On 16 August 2007, the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released the annual memorandum identifying research and development (R&D) priorities for the federal government. The memo, which is sent to the heads of executive branch agencies and departments, details what programs the Administration intends to prioritize during fiscal year (FY) 2009.Of note for the natural science collections community and researchers utilizing federal object-based scientific collections, the memorandum includes specific language indicating that federal scientific collections play a vital role in research, economic development, monitoring, and public health.OSTP and OMB thus encourage agencies to develop “a coordinated strategic plan to identify, maintain and use Federal collections of physical objects and to further collections research.”This is the third year the memo has incorporated language regarding collections.

The memorandum provides guidance for priority setting among federal R&D programs, stating that due to “the combination of finite resources, the commitment to the [President’s] American Competitiveness Initiative, and a multitude of new research opportunities” careful consideration of spending priorities and “wise choices” are mandatory and paramount. OSTP indicates that agencies may recommend new activities, but “requests should identify potential offsets by elimination or reductions in less effective or lower priority programs.” The Administration favors R&D investments that:

1. Advance fundamental scientific discovery to improve future quality of life;

2. Support high-leverage basic research to spur technological innovation, economic competitiveness and new job growth;

3. Strengthen science, mathematics and engineering education based on the recommendations of the Academic Competitiveness Council and the National Math Panel to ensure a scientifically literate population and a supply of qualified technical personnel commensurate with national need;

4. Enable potentially high-payoff activities that require a Federal presence to attain long-term national goals, especially national security, energy independence, and a next-generation air transportation system;

5. Sustain specifically authorized agency missions (e.g., scientific discovery in NASA) and user facilities that support the authorized missions of other agencies;

6. Enhance the health of our Nation’s people to reduce the burden of illness and increase productivity while respecting the inherent dignity and value of every human life;

7. Improve our ability to understand and respond to climate change and other global environmental issues and natural disasters through better observation, data, analysis, models, and basic and social science research;

8. Maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of the science and technology (S&T) enterprise through expansion of competitive, merit-based peer-review processes;

9. Phase out programs that are only marginally productive or are not important to an agency’s mission; and,

10. Encourage interdisciplinary research efforts on complex scientific frontiers and strengthen international partnerships to accelerate the progress of science across borders.

To download a copy of the memo, click FY 2009 R&D Budget Priorities.