On August 14, 2020, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), issued its annual science and technology priorities memorandum. The document guides federal agency priority-setting in the coming budget cycle. The directive identified public health security and innovation, industrial leadership, national security, energy and environmental leadership, and space exploration as priorities for the fiscal year (FY) 2022 budget.
The Administration’s memo asserts that the federal government “serves as a catalyst for innovation by investing in early stage research, supporting workforce education and training, and optimizing research environments by streamlining administrative barriers and adhering to bedrock American values, such as free inquiry, competition, honesty, and inclusion.”
According to the memo, the Industries of the Future - namely artificial intelligence (AI), quantum information sciences (QIS), biotechnology, advanced communication networks/5G, and advanced manufacturing - will remain the Administration’s highest priority. One of the goals identified is “fulfilling President Trump’s commitment to double non-defense AI QIS funding by FY2022.”
The Administration’s FY 2022 budget priorities include a new R&D priority – American Public Health Security and Innovation – to streamline biomedical and biotechnology R&D aimed at responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuring that the U.S. scientific enterprise is “maximally prepared for any health-related threats.” The memo directs agencies to prioritize research to ensure timely development of modernized devices and equipment, diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines to protect against infectious diseases or other bio-threats. The Administration also prioritizes improving epidemiological modeling to enhance the ability to predict future pandemics and accelerating “identification and selection of R&D investments including the rapid detection, containment, and treatment of infectious diseases.”
The guidance once again stresses prioritizing the bioeconomy, defined as the “science, infrastructure, innovation and technology, health, and national security that drive economic growth, promote health, and increase public benefit across the human, plant, and animal spectrums.” To enable bioeconomic opportunities, agencies have been directed to focus on “R&D that enables forecasting and analyses from comprehensive collections of epidemiological, clinical, and genomic data capable of driving supply chain resilience and economic growth across sectors such as healthcare and pharmaceuticals, engineering biology, nanobiotechnology, agriculture, and [Industries of the Future] including advanced manufacturing.” The memo calls for “evidence-based standards and research to rapidly and strategically continue improving biotechnology infrastructure that support human, plant, and animal safety.”
Energy and environmental priorities include early-stage research on technologies for harnessing nuclear, renewable, and fossil energy; efforts to map, explore, and characterize the resources of the exclusive economic zone; efforts to manage large volumes of ocean observation and research data; research to understand and respond to changes in the ocean system; a national strategy to improve the predictability of earth systems and meteorological services; and efforts to “to observe, understand, and predict the physical, biological, and socio-economic processes of the Arctic to protect and advance American interests.”
Included in the guidance are examples of four cross-cutting actions that spread across the R&D budgetary priorities and require departments and agencies to collaborate with each other and with other stakeholders. For one of these actions, optimizing research environments and results, the memo highlights four high-priority areas requiring attention: strengthening U.S. research security, reducing administrative burdens in federally funded research; improving research rigor transparency, and integrity; and creating a safe, diverse, inclusive, and equitable research environment. The remaining three cross cutting actions include building the science and technology workforce of the future; facilitating multisector partnerships and technology transfer; and leveraging the “power of data” by improving data accessibility and security.