DC Landscape: Science and Research News

DC Landscape — September 23, 2022

General Science and Research News

White House launches initiative to advance biotechnology and biomanufacturing

Earlier this month, President Biden issued an executive order to launch a National Biotechnology and Biomanufacturing Initiative geared toward driving innovation and fueling the economy by harnessing “the power of biology to create new services and products.” According to a White House fact sheet, “The Initiative will accelerate biotechnology innovation and grow America’s bioeconomy across multiple sectors, including a range of industries, including health, agriculture, and energy.” The executive order defines “bioeconomy” as “economic activity derived from biotechnology and biomanufacturing in developing and producing life-saving diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines.” The initiative directs federal agencies to prioritize research and development as well as training and educational opportunities in bioscience, biotechnology, and biomanufacturing.

NSF invests in bio-inspired and bioengineered systems for AI, infrastructure and health 

NSF has announced an investment of $30 million to support new interdisciplinary, fundamental research projects for the Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation, or EFRI, program. Awardees will work on projects that involve engineering brain-inspired systems and creating safe and sustainable engineered living systems. Each $2 million, four-year award integrates research with ethical, legal, and social considerations and with broadening participation activities. Read more:  NSF

Senate confirms new White House science and tech advisor in historic vote

On September 22 the Senate voted to confirm Dr. Arati Prabhakar as the next director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, making her the first woman, immigrant, or person of color to serve in the position. Prabhakar, who previously served as director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency from 2012 to 2017 and as director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology from 1993 to 1997, was confirmed in a 56-40 vote. Read more:  Nextgov

NSF greenlights 14 new 'Future of Work' research projects

The U.S. National Science Foundation will invest more than $29 million in research projects designed to increase opportunities for U.S. workers and generate positive societal and economic impacts at the local and national level. Researchers in 17 states will examine subjects including the health and safety on construction sites, training and well-being in the childcare industry, and time-sensitive medical decision-making. The projects are supported by the Future of Work at the Human-Technology Frontier program, one of NSF's 10 Big Ideas initiatives launched in 2017 to foster bold research at the frontiers of science and engineering. Read more:  NSF

Health

Biden names Dr. Renee Wegrzyn as inaugural ARPA-H Director

President Biden intends to appoint Dr. Renee Wegrzyn as inaugural director of the newly established Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H), which is housed within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Dr. Wegrzyn is currently vice president of business development at Ginkgo Bioworks and head of innovation at Concentric by Ginkgo, where she “is focused on applying synthetic biology to outpace infectious diseases.” Read more:  MeriTalkWhite House

NIH launches the next stage of its ‘human genome project’ for the brain

The National Institutes of Health announced on September 22 more than $600 million in fresh funding for an expansive and ongoing push to unravel the mysteries of the human brain, bankrolling efforts to create a detailed map of the whole brain and devise new ways to target therapeutics and other molecules to specific brain cell populations. Read more:  STAT

NIH launches Bridge2AI program to expand the use of artificial intelligence

The National Institutes of Health will invest $130 million over four years, pending the availability of funds, to accelerate the widespread use of artificial intelligence (AI) by the biomedical and behavioral research communities. Read more:  NIH

Energy

Unlikely alliance resists Manchin-Schumer energy deal

A deal cut to secure the support of Sen. Joe Manchin for the Democrats’ controversial Inflation Reduction Act is now creating problems for another major issue looming over Congress: Funding the government to avoid a shutdown by month’s end. As he vowed to support the sweeping health care and energy bill this summer, Manchin won assurances from top Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, to advance a plan that would expedite the permitting and environmental review process for energy projects – including a major pipeline that would cross through his state of West Virginia. Schumer has vowed to include the White House-backed deal in legislation to keep government agencies afloat beyond September 30. But an unlikely alliance is forming between progressives alarmed at the deal’s potential environmental impact and Senate Republicans still livid that Manchin cast the vote that ensured the health care and energy bill’s enactment into law. Read more:  CNN, The Hill

Biden-Harris administration announces historic $7 billion funding opportunity to jump-start America's clean hydrogen economy

On September 22 the U.S. Department of Energy opened applications for the $7 billion program to create regional clean hydrogen hubs (H2Hubs) across the country, which will form a critical arm of America's future clean energy economy.  As part of a larger $8 billion hydrogen hub program funded through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the H2Hubs will be a central driver in helping communities across the country benefit from clean energy investments, good-paying jobs, and improved energy security. Read more:  DOE

Environment

NSF's Convergence Accelerator invests $30 million to tackle challenges related to the blue economy

NSF is tackling challenges related to climate, sustainability, food, energy, pollution and the economy through a $30 million investment to advance six convergent research teams from Phase 1 to Phase 2 of NSF's Convergence Accelerator Track E: Networked Blue Economy. Read more:  NSF

Senate approves first climate treaty in decades

The Senate ratified its first international climate treaty in three decades on September 21, approving an agreement worked out in 2016 that will phase down refrigerant chemicals that are among the most potent climate pollutants. While the Senate is badly divided on most climate issues, strong backing from the business community to eliminate hydrofluorocarbons, known as HFCs, aligned with environmentalists’ agenda to help secure enough Republican support to meet the Constitution’s requirement of two-thirds support. Read more:  Politico

DC Landscape — April 11, 2022

General Science and Research News

NSF Strategic Plan

The National Science Foundation 2022-2026 Strategic Plan describes NSF's mission, vision, core values, goals, and strategic objectives for the next five years. The NSF 2022-2026 Strategic Plan builds on 70 years of NSF driving critical research across all fields of S&E and lays out our vision for the future of discovery and innovation.  Read more:  NSF

House and Senate leaders announce conference committee members for pending competitiveness legislation

House and Senate leaders announced the names of the members of Congress who will participate in conference negotiations over the House-passed America COMPETES Act of 2022 (H.R. 4521) and the Senate-passed United States Innovation and Competition Act (S. 1260). House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced the Democratic representatives who will participate in the conference negotiations, while Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced the Democratic senators who will participate. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) announced the Republican representatives and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced the Republican senators who will confer with their counterparts from the other party and chamber to meld the two similar, but differing, pieces of legislation. Read more: AAU

DoD seeks ‘huge jump’ in budget for hypersonic test facilities

The Pentagon’s fiscal 2023 budget request includes a “huge jump” for hypersonic weapons testing and facilities, something the defense industry has sought, according to the department’s head of research and development.  “If you look at this particular test asset ― facilities ― there’s a huge jump in the budget for equipment and test ranges,” the undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, Heidi Shyu, told Defense News on April 6.  Read more:  Defense News

Department of Defense and NTIA launch 5G challenge

The DoD, in collaboration with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) Institute for Telecommunication Sciences (ITS), announced the launch of the 5G Challenge Preliminary Event: RAN Subsystem Interoperability. This competition aims to accelerate the development and adoption of open interfaces, interoperable components, and multi-vendor solutions toward the development of an open 5G ecosystem.  Read more: US Dept. of Defense

Administration officials brief Congress on national security impact of semiconductor supply

Senior Administration officials including Commerce Secretary Raimondo, Deputy Defense Secretary Hicks, National Security Advisor Sullivan, and National Science Foundation Director Panchanathan held a briefing with a bipartisan and bicameral group of Members of Congress to discuss the urgent need to invest in made-in-America semiconductors as well as research and development that will protect our economic and national security.  The Administration officials underscored how decades of disinvestment in domestic semiconductor manufacturing capacity have left America producing only 12% of global semiconductor output and vulnerable to the sort of supply chain disruptions we’ve seen in recent years, like the pandemic and Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine.  Read more:  White House

Health

Biden’s new biomedical agency fails to gain independence from NIH

President Biden’s new biomedical research agency for high-risk, cutting-edge research won’t have the full autonomy many backers had sought. Instead, it will sit within the National Institutes of Health (NIH). But to give the agency a measure of independence, its director will report to the NIH director’s boss, the secretary of health and human services (HHS).  That is the compromise reached by HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, according to his March 30 letter to Congress in which he explained the structure of the new Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H).  Read more:  Science

NIH funds new tuberculosis research advancement centers

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) has announced four new grant awards to establish Tuberculosis Research Advancement Centers (TRACs). The centers will support the development of a next generation of tuberculosis (TB) researchers by providing focused mentoring and funding support for new investigators; opportunities for multidisciplinary and collaborative research; and training in laboratory and clinical settings. TB is a bacterial disease that currently is the second leading cause of death, after COVID-19, from a single infectious agent worldwide.  Read more:  NIH

Biden orders HHS to strengthen long COVID research, care, coverage and protections

President Biden has ordered the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to strengthen care for individuals experiencing “long COVID” and increase clinical research on prolonged illness and other conditions following an acute COVID-19 infection.  Tuesday’s memorandum instructs HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra to quarterback “the government-wide response to the long-term effects of COVID-19,” a push that will include secretaries from the Department of Defense, the Department of Labor and other federal agencies as well as private sector partners including payers and providers.  Read more:  Fierce Healthcare

Environment

EPA would see highest funding ever under Biden budget plan

President Joe Biden wants to boost the EPA’s budget by 28.8%—its highest level ever—including significant hikes for environmental justice plus boosts for staffing and longstanding air, water, and chemicals programs.  At $11.9 billion, the White House’s fiscal 2023 budget request for the Environmental Protection Agency matches Biden’s many environmental commitments and would pump life into an agency the Trump administration sought to diminish.  Included in Biden’s budget plan is funding for the EPA to hire 1,900 new employees. The request would boost the agency’s ranks by 13.3% from fiscal 2021 levels, growing it to 16,200 employees—its highest level in 11 years.  Read more:  Bloomberg LawEPA

DC Landscape — March 28, 2022

General Science and Research News

NSF establishes new Directorate for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships

NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan announced a new directorate within the U.S. National Science Foundation focused on Technology, Innovation and Partnerships, or TIP, during his session on Reinvigorating Science and Technology for the Future of U.S. Innovation. This new directorate — NSF's first in more than 30 years — builds upon the agency's commitment over seven decades to serve as a beacon of U.S. innovation, advancing the frontiers of research and education across all fields of science and engineering. Congress approved the directorate through the FY2022 Consolidated Appropriations bill, which President Biden signed on March 15. NSF has selected Erwin Gianchandani to be the inaugural Assistant Director for TIP  Read more: NSFAIP 

Commission launches support platform for Ukrainian scientists

The European Commission launched a portal on March 25 that pulls together information and support services for researchers in Ukraine and those fleeing the Russian invasion of the country, amid calls for coordinated EU action. The portal offers help with finding housing, job opportunities and recognition of education qualifications. It lists support and information from 30 European countries, non-governmental groups and EU-level initiatives.  Read more:  Science Business

Health

Senate HELP Committee passes PREVENT Pandemics Act authorizing ARPA-H

Earlier this week, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee voted 20-2 to advance the Prepare for and Respond to Existing Viruses, Emerging New Threats, and Pandemics Act (PREVENT Pandemics Act, S. 3799). The bill contains language authorizing the creation of the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H). In addition, yesterday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Health Subcommittee held a mark-up hearing on two bills, the Advanced Research Project Agency–Health Act (H.R. 5585) and the Cures 2.0 Act (H.R. 6000); both measures contain language authorizing ARPA-H. It is unclear how the different ARPA-H provisions contained in the three House and Senate bills will be reconciled – H.R. 5585 focuses solely on ARPA-H, but H.R. 6000 and S. 3799 are larger, more sweeping measures that do not currently have direct companion bills in the opposite chamber. Read more: AAU 

NIH’s All of Us Research Program releases first genomic dataset

Nearly 100,000 highly diverse whole genome sequences are now available through the National Institutes of Health's All of Us Research Program. About 50% of the data is from individuals who identify with racial or ethnic groups that have historically been underrepresented in research. This data will enable researchers to address yet unanswerable questions about health and disease, leading to new breakthroughs and advancing discoveries to reduce persistent health disparities.  Read more:  NIH 

FDA and Congress re-examine accelerated approval program

Congressional leaders are proposing significant changes in FDA’s accelerated approval (AA) pathway for expedited development of important new therapies to address critical health conditions. The AA program has long faced criticism due to sponsor delays in conducting required post approval studies to confirm clinical benefit. Moreover, FDA’s surprise decision in 2021 to approve Biogen’s controversial Alzheimer’s treatment Aduhelm under the accelerated process has focused attention on the risks, benefits, and possible reforms to the program. These issues have moved to center stage as Congress begins consideration of a host of proposals for revising and improving policies related to drug development and regulation for possible inclusion in broader legislation to reauthorize FDA user fees.  Read more:  BioPharm

Energy

White House, DOE host fusion energy summit

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) hosted a summit on March 17 on commercial fusion energy to showcase progress public and private sectors have made to deploy fusion energy to the market.  Notable speakers at the summit included Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm, Fusion Industry Association CEO Andrew Holland and Anne White, head of Nuclear Science and Engineering at MIT.  Read more:  Fierce ElectronicsWhite House

Environment

Russia’s war in Ukraine sends tremors into the Arctic

Diplomatic tensions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine are affecting the farthest reaches of the Northern Hemisphere.  Seven of the Arctic Council's eight members — all except Russia, which currently holds the council’s rotating chairmanship — have agreed to boycott future meetings.  The boycott, announced earlier this month by the U.S., Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden, indefinitely pauses council proceedings on issues from climate change to Arctic oil drilling.  Read more:  Scientific American

The SEC wants companies to disclose how climate change is affecting them

Every year, public companies in the U.S. are required to provide investors and regulators with detailed data about their financial performance and the risks they face. Soon, they may also have to disclose information about how they are dealing with climate change.  The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on March 21 formally proposed new rules that would for the first time require businesses to report their greenhouse gas emissions, along with details of how climate change is affecting their businesses.  Read more:  NPR

 

DC Landscape — February 3, 2022

General Science and Research News

House unveils America COMPETES Act of 2022

The U.S. House of Representatives introduced last week the America Creating Opportunities for Manufacturing, Pre-Eminence in Technology and Economic Strength Act of 2022 (America COMPETES Act of 2022). The legislation would allocate $52 billion for semiconductor chip manufacturing, teeing up debate with the Senate that could prompt movement on the long-stalled funding. The House bill also includes $45 billion for grants and loans for supply chain resilience and "critical goods" manufacturing, $1 billion for programs within a new Commerce Department office responsible for supply chain mapping, and additional funding for National Science Foundation programs for innovative research and development.  Read more:  The Detroit News 

Hill update: President Biden says Build Back Better will be broken up in “chunks”

At a press conference on January 19, President Biden told reporters that Democrats will most likely have to break up the House-passed $1.75 trillion Build Back Better Act (H.R. 5376) into smaller “chunks” in order to push elements of it past the Senate. “I think we can break the package up, get as much as we can now and come back and fight for the rest of it,” he said. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), who was key in killing the social spending package in the Senate, said yesterday, however, that no one had reached out to him yet about restarting negotiations. Read more: AAU 

National Science Board releases report on the state of U.S. science and engineering

The National Science Board released its biennial report, Science and Engineering Indicators, providing information on the state of science and engineering in the United States. The report finds that even though the nation leads globally in science and technology activities, this leadership is threatened as countries in Asia increase their investments in research and development. The report finds that the U.S. science and engineering enterprise, though strong, could be strengthened further, especially by making STEM education more accessible and affordable; building a more diverse STEM workforce; and increasing federal investments in research and development, particularly basic research performed by institutions of higher education. Read more: AAU

OTSP releases Scientific Integrity Task Force report

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy released the first report of its Scientific Integrity Task Force. Issued in response to President Biden’s January 2021 Memorandum on Restoring Trust in Government Through Scientific Integrity and Evidence-Based Policymaking, the report provides a high-level assessment of scientific integrity policies at various federal agencies, identifies effective practices for fostering a culture of scientific integrity, and provides new topics that agencies should incorporate into policies. Read more: AAU

DOD Undersecretary Heidi Shyu highlights tech priorities, broad partnerships

On January 19, the Potomac Officers Club hosted its 8th Annual Defense R&D Summit featuring Heidi Shyu, under secretary of defense for research and engineering, and other preeminent leaders across defense agencies and industry.  During her keynote speech, Shyu said she has initiated quarterly meetings with leaders of federally funded research and development centers, university affiliated research centers, the top seven prime contractors, small businesses, commercial organizations and venture capital companies to foster robust communication of DOD needs and improve collaboration in the critical area of technology research and development.  Shyu highlighted microelectronics, artificial intelligence, hypersonics, quantum, directed energy and biotechnology among the top technological priorities for defense research and development today.  Read more:  GovCon Wire

Health

NIH launches first phase of competition to accelerate development of neuromodulation therapies

NIH has launched the first phase of the Neuromod Prize, a $9.8 million competition to accelerate the development of neuromodulation therapies — targeted treatments that adjust nerve activity to improve organ function. The competition seeks scientists, engineers, and clinicians to submit novel concepts and clinical development plans to demonstrate solutions for precisely stimulating the peripheral nervous system to treat disease and improve human health.  Read more:  NIH

NIH awards $170 million for precision nutrition study

The National Institutes of Health is awarding $170 million over five years, pending the availability of funds, to clinics and centers across the country for a new study that will develop algorithms to predict individual responses to food and dietary routines. The Nutrition for Precision Health (NPH) will recruit a diverse pool of 10,000 participants who are part of the NIH’s All of Us Research Program to inform more personalized nutrition recommendations.  Read more:  NIH

Energy

DOE selects Argonne scientists to key roles in ushering in the next generation of nuclear reactors

For decades, scientists at Argonne National Laboratory have led the way in designing the next generation of safer, cheaper and more efficient advanced nuclear reactors that could be key to meeting the world’s future clean energy needs. Now, the Reactor Fleet and Advanced Reactor Deployment office within DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy has selected three Argonne scientists, -- Robert Hill, Bo Feng and Meimei Li -- to principal roles in ushering in the next generation of nuclear reactors that could fill a crucial energy niche.  Read more:  Argonne National Lab

Environment

Biden revives climate portion of failed Build Back Better bill

President Joe Biden expressed support for breaking up the Build Back Better Act, saying that the parts intended to combat climate change appear to have the most support.  Biden’s current focus is on passing $555 billion worth of tax credits and financial incentives to address climate change. The bulk of it, around $320 billion, would go to providing tax credits for installing residential and commercial solar power, retrofitting buildings to be more energy-efficient, and purchasing electric vehicles. It would also provide funds to jump-start domestic manufacturing of clean energy equipment, including wind turbines and solar panels, and about $1 billion for EV charging stations.  Read more:  ARS Technica

U.S. utilities side with environment agency in Supreme Court climate case

U.S. utility industry lobby groups have asked the Supreme Court to preserve the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases, arguing that failing to do so could open the door to lawsuits against power and water providers and raise costs for consumers.  Next month, the Supreme Court will hear a bid by states, including coal producer West Virginia, and coal companies to limit federal power to use the landmark Clean Air Act to regulate carbon emissions from power plants.  Read more:  Reuters 

Ocean Exploration education grants to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion announced

NOAA Ocean Exploration and the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation  have awarded seven education grants to help engage and inspire the next generation of ocean explorers by supporting diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEI&A) efforts related to ocean literacy, stewardship, and workforce development.  Read more:  NOAA

Computer Science and Technology

NSF provides scholarships for service to support urgent need for cybersecurity professionals

To address the demand for dedicated cybersecurity professionals, particularly in government agencies, the U.S. National Science Foundation is investing in eight new CyberCorps® Scholarship for Service grants. This investment will increase the volume and strength of the nation's cybersecurity workforce by providing full scholarships and stipends to students who agree to work in cybersecurity jobs for federal, state, local or tribal governments after graduation. NSF is providing more than $29 million in scholarships over the next five years to eight universities.  Read more:  NSF

DC Landscape — January 24, 2022

General Science and Research News

U.S. to unify grant application disclosures after Lieber conviction

The White House has issued long-awaited guidance to federal research grant agencies giving them four months to draft a unified set of rules and forms for scientists to report their overseas affiliations. The chief White House science adviser, Eric Lander said that the new guidelines were necessary to deter real espionage while avoiding the racism of an overly aggressive approach that traps well-intentioned scientists.  Read more:  Times Higher Education

Biden administration calls on agencies to better guard against political influence on science

A White House task force on Tuesday called on federal agencies to increase safeguards against political influence in scientific research, citing what it said was the Trump administration’s history of such influence.  In the report, the White House’s Scientific Integrity Task Force said scientific integrity violations are “small in number compared to the magnitude of the federal government’s scientific enterprise,” but that they can do disproportionate harm to public trust in government research and science in general.  Read more:  The Hill

DHS reestablishes Homeland Security Academic Advisory Council

The Department of Homeland Security announced in the Federal Register that it is reestablishing the Homeland Security Academic Advisory Council. Per DHS, HSAAC will “provide advice and recommendations to the Secretary and DHS senior leadership on matters related to homeland security and the academic community” and will consist of up to 30 members appointed by the secretary of homeland security. The council will include up to four members representing higher education associations and up to two members representing each of the following: four-year colleges and universities; HBCUs; HSIs; tribal colleges; and Asian American, Native American and Pacific Islander institutions. The council will also include representatives from various federal agencies.

Energy

DOE announces $420 million to advance clean energy breakthroughs at Energy Research Centers

DOE has announced a funding opportunity for 41 Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRC) designed to advance climate solutions through early-stage research on clean energy technology, advanced and low-carbon manufacturing, and quantum information science. The EFRC program brings together diverse teams of scientists across disciplines and institutions – including universities, national laboratories, industry, and nonprofits – to solve complex problems in early-stage research and accelerate advances in areas of materials sciences, chemical sciences, geosciences, and biosciences.  Read more:  DOE

DOE stands up Clean Technology Demonstration Office

The Department of Energy has launched an Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations to support a burgeoning portfolio of large-scale technology projects funded by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. DOE expects to hire about 1,000 employees in response to the infrastructure act to help staff what it is calling a "Clean Energy Corps." In a statement on OCED’s launch, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm remarked, “This new office will hire the best and brightest talent to invest in cutting-edge clean-energy projects, and DOE is calling on anyone dedicated to addressing the climate crisis to roll up their sleeves and join us.”  Read more:  AIP

Environment 

New chief scientist wants NASA to be about climate science, not just space

The new top scientist at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration wants the famed space agency to become a leading voice on climate change science, too.  “When people hear NASA, I want them to think of climate science alongside planetary science,” said Katherine Calvin, who was appointed as NASA’s chief scientist on Monday.  Read more:  CNBC

DC Landscape — November 7, 2021

General Science and Research News

Senate Appropriations Committee endorses NSF increase

Under the appropriations legislation advanced by the House and Senate, the current $8.5 billion annual budget for NSF would surge by about $1 billion in fiscal year 2022, which is still short of the $1.7 billion increase the Biden administration requested. The Senate’s bill, released this week, seeks a 12% overall budget increase. Justifying the large increase, the Senate report endorses NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan’s testimony before appropriators in April, when he called for an increase in the size and duration of grants. For the EPSCoR program specifically, the Senate report directs NSF to increase its budget by at least 20% to $240 million, matching the requested level.  Read more: American Institute of PhysicsSenate FY2022 Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Report 

President Biden releases framework for Build Back Better Act

After weeks of negotiations, President Biden released on October 28 his framework for the FY22 reconciliation package (also known as the “Build Back Better Act”). The measure totals $1.75 trillion in spending over the next decade. The White House also released a fact sheet with details about what’s in the package, and the House Rules Committee released updated bill text for H.R. 5376 consistent with the framework.

The bill includes $40 billion for higher education and workforce development, including a $550 increase to the maximum Pell Grant award; new funding support for Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-Serving Institutions, Minority-Serving Institutions, and Tribal Colleges and Universities; and investments in community college workforce development programs. The bill also provides new investments in scientific research, including funding for the National Science Foundation, NASA, the Department of Energy, the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Environmental Protection Agency. The bill also includes $400 billion for childcare and universal pre-kindergarten; $555 billion in spending and tax breaks for clean energy investment; and billions for health care coverage, affordable housing, home care for seniors, and other programs. Reports suggest that Democrats will continue negotiating the details of what goes in the final package over the coming weeks.

Biden spending package includes funding for new NSF Directorate

The revised budget reconciliation package includes $675 million to NSF for research awards, traineeships, scholarships, and fellowships across all STEM disciplines, $500 million for research related to climate change and $1.5 billion for the Directorate for Technology, Innovation, and Partnerships.  Read more:  Build Back Better 

OSTP seeks ideas on how to advance equity in science and technology

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy is seeking ideas from the American public on how it can guarantee that “all Americans can fully participate in, and contribute to, science and technology.” Americans can visit challenge.gov and, until November 19, pitch ideas for reshaping how science is done and share examples of programs and initiatives that are succeeding in advancing equity in science and technology. “We need everybody to be able to participate in and contribute to science and technology because different experiences and perspectives are the bedrock of new scientific and technological insights, because having everybody on the team is essential to America’s global competitiveness in the 21st century, and, because it’s the right thing to do,” said OSTP Director Eric Lander in a press release about the challenge. The #SciEquityChallenge is the second phase of OSTP’s “The Time Is Now: Advancing Equity in Science and Technology” initiative. In the first phase, OSTP conducted five roundtables on themes related to science and technology equity. More information about the roundtables can be found here.

Senate appropriators want to add $24B to defense budget

Senate appropriators have added a nearly $24 billion increase to the defense budget, which would put the Pentagon more in line with the National Defense Strategy, complicate some plans to divest from legacy systems, and dash some lawmakers’ hopes to rein in military spending.  The committee provides more than $4 billion more funding in research, development, testing and engineering. The bulk of that money goes to DoD-wide programs. That includes more than $750 million extra for space technology development and prototyping, $230 million for microelectronics and $21 million for improving operational energy capabilities.  The bill establishes a $500 million program to increase the adoption of artificial intelligence capabilities at the combatant commands and another $100 million to improve recruitment and development of talent for advancing AI.  Read more:  Federal News NetworkSenate FY2022 Defense Appropriations Report

Health

Biden spending package aims to prevents next pandemic

President Biden’s proposed spending package includes $7 billion to support core public health infrastructure activities and $3 billion for pandemic preparedness, including modernizing public health laboratory infrastructure and expanding global and domestic vaccine production capacity.  Read more:  Build Back Better

Senate Appropriations Committee invests in public health, medical research

The Senate Appropriations Committee posted its FY2022 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Bill and Report on October 18.  The bill includes $9.73 billion for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an increase of $1.85 billion over fiscal year 2021 and the largest increase in budget authority provided to the agency in nearly two decades.  This includes $600 million for public health infrastructure to enhance local capacity to respond to emerging public health threats.  The bill increases funding for the public health workforce to $106 million, a $50 million increase over fiscal year 2021. According to the Committee, local health departments have lost a quarter of their public health workforce since 2009.

The bill provides $47.9 billion for the National Institutes of Health, an increase of $5 billion.  With this investment, the bill will provide a 58 percent increase for NIH over the past seven years.  The Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H) received $2.4 billion to accelerate the pace of breakthroughs in medicine.

The Committee maintains its commitment to finding a treatment and a cure for Alzheimer's disease, increasing funding for research supported by the National Institute on Aging by $235 million.  According to the Committee, Congress has increased research funding for Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias by more than 500 percent since FY2015, making it the largest expenditure of its kind in NIH.  The bill also includes $335 million, an increase of $48 million over fiscal year 2021, for Pandemic Influenza to improve the effectiveness of the flu vaccine and better respond to changes in flu strains.  Read more:  Senate FY2022 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Report

NIH awards nearly $75M to catalyze data science research in Africa

The National Institutes of Health is investing about $74.5 million over five years to advance data science, catalyze innovation and spur health discoveries across Africa. Under its new Harnessing Data Science for Health Discovery and Innovation in Africa (DS-I Africa) program, the NIH is issuing 19 awards to support research and training activities.  Read more:  NIH

Energy

DOE announces nearly $40 million for grid decarbonizing solar technologies

DOE on October 21 awarded nearly $40 million to 40 projects that are advancing the next generation of solar, storage, and industrial technologies necessary for significant advancements in clean electricity. Awards were dependent on the projects’ potential to reduce the cost of solar technologies by increasing the lifespan of photovoltaic (PV) systems from 30 to 50 years, developing technologies that will enable solar to be used in fuel and chemicals production, and advancing novel storage technologies.  Read more:  Energy.gov

Department of Energy announces $209 million for EV battery research

The Biden administration will invest $209 million into 26 new federal lab projects to boost research into advanced batteries and fast-charging of electric vehicles, the Department of Energy said on October 27. The research projects will focus on electric vehicles, advanced batteries, and connected vehicles; with goals to slash the cost and size of next-generation battery storage and shorten the time needed to fast-charge electric vehicles to under 15 minutes. Argonne National Laboratory, meanwhile, announced the 'Li-Bridge', a public-private partnership to bridge gaps in the domestic lithium battery supply chain.  Read more:  Renewable Energy World

Environment

Senate issues FY 2022 Interior Department appropriations bill

The Senate Appropriations Committee on October 18 released its Fiscal Year 2022 Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies appropriations bill. The bill includes the following discretionary funding levels: • $18.1 billion for tribal programs and the Indian Health Service. • $3.46 billion for the National Park Service, $340 million more than the fiscal year 2021 level, including $2.93 billion to hire more than 1,000 additional employees. • $6.2 billion for the US Forest Service, $817 million more than fiscal year 2021, including increases to radically improve forest restoration and fire risk reduction efforts. • $3.85 billion for Wildland Firefighting for fire suppression. • $1.54 billion for the Bureau of Land Management, $231 million more than fiscal year 2021. Funding for National Conservation Lands are increased $23.7 million for recreation and management planning for new, expanded, and restored monuments, invasive species control, wildfire adaptation and climate resiliency projects.  Read more:  Senate FY2022 Interior, Environment Appropriations Report

Senate Appropriators endorse increased Sea Grant funding

The Senate Appropriations Committee released its FY2022 Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations bill and report on October 18.  The bill funds National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) research at $730 million, an increase of $116 million or 19 percent above the fiscal year 2021 level, including $51 million for climate research.  The Sea Grant program is funded at $90 million, $15 million above the fiscal year 2021 level.  According to the Subcommittee, the Sea Grant program yields $520 million in economic activity and supports more than 11,000 jobs and 1,300 American businesses.  Read more:  Senate FY2022 Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Report

Biden Build Back Better includes $555 billion for climate investments

The new framework  contains $555 billion for climate and clean energy investments to cut more than a gigaton of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 — a roughly 50 percent reduction compared to 2005 levels. The framework includes $320 billion for clean energy tax credits and $105 billion for environmental resilience. Another $130 billion would go toward renewable energy development and procurement. The legislation would provide tax credits for buying new electric vehicles and installation of solar panels. The bill also provides $1 billion for demonstration projects carried out by DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) and $985 million to support research at the Office of Science.

Research Newsletter Sources: Van Scoyoc Associates, Association of American Universities