Looking Ahead: Marburger Outlines Administration's FY 2007 R&D Priorities

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Publication date: 
18 July 2005

Work is starting on the budget that President Bush will send to Congress in seven months. In a July 8 memo entitled, "FY 2007 Administration Research and Development Budget Priorities," Office of Science and Technology Policy Director John Marburger and Office of Management and Budget Director Joshua Bolten provide six pages of guidance to the heads of executive departments and agencies. The bulk of the memo describes six "Interagency R&D Priorities"; also included are1 ½ pages of "General R&D Program Guidance" and a half-page on "R&D Investment Criteria." Selections follow; the entire memo may be read at http://www.ostp.gov/html/budget/2007/ostp_omb_guidancememo_FY07.pdf.

Note that this memo closely parallels, and in some cases repeats, OSTP/OMB guidance released last year that was to be used for the submission of this year's budget request (see http://www.aip.org/fyi/2004/114.html).


"The memo provides general guidance for setting priorities among R&D programs, interagency R&D efforts that should receive special focus in agency budget requests, and reiteration of the R&D Investment Criteria that agencies should use to improve investment decisions for and management of their R&D programs. These updated R&D budget priorities reflect an extensive, continuous process of consultation with the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) and collaboration within the interagency National Science and Technology Council (NSTC)."


"The combination of finite resources and a multitude of new research opportunities requires careful attention to funding priorities and wise choices by agency managers. As we have reiterated previously in these annual memos, agencies must vigorously evaluate existing programs and, wherever possible, consider them for modification, redirection, reduction or termination, in keeping with national needs and priorities. They must justify new programs with rigorous analysis demonstrating their merit, quality, importance and consistency with national priorities. Agencies may propose new, high-priority activities, but these requests should identify potential offsets by elimination or reductions in less effective or lower priority programs or programs where Federal involvement is no longer needed or appropriate."

The newest memo includes two new paragraphs. The first begins, "Agencies are expected to conduct programs in accordance with the highest standards of ethical and scientific integrity, and to have clear guidelines on issues such as conflict of interest, protection of privacy, and the treatment of human subjects." The second paragraph explains, "Agencies should maximize the coordination and planning of their R&D programs through the NSTC. Two areas requiring special agency attention and focus through the NSTC are Federal scientific collections and R&D assessment."


"The following interagency R&D priorities should receive special focus in agency budget requests." The memo lists: Homeland Security R&D, High-End Computing and Networking R&D, National Nanotechnology Initiative, Priorities in the Physical Sciences, Understanding Complex Biological Systems, and Energy and the Environment.

Homeland Security R&D: "Agencies should place increased emphasis on R&D efforts that support: quick and cost-effective decontamination capabilities following a biological, chemical, nuclear or radiological incident; predictive modeling to assess the rate of geographic spread of emerging and/or intentionally released infectious diseases; enhanced biometric systems; secure land and maritime borders through more reliable technologies for screening cargo and visitors; increased effectiveness of existing security systems through automation; improved understanding of the social and cultural dynamics of regional population groups; safety of the Nation's food supply and agricultural systems; and social and behavioral research to anticipate, counter and diffuse threats to our homeland security and enhance response and recovery capabilities. As we continue the rapid development of near-term technologies, we need to enhance fundamental studies that may lead to transformational concepts for solving truly difficult challenges including the remote detection of nuclear material and/or devices and the remote detection and/or disabling of explosive devices ranging from suicide vests to vehicle-borne bombs."

High-End Computing and Networking R&D: ". . . aggressively focus on supercomputing capability, capacity and accessibility issues by emphasizing coordination, leveraging the efforts of all agencies and, where appropriate, use of coordinated multi-agency investments. Advanced networking research (including test-beds) on hardware and software for secure, reliable, distributed computing environments and tools that provide the communication, analysis and sharing of very large amounts of information will accelerate discovery and enable new technological advances. Agency requests should reflect these program priorities by reallocating funds from lower priority efforts."

National Nanotechnology Initiative (entire statement): "Continued Federal investment in the agency programs that make up the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) facilitates breakthroughs and maintains U.S. competitiveness in this field. The NNI should support both basic and applied R&D in nanotechnology and nanoscience, develop nanoscale instrumentation and metrology, and disseminate new technical capabilities to industry. Because research at the nanoscale offers natural bridges to interdisciplinary collaboration, especially at the intersection of the life and physical sciences, the Administration encourages novel approaches to accelerating interdisciplinary and interagency collaborations. Activities such as joint programs utilizing shared resources, as well as support for interdisciplinary activities at centers and user facilities, are encouraged. To ensure that nanotechnology research leads to the responsible development of beneficial applications, high priority should be given to research on societal implications, human health, and environmental issues related to nanotechnology and develop, where applicable, cross-agency approaches to the funding and execution of this research."

Priorities in the Physical Sciences (entire statement): "Investments in the physical sciences likely to lead to or enable new discoveries about nature or strengthen national economic competitiveness continue to be important. Priority will be given to research, instrumentation and facilities that aim to close significant gaps in the fundamental physical understanding of phenomena that promise significant new technologies with broad societal impact.

"High-temperature and organic superconductors, molecular electronics, wide band-gap and photonic materials, thin magnetic films, and quantum condensates are examples of novel atomic and molecular-level systems that are only partially understood, and where coherent control holds great potential.

"Physical science research often demands instruments and facilities requiring a wide range of investments from bench-top devices such as scanning microscopes to the national-scale synchrotron and neutron user facilities. Of particular interest are investments that could enable the development of next-generation light sources and instruments capable of resolving electronic, chemical, and mechanical properties of structures with sub-nanometer resolution. In their budget submissions, agencies should demonstrate coordination with other agencies of their investments in instrumentation, upgrades and user programs at national scientific user facilities.

"Within discovery-oriented physical science investments, priority will be given to those projects and programs that are demonstrably well coordinated with related programs in other agencies and countries. Examples of well coordinated, inter-agency investments in the discovery-oriented sciences are described in the interagency working group report, ‘A 21st Century Frontier for Discovery: The Physics of the Universe.' (See http://www.aip.org/fyi/2004/075.html.)

Understanding Complex Biological Systems: "Agencies should target investments toward the development of a deeper understanding of complex biological systems through collaborations among physical, computational, behavioral, social and biological researchers and engineers."

Energy and the Environment: "Global earth observations support research in a wide range of sciences important for society. The U.S. Strategic Plan for an Integrated Earth Observations System (IEOS) provides guidance for agencies contributing to these efforts. Agencies should focus on near-term opportunities to pilot integrated observing systems, such as those that contribute to natural hazards assessment and disaster warnings. Agencies also should work through the NSTC U.S. Group on Earth Observations Subcommittee to ensure continued coordination and implementation of the U.S. Strategic Plan and continued strong U.S. leadership in the international community.

"Investments in global climate change science and technology continue to improve our understanding of climate variability and change, provide the basis for sound long-term climate policy decision-making, and enable the development of energy efficient technologies. Agencies should implement the 2003 ‘Strategic Plan for the U.S. Climate Change Science Program' and focus on the topics described in the 2003 ‘U.S. Climate Change Technology Program: Research and Current Activities.' [See http://www.aip.org/fyi/2003/101.html]

"Agencies are encouraged to implement activities outlined in the Administration's 2004 U.S. Ocean Action Plan, developed in response to the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy. These activities included the development of an Ocean Research Priorities Plan and Implementation Strategy and the integration of U.S. ocean observing efforts into the Global Earth Observation System of Systems.

"The ability to measure, monitor and forecast U.S. and global supplies of fresh water is important because agencies are developing a coordinated, multi-year plan through the NSTC to improve research to understand the processes that control water availability and quality, and to collect and make available the data needed to ensure an adequate water supply for the future. Significant progress on this plan, including stakeholder input, is expected during the next two years.

"In support of the President's Hydrogen Fuel Initiative, agency efforts should address the critical technology barriers of on-board hydrogen storage density, hydrogen production cost, and fuel cell cost, as well as distributed production and delivery systems. R&D should focus on novel materials for fuel cells and hydrogen storage (including nanostructured materials), durable and inexpensive catalysts, and hydrogen production from renewable energy, nuclear energy, biological and electrochemical processes, and fossil fuels with carbon sequestration."

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