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                                    May 18, 2019



House subcommittees this week OKd FY 2020 increases of 6.9 percent for the National Science Foundation and 3.7 percent for NASA and research at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), along with robust hikes for the Department of Energy's various research portfolios. But whether these numbers become reality depends on agreement with the GOP-controlled Senate and the Trump White House, which wants to see cuts in domestic discretionary spending. CQ reports that leaders of the House and Senate from both parties plan to meet with the Trump administration in the coming week "to begin discussing spending levels for the upcoming fiscal year and determining how to address the recent expiration of the nation's debt limit suspension." More than one meeting will likely be needed "before an agreement can be brokered among all sides," according to CQ. A Trump official says anonymously that "as deficit spending continues to drive up our national debt, the Administration will continue to push for fiscal responsibility." Disaster aid has been a source of partisan division, but the sides are reportedly getting closer in advance of a Senate vote next week. 

See Lewis-Burke Associates' report on action by the Commerce, Justice, Science appropriations panel led by Rep.José Serrano (D-N.Y.), above. See also coverage by ScienceInsider, and a Summary of a spending bill approved by the House Energy and Water subcommittee  led by Rep. Marcy Kaptur (above right). 

DEFENSE R&D PUSHED ABOVE $100 BILLION: The total base figure of $100. 7 billion approved by a House subcommittee for all the Pentagon's R&D accounts is $5.7 billion above the current enacted level. No breakdown has emerged showing what proportion of the total would go to university-based basic and applied research, as opposed to commercial development of weapons systems. An additional $800 million would be paid for in the war contingency account, not subject to budget caps. The House panel approved an overall tab of $690.2 billion for defense, but that's likely to go higher. "It’s likely the Republican-held Senate committees will authorize and appropriate above $700 billion and possibility as high as the White House request of $750 billion." House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) has said $733 billion would be reasonable, Federal News Network reports.

STORMY WEATHER: Hearings in both the House and Senate examined what's needed to predict extreme events better. The University of Washington's Shuyi S. Chen told the House panel that "the United States no longer leads the field," having fallen behind in weather prediction skill. Columbia climatologist Radley Horton noted that "if we hope to reduce economic and safety risks to the nation, climate changes must play a central role in research on extreme weather and its impacts."


IMMIGRATION DEJA VU: If President Trump's call for more highly skilled immigrants sounds familiar, that's because it's similar to proposals advanced with bipartisan support not long ago. In June, 2013, the Senate approved (68-32) granting favorable status to "immigrants of extraordinary  ability  in  the  sciences,  arts,  education,  business  or  athletics;  outstanding  professors  and  re-searchers;  multinational  executives  and  managers;  doctoral  degree  holders  in  STEM  fields;  physicians  who  have  completed  the  foreign  residency  requirements  or  have  received  a  waiver;  and  immigrants  who  have  earned  a  master’s  degree  or  higher  in  a  field  of  STEM  from an accredited U.S. institution of higher education and have an offer  of  employment  in  a  related  field." (See a committee report.) So why are Democrats so dismissive of the Trump plan? Trump's merit-based immigration would come at the expense of family reunification. It also does nothing to resolve the status of 11 million undocumented immigrants already here. Nor does it address so-called Dreamers, now protected under the Obama Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals executive order.


The Division of Undergraduate Education (DUE) of the National Science Foundation (NSF) would like to hear your thoughts on the future of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) undergraduate education through an online survey. The responses are confidential, voluntary, and will only be analyzed and reported in aggregate. The Division will use the information in their planning of a large convocation of educators, education researchers, scientists, industry partners, and select student representatives to examine the status of undergraduate STEM education and to look ahead. Please note that this is a legitimate online survey that has been approved by the US Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The public reporting burden for this collection of information is estimated to average 10 minutes per response, including the time for reviewing instructions.  The survey closes July 1, 2019. The survey is available at: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/STEMEd2026

FDA. AI, AND MEDICAL DEVICES: A Policy Alert from the American Association for the Advancement of Science reports that the Food and Drug Administration is "weighing how to assess" medical devices that use artificial intelligence. Such devices would be "capable of evolving, learning and modifying their algorithms. In April, the agency released a white paper setting forth an approach that will focus on the software manufacturers, assessing their overall culture, including processes, quality control, testing, and organization. The agency is seeking comments and feedback on the proposal." 

FUNDING UNDER DEPSCoR:  Opportunites are available  for researchers from Defense EPSCoR  (Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research) states (34 states plus Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands).  For DEPSCoR-eligible researchers, DURIP (Defense University Research Instrumentation Program) (DURIP)program closes on May 31st, 2019.  Information can be found here. "The U.S. Army YIP (Young Investigator Program) is a rolling acceptance program with no fixed suspense date.  The proposals can be submitted to the Army Research Office Broad Agency Announcement for Fundamental Research. Learn more. The U.S. Air Force YIP announcement closes on June 3, 2019. "The U.S. Navy YIP announcement shall be released at any moment." Check the website. "A pre-solicitation notice for a DEPSCoR-exclusive competition is available at www.grants.gov." 



Source: Task Force on American Innovation, Second Place America? Increasing Challenges to U.S. Scientific Leadership: 2019 Benchmarks

A 'DRAMATIC SHIFT': TFAI reports that "in engineering alone, the U.S. share of article production decreased from 23 percent to 12 percent during the 2003-2016 period." This is due to an increased emphasis on health research as well as to rising global competition. "China has eclipsed U.S. publication shares in key research areas including engineering, physics, chemistry, geosciences, and mathematics." The European Union "has collectively fared better than the U.S.," particularly in computer science. 


The charts below are from the Pew Research Center's Key Facts about Immigration Policies and Proposed Changes


'QUALITY IS STAGNATING': If you thought the U.S. slippage in research publications was purely a matter of volume, the Task Force on American Innovation has alarming news. "The U.S. continues to publish some of the most cited research but is losing ground on the international stage. Countries that have recently surpassed the U.S. in the top 1 percent of cited publications include the U.K., Australia, and Canada, all of which have implemented national research ‘excellence’ programs. Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, has aggressively reformed its peer review policies as part of the country’s transition to a knowledge-based economy. China, now the world’s largest research producer, has more than doubled its share of the top 1 percent of cited publications." 


RESEARCH RELIABILITY: This has been called into question in recent years, prompting a National Academies study of reproducibility--obtaining consistent results using the same input data, computational steps, methods, and code, and conditions of analysis; and replicability--obtaining consistent results across studies aimed at answering the same scientific question, each of which has obtained its own data. "Scientific misconduct in the form of misrepresentation and fraud is a continuing concern for all of science, even though it accounts for a very small percentage of published scientific papers," the committee says. It adds: "The use of data and computation is evolving, and the ubiquity of research aided by computation is such that a competent scientist today needs a sophisticated understanding of computation. While researchers want and need to use these tools and methods, their education and training have often not prepared them to do so." Read the report.



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