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)

Biden’s Infrastructure Proposal Includes $250 Billion in Research Funding

On March 31, the White House issued a fact sheet detailing many of the spending priorities in President Joe Biden’s proposed infrastructure initiative, the American Jobs Plan. The proposed $2.3 trillion infrastructure bill addresses a wide range of pressing needs related to infrastructure and economic revitalization. Included is $180 billion to “Invest in R&D and Technologies of the Future” and an extra $70 billion for research-related priorities such as pandemic preparedness and innovation in rural communities, totaling $250 billion specifically for the U.S. research enterprise. Many of the details are still unclear, although the fact sheet names where much of this funding would be allocated:

  • $50 billion for the National Science Foundation over an unspecified period of time, some of which would be allocated for a new technology directorate.
  • $40 billion for upgrading research facilities, likely both national laboratories and university laboratories. One-half of this money would be allocated to minority-serving institutions (MSIs) such as historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), some of which for a new national climate research lab.
  • $35 billion for the development of technologies that address climate change and enhance clean energy and green jobs. The plan also calls for a new Advanced Research Projects Agency for Climate (ARPA-C).
  • $30 billion for R&D targeting innovation and economic growth in rural communities.
  • $25 billion specifically for MSIs, $10 billion of which for research funding and $15 billion to establish “centers of excellence” to train students in science and engineering fields.
  • $14 billion for the National Institute of Standards and Technology over an unspecified period of time.

COSSA will be closely following this and other infrastructure proposals and will share details as they are released.

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

NSF Webinar Will Highlight Cross-Agency Funding Opportunities for Social Scientists

The National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences Directorate (SBE) will hold a webinar on April 15 to highlight the opportunity for social scientists to participate in several major NSF-wide initiatives, including Trust and Authenticity in Communications Systems, Understanding the Rules of Life: Emergent Networks, mid-scale research infrastructure and others. Featured speakers will include NSF Assistant Director Arthur Lupia, head of the Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences Directorate, and Douglas Maughan, head of NSF’s Convergence Accelerator Program. Information on registering is available here. Additional information about the webinar is available on the NSF website.

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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)

NSF Issues New Framework for Identifying Broader Impacts; NSB Seeks Additional Guidance

On March 18, the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences Directorate (SBE) released a Dear Colleague Letter (NSF 21-059) offering guidance to proposal writers for shaping their broader impacts arguments. The notice makes no changes to NSF’s existing merit review criteria, which currently considers a project’s intellectual merit and broader impacts potential. Rather, it offers a framework for SBE researchers to consider “to develop and communicate their projects’ broader impacts more effectively” and “for connecting fundamental research outcomes to quality of life improvements for others.” The framework includes three guiding questions for principal investigators to consider:

  • Who can the scientific opportunities and communicative products empower?
  • Whose quality of life can the empowerment improve?
  • What actions make these broader impacts more likely?

Additional details are available here.

Separately during its February meeting, the National Science Board (NSB) passed a resolution directing the use of broader impacts expertise on NSF Committees of Visitors (COV). COV panels provide external evaluations of NSF’s existing programs and processes, making recommendations to the agency and the NSB for ways to improve programs and agency functions. Recent COV reviews noted significant disparity in how proposal review panels discuss intellectual merit and broader impacts, often with broader impacts receiving much less attention. In response, the NSB has directed the agency to develop a plan for ensuring that broader impacts expertise is included on all future COV panels. This is meant as a first step toward addressing concerns about uneven application of intellectual merit and broader impacts criterion on review panels. A recording of the NSB meeting is available here.

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

NSF Releases Annual Call for Advisory Committee Nominations

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has issued its annual call for recommendations for membership to its various advisory committees and technical boards. These committees advise NSF’s offices and directorates on program management, research direction, and policies impacting the agency.  Committees of particular interest to the COSSA community include the Advisory Committee for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences and the Advisory Committee for Education and Human Resources. Guidelines for recommendations and committee contact information can be found in the Federal Register. Recommendations for membership are maintained for 12 months.

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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)

Lawmakers Reintroduce RISE Act

On February 5, a bipartisan group of lawmakers reintroduced the Research Investment to Spark the Economy (RISE) Act. As previously reported, the RISE Act seeks to provide funding relief to federal science agencies impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill would authorize $25 billion in emergency relief, including $10 billion for the National Institutes of Health and $3 billion for the National Science Foundation. Funding would be used to support non-COVID-related research that has been impacted or shuttered by the closure of labs resulting from the pandemic. This legislation is different from the $1.9 trillion COVID package discussed elsewhere in this issue; if it is to be enacted, it will need to be considered separately, likely as part of future talks on COVID relief.

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

NSF Releases New “Understanding the Rules of Life” Solicitation

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is accepting applications for a new program within the Understanding the Rules of Life (URoL) Big Idea. The new program, Understanding the Rules of Life: Emergent Networks, seeks to support convergent research to understand the “’rules of emergence’ for networks of living systems and their environments,” described as the “interactions among organismal, environmental, social, and human-engineered systems that are complex and often unexpected given the behaviors of these systems when observed in isolation.” More information is available in the full solicitation. The deadline for proposals is May 20, 2021.

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

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