June 16, 2014
Capitol Update

In this issue:

 

ASME FELLOW DR. LEE-GLAUSER TESTIFIES AT HEARING ON "REDUCING THE ADMINISTRATIVE WORKLOAD FOR FEDERALLY FUNDED RESEARCH"

ASME Fellow Dr. Gina Lee-Glauser, Vice President for Research at Syracuse University, testified at a June 12th hearing conducted jointly by the House Science Subcommittee on Oversight and the Subcommittee on Research and Technology entitled “Reducing the Administrative Workload for Federally Funded Research.” The hearing examined concerns raised in a recent National Science Board (NSB) report on how to minimize regulations and increase effectiveness of federally-funded research universities.

The NSB report outlined concerns raised by educational institutions about the workload associated with applying for and receiving federal funds for research. The report cited a statistic that on average, researchers spend 42 percent of their application time on meeting administrative requirements. For more information about this report, please visit: http://www.nsf.gov/nsb/publications/pub_summ.jsp?ods_key=nsb1418

In 2009, the Science Committee sent a bipartisan letter to the National Academies requesting a report identifying the top ten actions to be taken in order to maintain the excellence of U.S. research and doctoral education. On June 14, 2012, the National Academies released this report that included a recommendation to “Reduce or eliminate regulations that increase administrative costs, impede research productivity, and deflect creative energy without substantially improving the research environment.” Witnesses at the June 12th hearing discussed the findings of multiple reports and explored ways to minimize the red tape that has become pervasive in academia.

In her testimony, Dr. Lee-Glauser observed “Time is perhaps our faculty and staff members’ most precious resource, and we all share in the responsibility to identify and implement processes that efficiently and effectively allow us to achieve our goals of supporting research to achieve its many benefits without comprising accountability to a sponsor’s requirements, the safety and well-being of research participants, and the welfare of the environment and our nation. The question we are all grappling with is: how best to achieve these ends?

“Complicating our collective efforts is the constriction in federal research funding. At Syracuse our principal investigators are spending considerable time revising and resubmitting applications in order to get just one funded. The success rates of research programs to which SU faculty apply, including the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, are now in the single digits. Disturbingly there is likely no meaningful difference in quality or the potential impact between funded applications and the next tier of non-funded applications. So in addition to the time lost by researchers in preparing revised applications, the pace of innovation and of knowledge creation is delayed.

“This discouraging state of competitive funding also is having a chilling effect on our students. I am passionate about supporting students from groups underrepresented in the academy and STEM disciplines. I have directly observed the stifling effect that the current funding environment is having on these students’ career plans. Every day, they see their advisors cope with the stress caused by an uncertain funding environment and the challenges in successfully achieving work / life balance. And so, most are choosing to pursue non-academic careers. This is a tragedy for research institutions that desperately need the diversity of thought and experience that these exceptionally talented individuals would bring.”

Dr. Lee-Glauser’s complete statement, as well as other witness testimony and the hearing webcast, is available at http://science.house.gov/hearing/subcommittee-oversight-and-subcommittee-research-and-technology-joint-hearing-reducing

 

HOUSE PASSES BIPARTISAN NASA AUTHORIZATION ACT

The House of Representatives on June 9th approved the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Authorization Act of 2014 (H.R. 4412) with strong bipartisan support by a vote of 401 - 2. The bill reaffirms Congress's commitment to space exploration, both human and robotic, and makes clear that human spaceflight to Mars is NASA's primary goal. The bill continues a fiscally responsible approach to human space exploration by requiring NASA to develop a strategic roadmap. Such a roadmap was highlighted as a key recommendation in the National Research Council's recent report on U.S. human spaceflight.

The NASA Authorization Act of 2014 continues the consistent guidance Congress has given to NASA for nearly a decade by reaffirming a stepping stone approach to exploration. It supports the development on the Space Launch System and the Orion Crew Vehicle to push the boundaries of human exploration, and focuses NASA's efforts to once again develop a U.S. capability to access the International Space Station.

H.R. 4412 also supports a healthy science directorate that reflects the input from the scientific community and an aeronautics research directorate that contributes to our nation's aerospace economy.

To read the comments of House Science, Space and Technology Committee leaders upon the bill's passage, please visit: http://science.house.gov/press-release/house-passes-bipartisan-nasa-authorization-act

 

HOUSE PASSES FY 2015 FUNDING BILL FOR NASA, NIST, AND NSF

The House of Representatives passed its Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations legislation to fund NASA, NIST, and the NSF for the coming fiscal year starting on October 1st.  The bill passed by a vote of 321 to 87.

During consideration of the legislation, Frank Wolf, Chairman of the CJS Appropriations Subcommittee, remarked that “A primary area of focus in the bill this year is scientific research, innovation and competitiveness. Investing in basic research is key to growth and job creation, and it is the foundation for the economic security of future generations which enables us to stay ahead of China.”

The subcommittee wrote the FY 2015 bill under difficult circumstances. Overall funding was about $400 million less than the current level. In the last five fiscal years the subcommittee has cut total spending by $13.3 billion or 20 percent.

Grants made by NSF’s Social, Behavioral, and Economics (SBE) Directorate were discussed as was the foundation’s grant making process. In introducing his bill, Wolf said, “With increased funding comes increased responsibility. I respect the NSF to follow through on the commitments it has made to the committee to increase accountability and transparency in its grant decision making. No funny grants is what I am trying to say. The new director must take every necessary step to ensure that research grants are scientifically meritorious, that funding allocations reflect national priorities and that the taxpayer investments in science are being used wisely.”

During debate of the legislation, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) and House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) offered an amendment to reduce the bill’s FY 2015 funding for the NSF’s Social, Behavioral, and Economics (SBE) directorate by $15.4 million, resulting in level funding of $256.9 million. This funding would be shifted to NSF physical science and engineering grants. The amendment passed by a vote of 208-201.

Other science-related amendments discussed on the floor included one by Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) to move $7 million in NASA funding from space operations to space technology. It was accepted by House members. The House rejected an amendment offered by Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI) to shift $10 million from NASA’s Exploration program to an international trade enforcement program. An amendment by Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) to reduce NSF’s FY 2015 appropriation by $67 million was rejected by voice vote. Rep. Matt Salmon’s (R-AZ) amendment to eliminate NSF funding for research on climate change impacts on Chinese tea was accepted by voice vote. Another amendment that would have affected specific NSF research grants was ruled out of order.

The full bill may be reviewed at http://beta.congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/house-bill/4660?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22appropriations%22%5D%7D

 

SENATE COMMITTEE APPROVES CJS APPROPRIATIONS LEGISLATION

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved 30-0 a draft fiscal 2015 Commerce-Justice-Science spending bill that would provide $51.2 billion in discretionary funds for the departments of Justice and Commerce, as well as science agencies. The spending level is $398 million less than the fiscal 2014 level and $1 billion more than requested by President Barack Obama; it is equal to the House level of the bill discussed above. The bill would provide $8.6 billion for the Commerce Department and $17.9 billion for NASA.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is funded at $900 million, which is $50 million above the fiscal year 2014 enacted level. This will fund NIST's Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) and Advanced Manufacturing Technology Consortia (AMTech) in order to help manufacturers accelerate development and adoption of cutting-edge manufacturing technologies.

The bill provides the full request of $7.2 billion for the National Science Foundation (NSF), an increase of $83 million over fiscal year 2014. The increase will provide 140 more competitive grants supporting 2,000 more technicians, teachers, scientists, and students in fiscal year 2015.

The $17.9 billion in the bill for NASA will preserve a NASA portfolio balanced among science, aeronautics, technology, and human space flight investments. It funds NASA to continue to work with private companies to build new crew transportation and fueling a new satellite servicing industry that can revive, refuel, and rejuvenate defunct communications satellites. The amount provided for NASA is $439 million above the President's request and $254 million above the fiscal year 2014 enacted level.

It is unclear when the full Senate will take up this legislation.

 

SMALL BUSINESS RESEARCH PROGRAMS: MORE GUIDANCE AND OVERSIGHT NEEDED

On June 6th, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released an assessment of the Small Business Administration's (SBA) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs' compliance with spending and reporting requirements, and other program aspects. This report addresses, for fiscal year 2012:

  • The extent to which agencies complied with spending requirements;
  • The extent to which agencies and SBA complied with certain reporting requirements;
  • The potential effects of basing spending requirements on agencies' total R&D budgets; and,
  • What is known about the amounts spent administering the programs.

GAO found that participating agencies and SBA did not fully comply with certain reporting requirements for the SBIR and STTR programs. For example, participating agencies are required to submit reports to SBA describing their methodologies for calculating their budgets for extramural research or research and development (R&D)—which is generally conducted by nonfederal employees outside of federal facilities. However, all 11 participating agencies were late in submitting these reports because SBA provided extensions to the deadline. As a result, SBA was unable to analyze the reports and provide timely feedback to assist agencies in accurately calculating these budgets.

Highlights of the report (GAO-14-431), as well as a link to the entire 54-page report, may be found at: http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-431

 

NASA SELECTS MSI UNIVERSITY TEAMS FOR 2014 MICROGRAVITY RESEARCH FLIGHTS

NASA has selected 13 undergraduate teams from minority-serving institutions across the United States to test their science experiments in microgravity conditions. The teams will travel on a Reduced Gravity Education Flight (RGEF) with NASA's Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP) the week of July 7.

Each team designs, flies and evaluates a reduced-gravity experiment that aims to fill technology needs and knowledge gaps previously identified by NASA.  They will test their experiments aboard a specially modified aircraft able to simulate a reduced-gravity environment.  The aircraft flies approximately 30 sets of rollercoaster-like climbs and dives, producing periods of near weightlessness and hypergravity ranging from 0 to 2 g's.

The 2014 MUREP teams are from Austin Community College, Austin, Texas; California State Polytechnic University, Pomona; Dallas County Community College District, Dallas; Gadsden State Community College, Gadsden, Alabama; San Jose State University, San Jose, California; Texas Southern University, Houston; University of North Carolina at Pembroke and Robeson Community College, Pembroke, North Carolina; University of Houston; University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida; University of Puerto Rico at Rio Piedras, San Juan, Puerto Rico; University of Southern California, Los Angeles; University of Texas at El Paso; and, University of Texas Pan American in Edinburg.

MUREP is committed to the recruitment of underrepresented and underserved students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics to sustain a diverse workforce. Participation in NASA projects and research stimulates students to continue their studies at all levels of higher education and earn advanced degrees in these critical fields.

For more on MUREP, visit http://www.nasa.gov/education/murep

 

The articles contained in Capitol Update are not positions of ASME or any of its sub-entities, unless specifically noted as such. This publication is designed to inform ASME members about issues of concern being debated and discussed in the halls of congress, in the states and in the federal agencies.

 

ASME Government Relations
1828 L Street, NW, Suite 810
Washington, DC 20036
Website: http://www.asme.org/about-asme/advocacy-government-relations

  • Melissa Carl covers public policy-related science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education and diversity issues for ASME. She can be reached at carlm@asme.org
  • Paul Fakes covers public policy-related energy, standards and environmental issues for ASME. He can be reached at fakesp@asme.org
  • Roy Chrobocinski covers public policy-related research and development (R&D) and manufacturing issues for ASME. He can be reached at chrobocinski@asme.org