White House Issues FY 2012 Science and Technology Priorities Memo

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Publication date: 
9 August 2010

The budget cycle never pauses in Washington.  Although it will be many months until the last of the FY 2011 appropriations bills are enacted, the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Science and Technology Policy are looking ahead to the FY 2012 budget request President Obama will send Congress next February.

On July 21, OMB Director Peter Orszag and OSTP Director John Holdren sent a four-page memorandum to the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies outlining the Administration’s Science and Technology Priorities for the FY 2012 budget.  The Clinton and Bush Administrations issued similar memos, as did the Obama Administration last year, as part of the preparation of annual budget requests.  FY 2012 budget requests are to be submitted by September 13, 2010.

The July 21 memo builds on an OMB memo distributed on June 8.  Federal discretionary spending in FY 2012 will continue to be constrained as directed in this memo:

“the President has requested that each non-security agency submit a budget request five percent below the discretionary total provided for that agency for FY 2012 in the FY 2011 Budget. This will allow the President’s Budget to accomplish an overall non-security discretionary freeze even while providing funding for new initiatives and any contingencies that arise over the coming months. Tight budget targets will also be imposed on security-related agencies.”

Later in this June 8 memo, OMB describes efforts to be made in FY 2012 on several programs of interest to the physics and STEM communities:

“Cross-agency Goal and Budget Submission. This Administration has launched numerous cross-agency collaborations to promote efforts among agencies to work effectively together to achieve Presidential priorities. OMB encourages agencies to consult with each other during the budget planning process so that resources are allocated to maximize their impact and avoid inappropriate duplication. OMB will formalize efforts that working groups have been exploring in several areas - including Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics education; large ecosystem restoration; climate science; climate technology; clean energy; nanotechnology; computing research; homelessness reduction; place-based policies; and obesity reduction - to coordinate FY 2012 Budget submissions among relevant agencies. Agencies are encouraged to look for additional opportunities where, by partnering with other agencies, they can work within guidelines to achieve a larger positive impact on outcomes.”

The July 21 R&D priorities memo parallels and builds on the memorandum issued last year, with some important differences.  This memo reiterates a point that President Obama has made:

“The President has a long-term goal that the R&D investment (both private and Federal) in the United States should reach three percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).”

There is also new language directing agencies to “pursue transformational solutions to the Nation’s practical challenges” by supporting high-risk, high-return research; encouraging “new approaches to supporting multidisciplinary research,” a directive regarding interagency and international collaborations, and the importance of scientific collections.  In addition, an appendix entitled “Challenges and Areas to be Strengthened” includes a new topic: “Managing the competing demands on land, fresh water, and the oceans for the production of food, fiber, biofuels, and ecosystem services based on sustainability and biodiversity.”  Cross-cutting areas now include language on “high-impact collaborations” and “an economic and policy environment that promotes and rewards research, entrepreneurship, and innovation.”

The new R&D memorandum follows:


FROM:     Peter R. Orszag     Director, Office of Management and Budget     John P. Holdren     Director, Office of Science Technology Policy

SUBJECT: Science and Technology Priorities for the FY 2012 Budget

Scientific discovery, technological breakthroughs, and innovation are major engines for expanding the frontiers of human knowledge and are indispensable for promoting sustainable economic growth, improving the health of the population, moving toward a clean energy future, addressing global climate change challenges, managing competing demands on the environment, and safeguarding our national security.

This memorandum follows up on OMB Memorandum M-10-19 by outlining the Administration’s science and technology (S&T) priorities for formulating FY 2012 Budget submissions to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). These priorities for research and development (R&D) investments and other S&T investments build on priorities already reflected in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the FY 2010 and 2011 Budgets, and key Administration policy guidance such as the President’s Strategy for American Innovation. This memorandum also provides program guidance for S&T activities in Executive Departments and Agencies.

Prioritizing key S&T activities

Agencies should explain in their budget submissions how they will redirect available resources, as appropriate, and consistent with their mission, from lower-priority areas to S&T activities that address six challenges and strengthen six cross-cutting areas (outlined in Attachment A) that underlie success in addressing all of these challenges. Agencies should describe expected outcomes from these S&T investments, providing quantitative metrics where possible.

Program Guidance

The President has a long-term goal that the R&D investment (both private and Federal) in the United States should reach three percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In order to understand the status of the Federal share of this goal, agencies are expected to work in close collaboration with OMB and OSTP to accurately classify and report R&D investment activities.

Agencies should pursue transformational solutions to the Nation’s practical challenges, and budget submissions should therefore explain how agencies will support long-term, visionary thinkers     proposing high-risk, high-return (or “potentially transformative”) research. Some of this research should be motivated by the “grand challenges” of the 21st century, such as those identified by the President’s Strategy for American Innovation and the National Academy of Engineering.

Agencies should encourage and rigorously evaluate new approaches to supporting multidisciplinary research, such as the convergence of bio-, info-, and nanotechnologies; and new approaches for accelerating technology commercialization and innovation, including incentive prizes, university-industry partnerships, proof-of-concept centers, and regional innovation clusters.

Interagency and international collaborations on large-scale S&T projects can benefit partnering organizations, but too often agencies enter such partnerships only because each individual agency cannot accommodate funds within its own budget request, leading to management challenges. In requesting funds for large-scale S&T projects involving significant interagency or international collaboration, agencies should identify: the lead organization for the collaboration; the unique capabilities brought to the collaboration by each partnering organization; and specific roles and responsibilities for each organization. Agencies should coordinate with partner Federal agencies to formulate budget requests for interagency collaborations.

Agencies, in cooperation with OSTP and OMB, should develop and sustain datasets to better document Federal science, technology, and innovation investments and to make these data open to the public in accessible, useful formats. Agencies should develop and regularly update their data sharing policies for research performers and create incentives for sharing data publicly in interoperable formats to ensure maximum value, consistent with privacy, national security, and confidentiality concerns.

Agencies should develop outcome-oriented goals for their science, technology, and innovation activities, establish timelines for evaluating the performance of these activities, and target investments toward high-performing programs in their budget submissions. Agencies should support the development and use of “science of science policy” tools that can improve management of their R&D portfolios and better assess the impact of their science, technology, and innovation investments.

Agencies should implement strategies for increasing the benefits for science and society derived from scientific collections by following the recommendations in the report by the Interagency Working Group on Scientific Collections and efforts outlined in the National R&D Strategy for Microbial Forensics.

Finally, agencies are expected to conduct programs in accordance with the highest standards of ethical and scientific integrity and to have clear principles, guidelines, and policies on issues such as scientific openness, scientific misconduct, conflicts of interest, protection of privacy, and the appropriate treatment of human subjects.

Appendix A: Challenges and Areas to be Strengthened

In the 2012 Budget, agencies should focus resources on addressing these six challenges:

Promoting sustainable economic growth and job creation     - Support R&D in advanced manufacturing to strengthen U.S. leadership in the areas of robotics, cyber-physical systems, and flexible manufacturing.     - Support research to establish the foundations for a 21st century “bio-economy.” Advances in biotechnology and improvements in our ability to design biological systems have the potential to address critical national needs in agriculture, energy, health, and the environment.     - Support two specific areas within existing interagency efforts: the National Nanotechnology Initiative’s signature initiatives and the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) initiative’s focus on research to improve our ability to derive value and scientific inferences from enormous quantities of data.

Defeating the most dangerous diseases and achieving better health outcomes for all while reducing health care costs     - Prioritize research investments in technologies that have the potential to accelerate the pace of discovery in the life sciences, especially imaging, bioinformatics, and high-throughput biology.     - Prioritize investments to reduce the time needed to develop vaccines for future pandemics, consistent with the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology’s recommendations on Influenza Vaccinology.

Moving toward a clean energy future to reduce dependence on energy imports while curbing greenhouse gas emissions     -Prioritize investments in the research and development of clean energy technologies, especially solar energy, next-generation biofuels, and sustainable green buildings and building retrofit technologies.     - Prioritize R&D on advanced vehicle technologies, particularly modeling and simulation of lightweight materials and their manufacturing processes, batteries, and hybrid power trains; and systems integration and demonstration of advanced vehicle platforms.

Understanding, adapting to, and mitigating the impacts of global climate change     - Support, within coordinated interagency investments in the U.S. Global Change Research Program, an integrated and continuing National Climate Assessment of climate change science, impacts, vulnerabilities, and response strategies, including mitigation and adaptation.     - Prioritize research for measuring, reporting and verifying greenhouse gas emissions.

Managing the competing demands on land, fresh water, and the oceans for the production of food, fiber, biofuels, and ecosystem services based on sustainability and biodiversity     - Support research on integrated ecosystem management approaches that bring together biological, physical, chemical, and human uses data into forecast models, assessments and decision support tools.     - Develop and deploy integrated ocean observing capabilities to support ecosystems-based management, including under conditions of changing climate and multiple stressors (e.g., oil spills).

Developing the technologies to protect our troops, citizens, and national interests     - Support cybersecurity R&D to investigate novel means for designing and developing trustworthy cyberspace – a system of defensible subsystems that operate safely in an environment that is presumed to be compromised. Agencies should respond to the call in the President’s Cyberspace Policy Review for R&D in game-changing technologies, including moving target defense strategies, tailored trustworthy spaces, and cyber incentives.     - Prioritize investments in a comprehensive national R&D program to support continued progress toward a world free of nuclear weapons, including expanded work on verification technologies and the development of transparency measures, as outlined in the Nuclear Posture Review.     - Support investments in chemical and biological agent defenses with an interagency effort to improve the Nation’s ability to defend against the use of high-threat agents as weapons.

Addressing these challenges will require strengthening our efforts in six cross-cutting areas:     - Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education and advanced learning technologies at every level, from early childhood to lifelong learning, and for all segments of society;     - The vitality and productivity of our research universities and national and private laboratories, and sustained support for fundamental research;     - The capacity and robustness of infrastructures for information and communication, transportation, and energy;     - High-impact collaborations with researchers, the private sector, universities and other institutions of higher learning, civil society, and international partners to achieve U.S. foreign policy, global health, energy, climate change, and global development objectives;     - Capabilities in space, which are germane not only to looking and exploring outward but also to Earth observation, geopositioning, communication, and more; and     - An economic and policy environment that promotes and rewards research, entrepreneurship, and innovation.

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