Washington Update: March 4, 2020

FY21 budget requests, NOAA supercomputing, appropriations work, open access policies

Mar 4, 2020 - by Staff

FY21 federal budget requests released: The White House released most of the federal agency budget requests for fiscal year 2021 on Feb. 10 and they are again recommending a wide assortment of cuts to federal science agencies. The requested cuts mimic previous proposals that have been firmly rejected by Congress for the past three years, and they target a range of agencies, focusing most heavily on extramural research programs. As before, many of the cuts are aimed disproportionately at energy research and development and environmental research programs. 

The request for the National Science Foundation (NSF) would reduce the agency’s budget by 6% from its FY20 level to $7.7 billion. Only the NSF Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering would receive a higher funding level, reflecting the Trump administration’s emphasis on artificial intelligence. 

For the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the request is $4.6 billion, a proposed cut of $727 million. This includes previously proposed cancellations of Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) extramural programs. But there are also some important new initiatives and increases, including $15 million for the second year of the Earth Prediction Innovation Center (EPIC), $4 million for increased observational data sharing with the World Meteorological Organization, and $3.2 million to establish a Tornado Warning Improvement and Extension Program. 

NOAA supercomputing announcement: Two weeks ago NOAA announced the United States will triple its operational weather and climate supercomputing capacity and double its storage and interconnect speed, thanks to the installation of a pair of new Cray systems in Manassas, Virginia, and Phoenix, Arizona, in the next two years. The goal is to boost weather and climate forecasts with more detailed, higher-resolution Earth system models that will employ larger ensembles, advanced physics, and improved data assimilation. The new machines will complement and help implement advancements made under NOAA’s new EPIC program. NOAA awarded an eight-year support contract to CSRA LLC, a general dynamics information technology company.

Capitol Hill ramps up FY21 hearings and appropriations work: Last week Kelvin Droegemeier, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, testified to the House Science, Space and Technology Committee about the request for federal research and development broadly. This week featured a House hearing on the budget for the Department of Commerce, and the coming weeks will feature hearings for all the key science agencies. The House Appropriations Committee has an aggressive schedule and plans to begin bill markups on April 21, starting with the bill that funds NOAA, NSF, and NASA. They are targeting May 19 for completing all markups, with a goal of passing all the bills on the floor before July. The Senate has yet to announce the schedule for their process. 

White House seeking additional input on open access to federal research policy: Following a recent flurry of letters opposing or praising a potential executive order on open access, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy is seeking additional input from the research community. OSTP held the first in a series of stakeholder meetings on Jan. 30, and this week it released a request for information on “approaches for ensuring broad public access to the peer-reviewed scholarly publications, data, and code that result from federally funded scientific research.” The potential executive order would facilitate compliance with an OSTP policy memorandum on the subject released in 2103. Under that policy, publications arising from research funded by these agencies must be made freely available following a post-publication embargo of 12 months.

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