SENATE APPROPRIATORS OK BIG INCREASE FOR ENERGY R&D
Topping the House, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a 9.4 percent increase over current spending for the Department of Energy, including a whopping 19.6 percent hike for advanced computing. With the exception of fusion energy, which the panel flat-funded, other research accounts got hefty raises. (See chart below). The bill is still subject to a vote of the full Senate, negotiation with House appropriators, and approval by both chambers and President Trump.
Overall, fiscal 2020 spending remains in flux, with Democrats and the White House at loggerheads over money for President Trump's border wall. The House passed a shorttern stopgap to fund the govenment at current levels through November 21. The Senate and Trump are expected to approve it as well, but when it expires, all bets are off. Noting "ominous signs," CQ reports: "Another shutdown continues to be a very real possibility considering how far apart both sides are." Image: Senate Appropriations chamber in the Capitol.
FEAR OF 'FALLING BEHIND': Agreeing to spend more than $1 billion for FY 2020 advanced scientific computing research (including $189 million for the Exascale Computing Project), appropriatorss stated in their report they are "concerned that the [Energy] Department is falling behind in its research capabilities and capacity, threatening continued U.S. leadership." They also provided $12,000,000 for the Computational Sciences Graduate Fellowship.
CLIMATE AND ENVIRONMENT: Approving $770 million for biological and environmental research, the panel wants DOE to "enhance investments in machine learning to advance the use of diverse and increasingly autonomous datasets to understand environmental and climate dynamics; rapidly incorporate datasets into predictive watershed, ecosystem and climate models; and project the onset of and track extreme events, such as atmospheric rivers and hurricanes." Members urge DOE "to increase its funding for academia to perform independent evaluations of climate models using existing data sets and peer-reviewed publications of climate-scale processes to determine various models’ ability to reproduce the actual climate," and to continue "funding for colleges and universities to examine and evaluate earth system models and validate their
ability to reproduce earth systems."
MARINE ENERGY: The bill would provide $40 million for " competitive grants to support industry- and university-led projects to validate the performance, reliability, maintainability, environmental impact, and cost of marine energy technology components, devices, and systems at a variety of scales." It also calls for "a balanced portfolio of marine and hydrokinetic technologies [along with] wave, ocean current, tidal and in-river energy conversion components and systems across the high- and low-technology readiness spectrum to increase energy capture, reliability,
survivability, and integration into local or regional grids."
THREAT FROM ALGAL BLOOMS: In the section of its report dealing with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Appropriations Committee says it's "concerned about the increasing threat to human health and public safety from [harmful algal blooms] on our nation’s surface waters." The panel calls for "research and development into the formation, rapid detection, protection methods, and remediation of HABs."
THEFT, CHEATING, AND SHADOW LABS: While providing $42.08 billion to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for FY 2020--$3 billion above current spending--appropriators bluntly noted ongoing worries. They remain "deeply concerned about foreign threats to the research infrastructure. . . . In particular, the Chinese government has started a program to recruit NIH-funded researchers to steal intellectual property, cheat the peer-review system, establish shadow laboratories in China, and help the Chinese government obtain confidential information about NIH research grants. As the
Federal Bureau of Investigation, [Department of Health and Human Services], and NIH continue to investigate the impact the Thousand Talents and other foreign government programs have had on the NIH research community, the Committee expects to be notified quarterly on the progress of the investigation, as well as institutions, scientists, and research affected." The panel went on: "NIH shall evaluate the peer-review system and their internal controls through a lens that takes into account national security threats." It tells NIH to spend no less than $5 million to
allow the HHS Office of National Security to expand its insider threat program.
BETTER SCREENING FOR STUBBORN CANCERS: Senate appropriators say limited screening methods and treatments exist for certain cancer types with particularly low survival rates--so-called recalcitrant cancers--including those of the brain, esophagus, liver, lung, ovary, pancreas, and stomach. The panel urges NIH and the National Cancer Institute to "continue to support research with an emphasis on developing screening and early detection tools and more effective treatments for all recalcitrant cancers."
See the Appropriations Committee report on the Labor-HHS and Education bill. Also see:
Lewis-Burke Analysis of Labor, HHS and Education;
Lewis Burke Analysis of Agriculture Appropriations bill
Agriculture appropriations bill report