16.1 billion over ten years. During Committee consideration of the bill, amendments to reverse the SNAP program cuts and to scale them back to $4.5 billion, the amount approved in the Senate version of the bill, were defeated.

As does the Senate bill, the House bill achieves additional deficit reduction by eliminating direct and countercyclical payments and related payments for major commodity programs, such as wheat, corn, soybeans, etc. These provisions save $14 billion over ten years. The Committee bill also includes provisions to streamline and reform commodity policy. CBO estimates net savings from the commodity programs at $23.6 billion over ten years. The Senate bill saved $19.8 billion over ten years. The House bill continues crop insurance with a goal of improving coverage for producers of all crops in all regions.

As does the Senate bill, the House bill proposes to eliminate duplication and consolidate federal programs, such as conservation programs. The House bill would save nearly $6.1 billion over ten years from proposed changes in conservation programs.

For the USDA research and extension programs, the House bill would largely extend current programs; however given current budget constraints, the Committee reduces existing authorization levels (not actual spending) by an estimated $500 million, and includes specific authorized funding levels for programs with open-ended ("such sums as may be necessary”) authorizations. The House Committee also removes USDA’s authority to fund non-competitive grants.

The most controversial provision in the research title of the bill is a requirement for USDA to institute a 1:1 match for applied research grants that are commodity-specific or State-specific. While there is waiver authority for the Secretary of Agriculture should such research be determined "a national priority,” there is significant concern over the requirement to match federal funding on a dollar-for-dollar basis. An amendment was offered by Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL) to strike this provision (Section 7127) from the bill. After discussion and assurances by the Chairman and Ranking Member that they will work with Committee Members, affected stakeholders, and USDA to craft a consensus that could be included in the final bill, the amendment was withdrawn.

The House bill would extend the authorization for intramural research through the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) through FY 2017. It would also reauthorize the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) through FY 2017 and extend the authorization for NIFA’s extramural competitive grants program, the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), at the current $700 million annual level (AFRI is funded at $264.5 million in FY 2012). The bill would also reauthorize funding for the Extension Service and extends authority for the Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI) program.

The House Committee continues mandatory funding, as well as authorizes additional appropriations if Congress so chooses, for Specialty Crop Research, Organic Agriculture Research and Extension, and Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development. CBO estimates mandatory spending for research, extension, and related matters in the House bill at $546 million over ten years. The House broadens eligibility for the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development grants to military veterans, providing a set-aside of not more than five percent for this purpose.

Also within the research title, as did the Senate, the House bill would establish a new program to recruit, train, support, and retain veterinarians. The bill authorizes $10 million for each fiscal year beginning in FY 2013.

The House version of the Farm Bill has no provisions affecting the current formula grant programs for land-grant institutions. Formula programs authorized under the Hatch Act and Smith-Lever Act have open-ended authorizations for appropriations at "such sums as may be necessary.”

The House bill does not address the indirect cost rate as the 2008 Farm Bill did. Thus, under the proposed House bill, the indirect cost rate remains at the current level of 30 percent established in the FY 2012 Agriculture Appropriations bill. The House and Senate versions of the FY 2013 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill currently pending before Congress would extend the 30 percent indirect cost rate for another year. The 2008 Farm Bill increased the indirect cost rate from 19 percent to 22 percent.

The House bill does not include provisions that would establish a non-profit Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) to promote a public-private partnership to leverage additional funding for agriculture research. The Senate bill includes language to create FFAR with mandatory funding of $100 million toward this effort, which must be matched by non-federal funding through the Foundation.

The House Farm Bill would extend existing energy programs affecting rural areas for five years through FY 2017, including the Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI), which would be authorized at $20 million annually. In a significant departure from the Senate bill, the House provides that these energy programs are subject to funding by Congress through the annual appropriations bills. The Senate bill provides nearly $800 million in mandatory spending to continue existing energy programs, which would require no further action by the Congress.

Following the completion of the House committee markup, Agriculture Secretary Vilsack issued a statement that took issue with the recommended deep cuts in the SNAP program and with "misguided” reductions to energy and conservation programs. The Secretary indicated that the Administration would work with Congress during the legislative process to achieve a Farm Bill that is consistent with the President’s budget and policies.

Sources:

To view the text of the House Committee-approved bill, a summary of its provisions, and a section-by-section description of the bill, please see http://agriculture.house.gov/singlepages.aspx?NewsID=1227&LSBID=1271.

 

 

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NSF Releases Dear Colleague Letter: Beyond the Genome: IOS Funding Opportunities for FY 2012-2013

Posted By Lewis-Burke Associates LLC, Monday, July 02, 2012

On June 25, the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Directorate for Biological Sciences released a Dear Colleague Letter to notify the community of additional fiscal year (FY) 2012-2013 funding opportunities within the Division of Integrative Organismal Systems (IOS). These opportunities are in addition to programs announced in specialized Program Solicitations, and aim to address the need for continued support of training at all levels.

Mid-Career Supplements in Organismal Biology

Supplemental funding will be available in FY 2012-2013 for existing IOS awards to support research visits, participation in training opportunities at other facilities, and the use of genome research facilities unavailable at the applicant's institution. Additionally, funds may also be requested for salary support of the applicant during the training period, if necessary.

Training Workshops

IOS seeks to fund "one or more hands-on workshops that provide one to three-week residential training experiences in wet lab and/or bioinformatics approaches to organismal research.”

Research Experiences for Teachers and Research Assistantships for High School Students

Supplemental funding is available for Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) and Research Assistantships for High School Students (RAHSS) research opportunities. IOS "encourages proposers to consider their inclusion in preliminary proposals and invited full proposals submitted to the FY 2013 IOS Core Program Solicitation.”

Sources and Additional Information:

For complete details and contact information, NSF's Dear Colleague letter is available at http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2012/nsf12093/nsf12093.jsp?WT.mc_id=USNSF_25&WT.mc_ev=click

Tags:  NSF 

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Senate Agriculture Committee Reports 2012 Farm Bill; Floor Action Expected in June

Posted By Lewis-Burke Associates LLC, Tuesday, June 12, 2012

On April 26, the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry approved legislation that, if enacted into law, would result in a far-reaching reorganization of programs supporting the nation’s farmers and ranchers. The bill, S. 3240, the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2012, would dramatically restructure farm income support and crop insurance programs, as well as eliminate, consolidate, and streamline existing programs for conservation, rural development, trade, nutrition, energy, research and extension, forestry, and related programs for the five-year period through fiscal year (FY) 2017. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has announced he plans to take up the bill for debate by the full Senate in the near future.  Meanwhile, the House Agriculture Committee has concluded hearings on the Farm Bill and anticipates preparing its own bill later this summer.  

For the USDA research and extension programs, the Senate bill would largely extend current programs. The bill would extend the authorization for intramural research through the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) through FY 2017. The Senate bill would also reauthorize the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) through FY 2017 and extend the authorization for NIFA’s extramural competitive grants program, the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), at the current $700 million annual level (AFRI is currently funded at $264.5 million in FY 2012). The bill would also reauthorize funding for the Extension Service.  

The Senate version of the Farm Bill has no provisions affecting the current formula grant programs for land-grant institutions. Formula programs authorized under the Hatch Act and Smith-Lever Act have open-ended authorizations for appropriations at "such sums as may be necessary.” 

Additionally, the Senate bill does not address the indirect cost rate as the 2008 Farm Bill did. Thus, under the proposed Senate bill, the indirect cost rate remains at the current level of 30 percent established in the FY 2012 Agriculture Appropriations bill. The 2008 Farm Bill increased the indirect cost rate from 19 percent to 22 percent.  

The bill would establish a significant new research initiative in the creation of a non-profit Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR), which would promote a public-private partnership to leverage additional funding for agriculture research. The Senate bill includes mandatory funding of $100 million toward this effort, which must be matched by non-federal funding through the Foundation.  

The Senate Farm Bill would extend existing energy programs affecting rural areas, including the Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI), which would be extended for five years through FY 2017 and would be authorized at $30 million annually. The most significant amendment adopted during the Committee consideration of the bill would provide $800 million in mandatory spending to continue existing energy programs. Of this amount, $26 million in mandatory funding is provided each year through FY 2017 for BRDI. 

For a full report on the 2012 Farm Bill from our government affairs consultants, Lewis-Burke Associates, please visit: /resource/group/6d461cb9-5b79-4571-a164-924fa40395a5/docs/120601_senate-reported_farm_.pdf

 

Tags:  Congress  Farm Bill  Senate  USDA 

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Broadening Participation: NSF Releases Dear Colleague Letter on Increasing Hispanic Representation in STEM Fields

Posted By Lewis-Burke Associates LLC, Friday, June 01, 2012

On May 25, the National Science Foundation (NSF) released a Dear Colleague Letter to notify the scientific research and education community of the agency’s efforts to increase Hispanic participation in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields. The recent announcement does not signal a new program; rather it reflects NSF’s effort to expand educational opportunities to Hispanic students and researchers through existing programs. The announcement also signals NSF’s intention to engage institutions of higher education in the process of attracting more Hispanic applicants to NSF programs. Although NSF has many programs for which Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs) and under-represented minority students are eligible to apply, there is no funding dedicated exclusively to HSIs.

NSF outlines five goals around which funding for HSIs will focus:
  • Increasing the participation and graduation rates of Hispanic students pursuing undergraduate and/or graduate degrees in STEM fields;
  • Increasing Hispanic participation in STEM research;
  • New STEM "instructional approaches, program models, and strategies in HSIs;”
  • Improving and increasing STEM faculty representation at HSIs; and
  • "[Leveraging] increased Hispanic participation in STEM through partnerships with other stakeholders committed to broadening participation.”
The Dear Colleague indicates NSF’s desire to increase support for curriculum and coursework development, as well as laboratory and mentoring assistance for Hispanic students pursuing STEM degrees in the coming years. Currently however, support is limited to the following programs:
The Dear Colleague stresses the value of collaborating with like-minded institutions or organizations including "sister institutions of higher education, industry and not-for profit organizations, professional societies, regional and state government organizations, K-12 schools and school districts, and researchers with expertise in the science of broadening participation,” when submitting proposals. NSF also encourages HSIs to apply for grants to support conferences, symposia, and workshops related to the goals listed above.
Sources and Additional Information:

 

NSF’s Dear Colleague letter can be found here http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2012/nsf12081/nsf12081.jsp.

Tags:  NSF 

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Global Research Council Formed to Address Scientific Integrity and Open Access

Posted By Kathy R. Munkvold, Thursday, May 17, 2012

In keeping with the current administration’s interest in increasing U.S. scientist collaborations with international researchers, the National Science Foundation (NSF) hosted 47 leaders of funding agencies from 44 countries for the Global Summit on Merit Review. The two-day summit, held over May 14 and 15, culminated in the release of a Statement of Principles for Scientific Merit Review and the formation of the Global Research Council (GRC).

According to NSF Director, Subra Suresh the newly formed GRC will be a "voluntary,…virtual organization" for discussion of "shared goals, aspirations, and principles, and provide a vehicle to unify science across the globe." In its inaugural year, the GRC will focus its attention on strengthening scientific integrity and increasing open access globally.

The first GRC statement stresses six major principles for scientific merit review including: expert assessment, transparency, impartiality, appropriateness, confidentiality, and integrity and ethical considerations. These principles set a global consensus to facilitate cooperation among funding agencies and to provide guidance for implementation of merit review by new funding agencies.

Links:

Tags:  funding  international  NSF  Open access  OSTP  peer review 

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National Science Foundation Funding Up 4.3% in House Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Bill, Surpassing the Senate Mark

Posted By Lewis-Burke Associates LLC, Monday, April 23, 2012

On April 19, the House Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) Appropriations Subcommittee and the full Senate Appropriations Committee approved their respective versions of the fiscal year (FY) 2013 CJS appropriations bill, which funds the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Economic Development Administration (EDA) and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). NSF, NIST, NOAA, and NASA are particular winners in the House bill. At this point, it is still too early to compare the House mark with the bill the Senate Appropriations Committee approved earlier today as details on the Senate bill remain scarce.

As previously reported, there is low likelihood of Congress passing any appropriations bills for FY 2013 before the November elections. Furthermore, the House appropriations bills will be a total of $19 billion below the level set in the Budget Control Act of 2011 (debt-limit agreement) while the Senate Appropriations Committee intends to write its bills to the higher level of $1.047 trillion approved last year in the Act. Below are additional details on NSF funding in the House CJS Subcommittee bill.

Similar to the Senate, the National Science Foundation (NSF) would continue to receive strong bipartisan support in the House, with the House Subcommittee proposing $7.333 billion overall for NSF, an increase of $299 million or four percent over FY 2012, $41 million or less than one percent below the FY 2013 request, and $60 million above the Senate mark. With the exception of the Research and Related Activities (R&RA) account, the Subcommittee would support all NSF accounts at the President’s FY 2013 requested level. The Subcommittee would provide an increase of $254 million or five percent over FY 2012 to the R&RA account; however, this amount would be a decrease of $41 million or less than one percent below the President’s request for FY 2013.

The House Subcommittee bill would fully fund OSTP at the President’s request of $6 million, which is an increase of $1 million (30 percent) over the FY 2012 level.

 

 

House CJS Appropriations Bill, FY 2013

As reported by the House CJS Appropriations Subcommittee, 4/19/12

(In thousands)

 

National Science Foundation


FY 2012 Enacted

FY 2013 Request

House Mark*

Senate Mark†

House vs. Senate

NSF, total

7,033,100

7,373,100

7,332,513 (4.3%)

7,273,000 (3.4%)

59,513

(0.8%)

Research & Related Activities (R&RA)

5,689,000

5,983,280

5,942,693 (4.5%)

N/A

N/A

Education & Human Resources (EHR)

829,000

875,610

875,610 (5.6%)

N/A

N/A

Major Research Equipment & Facilities Construction (MREFC)

197,060

196,170

196,170 (-0.5%)

N/A

N/A

 Agency Operations & Award Management

299,400

299,400

299,400 (0%)

N/A

N/A

 National Science Board (NSB)

4,440

4,440

4,440 (0%)

N/A

N/A

Office of Inspector General  

14,200

14,200

14,200 (0%)

N/A

N/A

* Percentage comparison is to the FY 2012 enacted level.

† Percentage comparison is to the FY 2012 enacted level.

 

 

 

Sources:

The House CJS Subcommittee’s press release is available at http://appropriations.house.gov/News/DocumentSingle.aspx?DocumentID=290672.

The House CJS draft bill is available at http://appropriations.house.gov/UploadedFiles/BILLS-112HR-SC-AP-FY13-CommerceJusticeScience.pdf.

Chairman Wolf’s opening remarks during the Subcommittee markup are available at http://appropriations.house.gov/News/DocumentSingle.aspx?DocumentID=291030.

Tags:  appropriations  House  NSF  OSTP 

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National Science Foundation Funding Up 3.4% in Senate Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Bill

Posted By Lewis-Burke Associates LLC, Wednesday, April 18, 2012

On April 17, the Senate Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) Appropriations Subcommittee approved its version of the fiscal year (FY) 2013 appropriations bill, which funds the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and Economic Development Administration (EDA). The bill is a mixed bag for these agencies, of which NSF and NIST are the clearest winners as they would receive substantial increases over their FY 2012 funding levels. NASA Science also fares well. However, the bill would deal a heavy blow to NOAA, by transferring its weather satellite programs to NASA, while EDA would receive a decrease below the FY 2012 level. The Subcommittee passed the bill on a 17 to one vote with Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) as the lone opposing vote.

Although the overall CJS bill would cut $1 billion from the FY 2012 level, it is important to note there is low likelihood of Congress passing any appropriations bills for FY 2013 before the November elections as there is an extreme divide between both Democrats and Republicans, as well as between the House and Senate. The Senate plans to write the appropriations bills at the level agreed to last August in the Budget Control Act while the House bills will be a total of $19 billion lower.

While no details are available regarding specific NSF priorities and programs, the bill would fund the National Science Foundation at $7.3 billion, down $100 million (1.4 percent) from the President’s FY 2013 budget request, but $240 million or 3.4 percent above the FY 2012 level.

Senate CJS Appropriations Bill, FY 2013

As reported by the Senate CJS Appropriations Subcommittee, 4/17/12

(In thousands)


FY 2012

Enacted

FY 2013 Request

FY 2013 Subcom Mark*

Subcom vs.

FY 2012 Enacted

Subcom vs.

FY 2013 Request

NSF

7,033,100

7,373,100

7,273,000

240,000 (3.4%)

-100,000 (1.4%)

NASA

17,770,000

17,711,400

19,370,000†

1,600,000 (9.0%)

1,658,600 (9.4%)

NASA Science

5,073,700

4,911,200

5,004,700

-69,000 (1.4%)

93,500 (1.9%)

NOAA

4,906,611

5,060,482

3,436,611

-1,470,000 (30.0%)

-1,623,871 (32.1%)

NIST

750,824

857,000

825,824

75,000 (10%)

-31,176 (3.6%)

EDA

257,500

219,719

237,500

-20,000 (7.8%)

17,781 (8.1%)

* Senate CJS numbers reflect amounts from the Subcommittee press release, which have been rounded. Exact numbers are not yet available.

† The increase to NASA reflects the proposal to move NOAA’s satellite procurement and management activities to NASA. Without this large increase, the Senate CJS bill would cut NASA by $41.5 million below the FY 2012 level.

‡ The cut to NOAA reflects a proposal to move of NOAA’s satellite procurement and management activities, which constitute more than one-third of the agency’s budget, to NASA.

For additional information, including the Subcommittee’s press release, please see the Senate CJS Appropriations Subcommittee website at: http://www.appropriations.senate.gov/news.cfm?method=news.view&id=6bc432b7-656b-4930-b0cf-bd3deef4fc3a.

Tags:  appropriations  NSF  Senate 

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Obama Administration Announces “Big Data” Initiative

Posted By Lewis-Burke Associates LLC , Thursday, April 12, 2012

On March 29, the Obama Administration announced a "Big Data Research and Development Initiative”[1]. The Big Data initiative aims to develop new tools and techniques to manage vast and complex data sets to help address societal challenges in areas such as environmental and biomedical research, education, and national security.

The initiative involves six Federal departments and agencies, including the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institutes of Health (NIH), Department of Defense (DOD), Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Department of Energy (DOE), and the US Geological Survey (USGS). The agencies will invest more than $200 million to improve how large data sets are accessed, organized and interpreted through a number of ongoing and new activities. According to the White House press release, the initiative aims to:

  • Advance state-of-the-art core technologies needed to collect, store, preserve, manage, analyze, and share huge quantities of data.
  • Harness these technologies to accelerate the pace of discovery in science and engineering, strengthen our national security, and transform teaching and learning.
  • Expand the workforce needed to develop and use Big Data technologies.

As part of the initiative, several new competitions were announced at NSF, NIH, and DARPA. Below is information on selected individual opportunities.

 

National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Institutes for Health (NIH) – Joint Solicitation: Core Techniques and Technologies for Advancing Big Data Science & Engineering

This solicitation will advance science and technology to manage, analyze, visualize, and extract information from large data sets. According to the solicitation, proposals should address one of three areas: data collection and management, data analytics, or e-science collaborative environments. All proposals should also address capacity building. NIH seeks proposals that tackle the above issues as part of data sets related to health and disease, especially imaging, molecular, cellular, electrophysiological, chemical, behavioral, epidemiological, or clinical data sets.

Many offices at NSF and NIH are participating in the solicitation. NSF offices include the Directorates for Biological Sciences (BIO), Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE), Education and Human Resources (EHR), Engineering (ENG), Geosciences (GEO), Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS), and Social Behavioral and Economic Sciences (SBE); and the Offices of Cyberinfrastructure (OCI) and Polar Programs (OPP). NIH offices include the National Cancer Institute (NCI), National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB), National institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), National Library of Medicine (NLM), and National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI).

Letters of Intent: Letters of Intent are not required.

Due Dates: No preliminary proposals are required. Full proposals are due June 13, 2012 for mid-scale projects and July 11, 2012 for small-scale projects.

Total Funding and Award Size: NSF and NIH plan to award a total of $25 million to 15 to 20 projects. Small-scale awards will be up to $250,000 per year for up to three years, while mid-scale awards will be up to $1 million per year for up to five years.

Eligibility and Limitations: This solicitation uses regular NSF eligibility requirements. There are no limits on the number of proposals that can be submitted per organization. Principal investigators are limited to two proposals.

Additional Resources: Contacts and additional information are available at http://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=504767.

 

NSF Dear Colleague Letter – IGERT-CIF21 Track

NSF has released a Dear Colleague letter to alert the community that it will establish a Cyberinfrastructure Framework for 21st Century Science and Engineering (CIF21) track in its Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) program. The CIF21 track aims to educate and support the next generation of researchers working on big data issues. NSF will publish a funding opportunity with more details shortly. The Dear Colleague letter is available at http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2012/nsf12059/nsf12059.jsp.

 

NSF Dear Colleague Letter Data-Intensive Education-Related Research Funding Opportunities

EHR, SBE, CISE, and OCI released a joint Dear Colleague letter to alert the community that a solicitation on data-intensive education research will be released shortly. The solicitation will call for participants in an Ideas Lab to "advance teaching and learning focused on transforming large datasets into knowledge that leads to actions that can improve learning environments”. NSF expects to fund a range of research projects generated at the Ideas Lab. The Dear Colleague letter also highlights existing NSF funding opportunities in this area. The Dear Colleague letter is available at http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2012/nsf12060/nsf12060.jsp.

 

Other Activities

In addition to the new competitions listed above, NSF, DOE, and USGS announced newly awarded grants and projects:

National Institutes of Health (NIH) – 1,000 Genomes Project Data Available on Cloud

NIH posted the 1000 Genomes Project data on the Amazon Web Services (AWS) computing cloud. According to the NIH press release,[2] the data set is the world’s largest on human genetic variation and will now be available for use by researchers.

National Science Foundation (NSF) – New Big Data Awards in Ongoing Initiatives

  • The Directorate of Geosciences will award the first round of grants to support the Earth Cube[3] initiative, which aims to create a unified data infrastructure for the geosciences.
  • The Expeditions in Computing program[4] will award $10 million for a project at University of California, Berkeley to integrate machine learning, cloud computing, and crowd sourcing to convert large volumes of data into useable information.
  • The Research Training Groups in the Mathematical Sciences (RTG) program[5] will award $2 million to the University of California, Davis for undergraduate training in graphical and visualization techniques for complex data.
  • The Focused Research Groups in the Mathematical Sciences (FRG) program[6] will award $1.4 million to an unnamed group to support statistical and biological research on protein structures and biological pathways.
  • The international Digging into Data Challenge announced its second round of awards to support humanities and social science research involving large data sets.[7]

A complete listing of NSF announcements related to Big Data is available at http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=123607.

 

Department of Energy (DOE) – New Scientific Discovery Through Advanced Computing (SciDAC) Institute

DOE announced[8] a $25 million award to create a new SciDAC Institute, the Scalable Data Management, Analysis, and Visualization Institute (SDAV). SDAV will be led by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and will bring together six national laboratories and seven universities to help scientists manage and visualize data from large and complex simulations run on DOE supercomputers.

 

US Geological Survey – Big Data for Earth System Science Awards

The John Wesley Powell Center for Analysis and Synthesis[9] announced its latest round of awards, which will contribute towards the Big Data initiative. These awards will help improve understanding of a range of issues including how species respond to climate change, earthquake recurrence rates, and the next generation of ecological indicators.

 

Ongoing Programs

The White House also compiled an extensive listing of ongoing programs across the Federal government that relate to Big Data challenges: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/big_data_fact_sheet.pdf.

Tags:  DOD  DOE  NIH  NSF  President Obama 

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New Legislation to Establish a Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research Introduced

Posted By Kathy R. Munkvold, Wednesday, April 04, 2012

On March 29th, new legislation to establish a Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research was introduced by Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Pat Roberts (R-KS), Chairwoman and Ranking Member of the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, respectively. The foundation that would be created by the legislation aims to facilitate public/private partnerships and leverage private investments in food and agriculture research. The full text of the bill can be found here: http://roberts.senate.gov/public/_pdf/WEI12224.pdf.

ASPB has been working closely with an ad hoc group in support of food and agriculture research, spearheaded by ASPB member and former NIFA Director Roger Beachy, to elevate the perception of and need for food and agriculture research in general and specifically to establish a foundation similar to that proposed in the legislation, but with the ultimate goal of a federal match on private investments. The ad hoc coalition garnered support for the legislation through a letter with nearly 100 scientific societies (including ASPB), growers’ and producers’ associations, universities, and private companies signing on. The letter and list of signatories can be found here: http://1.usa.gov/H40Wa2.

One extremely successful precedent for a similar foundation is the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (http://www.fnih.org/), which has raised more than $500 million dollars supplementing NIH research funding in its 15 year existence.

It is expected that this legislation will be wrapped up into Farm Bill discussions. Accordingly, Chairwoman Stabenow stated in a press release (http://roberts.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?p=PressReleases&ContentRecord_id=53df1ead-a114-4009-8704-57603b91b6c1), "The potential to create this foundation as part of the new farm bill is yet one more reason to get the farm bill completed as soon as possible.”

Tags:  Farm Bill  Senate  USDA 

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ASPB Executive Director Crispin Taylor to testify at House Hearing on Public Access and Scholarly Publication

Posted By Kathy R. Munkvold, Tuesday, March 27, 2012

ASPB’s Executive Director, Crispin Taylor, will be testifying to the U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Science Space and Technology, Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight on the topic of Federally Funded Research: Examining Public Access and Scholarly Publication Interests. The hearing is currently scheduled for Thursday, March 29, 2012 at 9:30 a.m. EDT and will be webcast live.

Consistent with ASPB’s response earlier this year to an Office of Science and Technology Policy request for information on similar topics, Taylor will argue that the government should adopt sensible, flexible, and cautious approaches to drafting and revising public access policies or regulations. These approaches should engage all concerned parties, including federal agencies, scientists, university administrators, librarians, publishers, and the public and should foster innovation and collaboration. Policies should focus on providing access to the definitive version of an article, which is typically hosted on the publisher’s website; developing robust metadata standards; and ensuring increased interoperability among journal articles and other valuable sources of information online. Policies should also recognize and embrace the global nature of scientific research and scholarly publishing. Taylor will further testify that government mandates that specify business models or embargo periods are detrimental to collaborative progress toward improved access to and utility of scholarly information online. Please see full written testimony.

Taylor has served as the Executive Director of ASPB since 2004. He previously held the positions of news and reviews editor and managing editor at The Plant Cell (http://www.plantcell.org), which is published by ASPB, and he has also worked at Science’s Next Wave (now part of Science Careers website, http://www.sciencecareers.org) where he collaborated with AAAS’s Education and Human Resources unit to develop the Minority Scientists’ Network (http://www.miscinet.org).

For more information on the hearing, including other public witnesses and a link to the live webcast, please see the following website: http://science.house.gov/hearing/subcommittee-investigations-and-oversight-hearing-examining-public-access-and-scholarly.


Tags:  House  Open access 

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Sonny Ramaswamy tapped as Director of USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture

Posted By Kathy R. Munkvold, Wednesday, March 14, 2012

On Friday, March 9th, President Obama announced his intent to appoint Sonny Ramaswamy as the next Director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Ramaswamy will be replacing Acting Director Chavonda Jacobs-Young, who filled the vacancy left by former Director and ASPB member Roger Beachy last spring. Ramaswamy is currently the Dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences at Oregon State University where he has served since 2009 and Director of the Oregon Agricultural Experiment Station. Previously he has held the positions of Associate Dean of Purdue's College of Agriculture and head of the Department of Entomology at Kansas State University.

Ramaswamy’s research has focused on the reproductive biology of insects and the interaction between insects and crop plants including pests of wheat, cotton, beans, and trees. He has been honored for his scientific contributions as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Fellow of the Entomological Society of America, and Distinguished Graduate Alumnus of Cook College, Rutgers University. Congratulations to Dr. Ramaswamy as he begins his new position at NIFA.


Links:

Tags:  President Obama  USDA 

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Support to Pass the Farm Bill this Year Comes from Both Sides of the House

Posted By Kathy R. Munkvold, Tuesday, March 06, 2012

This week both sides of the House of Representatives spoke out in support of passing the 2012 farm bill this year on The Hill’s Congress Blog: Where lawmakers come to blog. Representative Vicky Hartzler (R-Missouri) and Representative Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) both highlighted the importance of agriculture to our nation’s economy.

Rep. Hartzler stressed that, "Only about half of 1 percent of the [federal] budget supports food production -- a very small investment to keep our food supply safe, affordable and reliable.” Furthermore, funding of research for food and agriculture makes up an even smaller fraction of the one half of one percent. Rep. Hartzler called out the importance of agricultural research in feeding a growing global population. "Crop yields have increased tremendously over the past few years due to improved genetics and enhanced crop protection products…continued improvements are necessary to feed the world.”

Rep. Cuellar worries about other pieces of long-term legislation taking precedence over the farm bill and the effects of not passing the bill this year. "Without a new farm bill, USDA is unable to assist with new difficulties that have arisen since 2008 - such as the expanding citrus diseases – and cut areas that have out lived their usefulness.”

In February, ASPB joined 86 other organizations by signing a letter to House and Senate Agriculture Committee leadership in support of completing the farm bill in 2012. We will continue to monitor the Farm Bill debate and provide updates on its progress.


Tags:  Congress  Farm Bill  House  USDA 

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PCAST Releases Report on Undergraduate STEM Education and Obama Administration Announces New Initiatives

Posted By Lewis-Burke Associates LLC, Friday, February 24, 2012

Lewis-Burke Associates LLC – February 22, 2012

On February 7, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) released the report, "Engage to Excel: Producing One Million Additional College Graduates with Degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).” This report on undergraduate education is a follow-up to an earlier PCAST report on K-12 STEM education that was released in September 2010, and both are centered on the goal of creating a STEM-capable workforce. The new report focuses on the first two years of undergraduate learning, which PCAST considers a crucial step in the STEM pipeline.

The recommendations are:

  • Catalyze the adoption of empirically-validated teaching techniques through the alignment of incentives for faculty, the expansion of disciplinary models that prepare new faculty in research-based STEM teaching, and the creation of a new grant program for institutional transformation. The report also recommends that the National Academies create metrics to evaluate STEM undergraduate teaching and learning.
  • Create new research courses for first and second year students to involve students in research early and move away from "cookbook” experiments. Scale-up model research and design courses and change federal rules to allow the expansion of opportunities for students in faculty research laboratories.
  • Engage mathematicians and scientists in a national postsecondary mathematics education experiment to improve math education and ensure that early math courses are connected to science learning needs.
  • Encourage stakeholder partnerships to diversify pathways to STEM careers, including connecting high school students to summer STEM learning opportunities, strengthening pathways from two to four year institutions, and catalyzing the creation of public-private partnerships to advance STEM learning that establishes industry-relevant skills.
  • Create a Presidential council to provide leadership on undergraduate STEM education. This council would involve various stakeholders from academia, business, foundations, and scientific societies to inspire changes to undergraduate education and make recommendations on specific federal activities.

In response to the PCAST report, the President announced new initiatives in the fiscal year (FY) 2013 budget request to support the recommendations:

  • Widening Implementation and Demonstration of Evidence-based Reforms (WIDER): $20 million would be provided (a 150 percent increase over FY 2012) to increase the use of evidence-based undergraduate STEM education practices through institutional reforms.
  • Expeditions in Education (E2): NSF would establish a new program E2 to connect EHR with NSF research directorates and offices to "integrate, leverage, and expand STEM education research and development” with NSF research activities. E2 would be supported at $49 million in FY 2013 with a focus on undergraduate education, sustainability, and cyberlearning.
  • K-16 Math Education: NSF will work with the Department of Education to develop an "evidence-based initiative to improve K-16 mathematics and knowledge building.” In FY 2013, the Department of Education’s Fund for the Improvement of Education and NSF’s Directorate for Education and Human Resources (EHR) will each contribute $30 million, with EHR’s support through the Discovery Research K-12 and Transforming Undergraduate Education in STEM (TUES) programs. Funding for other TUES activities would also be increased.
  • STEM Teacher Training: $80 million would be provided through the Department of Education for a new competitive program as part of the Effective Teachers and Leaders program. The new funding would support STEM teacher preparation programs, such as those modeled on the University of Texas UTEACH program that allows undergraduate students to earn a STEM bachelors degree and a teaching certificate at the same time.

The full PCAST report can be found at http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/pcast-engage-to-excel-v11.pdf.

Additional information, including a shorter fact sheet and a webcast of the report release can be found at http://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/ostp/pcast.

Information on the White House commitments announced in response to the report are available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/pcast-related_initiatives_fact_sheet.pdf.

Tags:  education  PCAST 

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Science Policy Student Board Member Position at Student Pugwash USA

Posted By Kathy R. Munkvold, Thursday, February 09, 2012

Shape the Future of Student Pugwash USA.

Are you passionate about issues in science and technology policy or science, technology, and society? Do you want to be a leader in engaging young people on these issues? Want to help decide the future of a student-run national nonprofit with over 30 years of experience in promoting social responsibility in science and technology? If so, apply today to become a student board member of Student Pugwash USA.

The Board of Directors is different from many other national social benefit organizations because students make up almost a third of it, with full voting rights just like all other board members. Student Board Members will work with the full Board of Directors to help set SPUSA’s national priorities and agenda, foster and maintain our network of students, manage our social media strategy and blog, and help to develop funding for programs and activities for engaging students in critical issues relating to science and technology policy. Current SPUSA programs include a 2012 science, technology, and society in the elections contest; SPUSA alumni networking happy hours; and an under development Student Pugwash fellowship program.

Learn more at http://www.spusa.org/campus/sbm.html.

Student Board Member Applications Due Feb 27, 2012.

Sharlissa Moore
605.484.5450
Human & Social Dimensions of Science and Technology PhD student | Arizona State University
Research Associate, Consortium for Science, Policy, and Outcomes | http://cspo.org
President, Student Pugwash USA I http://www.spusa.org

Tags:  fellowship  policy 

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Association for Women in Science Policy Fellowship

Posted By Kathy R. Munkvold, Monday, February 06, 2012

Position Summary: AWIS is seeking a self-motivated, dynamic, and enthusiastic individual who supports the mission of our organization and is ready to hit the ground running in this exciting and rigorous Public Policy Fellowship.

Responsibilities: The Public Policy Fellow at AWIS is responsible for many aspects of the National Office’s advocacy operations. The Fellow will attend all Congressional briefings and coalition meetings on Capitol Hill related to women, science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) that are relevant to the AWIS mission, and will be expected to keep a detailed record of all policy initiatives and events via three main outlets:

1. The AWIS in Action! Advocacy and Public Policy Newsletter,

2. the AWIS Magazine and

3. the AWIS website.

In addition to attending regular meetings and events, the Fellow is expected to be engaged with the women’s community as well as the STEM community; building partnerships, coalitions, and making connections across all disciplines and types of organizational/institutional entities.

Requirements: Successful applicants will have at least a Bachelor’s degree in a field related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), or some other field with a focus on data analysis or scientific writing. As the Fellow will write and edit our monthly AWIS in Action! Advocacy and Public Policy Newsletter, a strong command of writing in English is essential. A successful applicant must be able to demonstrate critical thinking skills, editing, and writing ability. Must have a solid understanding of political processes. Capitol Hill experience or comparable advocacy experience strongly preferred.

Application Instructions: Send a cover letter, resume/CV, and short writing sample (no more than 5 pages) to popejoy@awis.org with the words "Public Policy Fellowship” in the subject line.

Duration: 1-2 Years

Deadline: February 15, 2012

Tags:  fellowship 

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National Science Board: NSB Report on Merit Review Criteria: Review and Revisions

Posted By Kathy R. Munkvold, Monday, February 06, 2012

Lewis-Burke Associates LLC – January 2012

On January 9, the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) National Science Board (NSB) published a report titled NSF Merit Review Criteria: Review and Revisions. After extensive review and stakeholder consultation, the NSB concluded that Intellectual Merit and Broader Impacts should be maintained as the two review criteria used to assess NSF proposals. The report provides clarification on the meaning of the two criteria and how they should be applied in the merit review process.

As previously reported by Lewis-Burke Associates, an NSB Task Force on Merit Review was established in February 2010 to examine the effectiveness of the two Merit Review Criteria. The Task Force sought extensive stakeholder engagement including: interviews with senior NSF staff; a public consultation resulting in over four thousand responses from reviewers and Principal Investigators; data from two hundred Committee of Visitor Reports; and data from over 100,000 research proposals submitted to NSF between 2006-09.

NSB concluded that while the two criteria remain appropriate, there is a need to provide greater clarity on each of the criteria and explain how they relate to the NSF core principles. The updated review criteria definitions are:

  • Intellectual Merit: The Intellectual Merit criterion encompasses the potential to advance knowledge; and
  • Broader Impacts: The Broader Impacts criterion encompasses the potential to benefit society and contribute to the achievement of specific, desired societal outcomes.

NSB also established a set of overarching principles for merit review:

  • Support highest quality projects.
  • Aggregate of NSF projects to contribute to societal goal.
  • Appropriate evaluation and assessment of projects.

In addition to the new principles and definitions for the two criteria, NSB has provided revised guidance on elements that should be considered in the review process for both criteria. This guidance will replace the individual guidance currently provided for each of the two criteria.

The report notes that the Broader Impacts criterion is required as an element of merit review under the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act. The COMPETES Reauthorization states that the overall goals of the broader impact criterion should be increased or improved to address issues including: economic competitiveness; global science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce competitiveness; participation of women and underrepresented minorities; partnerships with industry; preK-12 STEM education; undergraduate STEM education; public scientific literacy; and national security. However, NSB recommended that NSF not include this list or other examples of broader impacts in the criteria to avoid being too prescriptive or restricting the creativity of NSF researchers.

NSF will be implementing the enhanced merit review criteria in subsequent months.

The full report is available at http://www.nsf.gov/nsb/publications/2011/meritreviewcriteria.pdf.

The current criteria can be found at http://nsf.gov/pubs/policydocs/pappguide/nsf11001/gpg_3.jsp#IIIA.


Tags:  funding  grants  NSB  NSF 

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ASPB Alert: Deadline to sign on to GRANT Act "Dear Colleague" Letter Extended

Posted By Kathy R. Munkvold, Tuesday, January 24, 2012

As you may be aware, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee recently approved the Grant Reform and New Transparency (GRANT) Act, H.R. 3433. The bill, which the full House has not considered, is intended to provide more transparency in the federal grant-making process by requiring all federal agencies to publicize the selection procedures for each grant program. It also mandates the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) create a single, comprehensive website for all federal grant opportunities, among other provisions.

Many in the research community have concerns with the bill’s transparency requirements in the peer-review process, which include the posting of full copies of funded proposals online (albeit with an exception for information that is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)). Although many efforts have been made to effect positive changes in the bill, the amount of disclosure required is still potentially damaging to the peer-review process. As such, Representatives Rush Holt (D-NJ) and David Price (D-NC) have drafted a "Dear Colleague" letter, which can be viewed here, to the House leadership urging them to fix these remaining issues; Reps. Holt and Price also are seeking additional signatories to the letter from among their colleagues.

ASPB is closely monitoring this bill and working to remove damaging provisions in the legislation. If you have concerns with the GRANT Act, you can share them with your Representative and/or encourage them to sign on to the Holt-Price Dear Colleague letter. Contact information for your Representative is available at http://house.gov/representatives/. You can either call their Washington, D.C., office or send an e-mail via your Representative’s website. If you do not know who your Representative is, you can enter your zip code into the above website to find out. The deadline for additional signatories to the Dear Colleague letter has been extended to Friday, January 27.

If you’d like help reaching out to your Representative, please contact ASPB’s Public Affairs Manager, Kathy Munkvold, at kmunkvold@aspb.org.

Tags:  Alert  grants  House  peer review 

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USDA closing 259 U.S. offices to cut costs

Posted By Kathy R. Munkvold, Thursday, January 12, 2012

In an effort to save $150 million, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced Monday the closure of 259 U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) offices. Most of the savings have come from reducing travel and supplies, whereas the office closings will result in about $60 million in savings. The closures will impact offices at USDA headquarters in Washington, D.C., 46 states, and one U.S. territory and include 12 Agricultural Research Service (ARS) programs in ten locations. In public statement, Vilsack said, "the Blueprint for Stronger Service effectively means that in an era of reduced budgets, we’re not going to see reduced service.” Vilsack added that if the USDA did not undertake the consolidation of offices with zero to two employees in many cases, the remaining option would be furloughs or a reduction in workforce, ultimately leading to a reduction in service.

Despite Visack’s commitment to stronger service, some raise concerns about effects on food safety as the USDA plans to close five of the fifteen Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) district offices throughout the United States. Undersecretary for Food Safety, Elisabeth Hagen says that although the offices are being consolidated, there would be no reduction in inspectors or inspection work. "Not only do we have a statutory obligation to be in every facility, we have an unwavering commitment to food safety,” Hagen said in a statement. "We will still be on the job, in every facility, every day.” It will be clear in time whether the USDA can maintain its current standard of service following the closures.


Additional information regarding the USDA office closures:

Tags:  USDA 

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ASPB ALERT: Concerns Regarding the Grant Reform and New Transparency (GRANT) Act (H.R. 3433)

Posted By Kathy R. Munkvold, Monday, January 09, 2012

As you may be aware, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee recently approved the Grant Reform and New Transparency (GRANT) Act, H.R. 3433. The bill, which the full House has not considered, is intended to provide more transparency in the federal grant-making process by requiring all federal agencies to publicize the selection procedures for each grant program. It also mandates the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) create a single, comprehensive website for all federal grant opportunities, among other provisions.

Many in the research community have concerns with the bill’s transparency requirements in the peer-review process, which include the posting of full copies of funded proposals online (albeit with an exception for information that is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)). Although many efforts have been made to effect positive changes in the bill, the amount of disclosure required is still potentially damaging to the peer-review process. As such, Representatives Rush Holt (D-NJ) and David Price (D-NC) have drafted a "Dear Colleague” letter to the House leadership urging them to fix these remaining issues; Reps. Holt and Price also are seeking additional signatories to the letter from among their colleagues.

ASPB is closely monitoring this bill and working to remove damaging provisions in the legislation. If you have concerns with the GRANT Act, you can share them with your Representative and/or encourage them to sign on to the Holt-Price Dear Colleague letter. Contact information for your Representative is available at http://house.gov/representatives/. You can either call their Washington, D.C., office or send an e-mail via your Representative’s website. If you do not know who your Representative is, you can enter your zip code into the above website to find out. The deadline for additional signatories to the Dear Colleague letter is Friday, January 13.

If you’d like help reaching out to your Representative, please contact ASPB’s Public Affairs Manager, Kathy Munkvold, at kmunkvold@aspb.org.

Tags:  Alert  Congress  grants  House 

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Policy Update: FY 2012 Appropriations Update: Congress Completes FY 2012 Appropriations Process

Posted By Lewis-Burke Associates, LLC, Monday, December 19, 2011

Lewis-Burke Associates LLC – December 2011

The U.S. Congress voted to accept a package of fiscal year (FY) 2012 appropriations measures to avoid a shutdown of a significant portion of the Federal Government as the current Continuing Resolution was set to expire Friday night. This action followed months of wrangling over the federal debt and deficit and reducing federal spending. The final bills represent real compromise and sustain important investments in federal research and education programs, such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science, Department of Defense (DOD) basic research, and Pell grants, at current levels or with modest increases. The House of Representatives passed the package early on Friday while the Senate passed the bills on Saturday.

The final conference agreement details funding amounts and agency directives for federal agencies, including:

  • Defense Appropriations Bill – Department of Defense (DOD)
  • Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill – Department of Energy (DOE)
  • Labor, Health and Human Services, Education Appropriations Bill – Department of Education, and the Department of Health and Human Services including the National Institutes of Health (NIH)

The $915 billion Consolidated Appropriations bill includes $30.698 billion for NIH for an increase of $299 million (0.7 percent) above FY 2011. The final bill creates the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), which is the top priority for NIH Director Francis Collins, and includes $10 million for the new Cures Acceleration Network (CAN). The bill decreases the NIH salary cap from Executive Level I ($199,700) to Executive Level II ($179,700)—a better outcome than the House draft bill, which recommended Executive Level III, but the first time Congress has decreased the NIH salary cap.

The DOE Office of Science would receive $4.889 billion, an increase of $46.34 million (about one percent) above FY 2011. The final bill provides $20 million each to establish two new Energy Innovation Hubs – one on Batteries and Energy Storage and one on Critical Materials. The Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) programs of the Department are slated for level funding at $1.825 billion. The Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), will receive $275 million, half of the $550 million requested by the President.

DOD basic and applied research programs remain a priority within the bill as the overall increase for the Department was held to $5 billion above the FY 2011 level, a compromise between the House’s $17 billion increase and the Senate’s proposed freeze. For DOD research overall, a total of $72.4 billion is approved. While this represents a $2.5 billion decrease below the current level, the reduction is less than experienced by other aspects of the defense budget.

The final bill includes the necessary funding to continue the maximum Pell grant award at $5,550, while making changes to the program to reduce cost. However, the program is still expected to face increased funding pressures because of the overall growth of the program.

Additionally, the Senate rejected, in a 43 to 56 vote, a resolution that would have triggered a 1.83 percent across-the-board reduction against all discretionary spending except for defense, military construction, and veterans programs. The reduction was designed to pay for an additional $8.1 billion in disaster relief appropriations, which will now be provided as emergency spending following Senate approval of that legislation.

The Congress also passed, and the President has signed, a bill to extend the Continuing Resolution through December 23rd to allow the President to review and sign the Consolidated Appropriations bill into law this week. These actions will finally complete the FY 2012 appropriations process.

Tags:  appropriations  Congress  DOD  DOE  NIH 

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