FY 2011 Budget: Obama Science Spending


Agencies got their budget marching instructions from the Office of Management and Budget back on June 11th, but the science agencies (NASA, National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, Office of Naval Research, etc.) have recently received additional guidance.

Ben Bain, in a Federal Computer Week story, “Agencies Told to Target Money for Tech Projects,” says that OMB director Peter Orzag, and John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, have sent out a joint memo to science agencies that, cumulatively, will spend nearly $150 billion this year:

That memo says that these agencies’ budget submissions, due September 14th, should focus on the following four priority areas:

  • Develop strategies that support economic growth
  • Promote technologies to reduce energy dependence and address climate change
  • Improve health
  • Protect troops, citizens, and national interests

These can be done by improving the productivity of research institutions (e.g., universities and labs); strengthening science, tech, and engineering education; improving infrastructure; and improving space capabilities.

Agencies will need to describe expected outcomes from their investments in relationship to the above priorities, and develop data sets to document their investments and make these datasets available to the public.

Particularly intriguing, the memo states:

“Agency budget submissions should also explain how the agency plans to take advantage of today’s open innovation model—in which the whole chain from research to application does not have to take place within a single lab, agency or firm—and become highly open to ideas from many players, at all stages. Agencies should empower their scientists to have ongoing contact with people who know what’s involved in making and using things, from cost and competitive factors to the many practical constraints and opportunities that can arise when turning ideas into reality.”

This implies a strong emphasis on applied vs. basic research.  It’ll be interesting to see how basic research agencies fair under this set of new expectations.


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