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White House Outlines FY 2019 R&D Budget Priorities, Emphasizes Role of Industry

On August 17, Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Mick Mulvaney, with Michael Kratsios, Deputy Assistant Secretary to the President, Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), issued a joint memorandum to federal agency and department heads on “FY 2019 Administration Research and Development Budget Priorities.” The R&D memo, along with an earlier memo released in July that outlines more general budget reforms, keeps with the practices of past administrations to lay out key White House priorities as agencies begin working on their budget submissions for the next fiscal year. Of course, the priorities within the memos can differ dramatically depending on the Administration, which is the case with this year’s guidance.

The FY 2019 R&D memo acknowledges the important role of science and technology to America’s global leadership, and particularly to issues of “national security, economic growth, and job creation.” However, there is some subtle, yet important language signaling possible shifts in this Administration’s priorities for science funding. For example, the memo states, “In spurring future advances, Federal funding of research and development programs and research infrastructure can play a crucial supporting role [emphasis added].” While it directs federal agencies to “continue, and expand where necessary, efforts to focus on basic research,” it directs agencies to reduce funding overlaps with private industry in later-stage research. It further states that “Working in tandem, the Government and the private sector can promote the nation’s economic growth through innovation, and create new products and services for the American people.”

The memo also outlines a number of priorities related to funding practices and accountability, including ensuring that “proposed programs are based on sound science, do not duplicate existing R&D efforts, and have the potential to contribute to the public good.” It further states that federal agencies should identify existing programs “that could progress more efficiently through private sector R&D, and consider their modification or elimination where Federal involvement is no longer needed or appropriate.”

Other key science priorities for the Trump Administration in FY 2019 include research “that can support the military of the future,” the development of “technologies necessary to prevent terrorist attacks, mitigate the effects of both natural and adversarial threats and hazards, and secure American borders,” and development of a domestic energy portfolio that includes “fossil, nuclear, and renewable energy sources.” As for biomedical (NIH) research, the memo calls for priority to be placed on programs “that encourage innovation to prevent, treat, and defeat diseases, and maintain America’s standing as a world leader in medicine.” Further, agencies should prioritize research addressing aging populations, drug addiction, and other public health challenges.

Additional details can be found in the memorandum.

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Posted in Issue 17 (September 5), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

White House Holds Forum on Citizen Science and Crowdsourcing; OSTP Issues Memorandum to Agencies

On September 30, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the Domestic Policy Council (DPC) hosted a live-webcast forum on citizen science and crowdsourcing. The forum, Open Science and Innovation: Of the People, By the People, For the People, recognized that a small portion of Americans are formally trained as “scientists;” however, citizen science and crowdsourcing can “educate, engage, and empower the public to apply their curiosity and talents to a wide range of real-world problems.” Participants in the forum included citizen-science professionals, researchers, and stakeholders from Federal, state, local, and Tribal governments. It also included individuals from nonprofits, academia, and the private sector.

Also on September 30, OSTP director John Holdren issued a Memorandum to the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies that lays out principles and steps for agencies to follow for utilizing citizen science and crowdsourcing. Check out the memorandum for full details.

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Posted in Issue 18 (October 6), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

White House Chief Data Scientist Seeks Input

patilEmbracing the use of data to improve government function and its interaction with people, the Obama Administration established the position of Chief Data Scientist (CDS) in February.  DJ Patil joined the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) in February as Deputy Chief Technology Officer for Data Policy and Chief Data Scientist.

Patil is credited with helping to coin the term “data scientist.” The former Vice President of Product at RelateIQ, Patil has also held positions at LinkedIn, Greylock Partners, Skype, PayPal, and eBay.  Prior to his stint in the private sector, he worked at the Department of Defense, where he directed efforts to bridge computational and social sciences in fields like social network analysis to help anticipate emerging threats to the U.S.

As Chief Data Scientist, Patil has focused on four activities:

  1. Providing a vison on how to provide maximum social return on federal data.
  2. Creating nationwide data policies that enable shared services and forward-leaning practices to advance the U.S.’ leadership in the data age.
  3. Working with federal agencies to establish best practices for data management and ensure long-term sustainability for databases.
  4. Recruiting and retaining the best minds in data science for public service to address these data science objectives and act as conduits among government, academia, and industry.

Patil’s priority areas include precision medicine, usable data projects, and responsible science.

In August, Patil issued a follow-up memorandum discussing his team’s progress regarding these priorities and goals.  Noting that “data science is a team sport,” Patil urges community input on these initiatives.

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Posted in Issue 16 (September 8), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

White House Issues Annual S&T Guidance for FY 2017 Budget

On July 9, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) issued their annual joint memorandum to federal agencies outlining “Multi-Agency Science and Technology Priorities for the FY 2017 Budget.” Each year, OMB and OSTP outline specific White House science, technology, and innovation priorities for federal investment, which is meant to inform federal agencies’ development of the fiscal year (FY) 2017 budget submission to OMB and Congress. Similar to last year’s guidance, the FY 2017 memorandum asks federal agencies to allocate resources to a number of multi-agency research activities, including advanced manufacturing, clean energy, earth observations, global climate change, information technology and high-performance computing, neuroscience, national and homeland security, and R&D for informed policy-making and management. Giving special acknowledgement to basic research, the memorandum states:

“Federal government funding for research and development (R&D) is essential to address societal needs in areas in which the private sector does not have sufficient economic incentive to make the required investments. Key among these is basic research—the fundamental, curiosity-driven inquiry that is a hallmark of the American research enterprise and a powerful driver of new technology.”

Federal agencies will work throughout the summer and fall in preparation of their FY 2017 budget requests, which won’t be unveiled until February 2016.

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Posted in Issue 13 (July 14), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

Share Your Basic Research Success Stories

In a June 2 blog post, Jo Handelsman, Associate Director for Science at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), urged the scientific community to share examples of basic research that has yielded unexpected, yet important insights. Handelsman states, “One of the hallmarks of science is that the path to knowledge is often indirect, and that in addition to rigorous investigation, discovery is often shaped by serendipity, human curiosity, and sometimes even heroism.” Unfortunately, basic science, especially in the area of social science, continues to be attacked by some who fail to see the valuable ties between this research and future knowledge, applications, products, etc. You are encouraged to share your stories through social media using #BasicResearch. Share your stories with COSSA as well using @COSSADC and #Stand4Science.

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Posted in Issue 11 (June 16), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

White House Issues Annual S&T Guidance for FY 2016 Budget

On July 18, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) issued their joint annual memorandum to federal agencies outlining “Science and Technology Priorities for the FY 2016 Budget.” Each year, OMB and OSTP outline specific White House S&T priorities for federal investment, which is meant to inform federal agencies’ development of the fiscal year (FY) 2016 budget submission to Congress. Similar to past memoranda, the FY 2016 guidance asks federal agencies to allocate resources to a number of multi-agency research activities, including advanced manufacturing, clean energy, earth observations, global climate change, information technology and high-performance computing, neuroscience, national and homeland security, and R&D for informed policy-making and management. The guidance further asks agencies to “identify and pursue clearly defined ‘Grand Challenges’—ambitious goals that require advances in science, technology and innovation to achieve—and to support high-risk, high-return research.” Investment in STEM education also remains a high priority.

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Posted in Issue 15 (August 11), Update, Volume 33 (2014)

White House Seeks Input on Strategy for American Innovation

The White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the National Economic Council (NEC) are seeking input into a forthcoming update of the Strategy for American Innovation (SAI). SAI is intended to guide the Administration’s efforts to promote lasting economic growth and competitiveness via polices that “support transformative American innovation in products, processes, and services and spur new fundamental discoveries that in the long run lead to growing prosperity and rising living standards.” The efforts include policies that promote “critical components of the American innovation ecosystem,” including scientific research and development and the technical workforce, among others. The input provided will inform the deliberations of the OSTP and NEC. Reponses are due September 23, 2014. For more information see the Federal Register notice.

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Posted in Issue 15 (August 11), Update, Volume 33 (2014)

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