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FY16 Budget Request Position NIH, NSF, and Federal Statistical Agencies Well for Congressional Deliberations

1 April 2015 1,084 views No Comment
Steve Pierson, ASA Director of Science Policy

    President Obama’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2016 (FY16) contains healthy increases for the NIH, NSF, and many federal statistical agencies. However, realizing the proposed increases will be a challenge with sequestration levels back in place. (The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 suspended sequestration for FY14 and FY15.)

    The ASA urges its members and the broader statistical community to contact their senators and representative to support increases for the agencies you most rely on.

    NIH and NSF

    The FY16 request for NIH is $31.3 billion, an increase of $1 billion (3.3 %) over the FY15 budget. Of the requested increase, $200 million is for the president’s new Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI) and another $70 million is for his BRAIN Initiative, which would bring its total funding to $135 million. If fully funded, NIH officials estimate it could fund 1,200 more research grants than it can in FY15, raising its proposal success rate from an estimated 17.2% in FY15 to 19.3%.


    Of the $200 million proposed for NIH’s portion of the PMI, $70 million would—according to the White House PMI fact sheet—go to the National Cancer Institute to “scale up efforts to identify genomic drivers in cancer and apply that knowledge in the development of more effective approaches to cancer treatment.” $130 million is for the “development of a voluntary national research cohort of a million or more volunteers to propel our understanding of health and disease and set the foundation for a new way of doing research through engaged participants and open, responsible data sharing.” The NIH documents characterize the cancer component of the PMI as nearer-term goal and the broader applications to health and disease as a longer-term goal.

    According to Francis Collins’s FY16 request slides, the $70 million in additional BRAIN Initiative funding in FY16 at NIH would be used to develop innovative technologies to advance basic neuroscience and new, noninvasive tools for human brain imaging; generate methods for classifying the brain’s diverse cells/circuits; and improve technologies for recording and modulating groups of cells that act together in circuits.

    For Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K), the request proposed an increase of $19.5 million to $63 million. (The FY15 proposed level was for $88 million.)

    The $380 million (5.2%) increase for NSF would raise its budget to $7.7 billion, in part to support the following four cross-foundation initiatives:

    • Understanding the Brain ($144 million)
    • Risk and Resilience ($58 million)
    • Innovations at the Nexus of Food, Energy, and Water Systems ($75 million)
    • Inclusion Across the Nation of Communities of Learners that have been Underrepresented for Diversity in Engineering and Science ($15 million)

    The request also supports funding for the following ongoing NSF-wide priorities:

    • Clean Energy
    • Cyber-Enabled Materials, Manufacturing, and Smart Systems (CEMMSS)
    • Cyberinfrastructure Framework for 21st-Century Science, Engineering, and Education (CIF21)
    • Innovation Corps (I-Corps)
    • NSF Research Traineeship (NRT)
    • Research at the Interface of Biological, Mathematical, and Physical Sciences (BioMaPS)
    • Science, Engineering, and Education for Sustainability (SEES)
    • Secure and Trustworthy Cyberspace (SaTC)

    Of the $380 million proposed increase, nearly $100 million is for the Education and Human Resources (EHR) Directorate, which would amount to an 11% increase for the directorate. $253 million is the requested increase for NSF’s research and related activities, which would be a 4% increase. It is worth noting that the FY15 request similarly favored EHR, but Congress did not approve. For the NSF Division of Mathematical Sciences, the FY16 request is for $235.5 million, $3.74 million (1%) above FY15.

    Federal Statistical Agencies

    The proposed increases for the federal statistical agencies are generally ambitious, signaling the strong support of the administration for federal statistical data. The requested increase for the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) is $14 million (14%), which includes $5 million for the move of BEA from downtown Washington, DC, to the headquarters of the U.S. Census Bureau in Suitland, Maryland. The remaining part of the increase is for three initiatives to better understand small businesses, energy components of our economy, and trade services.

    The requested increase for the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) is $20.4 million (50%), a large portion of which is to provide subnational estimates from the National Crime Victimization Survey.

    The Energy Information Administration (EIA) has requested an increase of $14 million (12%) and proposed five new initiatives.

    President Obama’s Precision Medicine Initiative

    The Precision Medicine Initiative was rolled out by President Obama on January 30 in the East Room of the White House to “pioneer a new model of patient-powered research that promises to accelerate biomedical discoveries and provide clinicians with new tools, knowledge, and therapies to select which treatments will work best for which patients.” In addition to the $200 million proposed for NIH, there is $10 million for the FDA to “acquire additional expertise and advance the development of high-quality, curated databases to support the regulatory structure needed to advance innovation in precision medicine and protect public health” and $5 million for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology to “support the development of interoperability standards and requirements that address privacy and enable secure exchange of data across systems.”

    The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has a requested increase of $42 million (18%) to conduct numerous surveys.

    The National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) would see a $3.6 million increase (6.3%) for numerous projects. Similarly, the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) would see a $7.6 million (4.4%) increase and the Internal Revenue Service Statistics of Income Division (SOI) would see a $1.8 million (5%) increase.

    The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) requested $5 million to improve its vital statistics program. The NCHS request also seeks an additional $12 million from the Prevention and Public Health Fund for additional content and/or sample increases for the National Health Interview Survey and National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey.

    The increase for the U.S. Census Bureau is especially large, $412 million (38%), because of its ramping up of its 2020 decennial census work and what they are calling a re-engineered census, which, according to Department of Commerce Congressional Justification, “includes sweeping design changes, including new methodologies to conduct in-field address canvassing, innovative ways of optimizing self-response, the use of administrative records to reduce the nonresponse follow-up workload, and the use of technology to replace tasks previously accomplished manually.”

    The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) would see a $41 million increase (6.8%), which includes $25 million to improve the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey and $10 million to restore funding for the International Price Program export price indexes.

    The request for the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) is a $3 million (11%) increase to conduct the intercity passenger travel survey and vehicle inventory and use survey.

    The Economic Research Service (ERS) and Social Security Administration Office of Research, Evaluation, and Statistics (ORES) fare the worst in the FY16 request, with the former getting a 1% and the latter a 10% cut.

    Details on the FY16 requests can be found in the ASA Community blog entry, where one also can find links to the analyses from the Consortium of Social Science Associations and Council of Professional Associations on Federal Statistics.

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