Archive for John Holdren
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Okay, I have to confess that I don’t really know if the Materials Genome Initiative is going to be discussed in the event I am about to describe. As a matter of fact, I am not sure exactly what’s going to be discussed in what may be one of the worst-publicized-but-possibly-most-interesting-online-science-events this year, but I will be shocked if the MGI isn’t frequently mentioned.
Here is what I know for sure, based on an obscure notice titled “Challenges and Opportunities in Big Data” on Science360 Live, an online science project of the NSF:
On Thursday, March 29, 2012, from 2-3 pm ET, federal government science heads from OSTP, NSF, NIH, DOE, DOD, DARPA and USGS will outline how their agencies are engaged in Big Data research. Their remarks will be followed by a panel of thought leaders from academia and industry, moderated by Steve Lohr of the New York Times. The event will take place at the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C.
If you are interested in watching the webcast live, apparently all you have to do is click on the Science360 Live link above at the stated time. I suspect a recorded version will be made available in a few days.
I first learned about this event this morning after reading a Gigaom blog post. The post claims that the speakers will include John Holdren, assistant to the president and director of OSTP; Subra Suresh, director of NSF; and Marcia McNutt, director of USGS. Gigaom says the event is sponsored by OSTP; a CTOsite post (the only other original post I could find on this event) says it is sponsored by both OSTP and NSF.
I tried to fact-check this by searching through the media advisories from the White House, NSF and the OSTP pressroom and blog, but couldn’t find any announcements, whatsoever. But this thing sounds legit — and potentially interesting. I think the CTOsite has it right when it says, ”[T}his will be a GREAT event for those who would like to learn how to explain Big Data concepts. This type of evolution can be very helpful to enhancing cross-government sharing of lessons learned and concepts. I believe this will be very positive. This initiative will discuss R&D activities. Although at a high level, federal R&D focus is usually expressed in terms of frameworks and broad goals, these goals normally translate into budgets so the research community outside of the government should really pay attention.”
The MGI, I think, is one of the few topics that the group will be able to explain with relative ease, and that the probable audience can get their arms around. Besides, I seriously doubt the group wants the discussion to go in the direction of talking about the Hugely Big Data story (NSA’s new yottaflop-scale “Matrix” project), the spin-offs of which are actually going to help enable MGI and other enormous modeling and data management projects.
Last Monday, President Obama delivered his FY’13 budget proposal to Congress, and today, OSTP chief John Holdren is appearing before the House’s Committee on Science, Space and Technology to offer comments about the civilian science and technology pieces of the proposed budget.
The OSTP has posted a summary (pdf) of the R&D requests in the budget. In a concurrent press release (pdf), the OSTP outlines seven administration goals for “building and fueling America’s engines of discovery”: to expand the frontiers of human knowledge, promote economic growth with a focus on manufacturing, cultivate domestic clean energy, improve healthcare outcomes, address global climate change, manage environmental resources and strengthen national security.
The FY’13 budget requests $140.8 billion for federally supported R&D, which represents an increase of 1.4 percent ($2.0 billion) over the FY’12 enacted level. In today’s testimony (pdf), Holdren says the proposed budget is “designed to ensure that America will continue, in the President’s words, to ‘out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world’.”
Three agencies have been identified as critical to fulfilling the nation’s mission to maintain and advance its economic position: the NSF, DOE and NIST. (Holdren describes them as “jewel-in-the-crown” agencies — an ironic description for agencies that are tasked with driving the economy of a country founded on militant rejection of all things regal, but I digress.) Holdren’s testimony notes that the administration has been working to continue efforts begun under the Bush administration (as part of the America COMPETES Act) to gradually double the budgets (pdf) of these three agencies. The Budget Control Act of 2011 will slow, but not halt, that priority.
Culling through the R&D summary posted on OSTP’s website, provides a glimpse of how things may shake out for the materials science community based on the proposed R&D budgets for agencies that fund the largest chunks of materials science research:
National Science Foundation — $7.4 billion, an increase of 4.8 percent over 2012 enacted levels.
Department of Defense — $71.2 billion for R&D, a $1.5 billion decrease from 2012. The funding request includes $11.9 billion for early-stage science and technology programs, $2.8 billion for DARPA and maintains basic research (6.1) at $2.1 billiion.
NASA — $9.6 billion for R&D on an overall budget on $17.7 biliion, a 2.2 percent ($203 million) bump for R&D, but probably not enough to bring NASA technology up to levels recently recommended by the National Research Council.
DOE — $11.9 billion, an 8.0 percent ($884 million) increase in R&D over 2012 enacted levels. ARPA-E is written in for $350 million, and the DOE budget targets $290 million specifically “to expand activities on innovative manufacturing processes and advanced materials.”
NIST — $708 million for NIST’s intramural labs, a tidy 13.8 percent over 2012 enacted levels, reflecting the administration’s efforts to double its budget. The agency is home to the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership ($128 million request) and the new Advanced Manufacturing Technology Consortia program ($21 million request).
Department of Homeland Security — $729 million, up 26.3 percent from enacted 2012. The huge increase is to restore cuts imposed in 2012. DHS efforts touch the materials community through R&D on nuclear materials, explosives detection and chemical/biological response systems.
Department of Education — $398 million. This R&D funding addresses the president’s goal of training 100,000 STEM teachers in the next decade and developing educational strategies.
The R&D budget includes budgets for three multi-agency initiatives, including the National Nanotechnology Initiative. The NNI member agencies “focus on R&D of materials, devices and systems that exploit the unique … properties that emerge in materials at the nanoscale.” The requested budget is for $1.8 billion, an increase of $70 million over the 2012 enacted budget.
Finally, the contentious issue of hydraulic fracturing (”fracking”) is getting some attention in the budget with collaborative funding streams through DOE, EPA and the Department of the Interior to “understand and minimize the potential environmental, health, and safety impacts of natural gas and oil production.” That’s a broad-ranging mission statement, but materials science has a role to play, for example, with engineered proppants.
For play-by-play commentary, stay tuned to the AAAS website, “R&D Budget and Policy Program.” They do a good job tracking developments and slicing out the parts that are relevant to the science and technology communities. Since 1976, AAAS has issued a comprehensive analysis of the federal R&D budget. Last year it was available in May, so look for a similar report about FY’13 in a few months. The OSTP website, of course, stays abreast of budget developments.
Our nation’s capitol was an interesting place to be last week, but not because of the impossible-to-escape budget politics that dominated the newscasts. Last week I was in DC attending the NSF-ACerS workshop for principal investigators, and at every level of the NSF the message is “innovation.”
On Thursday, NSF director Subra Suresh announced a major new program-the NSF Innovation Corps, or I-Corps. Using the tagline “Science to Start-ups,” the purpose of the program (supported with new FY11 funds) is to leverage science and engineering discoveries into economically useful products and processes. In a press release Suresh says, “The United States has a long history of investing in-and deploying-technological advances derived from a foundation of basic research.”
In the press conference (video), John Holdren, assistant to the President for science and technology and director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, outlined the three goals of the program: “to spur translational research, to encourage university-industry collaboration and to provide students with innovation and entrepreneurship training.”
Also in his press conference comments, Suresh predicted that the I-Corps will establish an “innovation ecosystem” that will “transition scientific output funded by NSF into technological innovation.”
The I-Corps also involves a public–private collaboration with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and the Deshpande Foundation. Each I-Corps team will have a principal investigator, a mentor with exptertise at transitioning lab research into business, a post-doc or graduate student. The mentors are to be recruited from the ranks “technology developers, business leaders, venture capitalists and others from private industry.
Up to 100 projects per year will be funded at $50,000 per project for a six-month effort and a maximum of $5k can be allocated to indirect costs. Interested PIs are required to receive written approval to submit a proposal from an NSF program director. The submission window for FY11 proposals is Aug. 17-Sept. 9, 2011.
Because the program is new and has some unusual requirements and limitations, the NSF is conducting informational webinars on the first Tuesday of every month at 2:00 pm (Eastern time) beginning tomorrow, Aug. 2, 2011.
To be eligible for I-Corps funding, PIs must have current NSF funding or have had NSF funding within the last five years. New funding has been established for I-Corps, and the first awards will be made before FY11 closes on Sept. 30. NSF expects to award $1-2 million in FY11 and to grow I-Corps into a $10 million program. Awards will be made quarterly in FY12 and beyond.
According to the New York Times, they still have to be confirmed by the full Senate, but the Commerce, Science and Transportation subcommittee on Thursday signed off on John Holdren and Jane Lubchenco. Apparently the senator(s) behind the mysterious “holds” that held up their nominations either got what he or she wanted, or gave up. My inner cynic believes that the fact that the committee acted in a closed-door, non-publicized meeting seems calculated to attempt to allow few facts to come out about what was going on behind the scene. Holdren, tapped to lead the Office of Science and Technology Policy, and Lubchenco, going to Natinoal Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), are widely respected in the scientific community and expected to play a big role in the administration’s climate, environment, research and energy policies. Based on comments from both parties, it appears that the two won’t have any problem in the Senate for the rest of the confirmation process, but it might be worth hedging that bet a little given recent history.
Last week we had a post regarding an attempt by an unknown senator to hold hostage the nominations of the Obama administration’s two top science advisers, John Holdren and Jane Lubchenco. Holdren has been nominated to head up the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and Lubchenco is to lead the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
At the time, the consensus among reporters and insiders was that Sen. Mel Menendez was behind this. I should have noted when I wrote the previous post that one of the more pernicious aspects of Senate protocol is the ability of individual senators to put blind “holds” on nominations (although aggressive reporting and leaks have begun to undermine this privilege). But, in the past week, Menedez has denied all responsibility. Other suspects’ names have surfaced, such as Sen. David Vitter, but he and the others have maintained some form of denial, too.
Mike Dunford at Science’s The Questionable Authority blog has been doing a great job of trying to keep the timelines and various threads of this story straight, and even he isn’t sure what’s going on - except, obviously that Holdren and Lubchenco still aren’t approved. Talking Point Memo’s Elana Schor (who like Dunford and the Washington Post, has also been doing a terrific job on this story) today says she is still not ready to rule out Vitter and thinks he is being cagey when it comes to his and his staff’s responses. On the other hand, a new post on the Senate website says that a hearing by the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on the confirmations is supposed to be held this afternoon. Stay tuned.