Tonight the House narrowly passed an omnibus FY15 appropriations measure that would fund 11 of 12 annual appropriations bills and provide stop-gap funding for the 12th (the Homeland Security bill), a move that would provide increases for the National Science Foundation and for key computing programs at the Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

The Senate must still approve the bill. The Federal government continues to operate under a “continuing resolution” that expires at midnight tonight (Thursday, Dec. 11th). Because it’s likely the Senate won’t complete their work by then, the House is prepared to pass a two-day extension of the CR to give the Senate additional time.

The $1.1 trillion spending bill faced opposition from Democrats and conservative Republicans (for different reasons) and almost failed to pass a procedural vote in the House earlier in the afternoon after a group of conservative Republicans voted against the rule that would allow the bill to be considered on the House floor. The group was concerned that spending cuts in the bill didn’t go far enough and did nothing to block the President’s recent actions on immigration. Some arm-twisting of Democrats by President Obama secured enough votes for the measure to pass it 219-206.

Here are a few items of interest to the computing research community in the 1600 page bill:

  • The National Science Foundation would receive an increase of $172 million, or about 2.4 percent over its FY14 budget. The House had approved a slightly larger increase (3.3 percent) in its version of the Commerce Justice, Science Appropriations Act passed earlier this year and the Senate appropriations committee had approved a slightly lower increase (1.2 percent) in its version. The final bill doesn’t quite split the difference. The bill would bring the agency’s total budget to $7.3 billion, $89 million more than the President requested for FY15. From the additional funding the committee wants more work targeted at “advanced manufacturing, and for research in cybersecurity and cyber-infrastructure” and $21 million in new funding for the NSF’s activities in the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) initiative, including work in computational models, visualization techniques, innovative technologies and “the underlying data and data infrastructure needed to transform our understanding of these areas.”

    While not as big as win as outgoing House CJS Chair Frank Wolf had hoped for the agency, the $172 million increase still represents a win given the flat or declining funding many other important programs received in the bill.

  • The bill holds Dept. of Energy’s Office of Science flat — it would receive the same funding as in FY14. Despite the flat funding for the office, the Advanced Scientific Computing Research program would receive a $62 million increase, matching the agency request for FY15. In fact, ASCR joins the Fusion Research program as the only two Office of Science programs called out for increases in the bill. Included in the ASCR funding is $91 million for the Department’s Exascale computing efforts; $104 million for Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility; $80 million for Argonne LCF; $75 million for NERSC; and $3 million for the Computational Sciences Graduate Fellowship program, a program CRA joined with the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) in both 2013 and 2014 to urge Congress to continue. (And they have.)

  • ARPA-E would remain flat-funded.

  • NIST would receive a slight bump. NIST’s Science and Technical Research and Services (STRS) account would increase to $675.5 million in FY15. Included in that is $15 million for the National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence, up to $60.7 million for cybersecurity R&D; $4 million for cybersecurity education; and $16.5 million for the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace.

  • Defense Department Basic Research (6.1) would increase $112 million over FY14 to $2.28 billion; Applied Research (6.2) would dip $38 million below FY14 to $4.61 billion; and Advanced Technology Development (6.3) would increase $155 million to $5.53 billion. DARPA would increase $136 million to $2.91 billion in FY15.

For those interested in perusing what is being called the “Cromnibus” (continuing resolution (CR) + omnibus…sigh) here’s a link to the legislative language and all the agreed upon explanatory statements. With the House passage, it’s likely the Senate will follow suit — if not by the midnight Thursday deadline, then by midnight Saturday under an extended CR. If Senate passage isn’t possible, it’s thought the GOP leadership might opt for a 3 month CR extension. But I think the expectation at this point is for passage in the Senate and a quick signature from the President.

Whatever happens, we’ll bring you the details!

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Capitol building in Washington DCAs part of its mission to develop a next generation of leaders in the computing research community, the Computing Research Association’s Computing Community Consortium (CCC) announces the third offering of the CCC Leadership in Science Policy Institute (LiSPI), intended to educate computing researchers on how science policy in the U.S. is formulated and how our government works. We seek nominations for participants.

LiSPI will be centered around a two day workshop to be held April 27-28, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Full details of LiSPI are available at: http://cra.org/ccc/spi.)

LiSPI will feature presentations and discussions with science policy experts, current and former Hill staff, and relevant agency and Administration personnel about mechanics of the legislative process, interacting with agencies, advisory committees, and the federal case for computing. A tentative agenda is viewable from the link above. LiSPI participants are expected to

  • Complete a reading assignment and a short written homework prior to attending the workshop, so that time spent at the workshop can focus on more advanced content,
  • Attend the April 27-28th workshop, which includes breakfast both days, lunch, and a reception with the speakers and invited guests at the conclusion of the first day, and
  • Complete a small-group assignment afterwards that puts to use the workshop content on a CCC-inspired problem–perhaps writing an argument in favor of particular initiative for an agency audience, or drafting sample testimony on a CCC topic.

LiSPI is not intended for individuals who wish to undertake research on science policy, become science policy fellows, or take permanent positions in Washington, DC. Rather, we are trying to reach work-a-day academics who appreciate that our field must be engaged in helping government.

The CCC will provide funds for hotel accommodations for two nights of local expenses (hotel, meals) for the April 27-28 workshop. Nominees are expected to pay their own travel expenses, though there will be a limited fund available for participants who cannot attend unless their travel is provided.

Eligibility and Nomination Process

LiSPI participants are expected to have the experience and flexibility in their current positions to engage with government. University faculty members should be from CS or IS departments and be post-tenure; industrial researchers should have comparable seniority. Participants should be adept at communicating. They must be nominated by their chair or department head and must have demonstrated an interest in science policy, especially as it relates to computer science (and closely allied fields).

Specifically, the nomination process is as follows:

  • A chair or department head proposes a LiSPI candidate by visiting the nomination page and providing the name and institution of the nominee, along with a letter of recommendation.
  • The candidate will then be contacted by the CCC and asked to submit a CV, a short essay detailing their interests in science policy, and an indication of whether they would require financial aid to attend.

All nominations and material from nominators and nominees must be received by December 22, 2014.

Selection Process

The LiSPI selection committee will evaluate each nomination based on record of accomplishment, proven ability to communicate, and promise. Selections will be announced by January 15, 2015. We plan to open the workshop to 60 participants.

Please discuss this opportunity with your colleagues, identify those you believe would be interested in participating, and submit nominations!

Organizing Committee:

Fred B. Schneider, Cornell
Chair, CRA Government Affairs Committee

Peter Harsha, CRA
Director of Government Affairs

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With their wildly successful 2013 drive under their belt, Code.org is ready to reach even more students with their 2014 Hour of Code (HOC) campaign. This year’s HOC, featuring Anna and Elsa from Disney’s Frozen, will be a one-hour activity where students, “will learn to write code to help Anna and Elsa create snowflakes and magical ‘ice craft,’ while also learning logic, math and cultivating creative confidence.”

In last year’s campaign, 20 million students participated, which is 1 in 4 students in kindergarten through 12th grade, and half of the students who participated were girls. At a Congressional hearing in early 2014, touting the success of the campaign, Code.org co-founder Hadi Partovi said, “more students participated in computer science during Computer Science Education Week 2013 (of which, the Hour of Code campaign was a part) than had ever taken computer science in the history of our K-12 system.” And for 2014, Code.org is hoping to more than double those numbers.

The goal this year is to get 50 million girls to participate in the HOC. As stated in their announcement, “the girl-power theme of the tutorial is a continuation of our efforts to expand diversity in computer science and broaden female participation in the field, starting with younger students.” And with three weeks before the weeklong event, Code.org has an excellent jump start by already signing up over 40,000 classrooms worldwide.

I know I’ll be getting my middle-school-aged niece to sign up, along with myself, and I highly encourage all of our readers to do the same. Sign up now! And start coding too!