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Administration Releases FY16 Research Priorities; Opportunity for Statisticians

By Steve Pierson posted 08-14-2014 13:29


[7/14/15 Update: The FY17 OMB-OSTP joint budget memo was released July 9 and contains the same multi-agency R&D priorities as the FY16 memo plus "Ocean and Arctic Issues." The Precision Medicine Initiative, launched earlier this year, is mentioned in the "Innovation in life sciences, biology, and neuroscience" priority.]

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the White House Office of Science and Technology (OSTP) released their joint budget priorities memo for FY16 on July 18. The joint memo is issued annually to guide federal agencies and departments in the preparation of their upcoming budget submissions. The document states, "Federal government funding for research and development (R&D) is essential to address societal needs in areas in which the private sector does not have sufficient economic incentive to make the required investments. Key among these is the fundamental, curiosity-driven inquiry that has been a hallmark of the American research enterprise and a powerful driver of unexpected, new technology." It also says, "Agencies should explain in their budget submissions how they are redirecting available resources from lower-priority areas to science and technology activities that address the priorities described below."

These memos are important for the statistical community to monitor because they provide opportunities to state how statisticians can contribute to national research priorities. In the past several months, three ASA groups released whitepapers relating to three national research priorities: the BRAIN Initiative, the Big Data R&D Initiative and the climate change research priority. The ASA whitepapers are described in this July Amstat News article, Statistical Scientists Advance Federal Research Initiativesand can be found here:

ASA's whitepaper approach is an attempt to model the success of the Computing Community Consortium, which has had profound impact on OSTP initiatives and NSF CISE programs. For more on this, see the November 2013 Amstat News article, Influencing Federal Research Funding Policy—White Papers?, and this corresponding blog entry, Influencing Federal Research Funding Policy through White Papers. If you have an idea for a whitepaper on any of the FY16 OMB-OSTP research priorities, please contact me.

The FY16 OMB-OSTP memo priorities are:    

  • Advanced manufacturing
  • Clean energy
  • Earth Observations
  • Global climate change       
  • Information technology and high-performance computing       
  • Innovation in life sciences, biology, and neuroscience
  • National and homeland security
  • Research and development for informed policymaking and management       

The memo also provides this STEM Education guidance:

Investments in STEM education should adhere to the priorities outlined in the Federal STEM Education 5-Year Strategic Plan, by the Committee on STEM Education (CoSTEM) under the NSTC, and should continue to pursue the goals of reducing program fragmentation and enhancing program effectiveness that were supported in the past two budgets. This includes giving priority to programs that use evidence to guide program design and implementation or that build evidence about what works in STEM education, using appropriate metrics and improving the measurement of outcomes. Agencies should also ensure that programs are designed to identify and effectively meet the needs of those we're trying to serve - students, teachers, schools, districts and post-secondary institutions. The 2016 Budget proposals should align STEM education investments with the Strategic Plan, with attention to initiatives presented in the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) reports Prepare and Inspire and Engage to Excel and be coordinated with other Administration priorities.    

The FY16 priorities listed above are very similar to the FY15 priorities with the addition of Earth Observations and the removal of Innovation and Commercialization. As the AAAS analysis of the FY16 memo points out, "when an item makes its way onto the OMB/OSTP priorities list, it doesn't always guarantee a funding boost."

​See other ASA Science Policy blog entries. For ASA science policy updates, follow @ASA_SciPol on Twitter. For more on ASA science policy, see