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FY17 Requests for NIH, NSF, Federal Statistical Agencies Largely Positive

1 April 2016 1,058 views No Comment

Difficult Funding Environment Makes Increases Unlikely

Steve Pierson, ASA Director of Science Policy

    President Barack Obama’s requested budget for Fiscal Year 2017 (FY17)—his final budget request—maintains his record of proposing generally healthy increases for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Science Foundation (NSF), and many federal statistical agencies. Realizing increases of any amount will be challenging, however, because the overall federal budget for discretionary funding increased only 0.3% (from $1.067 trillion to $1.070 trillion). Moreover, the requested increases for NIH and NSF—2.6% and 6.7%, respectively—largely rely on a new mandatory funding mechanism unlikely to be adopted by this Congress. Nonetheless, the ASA urges its members and the broader statistical community to contact their senators and representative and ask them to support increases for the agencies they most support.

    NIH, NSF, and AHRQ

    The FY17 request for NIH is $33.1 billion, an increase of 2.6 % over the FY16 level, but $1.8 billion is from the proposed new mandatory financing. Without the mandatory financing, the FY17 request is only $31.3 billion, a decrease of $1 million from the FY16 level.

    The increase includes $680 million for Vice President Joe Biden’s cancer moonshot, announced in Obama’s State of the Union Address. The requested budget also proposes $100 million more for the president’s Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI)—to raise the total budget to $300 million in FY17—and another $45 million for the president’s BRAIN Initiative, which would bring its total funding to $195 million.

    According to NIH documents, the $100 million increase for PMI would be used to continue the ramp-up of the national research cohort toward 1 million plus participants and activities to include informatics, building a biorepository, genome analysis, and core phenotyping. The additional funding for the BRAIN initiative in FY17 would “continue to support basic neuroscience research, human neuroscience, neuroimaging, and training initiatives, as well as potential projects to collaborate with industry to test novel devices in the human brain, new ways to address Big Data from the brain, and developing devices for mapping and tuning brain circuitry.”

    For Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K), the request proposes an increase of $6.2 million (9.8%) to $69.1 million. The FY15 level for BD2K was $40.8 million. NIH documentation states that, in FY17, “The program will support development of Big Data software, reference data sets, and data analysis and dissemination methods. The program will work to make Big Data software innovations available and user-friendly. It will also support innovative approaches to advance biomedical science using crowdsourcing and interactive digital media.” It also reports, the program “now includes 11 Centers of Excellence for Big Data Computing as well as NIH-funded scientists across the country working to develop new software, methods, and other solutions to solve the puzzles presented by collecting, analyzing, and sharing large biomedical data sets.”

    For the National Cancer Moonshot, NIH documents state the elements of the FY 2017 Cancer Research Initiative include the following:

    • Developing new techniques to detect cancer earlier
    • Developing new vaccines to prevent cancer-causing infections and vaccines to target genetic changes that can cause cancer
    • Expanding recent successes in cancer immunotherapy to a much wider range of tumor types
    • Expanding research on mutations that drive cancer and determine how cells respond to cancer
    • Accelerating progress on detecting and treating childhood cancers
    • Fostering enhanced data sharing to speed discovery and verify treatment response
    • Funding other promising opportunities in cancer discovery, prevention, and treatment

    $400 million of the $500 million (6.7%) requested increase for the NSF is from the new mandatory funding scheme. Without the mandatory funding source, the increase is only 1.3%.

    The FY17 request continues the same four cross-foundation investments as in the FY16 request:

    • Understanding the Brain ($142 million)
    • Risk and Resilience ($43 million)
    • Innovations at the Nexus of Food, Energy, and Water Systems ($62 million)
    • Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science ($16 million)

    The request also maintains support for NSF-wide priorities as in FY16: Clean Energy; Cyber-enabled Materials, Manufacturing, and Smart Systems (CEMMSS); Cyberinfrastructure Framework for 21st Century Science, Engineering, and Education (CIF21); Innovation Corps (I-Corps™); Research at the Interface of Biological, Mathematical, and Physical Sciences (BioMaPS); Science, Engineering, and Education for Sustainability (SEES); and Secure and Trustworthy Cyberspace (SaTC). The NSF Research Traineeship (NRT) program was omitted from this list in FY17.

    The FY17 budget request for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) is for $364 million. This is an increase of 9% of over FY16, but it reverses the cut from FY15 to FY16 to restore the agency to it FY15 level. In addition to the $364 million, the AHRQ request also includes $106 million from the Patient-Centered ativan online rx Outcomes Research Trust Fund, an increase from the $94.5 million it received from the fund in FY15.

    Table 1—FY17 Budget Requests for NIH, NSF, AHRQ, and the 13 Primary Federal Statistical Agencies


    Federal Statistical Agencies

    The proposed budgets for the federal statistical agencies range from flat—for the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), and Internal Revenue Service Statistics of Income Division (SOI)—to increases of 21% for the U.S. Census Bureau, which is ramping up for the 2020 decennial census, and 37% for the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS).

    The requested increase for the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) is 5.3% on paper, but it’s a larger increase for its programs because its FY16 budget includes funds of approximately $5 million for its relocation to the Census Bureau headquarters in Suitland, Maryland. Their requested increase includes $2.6 million for inflationary adjustments salaries, non-labor activities, and other personnel expenses and proposes a Regional Economic Dashboard ($3 million) and the Accelerating and Improving the Quality of Economic Indicators (AIQEI) initiative ($1.9 million).

    The $131 million (7.4% increase) proposed for the Energy Information Administration (EIA) is to continue its current data collection, analysis, and dissemination activities and expand its work in four areas, including achieving more regional detail on petroleum data and analysis; enhancing energy efficiency data of commercial buildings; gaining a better understanding of domestic energy markets in the context of the world energy system; and collecting and analyzing data on personal vehicle transportation to develop projections of motor fuel demand.

    The substantial requested increase for the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS)—which largely repeats the (unsuccessful) FY16 request—includes $6 million to provide subnational estimates from the National Crime Victimization Survey.

    The National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) would see an $8.6 million (5.1%) increase, including $2 million to add questions to existing surveys (e.g., for cattle, hogs, and poultry); $3 million to survey beginning farmers at a regional level of detail; $1 million to study modern farm structure; and $1 million to enhance current satellite-based agricultural monitoring to provide crop condition, soil moisture, crop progress, and crop yields.

    The Economic Research Service (ERS) has a 6% requested increase to $91 million, which, if implemented, would help offset cuts—due to inflation and sequestration cuts—to its budget since FY10. It also proposes $4 million to update the 2012 National Household Food Purchase and Acquisition Survey, $500,000 to examine differences in demographic characteristics of new farmers and ranchers, and $626,000 to conduct research on conservation practice adoption and drought mitigation by American farmers and ranchers in drought-prone regions.

    The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) sees a $32 million requested increase (6.8%), which would help offset its approximately 12% cut in purchasing power since FY10 due to inflation. It also seeks $1.6 million to add an annual supplement to the Current Population Survey, $3 million for the first year of activities for a survey of employer-provided training, and $2.5 million for the Consumer Expenditure Survey development of a supplemental statistical poverty measure.

    The 5% requested increase for the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), according to its budget documents, would support “the collection, analysis, and dissemination of education-related statistics in response to both legislative requirements.” It also includes $7.1 million to re-initiate the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study Birth Cohort, $2.5 million for a study on student loan repayment and defaults, and $2.8 million to expand the Teaching and Learning International Survey.

    The National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics’ (NCSES) requested increase is for the development of enhanced data access tools, techniques, and visualizations; new data collection techniques building on administrative data and other Big Data sources; and questionnaire redesign and survey improvements to support improved data on measures of innovation and educational and career pathways for scientists and engineers.

    The flat funding request for SOI will likely mean their freeze on external hires—in place for the last several years—will continue into FY17 and similarly for the freeze on almost all promotions.

    The Social Security Administration Office of Research, Evaluation, and Statistics (ORES) has a requested increase of $1.1 million, or 4.2%.

    The 21% requested increase for the U.S. Census Bureau has an additional $179 million for the 2020 Census, including $20 million for the American Community Survey to reduce program risk and respondent burden. It also includes $5 million for the 2017 Economic Census and Census of Governments, $3.3 million for the AIQEI initiative, and $8.4 million to modernize economic statistics.

    Read more about the FY17 federal statistical agency requests, along with links to the analyses from the Consortium of Social Science Associations.

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