DC Dispatch - March, 17, 2017

President Trump Releases FY 2018 Budget Blueprint

(Focus Here on S&T)

President Trump has now released: his FY 2018 ‘budget blueprint’, containing more details on his initial release last month of the top line priorities for the coming fiscal year.  The full budget – with considerably more detail, is not expected until late April or early May.  As foreshadowed in the initial release of the top line priorities, discretionary spending (of which federal R&D expenditures are a part) will decrease.  According to an initial analysis by AAAS [IMHO the best place to track the federal R&D budget process], “[T]he first Trump Administration budget day has finally arrived, but the wait for the full science and technology picture is only partially over: there are substantial details still missing from the Administration’s FY 2018 budget outline, released this morning [3/16/17].  But the picture that does emerge so far is one of an Administration seeking to substantially scale back the size of the federal science and technology enterprise nearly across the board – in some cases, through agency-level cuts not seen in decades.”

“Several applied technology programs in energy and manufacturing would be subject to the chopping block – unsurprisingly so, given past proposals and longstanding partisan disagreements over the federal role in innovation.  Climate research programs are also cut to varying degrees.  But the budget goes well beyond these sources of controversy to attempt steep cuts in discovery science at the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Energy, representing a clean break with what has been a fairly consistent bipartisan consensus on government's role in fundamental science.”

“Basic or applied, funding reductions for most nondefense agencies would dwarf the cuts levied by the initial round of sequestration in 2013.”

“There are some noteworthy exceptions, however: both NASA and competitive agricultural research grants fare relatively well.  And on the defense side, the National Nuclear Security Administration would also see a sizable funding boost.”

“Quite a bit of information – indeed, most of what typically makes up the substantive budget – is still missing.  For starters, the information presented in the budget summary – dubbed the ‘skinny budget’ – is rather cursory, with little more than a handful of bullet points for most science agencies.  Far more detail will come in the full budget request, expected to arrive in late April or early May.”

See the link for what little more detail is available for specific agencies.  (Original Sources: AAAS web site, White House web site) 

Both Parties Pass ‘Science Integrity’ Bills

Within the past two months: lawmakers from both parties have “introduced bills they claim will improve how the federal government conducts and uses science.”  From a summary provided by AIP, “[A]lthough each possesses little or no support from the other party and they vary considerably in their aims and scope, each side has cast their efforts as enhancing the integrity of government science.” 

[On the Democratic side] “[A] large number of House and Senate Democrats have lined up in support of legislation that would direct federal agencies engaged in research to formulate scientific integrity policies that “promote and maximize the communication and open exchange of data and findings to other agencies, policymakers, and the public.” The bills also state that the agencies should design the policies to guard against distortion or suppression of research data and results.  Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), the ranking member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, introduced the “Scientific Integrity Act” in February, and Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY) introduced a similar bill on March 2. … In a press release announcing the bill’s introduction, Tonko explained he is sponsoring the legislation out of concerns about growing political influence on scientists.”

[On the Republican side] “[O]n the Republican side of the aisle, members have advanced several measures to reform federal rulemaking processes.  Two examples specific to agency consideration of scientific findings are the “Honest and Open New EPA Science Treatment (HONEST) Act” and the “EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act.”  … Sponsored by House Science Committee Chair Lamar Smith (R-TX), the “HONEST Act” … would require EPA to base various agency decisions on the “best available science” and make the underlying data, models, methods, and other materials “publicly available online in a manner that is sufficient for independent analysis and substantial reproduction of research results.” … The “EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act,” sponsored by Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK) … would set various membership criteria for EPA’s Science Advisory Board and implement a more extensive public comment process.”  See the link for highlights of some fairly partisan discussion on these bills in various hearings and press releases.  (Original Sources: AIP web site, congress.gov site)

Bills Promoting Women in STEM now Law 

In late February President Trump signed into: law two bills leveraging existing programs at NASA and NSF to promote the advancement of women in STEM.  The bills were the Promoting Women in Entrepreneurship Act (PL 115-6), which encourages NSF entrepreneurial programs “to recruit and support women to extend their focus beyond the laboratory and into the commercial world” and the INSPIRE Women Act (PL 115-7), which directs NASA “to encourage women and girls to study science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), and pursue careers in aerospace …” (Original Sources: congress.gov web site)

Inventors Hall of Fame 2017 Inductees Announced

(A Few Federal Labs Noted)

The National Inventors Hall of Fame recently announced: the 2017 list of inductees.  From a blurb in the USPTO Director’s blog, “[T]hese visionary inventors each patented inventions that revolutionized their industries and changed people’s lives.  Of the fifteen new inductees, eight will be honored posthumously.  The criteria for induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame requires candidates to hold a U.S. patent that has contributed significantly to the nation's welfare and the advancement of science and the useful arts.”  I confess to not reading every inductee bio, but found several that had an association with a Federal Lab (Iver Anderson, Lead-Free Solder, DOE Ames Lab; Allene Jeanes, Xanthan Gum, USDA Northern Regional Research Lab; Frances Ligler, Portable Optical Biosensors, US Navy Research Lab).  Congrats to all.  (Original Sources: USPTO web site) 

Spotlight on Member Labs/Agencies

(NASA Releases New Software Catalogue)

NASA has recently released: “its 2017-2018 software catalog, which offers an extensive portfolio of software products for a wide variety of technical applications, all free of charge to the public, without any royalty or copyright fees.”  From the press release, “this third edition of the publication has contributions from all the agency’s centers on data processing/storage, business systems, operations, propulsion and aeronautics.  It includes many of the tools NASA uses to explore space and broaden our understanding of the universe.  A number of software packages are being presented for release for the first time.  Each catalog entry is accompanied with a plain language description of what it does. …  NASA published the first edition of its software catalog in April 2014, becoming the first comprehensive listing of publicly available software to be compiled by a federal government agency -- the largest creator of custom code.  Since then, NASA has shared thousands of its software programs with students, industry, individuals and other government agencies. … The software catalog is a product of NASA’s Technology Transfer program [which] ensures technologies developed for missions in exploration and discovery are broadly available to the public, maximizing the benefit to the nation.”  (Original Sources: NASA web site)


Note:  The DC Dispatch is a periodic update of selected items of interest to the FLC and technology transfer community -- i.e., current legislation, trends, reports, policy and other developments potentially affecting technology transfer or related activities -- designed to keep the community informed of relevant issues on a timely basis.  Information is gleaned directly from a variety of sources (newsletters, email alerts, web sites, direct participation at events from the FLC DC Representative’s office, etc.) -- with original sources, contacts and links provided.

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