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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 Policy Archives available under Group Pages.


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

Analysis of the FY 2015 CRomnibus Appropriations Bill

Posted By Tyrone Spady, Monday, December 15, 2014


Executive Summary

In a herculean effort, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees concluded negotiations on a final Continuing Resolution (CR) and Omnibus appropriations bill (H.R. 83) to fund federal government agencies for the remainder of fiscal year (FY) 2015. The so called “CRomnibus” bill sustains federal investments in research, education, and healthcare programs important to research universities and non-profit research institutions. The bill as passed the House and the Senate is expected to vote over the next few days with the Congressional Leadership working to round up the votes to pass the bill. The President will sign the bill.

The bill includes funding for 11 of the 12 annual appropriations bills and upholds the $1.013 trillion spending cap for FY 2015 agreed to in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 (the “Ryan-Murray” agreement). The final bill is also consistent with the $521 billion spending cap placed on defense and the $492 billion non-defense spending cap.

Reflecting the high-stakes political arena in Washington, D.C. following the election that gave Republicans a comfortable majority in the Senate, it was not certain that the oft characterized “do-nothing” Congress could agree to a final appropriations measure. It increasingly appears, however, that there will be bipartisan support for the final CRomnibus bill to give federal research agencies and education programs certainty for the remainder of the fiscal year.

The more controversial bills, such as Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education and Interior and Environment, narrowly avoided a full-year CR when agreements were reached over funding the healthcare reform law and various policy riders relating to regulatory actions by the Environmental Protection agency (EPA), among other issues. The only agency remaining under a CR is the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which would be funded through February 27, 2015. This action provides an avenue for the incoming Republican-led Congress to take the Administration to task over the President’s recent executive actions on immigration, but the CR also will disrupt the operation of numerous federal agencies under the DHS umbrella.

The CRomnibus bill sustains support for federal research agencies and reflects continued bipartisan support for these investments even in times of tight budgets:

  • NSF would receive modest increases in all accounts for a total of $7.3 billion, an increase of $172 million above the FY 2014 enacted level. Cognitive science and neuroscience are highlighted in the report language with a recommended $21 million for new research.
  • While funding for the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science is held to the current level of about $5.1 billion, priority innovation programs, including Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRCs), Energy Innovation Hubs, the exascale initiative, and the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) are supported.
  • Within NIFA, the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) would be funded at $325 million, a significant increase of $8.6 million (2.7 percent). Notably, the bill includes a provision (Sec. 749) exempting AFRI through FY 2015 from the 1:1 matching requirements that were mandated in the 2014 Farm Bill.

Details of the major federal research, education, and healthcare programs funded in the CRomnibus bill follow. While the CRomnibus bill would provide budgetary certainty for the remainder of the fiscal year, the budget battle will be rejoined in the upcoming 114th Congress.  Please see the following link to view Lewis Burke's full analysis of the FY 2015 Crombnibus:

Tags:  appropriations  Congress  DOE  funding  NSF  research  USDA 

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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.


Tags:  funding  international  NSF  Open access  OSTP  peer review 

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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

The current criteria can be found at

Tags:  funding  grants  NSB  NSF 

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NIH makes cuts in research grants, increases stipends

Posted By Adam Fagen, Wednesday, April 27, 2011
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has issued a notice on implementing the final fiscal year (FY) 2011 budget, which cuts about 1% from NIH's budget.

Non-competing (i.e., continuing) research grants from NIH institutes and centers other than the National Cancer Institute (NCI) are reduced 1% below the FY 2010 award level.  NCI research grants will be reduced by 3%.  The cuts do not affect Career Awards, SBIR/STTRs, and Ruth L. Kirschstein-National Research Service Award (NRSA) Individual Fellowships & Institutional Training Grants.

It is estimated that NIH will support approximately 9,050 new and competing Research Project Grants (RPGs).

The news is not all down, however.  NRSA awards for undergraduate, predoctoral, and postdoctoral trainees will see a 2% increase in stipends.  Specifically, predoctoral stipends will increase to $21,180 and beginning postdoc stipends will increase to $37,740.

Additional information:

Tags:  funding  NIH 

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