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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Policy Archives available under Group Pages.
Posted By Lewis-Burke Associates LLC ,
Wednesday, March 06, 2013
In the absence of agreement on a long-term deficit reduction
plan, on March 1st, President Obama signed an order directing
federal agencies to reduce spending subject to sequestration under the
Budget Control Act of 2011. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB)
estimates that to achieve the necessary $85 billion in savings, sequestration
would require a reduction of approximately 5.0 percent in non-defense
discretionary spending and 7.8 percent in non-exempt defense discretionary
spending. Additional reductions will be taken in certain mandatory
programs specified in the law.
As federal agencies prepare to implement the sequester, the
Congress is turning its attention to the Continuing Resolution (CR), which is
currently funding the entire federal government through March 27. There
is general agreement between Congress and the White House and between Democrats
and Republicans that there should be no government shutdown. It also
appears likely that there will be no attempt to try to overturn the sequester
in the final appropriations bill.
So what is likely to happen?
Due to the significant uncertainty, many federal
agencies restrained spending to hedge their bets in the uncertain budgetary
situation. Many agencies have implemented the traditional CR formula
using the lowest of the FY 2012 enacted level, the President’s FY 2013 budget
request, the House appropriations level, or the Senate appropriations
level. Agencies have also retained some percentage of funding under the
CR in anticipation of a possible sequester.
Because of these actions, the impact of the
sequester will vary by agency depending on the types of programs it
funds. For federal research agencies, the first priority is likely to be
funding existing grants and grantees.
Until Congress completes action on the FY 2013
appropriations bill, research agencies are likely to delay announcing new
Both the House and Senate Appropriations
Committees are working on the CR. The House Committee expects to fund defense-related
bills and to continue the CR level for other federal agencies. The
Senate Committee may offer an omnibus appropriations bill to complete action on
all 12 bills as significant progress on such a bill was made late last year.
Once agencies have a full-year budget to
implement their programs, there could be a flurry of funding solicitations
released with relatively short times for submitting applications in order to
obligate funding this fiscal year, which ends September 30.
In the meantime, each federal agency will be refining its
plan to implement the sequester (please see below for a list of agency
resources on the sequester). Congress and the White House will work to
agree on final FY 2013 appropriations, which will be subject to the sequester.
The next opportunity to restart negotiations between the White House and
Congress on a long-term deficit reduction plan, which may or may not revisit
the sequester, will be during consideration of the budget resolution for FY
2014 and discussions on raising the ceiling on the debt limit, which expires on
On February 14, the Senate Appropriations Committee held a
hearing on the impacts of sequestration. The website below will link you
to a list of department and agency letters to the Committee with information
about how sequestration is expected to impact each entity. Information
for NSF, NIH, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the
Departments of Defense, Commerce, Education, Agriculture, and Energy (as well
as numerous others) can be found here: http://www.appropriations.senate.gov/ht-full.cfm?method=hearings.view&id=17d3dc99-c065-4bec-a7c8-cfd374bf41a3.
5, the director of the National Science Foundation (NSF) Subra Suresh announced
he will be leaving his position at NSF in March to become president of Carnegie
Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Suresh stated in a note to NSF
staff, "It has been my extraordinary honor to lead the National Science
Foundation, which is blessed with a marvelous cohort of highly talented and
devoted staff, as well as hundreds of thousands of innovative grantees and
investigators from every field of science and engineering. I am grateful for
the opportunity to serve the country in this capacity.” Suresh was appointed NSF director by President
Barack Obama in 2010. His successor has not yet been named.
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.
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.”
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:
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
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
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
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
National Science Foundation
FY 2012 Enacted
FY 2013 Request
House vs. Senate
Research & Related Activities (R&RA)
Education & Human Resources (EHR)
Major Research Equipment & Facilities Construction (MREFC)
Agency Operations & Award Management
National Science Board (NSB)
Office of Inspector General
* Percentage comparison is to the FY 2012 enacted level.
† Percentage comparison is to the FY 2012 enacted level.
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
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
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.
CJS Appropriations Bill, FY 2013
reported by the Senate CJS Appropriations Subcommittee, 4/17/12
FY 2013 Request
FY 2013 Subcom Mark*
FY 2012 Enacted
FY 2013 Request
* 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.
Posted By Lewis-Burke Associates LLC ,
Thursday, April 12, 2012
On March 29, the Obama Administration announced a "Big Data Research
and Development Initiative”.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
In addition to the new
competitions listed above, NSF, DOE, and USGS announced newly awarded grants
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, 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
initiative, which aims to create a unified data infrastructure for the
The Expeditions in Computing program 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
The Research Training Groups in the Mathematical
Sciences (RTG) program 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 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.
Department of Energy (DOE) –
New Scientific Discovery Through Advanced Computing (SciDAC) Institute
DOE announced 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
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.
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
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.
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.
also established a set of overarching principles for merit review:
highest quality projects.
of NSF projects to contribute to societal goal.
evaluation and assessment of projects.
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.
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.
will be implementing the enhanced merit review criteria in subsequent months.
Posted By Lewis-Burke Associates, LLC,
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Media attention has focused on the failure of the 12-member
congressional Supercommittee to reach agreement on a package to reduce the
federal deficit by at least $1.2 trillion over the next nine years. However,
universities and science organizations are not the victims of the deficit
impasse. Generally, federal funding for scientific research is not the target
of deficit reduction for several reasons: (1) the amount of domestic
discretionary funding for science is not large enough to have significant
impact on deficit reduction; (2) science has bipartisan support among
politicians since it is part of the innovation economy upon which the country’s
financial recovery is partially dependent; and (3) dismantling the scientific infrastructure of the country is counter-productive in the global
technology-driven forces of the 21st century. There are aspects of the current
federal deficit paralysis that indirectly affect higher education –
particularly relating to student aid, academic health centers, and tax policy –
but reducing direct federal support of scientific research at academic
institutions is not front-and-center.
Now, many are trying to determine what happens next as Congress
still has much work to do before adjourning next month. With funding fully
enacted for the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the Agriculture and Food Research
Initiative (AFRI) the competitive funding arm of the U.S. Department of
Agriculture (USDA), with modest increases (NSF and NOAA), flat funding (AFRI)
or a slight reduction (NASA), completion of the fiscal year (FY) 2012
appropriations process, especially for NIH funding, is an important challenge.
In addition to funding the remaining appropriations bills, which are currently
operating under a Continuing Resolution (CR) through December 16th, there are
other issues looming before Congress, such as extension of unemployment
benefits, doctor payments, and tax extenders. This report describes the impact
of the collapse of the Supercommittee at the federal level; however, actions
might be taken by state and local governments to respond to possible
implications associated with the collapse of the Supercommittee process.
Outlook for Science Funding
Among its many to-dos, Congress must still complete nine
remaining FY 2012 appropriations bills, including bills that fund the National
Institutes of Health (NIH), the Department of Energy (DOE), the Department of
Defense (DOD), and the Department of Education (ED). It is expected that this
will be done through one large "omnibus” package before the end of the calendar
year. As previously reported, other science agencies for which appropriations
bills have been passed—namely NSF, NASA, NOAA, and the Department of
Agriculture (USDA)—fared relatively well in FY 2012, receiving budgets that are
about flat or slightly increased above the FY 2011 enacted level. A similar
outcome is expected for basic research in agencies like NIH and DOE in the
final appropriations agreement.
One caveat is that it is not uncommon for a modest
across-the-board reduction to be included in an omnibus appropriations bill
should it be warranted to keep discretionary appropriations within the overall
cap of $1.043 trillion enacted in the Budget Control Act (debt limit agreement).
Should the appropriations process stall, there has been some discussion of extending
the current CR into early next year, which would result in a freeze for all
programs at the current (FY 2011) level until Congress completes an omnibus
bill or enacts a CR for the remainder of the fiscal year.
Planning is also underway by agencies for the President’s FY
2013 budget request which is expected to be more conservative than in past
years and may even be delayed due to the uncertainty of future budget cuts. The
FY 2013 process remains very uncertain at the moment with flat funding for
federal research agencies considered "a win” in the coming years.
Scenarios for FY 2014 and Beyond
In August, the Budget Control Act enacted a process that would
institute automatic across-the-board budget cuts over nine years, known as
sequestration, in the event that the Supercommittee could not reach a deal.
However, given that the cuts are not scheduled to go into effect until January
2013 (after the election) and are subject to subsequent revision by Congress,
it is possible they will be delayed or never triggered at all. In the event no
changes are made to the automatic budget cuts, the White House Office of
Management and Budget would be required to reduce the discretionary
appropriated budget by $109 billion per year for nine years, allocated equally
between defense spending and nondefense spending.
Reductions in discretionary spending from 2014 to 2021 would be
achieved by reducing the aggregate overall caps on such spending for each year.
While the President could propose specific cuts to agencies such as NIH and
NSF, specific appropriations would still be subject to the annual congressional
appropriations process and program funding could be increased or further
decreased within the overall capped amount for all discretionary spending. As a
general rule of thumb, if these cuts were allocated proportionately, it would
mean 6 to 8 percent reductions to the domestic spending agencies.
Concerns are already being expressed by the Administration and
by both Democratic and Republican Members of Congress over the magnitude of
potential spending cuts to defense. The Congressional Budget Office estimates
that the DOD budget could be cut by as much as 10 percent in FY 2013 under the
mandated sequester with additional reductions in discretionary defense spending
over the nine-year period to estimated savings of about 8.5 percent in FY 2021.
Such reductions, totaling an estimated $492 billion, could impact big defense
programs already at issue in Congress, as well as drive changes in the
structure and mobility of the nation’s military services already under
consideration. Additional reductions in mandatory defense spending are also
likely under current law. While some want to undo the sequester for defense,
the President has threatened to veto any bill that focuses only on exempting
In short, the budget outlook for the next several years is
uncertain at best. The main question on the table is whether and how to skirt
the automatic cuts that would be levied against FY 2013 appropriations as
required under the Budget Control Act. However, flat funding for science agencies
remains a possibility over the next few years and should be viewed as a "win”
in the current budget climate.
Under the direction of long-time ASPB member Machi Dilworth, OISE administers a number of NSF's prominent international
programs, including the Partnerships for International Research and Education
(PIRE) program, and provides strategic guidance for international activities
across the agency's divisions and directorates. The Advisory Committee
advises Dr. Dilworth and NSF Director Subra Suresh on international science and
education issues which directly affect the agency and its programs.
The Advisory Committee has gained influence as Dr. Suresh
has made expanding international activities a pillar of his agenda for the
agency. Dr. Suresh recently challenged AC-ISE members to think beyond
the relatively limited portfolio housed within OISE and to consider new
strategic directions and areas of emphasis for NSF international activities
While there is no formal call for nominations, OISE staff
indicates that they are looking to replace up to five Advisory Committee members
whose terms expired on September 30. OISE seeks nominees from a diverse
range of academic and professional backgrounds with unique insights into the
changing landscape of international research and education. University
administrators responsible for international initiatives as well as NSF-funded
researchers with a history of international research and collaborations should
The Committee meets twice annually at NSF's headquarters in
Arlington, Virginia, although the fall 2011 meeting has been canceled as OISE
works to fill the vacancies. OISE officials hope to select new members in
time for the next regularly scheduled meeting in April 2012.
Submission Deadline: OISE has requested names and
background information for nominees by October 21.
Required Nomination Materials and Procedure: In order
to nominate an individual to AC-ISE, the following information should be sent to Robert Webber in
OISE: the submitting person or organization’s name and affiliation, a cover
letter describing the person’s qualifications and interest in serving, the
person’s curriculum vitae, and person’s contact information. Weber,
the designated federal officer for the Committee, can be reached at: email@example.com.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) announced new workplace flexibility policies, its Career-Life Balance Initiative, at a White House event last week. This 10-year plan will expand best practices NSF-wide, including one that will allow researchers to delay or suspend their grants for up to one year in order to care for a newborn or newly adopted child or fulfill other family obligations.
"Too many young women scientists and engineers get sidetracked or drop their promising careers because they find it too difficult to balance the needs of those careers and the needs of their families,” said NSF Director Subra Suresh in a White House release. "This new initiative aims to change that, so that the country can benefit from the full range and diversity of its talent.”
Women today currently earn 41% of PhDs in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, but make up only 28% of tenure-track faculty in those fields. Reducing the dropout rate of women in STEM careers is especially important in the quest for gender equality because women in STEM jobs earn 33% more than those in non-STEM occupations and the wage gap between men and women in STEM jobs is smaller than in other fields.
NSF has launched targeted workplace flexibility efforts in the past, but the new initiative is the first to be applied Foundation-wide to help postdoctoral fellows and early-career faculty members more easily care for dependents while continuing their careers. The new initiative will offer a coherent and consistent set of family-friendly policies and practices to help eliminate some of the barriers to women’s advancement and retention in STEM careers. It will:
Allow postponement of grants for child birth/adoption – Grant recipients can defer their awards for up to one year to care for their newborn or newly adopted children.
Allow grant suspension for parental leave – Grant recipients who wish to suspend their grants to take parental leave can extend those grants by a comparable duration at no cost.
Provide supplements to cover research technicians – Principal investigators can apply for stipends to pay research technicians or equivalent staff to maintain labs while PIs are on family leave.
Publicize the availability of family friendly opportunities – NSF will issue announcements and revise current program solicitations to expressly promote these opportunities to eligible awardees.
Promote family friendliness for panel reviewers – STEM researchers who review the grant proposals of their peers will have greater opportunities to conduct virtual reviews rather than travel to a central location, increasing flexibility and reducing dependent-care needs.
Support research and evaluation – NSF will continue to encourage the submission of proposals for research that would asses the effectiveness of policies aimed at keeping women in the STEM pipeline.
Leverage and Expand Partnerships -- NSF will leverage existing relationships with academic institutions to encourage the extension of the tenure clock and allow for dual hiring opportunities.
The recommendation is to provide $6.7 billion for NSF in FY 2012, $1.1 billion below the budget request.
The Research & Related Activities (R&RA) account is proposed at $5.4 billion, which is $121 million (2%) below last year, and $811 million (13%) below the budget request. The report language states that "The Committee’s fiscal year 2012 recommendation renews its support for Federal long-term basic research that has the potential to be transformative to our economy and our way of life in the context of a Federal budget that is shrinking," prioritizing multi-disciplinary, high-risk research.
The Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction (MREFC) account is recommended to receive $117 million, the same as FY 2011 funding but $108 million (48%) below the budget request. Of some concern to life scientists is permission for NSF to transfer up to $100 million from the R&RA account to fully fund the Ocean Observatories Initiative or begin work on the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON), which is based in the Biological Sciences Directorate.
The Education & Human Resources (EHR) account is proposed at $829 million, a $32 million (4%) reduction from FY 2011 and $82 million (9%) below the budget request. Despite the cut, the report reinforces that "the future of U.S. competitiveness rests on our ability to train the next generation of scientists and engineers." The Appropriations Subcommittee speaks in favor of NSF investment in Professional Science Master's programs and several programs to broaden participation in STEM fields.
The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee accepts NSF's decision to terminate several programs including the Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory, Graduate STEM Fellows in K–12 Education, National STEM Distributed Learning (Digital Library), Research Initiation to Broaden Participation in Biology, and Science of Learning Centers. The report also applauds NSF for the creation of the Innovation Corps (I-Corps) to help translate new discoveries into commercial products. And it affirms that "broadening participation should remain an essential component of the NSF merit review criteria."
Posted By Adam Fagen,
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
The U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies has approved funding legislation for fiscal year (FY) 2012. The bill provides $52.7 billion in funding, a reduction of $626 million from FY 2011.
Of most interest to ASPB members are the proposed cuts at the National Science Foundation. Although details have yet to be released, the Subcommittee released the following in their mark:
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is funded at $6.7 billion, a reduction of $162 million or 2.4 percent below the FY2011 enacted level.
ASPB will keep tabs on the details and the progress of this spending bill...and those for the other agencies of interest to ASPB in both the House and Senate.
The National Science Board (NSB) has issued the call for nominations for its 2012 honorary awards. Nominations for each of the awards is due Wednesday, November 2, 2011.
Information about the two awards from the NSB from a press release is reproduced below:
2012 Vannevar Bush Award
Honoring Lifelong Leadership in Science and Technology and
Contributions to the Nation through Public Service
The Vannevar Bush Award is awarded annually to exceptional
lifelong leaders in science and technology who have made substantial
contributions to the welfare of the Nation through public service activities
in science, technology and public policy.
Candidates for the Vannevar Bush Award must be U.S. citizens and
should have demonstrated outstanding leadership and accomplishment in meeting
at least two of the following selection criteria: distinguished him/herself
through public service activities in science and technology; pioneered the
exploration, charting, and settlement of new frontiers in science,
technology, education and public service; demonstrated leadership and
creativity that have inspired others to distinguished careers in science and
technology; contributed to the welfare of the Nation and mankind through
activities in science and technology; and/or demonstrated leadership and
creativity that has helped mold the history of advancements in the Nation's
science, technology, and education.
Recent recipients include: Charles M. Vest, President of the
National Academy of Engineering and President Emeritus of Massachusetts
Institute of Technology; Bruce Alberts, Editor-in-Chief, Science Magazine;
Mildred Dresselhaus, Institute Professor, Massachusetts Institute of
Technology; and Norman Augustine, former Chief Executive Officer and Chairman
of the Board, Lockheed Martin Corporation. For a list of past recipients of
this award, visit the Vannevar Bush Award Recipients on the NSB website.
For detailed nomination instructions and further information
about this award, visit the Vannevar Bush Award on the NSB website.
2012 National Science Board Public Service Award
Honoring Service in Public Understanding of Science and
The National Science Board Public Service Award honors
individuals and groups that have made substantial contributions to increasing
public understanding of science and engineering in the United States. These
contributions may be in a wide variety of areas that have the potential of
contributing to public understanding of and appreciation for science and
engineering--including mass media, education and/or training programs, and
The NSB Public Service Award is typically given to one individual
and one group (company, corporation or organization) each year. Members of
the U.S. Government are not eligible to receive the award.
Candidates for the NSB Public Service Award should have
demonstrated outstanding leadership and accomplishment in meeting the
following selection criteria: increased the public's understanding of the
processes of science and engineering through scientific discovery, innovation
and its communication to the public; encouraged others to help raise the
public understanding of science and technology; promoted the engagement of
scientists and engineers in public outreach and scientific literacy;
contributed to the development of broad science and engineering policy and
its support; influenced and encouraged the next generation of scientists and
engineers; achieved broad recognition outside of the candidate's area of
specialization; and fostered awareness of science and technology among broad
segments of the population.
Past recipients include Moira Gunn, host of Tech Nation; San Francisco's Exploratorium; NUMB3RS, the CBS television drama series; Ira
Flatow, Host and Executive Producer of NPR's Science Friday; Alfred P. Sloan Foundation; Bill Nye, the Science Guy; and NOVA, the PBS
television series. For a list of past recipients of this award, visit the
Public Service Award Recipients on the NSB website.
For detailed nomination instructions and further information
about this award, visit the Public Service Award on the NSB website.
Members of the ASPB community are encouraged to submit nominations for one or both of these prestigious awards or to recommend candidates for ASPB to nominate. All materials are submitted through the Honorary Nominations system on the National Science Foundations' FastLane.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has selected the new head of the Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO): John C. Wingfield, who is currently serving as the director of the Division of Integrative Organismal Biology (IOS). He came to NSF in September 2010 from the University of California, Davis.
Wingfield's research focuses on neural pathways for environmental signals affecting seasonality in birds and their mechanisms of coping with environmental stress. He also studies the interfaces with how animals deal with global climate change, endocrine disruption, and conservation biology.
In a press release announcing the appointment, Wingfield said, "This is a transformational time for biological sciences in the post-genome era as we try to understand life on Earth from its most fundamental components at the molecular levels to functioning organisms interacting with their environment, and with each other, at ecosystem scales."
Although Wingfield is not a plant scientist, the IOS division supports a significant amount of plant-related research at NSF including the Plant Genome Research Program.
Before arriving at UC Davis, Wingfield was a professor and department chair at the University of Washington and on the faculty at Rockefeller University. He holds a BSc in zoology from the University of Sheffield and PhD in zoology and comparative endocrinology from University College of North Wales. Among his honors is The Quest Award for seminal contributions to behavioral research from the Animal Behavior Society and the Association for the Study of Animal Behavior Medal. He is a fellow of the American Ornithologist's Union and the Animal Behavior Society. He served as president of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology and the XXV International Ornithological Congress.
Joann Roskoski had served as acting assistant director for BIO since the departure of James Collins in October 2009. Wingfield will start his position on September 6, 2011.
The NSB sets policy for the National Science Foundation (NSF) and advises the President and Congress on issues related to science and technology. NSB members are selected for their eminence in research, education or public service, and records of distinguished service. The Board is made up of 25 members, and the NSF director serves as an ex officio member. The current Board includes ASPB member Douglas Randall of the University of Missouri.
NSB members must be formally nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate, but the Board recommends individuals for consideration. In its review of candidates, the Board applies the statutory eligibility requirements and also considers demographics, balance among professional fields, active researchers, teachers and administrators, and private for-profit and non-profit representation.
According to an advisory from the NSB, the following attributes will be particularly considered for NSB candidates:
Record of distinguished service and potential for further contribution in the line of service.
Credibility in the scientific, technological, engineering, industrial, public sector and educational communities. To include:
outstanding scientific, technological, engineering or public activity credentials
breadth, depth, and understanding of scientific knowledge and contributions thereto
scientific, technological, engineering, industrial, educational and administrative accomplishments
Demonstrated leadership in their field.
Nominations consist of a letter of nomination/recommendation, a biography of the candidate, and the candidate's curriculum vitae (without publications). Nominations will be open through August 12, 2011, and may be submitted through the NSB nomination system (http://www.research.gov/NSB/Nomination).
ASPB welcomes suggestion of individuals from its members of those who would be strong candidates to serve on the NSB. Please direct any suggestions to ASPB Director of Public Affairs Adam Fagen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The National Science Board (NSB) has been conducting a review of the National Science Foundation's (NSF's) merit review criteria: Intellectual Merit and Broader Impacts. The NSB Task Force on Merit Review has now issued a draft of the revised criteria for public comment. They have also identified a set of underlying principles upon which the criteria should be based.
In developing the revised criteria, the NSB Task Force looked at reports from a variety of Committees of Visitors reviewing NSF programs, held a large number of conversations and input from stakeholders and members of the impacted communities, and invited public comment on its website. According to NSF and NSB, the various stakeholder groups had very similar perspectives and suggestions. In summary, "It became clear that the two review criteria of Intellectual Merit and Broader Impacts are in fact the right criteria for evaluating NSF proposals, but that revisions are needed to clarify the intent of the criteria, and to highlight the connection to NSF’s core principles."
NSF is now seeking comment on the principles and revised criteria. Comments should be sent by July 14, 2011, to email@example.com. ASPB members are encouraged to offer their reactions and perspectives.
Merit Review Principles and Criteria The identification and description of the merit review criteria are firmly grounded in the following principles:
All NSF projects should be of the highest intellectual merit with the potential to advance the frontiers of knowledge.
Collectively, NSF projects should help to advance a broad set of important national goals, including:
Increased economic competitiveness of the United States.
Development of a globally competitive STEM workforce.
Increased participation of women, persons with disabilities, and underrepresented minorities in STEM.
Increased partnerships between academia and industry.
Improved pre-K–12 STEM education and teacher development.
Improved undergraduate STEM education.
Increased public scientific literacy and public engagement with science and technology.
Increased national security.
Enhanced infrastructure for research and education, including facilities, instrumentation, networks and partnerships.
Broader impacts may be achieved through the research itself, through activities that are directly related to specific research projects, or through activities that are supported by the project but ancillary to the research. All are valuable approaches for advancing important national goals.
Ongoing application of these criteria should be subject to appropriate assessment developed using reasonable metrics over a period of time.
Intellectual merit of the proposed activity
The goal of this review criterion is to assess the degree to which the proposed activities will advance the frontiers of knowledge. Elements to consider in the review are:
What role does the proposed activity play in advancing knowledge and understanding within its own field or across different fields?
To what extent does the proposed activity suggest and explore creative, original, or potentially transformative concepts?
How well conceived and organized is the proposed activity?
How well qualified is the individual or team to conduct the proposed research?
Is there sufficient access to resources?
Broader impacts of the proposed activity
The purpose of this review criterion is to ensure the consideration of how the proposed project advances a national goal(s). Elements to consider in the review are:
Which national goal (or goals) is (or are) addressed in this proposal? Has the PI presented a compelling description of how the project or the PI will advance that goal(s)?
Is there a well-reasoned plan for the proposed activities, including, if appropriate, department-level or institutional engagement?
Is the rationale for choosing the approach well-justified? Have any innovations been incorporated?
How well qualified is the individual, team, or institution to carry out the proposed broader impacts activities?
Are there adequate resources available to the PI or institution to carry out the proposed activities?
After a very long wait, Cora Marrett was finally confirmed by the U.S. Senate on May 26 to serve as Deputy Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF). She is the 12th deputy of the foundation. Marrett was nominated for the NSF deputy director position by President Obama on August 5, 2010, and then re-nominated in the new Congress on January 5, 201, because the previous Congress did not hold a vote on Marrett's nomination..
In a statement, NSF Director Subra Sureash was quoted as saying, "Dr. Marrett is a familiar leader at the agency, and her continued commitment to NSF's mission makes her well suited for this role. The agency will truly benefit from her years of experience at both the federal and university levels."
Marrett has served as the senior advisor for Foundation Affairs since February 2011. She served as NSF acting director when Arden L. Bement resigned in June 2010, and before Suresh was confirmed as NSF director in October.
Previously, Marrett served as the assistant director for NSF's education and human resources (EHR) directorate from 2007-2009. While there, she led the directorate to support NSF's mission to achieve excellence in U.S. science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education at all levels and in both formal and informal settings.
From 1992-1996, Marrett served as NSF's assistant director for social, behavioral and economic sciences (SBE). For her leadership in developing new research programs and articulating the scientific projects of this new directorate, Marrett received NSF's Distinguished Service Award. Prior to returning to NSF in 2007, Marrett served as the University of Wisconsin's senior vice president for academic affairs for six years. Before that, she served as senior vice chancellor for academic affairs and provost at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst for four years.
Marrett holds a bachelor of arts degree from Virginia Union University, and master of arts and doctorate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, all in sociology. She received an honorary doctorate from Virginia Union University in May 2011. She received an honorary doctorate from Wake Forest University in 1996, and was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1998, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1996.
ASPB President Nicholas Carpita (left) discusses the potential of plant biology to contribute to the development of biofuels at the Coalition for National Science Funding Capitol Hill Exhibition with Stephen Howell (Director, Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences), Cora Marrett (Deputy Director, National Science Foundation), and Jane Silverthorne (Deputy Director, Division of Integrative Organismal Systems).
The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and
Technology (PCAST) devoted significant discussion to research and development (R&D)
at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the National Science
Foundation (NSF) at its January 7, 2011, meeting in Washington, DC. PCAST is an advisory group of the nation’s
leading scientists and engineers who directly advise the President and the
Executive Office of the President (EOP).
The meeting featured a presentation and discussion with
Catherine Woteki, Chief Scientist and Under Secretary for Research, Education,
and Economics at USDA, and Roger Beachy, director of USDA’s National Institute
of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).
In her presentation entitled "Why Science Matters to
Agriculture,” Dr. Woteki cited 21st Century challenges in food security, food
safety, nutrition and health, bioenergy, and climate change; among USDA initiatives
was the training of more plant scientists as we seek to understand and develop
new crops. She mentioned that
agriculture contributes $121 billion to the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP), provides
2.1 million jobs, and contributes $20 billion in net exports; food manufacturing
adds another $165 billion to GDP and 1.6 million jobs. She cited that every dollar invested in
agricultural research contributes $20 to the economy.
In his comments, Dr. Beachy noted that the NIFA reorganization had taken
place with the programs divided into four new institutes (see October 21, 2010, issue of the ASPB Washington Report for more
information); NIFA is currently recruiting principal scientists who will
co-lead each institute along with a senior administrator. One take-home message from Dr. Beachy’s
presentation is that there is much more demand for NIFA funding than the
available resources will support: for example, the climate change challenge
area received $815 million in requests but only had $58 million to allocate. He mentioned a desire to broaden the base of
institutions interested in AFRI funding.
Of nearly $4 billion in total grant requests this past fiscal year, $574
million in applications were from non-land
grant institutions including some of the nation’s most prestigious private
universities and institutions. In fact,
over 500 different institutions applied for AFRI funding in fiscal year 2010,
well beyond the 107 land grant colleges and universities. Finally, Dr. Beachy noted some new
initiatives in which USDA was partnering with other funding agencies, including
joint programs with NSF in phenomics in plants and hydrological modeling, with
NSF and the National Institutes of Health in systems approaches to plant and
microbial biology and in genomics and phenomics; and with NSF in education
initiatives to target middle school students and teachers.
During the discussion that followed, PCAST co-chair John P.
Holdren, who is assistant to the President for science and technology and director
of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) within EOP, said that
there’s "a whole new world for research at USDA” and called the initiatives as "impressive
as could be.”
One PCAST member asked whether there was a prospect of full
indirect cost recovery on USDA grants.
In addition to suggesting that this was unlikely at present, Dr. Woteki
pointed out that if indirects were raised, funding for USDA R&D would have
to increase substantially just to keep pace with the current support for direct
In addition to the participation of Woteki and Beachy, nearly
all of the 13 public comments offered during the meeting were made in support
of research investments at USDA and NSF.
In its comments, ASPB noted that "One of the most effective ways to
invest in the future and address urgent needs in food, health, energy, and environment
is by increasing support for competitive grants and especially those at USDA.” And CropLife America said that "federal funding for food and agricultural
research, extension and education represents a top national priority and a
necessary long-term national commitment.”
Subra Suresh, who has been in place as NSF director for
about three months, focused on some of the big initiatives at NSF, including
basic research for market viability; the pipeline in science, technology,
engineering, and mathematics (STEM) talent; U.S. leadership in STEM fields; and
interdisciplinary opportunities for discovery.
He noted that the United States devotes about 35.5% of the world’s
investment in R&D, but other countries are noticeably increasing their
investments and have surpassed the United States in the percentage of GDP spent
on R&D. Suresh discussed troubling
statistics on the participation of underrepresented minorities and women in
their pursuit of scientific careers. He
also cited the challenges posed by increasing opportunities for international
scholars to pursue training and careers in countries around the world.
PCAST is co-chaired by John P. Holdren, assistant to the
President for science and technology and director of the Office of Science and
Technology Policy (OSTP) within EOP, and Eric S. Lander, director of the Broad
Institute of MIT and Harvard, professor of biology at MIT, and professor of
systems biology at Harvard Medical School.