Washington Update
Week of February 1 - 5
Office of Research


Flint Amendment Stalls Senate Passage of The Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015

This week the Senate resumed consideration of The Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015 (S.2012). Unfortunately, the Senate failed to receive enough votes to move to final passage of the legislation over a Flint aid amendment introduced by Senator Stabenow and Senator Peters. Their amendment sought up to $600 million in federal aid for Flint. The amendment would provide funding to replace the corroded pipes and also establish and fund a Center of Excellence on Lead Exposure to research the immediate and long-term needs of children and adults exposed to lead. The Senators struck a tentative deal and agreed to modify their proposal in terms of structure and the amount of aid. However, when a final agreement on the amendment failed, Senate Democrats blocked moving the bill to final passage. The Senators plan to continue negotiations over the weekend to work towards a compromise. 

As you may recall, The Energy Policy Modernization Act includes a section (Sec. 4201), which reauthorizes the Office of Science programs and ARPA-E at the Department of Energy (the energy portion of the America COMPETES Authorization). This legislation, which has been widely endorsed by the higher education and scientific society community, and would authorize a four percent annual increase for the Office of Science and ARPA-E, for a total increase of about 22% over five years.

Last week, the Senate approved an amendment (S.A.2965) offered by Senator Schatz (D-HI) to increase the authorization level for ARPA-E above what is included in The Energy Policy Modernization Act. The amendment would authorize an additional $325 million per year for fiscal years 2016 through 2018 and $375 million per year for fiscal years 2019 and 2020. Further information on the amendment is available here. The Senate also approved an amendment (S.A.3021) by Senators Crapo (R-ID) and Whitehouse (D-RI) which would support collaborations among academia, the national laboratories, and private industry on nuclear energy research. Further information on the amendment is available here.

 Vice President Biden Convenes First Meeting of the Cancer Moonshot Task Force

This week, Vice President Biden convened the first meeting of the federal task force established to end cancer as we know it. This initiative seeks to involve every federal agency with a part to play. This task force aims to "clear the bureaucratic hurdles -- and let the science happen". President Obama, Vice President Biden, OSTP Director Holdren, NIH Director Collins, Energy Secretary Moniz, NSF Director Cordova, among other top agency officials, The Administration announced a new one billion dollar jump-start it wants to spend towards this initiative. Further details regarding the one billion dollar investment are below, according to the White House:
  • The Moonshot initiative will begin immediately with $195 million in new cancer activities at the NIH in FY2016.
  • The FY2017 Budget will propose to continue this initiative with $755 million in mandatory funds for new cancer-related research activities at both NIH and the FDA.
  • The Departments of Defense and the Veterans Affairs are increasing their investments in cancer research, including through funding Centers of Excellence focused on specific cancers, and conducting large longitudinal studies to help determine risk factors and enhance treatment.
Further details about the task force remain a work in progress. The White House has not made it clear how they will measure progress towards their goals. The task force will work over the next few weeks to develop specific metrics.

National Science Board Met This Week in Washington, D.C.

This week, the National Science Board (NSB) met in Washington, D.C. Professor James Jackson and Dean of Education Deborah Ball from U-M are both members of the NSB.NSF Director France Cordova gave an overview of some of the ongoing work of the National Science Foundation. The Director highlighted NSF's recent role in the "Computer Science for All Initiative". This initiative is aimed at giving every student the opportunity to learn computer science. On January 30th, the President announced this new initiative. He is calling on Congress to provide funding so that all K-12 students can learn computer science. The Administration will leverage existing resources at the NSF and the Corporation for National and Community Service to train more teachers for these courses. Finally, this initiative will pull together governor's mayors, business, and tech entrepreneurs to get involved in this effort.

The Director also outlined the NSF"s response to recent "wastebooks" published by some Members of Congress, who publish reports of spending they deem wasteful and unnecessary. Sometimes this includes federally funded grants. According to Dr. Cordova, in the past, the NSF has responded to these attacks by focusing on the strength of the merit review process. She noted that this year they took a new approach and worked with the scientific staff in each directorate and the Office of Legislative and Public Affairs at NSF to write a rebuttal to each grant that came under attack. The rebuttals can be found on the online toolkit on the NSF's website here.

If you want further information of the NSB Meeting, please e-mail Madeline

NSF Releases 2016 Science and Engineering Indicators Report
Last month, the NSF released their 2016 Science and Engineering Indicators Report. This report provides information on the U.S. and international science and engineering enterprise. According to the report, the U.S. science and engineering enterprise is still the largest in the world. The U.S. continues to invest the most in research and development, produce the most advanced degrees in science and engineering and high-impact scientific publications. However, other countries are catching up to the U.S. in many aspects of science and engineering.

Also noteworthy, is the high level of confidence Americans have in the scientific community. During a time when the public's confidence in most U.S. institutions has declined, the report finds the public continues to have 'a great deal of confidence' in the scientific community. In fact, their perception of confidence is only second to that of their confidence in the U.S. military.

An overview of the report can be found in the NSF's press release here. This week, some members of the National Science Board presented findings from the report to Congress.

AAAS Workshop: Accepting Participation from Societies and Universities
The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is accepting applications to participate in the Catalyzing Advocacy for Science and Engineering (CASE) program. The program is open to universities or professional societies that would like to provide an opportunity for upper-class undergraduate and graduate students in STEM disciplines to come to Washington, D.C. to learn about science policy and advocacy. 

Each institution can send up to two students and are responsible for a $125 registration fee per student, as well as all associated travel and lodging costs. Further information is available here. If you would like to sponsor a student, please send an email to with the subject line: CASE Sponsoring Institution.  The deadline to sponsor a student is February 12, 2016. If you have any additional questions, do not hesitate to reach out to Joanne Carney of AAAS.

Nomination Announcements


National Medal of Technology and Innovation

The Department of Commerce's U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is accepting nominations for the 2016 National Medal of Technology and Innovation. The medal, presented each year by the President, is the country's highest award for technological achievement. The medal can be awarded to individuals, teams (up to four individuals), companies or divisions of companies to recognize their outstanding contributions to the U.S. economic, environmental, and social well-being.

Nominations are due by midnight (EST) on April 1, 2016. Further information is available here.

Federal Advisory Committees:
EPA Science Advisory Board: Scientific and Technological Achievement Awards Committee

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Science Advisory Board (SAB) Staff Office invites nominations of scientific experts to be considered for appointment to the SAB's 2016-2018 Scientific and Technological Achievement Awards (STAA) Committee. The STAA Committee is an ad hoc subcommittee of the SAB that provides advice through the chartered SAB on recommendations for awards under EPA's STAA program.

Nominations will be accepted through Tuesday, February 16. Further information is available here.
HHS Advisory Committee on Human Research Protections
The Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP), a program office in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), is seeking four nominations for appointment to the Secretary's Advisory Committee on Human Research Protections (SACHRP). SACHRP provides advice and recommendations on issues pertaining to the continuance and improvement of functions within the authority of HHS directed toward protections for human subjects in research.

Nominations will be accepted until Monday, March 21. Further information is available here.

CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are accepting nominations for the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). ACIP consists of 15 experts in fields associated with immunization who provide advice and guidance to the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Assistant Secretary for Health, and the CDC on the control of vaccine-preventable diseases.

Nominations will be accepted through Friday, November 4, 2016. Further information is available here.

National Institute of Standards and Technology Federal Advisory Committees

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is accepting nominations for appointment to eight existing Federal Advisory Committees:
  • Board of Overseers of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award
  • Judges Panel of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award
  • Information Security and Privacy Advisory Board
  • Manufacturing Extension Partnership Advisory Board
  • National Construction Safety Team Advisory Committee
  • Advisory Committee on Earthquake Hazards Reduction
  • NIST Smart Grid Advisory Committee
  • Visiting Committee on Advanced Technology
Nominations will be accepted on an ongoing basis. Further information is available here.
Council on Graduate Medical Education

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) is accpeting nominations to fill vacancies on the Council on Graduate Medical Education (COGME). The COGME provides advice and recommendations to the Department of Health and Human Services and members of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, and the House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce on matters related to: supply of physicians in the U.S., physician workforce trends, training issues, and financing policies.

The agency will receive nominations on a continuous basis. Further information is available here.
Fellowship/Internship Announcements

Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship Program

The National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST) is accepting applications for the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) Program. The SURF Program provides research opportunities for students to work with NIST scientists and engineers in their Gaithersburg, MD and Boulder, CO laboratories. The program runs mid-May through the end of July (Boulder) or beginning of August (Gaithersburg).

Application deadline: Friday, February 12, 2016. Further information is available here.

National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Traineeship Program

The NSF Research Traineeship (NRT) program is designed to encourage the development and implementation of bold, new, potentially transformative, and scalable models for STEM graduate education training. The NRT program seeks proposals that ensure that graduate students in research-based master’s and doctoral degree programs develop the skills, knowledge, and competencies needed to pursue a range of STEM careers. The NRT program includes two tracks: the Traineeship Track and the Innovations in Graduate Education (IGE) Track.

Letters of intent are due by close of business on Wednesday, December 9, 2015. The full proposal deadline is February 9, 2016. Further information is available here.

OSTP Summer Policy Internship

The Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) is accepting applications for their summer internship program. OSTP interns have the opportunity to work closely with senior White House officials and science and technology policy analysts in OSTP's topic-based divisions.

Application deadline: Friday, February 26 at 11:59 EST. Further information is available here.
News Articles
$1 Billion Planned for Cancer ‘Moonshot’
Carter Unveils Budget Details; Pentagon Requests $582.7 Billion
Science on the campaign trail: Where the presidential candidates stand
Biden’s cancer bid exposes rift among researchers
The Flint Water Scandal: The Role of Public Universities
** Denotes U-M mention
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