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Public Affairs

Public Affairs

US Classifies R&D as an Investment

Catching up with the common viewpoint among scientists that funding research is an investment in the future, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), which is part of the US Department of Commerce, has reclassified research and development costs from an “expense” to an “investment” when calculating the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Prior to 2013, expenditures on research and development were treated as intermediate inputs—neither true inputs or outputs—and not included in the calculation of GDP. The change was made to reflect international guidelines for national economic statistics. The reclassification is important to the scientific research community because it supports the notion that spending on research and development is a worthwhile expenditure, even in lean times.

Advocates for research hope that Congress will start to view R&D spending as an investment as it finalizes the federal budget for 2014 and must make even deeper cuts to agency budgets, unless it stops sequestration. In a letter sent to Congress over the summer, 165 university presidents and chancellors, representing all 50 states, called on the president and Congress to reverse the pending “innovation deficit.” The letter points out that with more than half of the economic growth in the US since World War II attributable to innovation, the US economy is at risk if the current trajectory of decreased federal investment in research is allowed to continue.

More information on the reclassification can be found at http://1.usa.gov/17oEhFT.

Department of Energy Restructuring

Following on the heels of two reports that suggested ways the Department of Energy (DOE) could be more effective, Secretary Moniz announced over the summer that he was restructuring the Department. In an effort to integrate the work of basic science and applied research with technology demonstrations and deployment, the Office of the Under Secretary for Science will now be the Office of Under Secretary for Science and Energy and will manage the following departments:

  • Office of Science,
  • Office of Fossil Energy,
  • Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy,
  • Office of Nuclear Energy,
  • Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability,
  • Office of Indian Energy, and
  • Office of Technology Transfer Coordinator.

In addition, the majority of the DOE-managed national labs now fall under the Office of the Under Secretary for Science and Energy.

Currently, the position of Under Secretary for Science, who would lead this office, is vacant.

Track NIH Initiatives to Support

the Biomedical Workforce The NIH has launched a new website to make it easier to follow how the agency is implementing the 2012 recommendations focused on the biomedical research workforce, issued by an Advisory Committee to the NIH Director. The site will be kept up-to-date with policy notices, grant opportunities, and general information on progress related to seven initiatives the NIH has undertaken and plans to complete by 2015. The website can be found at http://biomedicalresearchworkforce.nih.gov/.

One of the initiatives you can read about on the page is the NIH’s August announcement encouraging institutions to establish Individual Development Plans (IDPs) for all trainees funded by NIH grants, regardless of grant type. The NIH will be issuing guidance this month and is encouraging all institutions to begin reporting IDP information in October 2014. The information on IDPs can be found under the initiative “Improve graduate student and postdoctoral researcher training” on the website.