New & Noteworthy



Archive for April, 2011

27 Apr 2011

NSF Solicitation for Proposals for Research Coordination Networks

NSF has recently released a new solicitation for proposals for Research Coordination Networks (RCN) that focuses on the new investment area of Science, Engineering and Education for Sustainability (SEES).

RCN-SEES welcomes proposals from:

  • Universities and Colleges - Universities and two- and four-year colleges (including community colleges) accredited in, and having a campus located in the US, acting on behalf of their faculty members. Such organizations also are referred to as academic institutions.
  • Non-profit, non-academic organizations: Independent museums, observatories, research labs, professional societies and similar organizations in the U.S. associated with educational or research activities.

The full RCN solicitation can be accessed at www.nsf.gov/pubs/2011/nsf11531/nsf11531.htm?org=NSF.

Deadline for RCN SEES-track proposals is May 24, 2011.

For more information about the new SEES investment area please go to the NSF website www.nsf.gov/sees/.  See also the SEES FAQs: www.nsf.gov/pubs/2011/nsf11039/nsf11039.jsp?org=NSF and the January 2011 Dear Colleague Letter for SEES: www.nsf.gov/pubs/2011/nsf11022/nsf11022.jsp?org=NSF.

15 Apr 2011

NSCA Senate Testimony in Support of Increased FY 2012 Funding for NSF

On 15 April, NSC Alliance submitted testimony to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies.  The testimony was in support of funding the National Science Foundation (NSF) at $7.767 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2012.  This funding level would represent a 13 percent increase for the agency over the FY 2010 budget.

The testimony highlighted the contributions of NSF’s Biological Sciences Directorate (BIO) to science, education, and research infrastructure. In addition to supporting the increase for research funding for BIO, the testimony urges Congress to support the $10 million requested for digitization of biological collections.

Click here to download NSCA’s testimony

12 Apr 2011

Government Shutdown Averted, FY 2011 Budget Finally Nears Completion

Policymakers negotiated and postured until the last possible minute last week before striking a deal on 8 April 2011 to fund the federal government through the balance of the current fiscal year, which ends on 30 September 2011.  After weeks of contentious negotiations, congressional leadership agreed to a plan that will cut nearly $40 billion in spending over the next five and a half months relative to the fiscal year (FY) 2010 budget.  The cuts are roughly equally divided between mandatory and discretionary programs.  About $12 billion of the cuts have already been enacted in recent months.  In order to keep the federal government open until the package can be signed into law, Congress passed a Continuing Resolution late Friday night to fund the government through 14 April.

The spending deal targets the Departments of Labor, Education, and Health and Human Services for a $13 billion reduction, with foreign affairs programs losing about $8 billion.  Discretionary programs, including science agencies, would collectively lose $1.1 billion through across-the-board cuts.  The Department of Defense is expected to receive an increase, but not as large as Republicans had sought.

Democrats were able to prevent $1.2 billion in reductions to federal employee bonuses and pay beyond the salary freeze previously endorsed by the White House.  Some programs were spared cuts, including the National Institutes of Health, Head Start, and Pell grants for college students.

Several of the controversial policy riders that House Republicans had pushed were stripped from the final package in exchange for larger spending reductions.  The deal does not include any limits on the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions or mountaintop mining.  Additionally, Republican efforts to defund Planned Parenthood and the implementation of the 2010 health care reform law were unsuccessful.  Instead, the compromise includes a guarantee by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) that these provisions will be voted upon by the Senate later this week.

The House of Representatives is expected to vote on the package on Wednesday, with Senate action on Thursday.

Impacts to National Science Foundation (NSF)

According to the Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF), the final plan cuts funding for NSF by $65.75 million, or 1 percent below the FY 2010 budget.  Research and Related Activities would lose $53.1 million (-0.8 percent).  The Education and Human Resources budget account would be trimmed by $11.8 million (-1.1 percent).  Although the Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction account will only lose $230,000 relative to FY 2010, the CR could impact NSF’s ability to continue funding construction of the National Ecological Observatory Network.

Cuts to Research and Related Activities will result in:

  • 134 fewer awards and the support of 1,500 fewer researchers, students, teachers, and technical support personnel than last year.
  • Compared to the FY 2011 request, the CR will fund 1,450 fewer awards and support 16,700 fewer researchers, students, teachers, and technical support personnel.

Cuts to Education and Human Resources will result in:

  • 16 fewer awards and the support of 300 fewer researchers, students, teachers, and technical support personnel than last year.
  • Compared to the FY 2011 request, the CR will fund 50 fewer awards and support 930 fewer researchers, students, teachers, and technical support personnel.

11 Apr 2011

Scientists Aim to DNA Barcode All Plants in Wales

Wales is set to become the first country to produce a DNA barcode for every species of native flowering plant, according to a BBC News report.  The Barcode Wales project plans on cataloging all 1,143 species of flowering plants that occur in the country based on unique gene sequences.  The DNA sequences will be identified from freshly picked samples, as well as specimens from the National Museum Wales botanical collections.  The team hopes that the genetic database will be used to better understand genetic diversity in native plants and for conservation of pollinators.  Their work is set to be completed by this summer.

To read the BBC News article, visit http://news.bbc.co.uk/earth/hi/earth_news/newsid_9449000/9449068.stm.

08 Apr 2011

NSF Releases Plan for Operations During a Government Shutdown

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has released its plan for agency operations in the case of a government shutdown.  Of the approximately 2,000 NSF employees, 30 or less are expected to be retained to “protect life and property and for excepted activities,” according to the plan.  If the government shuts down, NSF awardees “may continue on all awards to the extent that they do not require federal staff intervention.”

To read The National Science Foundation Plan for Operations During A Funding Hiatus visit http://ht.ly/4whxZ.

01 Apr 2011

Business, Academic, Scientific Leaders Call for Action on Deficit Reduction

In recent months, it has become clear that the nation is divided about how to allocate a limited federal discretionary budget.  Part of this debate has been spurred by growing concern over the long-term fiscal health of the nation.  However, controlling discretionary spending will not fix the economic and budget problems facing the nation.   Earlier this year, a bipartisan commission issued a report (http://www.fiscalcommission.gov/sites/fiscalcommission.gov/files/documents/TheMomentofTruth12_1_2010.pdf) proposing sweeping policy initiatives that could help stabilize the nation’s economic and budget woes.  The report has received some attention from policymakers, but has yet to be translated into law.

In a 31 March 2011 statement, six leading representatives from business, academia and science asked President Obama and congressional leaders to make “tough choices on the national deficit.”  According to the statement sent to President Obama and congressional leaders: “An effective deficit reduction plan cannot focus entirely on decreasing discretionary expenditures; it must also include tax reform, spending prioritization and actions to strengthen economic growth.  Largely missing in the budget discussions to date are the entitlement programs, particularly the major ones: Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.  Any serious and sincere deficit reduction plan must include entitlement reform.”

The statement was signed by:

  • Norman R. Augustine, retired Chairman and CEO, Lockheed Martin Corporation and former Undersecretary of the Army;
  • John Engler, President, Business Roundtable and former Governor of Michigan;
  • Charles M. Vest, President, National Academy of Engineering;
  • Robert M. Berdahl, President, Association of American Universities;
  • M. Peter McPherson, President, Association of Public and Land-grant Universities; and
  • Deborah L. Wince-Smith, President and CEO, Council on Competitiveness.
  • The group further argued: “Economic growth and job creation require federal investment to prepare our children with world-class educations and to support the scientific and technology research and innovation infrastructure that enable the private sector to create jobs and compete in the global economy.  Americans must set priorities and share in the sacrifice required to put our fiscal house in order.  This is consistent with the model discussed in the bipartisan majority report of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibilities and Reform – the Bowles-Simpson commission.  We applaud those bipartisan efforts now underway among some Senators to put a broad-based deficit reduction plan on the table, and we welcome the recent letter signed by 64 Senators calling for a ‘broader discussion about a comprehensive deficit reduction package.’”