Science Organizations Identify Policy Priorities for Trump Administration

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Publication date: 
8 February 2017
Number: 
16

Two recurring recommendations are for the president to appoint a science advisor and to provide robust funding to federal science agencies and STEM education programs.

Through statements and letters addressed to President Trump, scientific organizations and D.C.-based science advocacy coalitions have been communicating their policy priorities and recommendations to the new administration. Chief among the recommendations are that Trump appoint a science advisor and that his administration request robust and sustained funding of federal science agencies and STEM education programs.

One of the earliest such communications to the new administration is a Nov. 23 letter signed by 29 leaders of U.S. scientific societies that called on Trump to “quickly” appoint a science advisor and highlighted how S&T expertise can help the administration address national challenges. These leaders also offered to meet with the Trump transition team “to discuss ways that the science and engineering community can assist with developing a path forward to ensure that U.S. innovation infrastructure grows and flourishes under your administration,” although to date that offer has not yet been accepted.

Scientific societies have also submitted their own transition letters and documents. For example, on Dec. 20, Homer Neal, the president of the American Physical Society, an AIP Member Society, sent a letter to Trump asking him to implement policies and make decisions to improve America’s science enterprise. To that end, Neal makes two specific recommendations: to include science infrastructure in the president’s infrastructure stimulus proposal, and to establish a multiyear appropriations cycle for the federal science agencies in order to provide the research community with more stable and reliable funding.

In the letter, Neal also enumerates several of the recommendations being advanced by D.C.-based science advocacy coalitions – including the Task Force on American Innovation, the Coalition for National Science Funding, and the Energy Sciences Coalition. These and other coalitions’ transition documents are summarized below.

Task Force on American Innovation

In its Dec. 8 letter to Trump, TFAI focuses on the importance of maintaining U.S. leadership in scientific research and innovation while lamenting the backlog of research proposals at many science agencies. The task force – which is a coalition of businesses, trade groups, scientific and engineering societies, and university organizations -- writes,

As you form your administration, we ask that you make support for federally funded research in science, engineering, and mathematics a top priority for restoring American competitiveness and returning long-term prosperity and job growth to our economy.

As an example of returns to investment in research, the letter cites the role nuclear physics research played in directly contributing to the development of magnetic resonance imaging.

Coalition for National Science Funding

In a December letter and attached transition statement to Trump, CNSF calls on the new administration to “make robust federal investment in fundamental scientific research, such as the research supported by the National Science Foundation, a national priority.” CNSF is an alliance of professional organizations, scientific societies, universities, and businesses that advocate for NSF.

CNSF begins its document by recommending the president appoint a science advisor and nominate that person to serve as director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. The coalition also emphasizes the importance of the advisor’s ability to establish solid working relationships with members of the 115th Congress.

The CNSF document also makes six policy recommendations for the administration:

  • Provide at least four percent real growth annually in funding for basic scientific research, as called for in the “Innovation Imperative” call to action signed by over 500 organizations;
  • Eliminate the Budget Control Act caps for fiscal year 2018 and beyond;
  • Balance support of existing core research programs with support of new, innovative ideas at NSF;
  • Reaffirm [NSF’s] commitment to the health of existing facilities and enable a vision for future capabilities”;
  • Make investments in NSF’s STEM education and workforce programs; and
  • Continue to communicate the importance of NSF-supported research for the nation.

Energy Sciences Coalition

In its statement for the incoming Trump administration, ESC focuses on economic and social returns from investments in the energy sciences, emphasizing that,

Strong support of the Department of Energy Office of Science will enhance energy security, build the economy, and restore America’s competitive edge in science and technology.

The coalition includes universities, corporations, and scientific societies committed to supporting the Office of Science. ESC makes six recommendations:

  • Increase the Office of Science budget by at least four percent per year for the next five years;
  • Continue programs that “help American industries become more competitive through the transfer of new ideas and technologies into the marketplace”;
  • Support the next generation of American scientific talent;
  • Continue to build world-class scientific tools and facilities, “big and small”;
  • Maintain robust support for the DOE’s national labs; and
  • Continue the U.S.’ historical commitment to international leadership in science and technology.

Elaborating on each priority, the statement includes multiple examples of how research supported by the Office of Science has laid the foundation for technological breakthroughs, such as lithium ion batteries, drugs that treat HIV and melanoma, advanced microprocessors, and more economical natural gas extraction.

Coalition for Aerospace and Science

In its transition document, CAS emphasizes that,

Strong funding, a balanced portfolio, and policies that encourage innovative collaborations for NASA are essential to our nation’s leadership in aeronautics, space and Earth science, human exploration and development of new space technologies.

CAS is an alliance of industry, university, and science organizations united in their support for robust and sustained federal support for NASA.

In its opening paragraphs, the document states that one of the keys to maximizing NASA’s potential will be the appointment of a presidential science advisor and a NASA administrator “who are nationally respected leaders with the appropriate engineering, scientific, management and policy skills necessary for these critically important roles.” The document continues with six additional actions CAS says are needed to maximize the potential of NASA:

  • Provide predictable budgets with five percent or more real growth for NASA’s topline and each of its directorates, to address “chronic underfunding”;
  • Maintain a balance across the NASA portfolio that is based on consensus of stakeholders, including communities like the National Academies and NASA Advisory Council;
  • Improve opportunities for cross-directorate collaboration, including designing the Journey to Mars “from the start to incorporate science into its missions”;
  • Encourage innovative industry partnerships, including mechanisms to transfer technology from federal agencies to the private sector;
  • Continue global engagement and international collaborations; and
  • Commit to build the next-generation workforce through programs such as Space Grant program and the Minority University Research and Education Project.

The document concludes with a note of concern that NASA has decreased its funding of research and analysis grants, leading to lower grant success rates for many college and university investigators.

Physical Sciences Education Policy Coalition

In a Dec. 23 letter to Trump, PSEPC stresses that “training in the physical sciences is essential to the nation for a highly-productive workforce, health economy, and strong security.” The coalition, which advocates for policies that will improve K-12 physical science education, echoes three recommendations originally proposed in a Nov. 15 transition document entitled “STEM Education: A National Imperative” and submitted by nine national organizations representing STEM educators.

PSEPC’s three recommendations are:

  • Propose and encourage Congress to provide the highest possible funding for the STEM-related programs outlined in the Every Student Succeeds Act;
  • Implement the STEM Master Teacher Corps program to enhance teacher leadership and service to the nation; and
  • Sustain and increase investments in STEM education programs at the mission agencies and STEM-related educational research and innovation at NSF.

 

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