Blog Archives

Biden Preliminary FY 2022 R&D Proposals Rely on “DARPA” Model

On April 9, the Biden Administration released preliminary, high-level details of its fiscal year (FY) 2022 budget request, referred to as a “skinny budget.” At this stage, details are only available for Cabinet-level departments and a handful of other “major” agencies, with limited details about some agencies within the departments. For example, it includes preliminary details for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), but not for the Census Bureau. Full budget details will be released in the coming months. In the meantime, however, Congress is proceeding with the FY 2022 appropriations process without the Administration’s full proposals. Appropriators in both chambers have already held a number of hearings on the FY 2022 budget and are continuing to schedule appearances from federal officials, including the Director of the National Science Foundation, who is scheduled to testify before the House and Senate Appropriations Committees this week.

Unsurprisingly, given the Biden Administration’s early priorities, the request’s most prominent new research initiatives are proposed in the areas of climate change and public health. Two of the largest R&D proposals in the budget aim to replicate the model implemented by the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA), which aims to catalyze high-risk high-reward projects across government, academia, and industry. The request proposes a $1 billion investment in the existing Advanced Research Projects Agency—Energy (ARPA-E) and in the creation of a new Advanced Research Projects Agency for Climate (ARPA-C) within the Department of Energy. These agencies would collectively support “high-risk, high-reward solutions for adaptation and resilience against the climate crisis and enable robust investments in clean energy technology research and development.” In its budget requests, the Trump Administration repeatedly proposed eliminating ARPA-E.

The Biden Administration proposes a new Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H) within the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The budget proposes $6.5 billion for this new division, which is intended to “drive transformational innovation in health research and speed application and implementation of health breakthroughs” and would initially focus on diseases including cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s. The request also proposes an additional $2.5 billion in funding for NIH’s other institutes and centers, which combined with the ARPA-H funding would be a total of $51 billion for the agency ($9 billion above its FY 2021 level).

The request for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) proposes a total of $8.7 billion, an increase of $1.6 billion above the FY 2021 level. It includes a $100 million Community-Based Violence Intervention initiative that would, in collaboration with the Justice Department, implement evidence-based community violence interventions. The Administration also proposes doubling current funding for gun violence prevention research at the CDC and NIH, which would provide $25 million to each agency in FY 2022.

The Administration’s request for the National Science Foundation (NSF) would provide the agency with $10.2 billion, a 20 percent increase from its FY 2021 enacted level. The request would increase funding for NSF’s Research and Related Activities account, which houses most of its research directorates, including the Directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBE), by $1.6 billion, bringing it to a total of $9.4 billion. The request also repeats the proposal from the Biden Administration’s infrastructure plan (see related article) to establish a new directorate for technology and innovation.

The proposal would provide a total of $100 million in funding (a roughly 50 percent increase over FY 2021) for programs aiming to increase the participation of underrepresented groups in the sciences. According to the proposal, the funding would “support curriculum design, research on successful recruitment and retention methods, development of outreach or mentorship programs, fellowships, and building science and engineering research and education capacity at Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other minority-serving institutions.” In addition, the Administration proposes a $500 million increase ($1.2 billion total) for climate science and sustainability research. The proposal would fund a portfolio of research including on the “social, behavioral, and economic research on human responses to climate change.”

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Posted in Issue 8 (April 13), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

Science Committee Releases NSF Reauthorization Proposal

On March 26, the House Science Committee on Science, Space, and Technology released the text of the National Science Foundation for the Future Act, its proposed reauthorization legislation for the National Science Foundation (NSF). The bipartisan bill was introduced by Science Committee Chair Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK), along with Reps. Haley Stevens (D-MI) and Michael Waltz (R-FL), the Chair and Ranking Member respectively of the Subcommittee on Research and Technology.

Although Rep. Lucas had previously introduced a competing bill, the Securing American Leadership in Science and Technology Act, in the press release accompanying the Committee’s bill, he thanked Rep. Johnson for “working with me to craft a bipartisan bill” and for “including provisions on research security, which has been a growing concern for Republicans on our Committee.”

The Science Committee’s bill would set funding targets for the NSF’s budget over the course of the next five fiscal years (FY), bringing the agency’s overall budget from its current $8.5 billion to $18.3 billion by FY 2026. However, as an authorization bill, the legislation can only identify desired targets; Congressional appropriators would still need to act each year to enact funding increases for the agency. The bill would also establish a new research directorate within NSF, the Directorate for Science and Engineering Solutions (SES), which, according to the Committee’s press release would enable NSF to “take big risks and experiment with new approaches to accelerating the translation of science and technology into solutions to society’s major challenges.” While in some ways similar to the Technology Directorate proposed in the Endless Frontier Act introduced in the previous Congress, the scale of the SES Directorate’s budget would be more proportionate to NSF’s overall budget (as opposed to being multiple times larger) and the Directorate would set its own scientific priorities rather than adhering to a list set by Congress.

The NSF for the Future Act includes a number of provisions that would affect the social science community, including language that the social, behavioral, and economic sciences (SBE) should be actively included in NSF cross-cutting and interdisciplinary activities like the Convergence Accelerators, Big Ideas, and Mid-Scale Research Infrastructure. COSSA will release a full analysis of the bill and its potential impact on the social sciences to COSSA members later this week.

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Posted in Issue 7 (March 30), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

Biden Signs American Rescue Plan, with Funding for NSF, IES, Universities

On March 11, President Biden signed into law the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (H.R. 1319). As previously reported, the $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill includes $600 million in funding to support research related to the pandemic at the National Science Foundation (NSF) and $100 million to support research related to K-12 learning loss at the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). The bill also includes $39.9 billion in funding to support colleges and universities. Now that this major piece of legislation has been enacted, lawmakers’ attention will turn to appropriations for the coming fiscal year. In addition, discussions will begin for another aid bill targeted for later in the spring that will be more broadly focused on recovery and infrastructure.

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Posted in Issue 6 (March 16), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

House Passes Funding for NSF, Higher Ed, and IES in $1.9 trillion COVID-19 Relief Bill

The House of Representatives passed a massive relief bill on February 27 that aims to bring financial support to those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act (H.R. 1319, committee report) includes direct payments to individuals, expansion of unemployment assistance, and an increase to the national minimum wage, among many other provisions. It also includes several notable provisions of interest to the science community, including $39.9 billion in funding for colleges and universities, with half to be used for student aid, as laid out in the CARES Act (see COSSA’s previous coverage). The bill also includes $100 million for the Institute of Education Sciences for research related to addressing learning loss caused by the coronavirus among K-12 students.

In addition, the National Science Foundation would receive $600 million “to fund or extend new and existing research grants, cooperative agreements, scholarships, fellowships, and apprenticeships, and related administrative expenses to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus.” While not included in the original bill text, this funding was added as part of the manager’s amendment that was passed on the House floor. This funding, if enacted, could only be used for research about the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill does not provide any any relief for scientists whose research on other topics has been disrupted. The bipartisan RISE Act (see previous coverage), should it become law, would provide NSF with $3 billion to support non-COVID-related research impacted by the pandemic.

Senate leadership is now working on its own version of the legislation, which is expected to be voted on the coming days. While some of the larger provisions may change, such as the minimum wage increase, the research and higher education relief funding discussed above is expected to be maintained in the Senate bill. COSSA will continue to report on the progress of this legislation as it nears passage.

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Posted in Issue 5 (March 2), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

SEAN Releases New Expert Consultation on COVID-19 Vaccine Confidence

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Societal Experts Action Network (SEAN) (see COSSA’s previous coverage) has published a new rapid expert consultation, Building COVID-19 Vaccine Confidence. The guidance compiles research-backed strategies for effectively reaching vulnerable communities and skeptical populations to provide trustworthy information about the COVID-19 vaccine. The consultation is available as an interactive web tool, with highlights on Strategies for Public Engagement to Combat Mistrust and Build COVID-19 Vaccine Confidence and Communication Strategies for Promoting COVID-19 Vaccine Acceptance.  The report is also available as a full report on the National Academies website.

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Posted in Issue 4 (February 16), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

Early Days of Biden Administration Marked by Slew of Executive Actions

Since Inauguration Day, President Biden’s spate of executive orders and presidential declarations have focused primarily on undoing many of the damaging actions of the last Administration. As expected, several actions were taken to address the COVID-19 pandemic, such as mandating mask-wearing in federal facilities, appointment of a COVID-19 Response Coordinator, and providing economic relief to individuals and families struggling with unemployment and underemployment, eviction, and other effects of the pandemic. In addition, numerous executive actions directly address the U.S. scientific enterprise and U.S. participation in global scientific efforts. Discussed in this issue are several recent actions taken by the Biden Administration that will be of interest to the social and behavioral science community.

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Posted in Issue 3 (February 2), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

Biden Administration Executive Actions: Equity & Inclusion

Another early Biden Administration executive order rescinded various Trump Administration actions that attempted to push back against perceived “political correctness” by actions prohibiting trainings and other activities that touch on white privilege, structural inequality, implicit bias, and other supposedly “divisive” concepts based on decades of social science research. President Biden’s Executive Order On Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government goes beyond simply revoking the Trump Administration policies and instead sets a policy of actively working to improve racial equity government-wide. The Executive Order outlines a systematic approach for accurately assessing “whether agency policies and actions create or exacerbate barriers to full and equal participation by all eligible individuals” and identifying strategies to remove barriers. The Executive Order also establishes an Interagency Working Group on Equitable Data to be co-chaired by the Chief Statistician and the Chief Technology Officer and tasked with facilitating the collection of detailed demographic data on ethnicity, gender, disability, income, veteran status, or other key demographic variables in order to measure and advance equity across the government.

President Biden also signed several other Executive Orders intended to advance equity and inclusion, including orders prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation and combating bias against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

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Posted in Issue 3 (February 2), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

Biden Administration Executive Actions: COVID-19

On January 21, President Biden issued an Executive Order ensuring that the federal response to the COVID-19 pandemic would be guided by the best available science and data, further protecting from potential future public health threats. The Executive Order lays out several directives for federal agencies including focusing energy on building public health infrastructure, directing agency heads to share and coordinate COVID-19 data with other agencies, improving federal capacity for data collection practices, and reviewing existing public health data systems for potential areas for improvement. The Department of Health and Human Services is directed to ensure public health data systems that detect and monitor major public health threats are interconnected and interoperable and to review state and local collection of morbidity and mortality data to ensure these systems can quickly respond to emerging developments. The Executive Order also charges the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) director with developing a plan for advancing innovation in public health data and analytics. The Executive Order is available on the White House website.

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Posted in Issue 3 (February 2), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

Biden Administration Executive Actions: Climate Change

In addition to his day-one promise to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement, President Biden has also issued executive orders directing federal agencies to review and, where appropriate, take corrective action to address or reverse actions of the Trump Administration that are found to be “harmful to public health, damaging to the environment, unsupported by the best available science, or otherwise not in the national interest.” On January 27, a detailed order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad was issued. Among other things, the order ensures that “climate considerations” will have a place in U.S. foreign policy and national security, promises a government-wide approach to addressing the climate crisis, including by establishing a White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy and interagency National Climate Task Force, and seeks action to spur workforce development in sustainable infrastructure, agriculture, and the energy sector, while also addressing environmental justice for the most vulnerable populations.

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Posted in Issue 3 (February 2), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

Biden Administration Executive Actions: Scientific Integrity

On January 27, President Biden issued a Memorandum on Restoring Trust in Government Through Scientific Integrity and Evidence-Based Policymaking that states the Administration’s policy to “make evidence-based decisions guided by the best available science and data” and affirms that “scientific findings should never be distorted or influenced by political considerations.” The memorandum builds on and updates an Obama Administration Executive Order requiring federal agencies develop scientific integrity policies. President Biden’s memorandum establishes a Task Force on Scientific Integrity that will review existing scientific integrity policies and recommend improvements. It also sets more detailed requirements for what should be included in agency scientific integrity policies and outlines how these policies should complement agencies’ evidence-building plans required by the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act (see COSSA’s previous coverage). It also requires agencies that fund, conduct, or oversee scientific research designate individuals to act as Chief Science Officers and as Scientific Integrity Officials. See our previous coverage for more on the Biden Administration’s science team.

President Biden also signed an executive order to maintain the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), a senior independent advisory body that consists of scientific experts from within and outside the federal government. As previously reported, PCAST’s external co-chairs will be Dr. Frances H. Arnold and Dr. Maria Zuber. The early action to preserve PCAST is a departure from President Trump, who waited nearly three years into his administration before reestablishing the council.

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Posted in Issue 3 (February 2), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

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