The directors of the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) have distributed their annual memorandum on science and technology priorities for the fiscal year (FY) 2017 budget focusing on efforts that span multiple agencies. The memo to the heads of Executive Departments and Agencies is used to help align agency efforts as they formulate budget submissions to OMB. Requests consistent with these elements in the memo “are more more likely to be prioritized in FY 2017 Budget deliberations.”


The memo from OMB Director Shaun Donovan and OSTP Director John Holdren highlights federal government funding for basic research, which is describes as “the fundamental, curiosity-driven inquiry that is a hallmark of the American research enterprise and a powerful driver of new technology.”

One multi-agency R&D priority focuses on the life sciences:

Innovation in life sciences, biology, and neuroscience. Agencies should give priority to programs that support fundamental biological discovery research that could generate unexpected, high-impact scientific and technological advances in health, energy, and food security, particularly in the President’s BRAIN Initiative, the National Strategy for Combating Antibiotic Resistance, and the National Strategy for Biosurveillance (e.g., infectious-disease forecasting capabilities). Priority should also be placed on research that seeks fundamental principles that cut across habitats and biological systems, such as those that govern the behaviors of microbiomes in diverse environments. Agencies should prioritize research – guided by the National Research Action Plan for Improving Access to Mental Health Services for Veterans, Service Members, and Military Families – to identify and develop effective diagnostic and treatment methodologies and metrics with the aim of improved mental health and reduction in substance-use disorders. In addition, the Administration has committed to launching the Precision Medicine Initiative, aimed at tailoring medical care to the individual patient. Agencies should support investments on improving interoperability of health records, addressing privacy concerns, and launching research that will enable discoveries derived from Big Data.

Other priorities areas highlighted in the memo relate to global climate change, clean energy, Earth observations, advanced manufacturing and industries of the future, national and homeland security, information technology and high-performance computing, ocean and arctic issues, and R&D for informed policy-making and management.

Several other provisions may be of particular interest to the GSA community:

Agencies should support the R&D infrastructure (e.g., facilities, platform technologies, IT, digital tools) needed to ensure that U.S. science and engineering remain at the leading edge, and leverage resources from other agencies, state and local governments, the private sector, and international partners.

…agencies should describe the targeted outcomes of R&D programs using meaningful, measurable, and quantitative metrics where possible and describe how they plan to evaluate the success of those programs.

Agencies are encouraged to use approaches to foster innovation such as Grand Challenges, incentive prizes, citizen science, and collaboration with members of the Maker Movement.

Preserving and improving access to scientific collections, research data, other results of Federally-funded research, open datasets, and open educational resources should be a priority for agencies.

Following engagement with stakeholders, agencies should implement policies and prioritize activities to improve the reproducibility of research in the fields they support.

Agencies should give priority to policies and actions identified by research as having the greatest potential to increase inclusion and diversity in STEM education, research, and careers such as changes in STEM instruction; changing the image of STEM education and careers; and reducing explicit, implicit, and structural biases against girls, and members of underrepresented minority groups.


Additional Information:

Adam Fagen was formerly Executive Director of the Genetics Society of America.

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