DC Digest — June 11, 2015

In today’s issue:

  • Duke Researches Awarded Dept. of Defense Grants
  • House Approves FY16 Commerce-Justice-Science Funding Bill
  • House Appropriations Committee Marks Up FY16 Defense Funding Bill
  • Senate Judiciary Committee Approves Patent Act
  • House Approves America COMPETES Act
  • Senate HELP Committee Creates Working Groups on HEA Reauthorization
  • OSTP Launches #BasicResearch Social Media Campaign
  • First 2015 Golden Goose Awardees Announced
  • AAU Launches New Website on Undergraduate Research

Duke University researchers will lead one of 22 Multi University Research Initiative (MURI) program grants announced by the Department of Defense last week. Sheila Patek, professor of biology, will lead a team of researchers from five universities, including Stanford University and the University of Massachussetts, Amherst, on a project investigating the evolutionary mechanics of impulsive biological systems. The highly competitive MURI program complements other DOD basic research efforts that support traditional, single-investigator university research grants by supporting multidisciplinary teams with larger and longer awards, in carefully chosen research topics identified for their potential for significant and sustained progress.

For FY15, DOD awarded a total of $149 million in MURI funds to 22 projects, which will involve a total of 55 institutions. Duke was also named a partner institution on another award, the Science of Entropy Stabilized Ultra-High Temperature Materials, led by faculty from North Carolina State University.

Read More:
Department of Defense Awards $149 Million in Research Funding (defense.gov)


The House on June 3 approved its version of the FY16 Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations bill (H.R. 2578).  The measure totals $51.4 billion, an increase of $1.3 billion over the FY15 level and $661 million below the President’s request. It includes an additional $50 million for the National Science Foundation (NSF) and an additional $519 million for NASA.

The committee report language accompanying the bill directs NSF to dedicate 70 percent of its funding to four research directorates: engineering, biological sciences, computer sciences, and mathematics & physical sciences, with international, integrative, and Arctic Commission activities held at their FY15 levels. This would, in effect, require NSF to cut $250 million, or 16 percent of the combined budget, from its geosciences and social & behavioral sciences directorates. The White House issued a veto threat of this measure on June 1.

Read More:
White House Statement of Administration Policy (whitehouse.gov)

The House Appropriations Committee on June 2 approved its version of the FY16 Defense appropriations bill by voice vote. The measure provides $578.7 billion for Defense, which is $24.4 billion above the FY15 level and $800 million above the President’s FY16 request.

The overall Research, Development, Test & Evaluation account is funded at $67.9 billion, which is $3.8 billion, or 6.1 percent, above FY15 funding. Within that total, funding for 6.1 basic research is cut by $177 million, or 7.1 percent, while funding for 6.2 applied research and 6.3 advanced technology development is increased by $190 million (4.1 percent) and $409 million (7.7 percent), respectively. AAU has released a statement criticizing the bill for its proposed cut of more than seven percent in funding for basic research. “Congress should be increasing the investment in Defense basic research, not cutting it,” said the statement.

Read More:
AAU Statement on FY16 DOD Appropriations (pdf)


The Senate Judiciary Committee on June 4 approved the PATENT Act by a vote of 16 to 4. During consideration of the bill, the Committee approved an amendment offered by John Cornyn (R-TX) that alters the definition of micro-entity status in a way that is potentially helpful to universities, technology transfer organizations, and research foundations. The panel also approved the manager’s amendment, which among other changes, clarifies that the burden is on the prevailing party to demonstrate that it is entitled to fee shifting, a vast improvement over a similar provision included in the Innovation Act. Prior to the Senate Judiciary Committee markup of the PATENT Act, AAU and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) issued a statement expressing appreciation to the sponsors of the bill for including positive changes to the bill’s fee shifting provision in the manager’s amendment .

Read More:
AAU-APLU Statement on PATENT Act Managers Amendment (pdf)


The House on May 20 approved the America COMPETES Act (H.R. 1806) by a vote of 217 to 205, with no Democratic support. Twenty-three Republicans also voted no.

The bill, which provides a two-year authorization for the National Science Foundation (NSF), certain Department of Energy (DOE) research programs, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), would cut authorized funding for social and behavioral sciences and geosciences at NSF and give Congress greater control over the agency’s funding priorities. For DOE, the bill would significantly cut funding for energy efficiency and renewable programs as well as ARPA-E, and bar the use of DOE-supported R&D activities for regulatory activities.

Among the amendments adopted by the House were the following:

· An amendment by Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA) to add $5 million to the NIST Manufacturing Extension Partnership program by reducing funding by that amount for the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy;

· An amendment by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) authorizing NSF to create workshops to instruct teachers in robotics and other STEM-related learning; and

· An amendment by Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA) that would allow the House Speaker and Senate Majority Leader to appoint members to several science advisory boards.

AAU and many other academic and scientific organizations have expressed serious concern about H.R. 1806, because it fails to provide steady, sustained support for research and innovation, and would significantly reduce funding for important programs at the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Department of Energy (DOE).

Read More:
AAU Statement on HR 1806, America COMPETES Reauthorization (pdf)


Senate HELP Committee leaders on May 21 announced that they were creating four working groups for committee members and staff that will address four major sets of issues facing lawmakers as they begin rewriting the Higher Education Act.

The bipartisan working groups will focus on accountability, accreditation, college affordability and financial aid, and campus sexual assault.

Read More:
Alexander, Murray Announce Higher Education Act Reauthorization Working Groups (help.senate.gov)


Last week, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) launched a social media campaign highlighting the importance of federally funded basic research through the use of the hashtag #BasicResearch. Universities participated by taking to social media to share their favorite research stories. Dr. Jo Handelsman, OSTP Associate Director for Science, announced the campaign in a post on the White House blog about the value of basic research in the innovation process and invited others to share their own examples of basic research that has “led to unexpected insights or game changing applications.”

Read More:
The Value of Basic Research (whitehouse.gov)


The founders of the Golden Goose Award, on June 2, announced the first 2015 recipients of the honor: Dr. Walter Mischel, creator of the “Marshmallow Test,” and his two colleagues, Dr. Philip Peake and Dr. Yuichi Shoda.

In the 1960’s, Dr. Mischel proposed testing the ability of young children to resist the impulse to eat a single marshmallow when waiting would get them two treats instead of one. Those initial tests led to extraordinary findings linking children’s self-control to later life outcomes and to methods for teaching self-control and improving lives.

The three researchers-and other recipients to be named in the coming weeks-will receive their Golden Goose Awards at a gala event on September 17 at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

Read More:
Golden Goose Award (goldengooseaward.org)


AAU yesterday launched a new website that shares examples of the types of research being conducted by undergraduate students at AAU institutions. The new microsite, “Undergraduate Stories: Hands-on Research Makes a Difference,” highlights a variety of fields of study-from engineering to the humanities-and how students are engaging in and benefiting from their participation in research.

The website is introduced by a brief video, which features several undergraduates whose stories are included on the site. Those interested in sharing their own stories are asked to use the hashtags, #UndergradStories and #research.

Read More:
Undergraduate Stories: Hands-On Research Makes a Difference (aau.edu)
Undergraduate Stories Video Introduction (vimeo.com)