I just finished another good trip to Washington DC (in spite of temperatures in excess of 95oF), where I had the opportunity to talk with a number of Federal agency representatives.  Thanks to Kate Sinner (OSU Government Relations) for setting up all the meetings.  Kate usually handles all of our Congressional relations, but with the changes in Congress regarding earmarks, we’ve made a concerted effort to focus even more attention on the Administration , and specifically on those agencies where we might have a lot of opportunities.

NIH campus

On this trip I focused on the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and on the Department of Defense.  OSU receives about $25M per year from NIH, and just under $3M per year from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR).

Specifically, I visited leadership at the following agencies: AFOSR (Tom Russell, Director) , NIH Headquarters (Sally Rockey, Director of Extramural Research), National Cancer Institute (Peter Greenwald, Deputy for Prevention), National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (Josie Briggs, Director), National Institute of General Medical Service (Jeremy Berg, Director), and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (Hugh Auchincloss, Deputy Director).  In addition, I  had the opportunity to meet with Karina Edmonds, the coordinator of technology transfer for the Department of Energy.

Your program manager

All of these meetings were quite helpful to get a sense of where agencies want to go.  Given the current budget uncertainties in the Federal government, any insight we can get should help us maintain our competitive edge.  I think it’s fair to say that every agency representative that I met with wants to increase their engagement with our research community.  Without exception, each of them implored me to have our faculty (junior and senior) develop – if they have not already done so – an active and meaningful dialogue with their program managers.

map of washington dc

So my question for the researchers who read this blog is whether you’ve made that call recently.  H ave you spoken with program managers at your relevant agency?  Do they know what your interests are?  If you’re not sure whom to call, talk to your colleagues or let me know.

Another message that came through loud and clear was that we have some real opportunities to drive the agency agendas.  Dr. Russell at AFOSR defined a process by which we could develop some effective white papers to share with his program officers.  This is something I’d like to pursue with several clusters of faculty.  And, this is consistent with the next steps we need to develop consonant with the pending release of the OSU Research Agenda.

netl logoPacific Northwest National Laboratory logo

At DOE, Dr. Edmonds also made clear that her responsibility was to foster development of intellectual property, at the DOE Labs. From her standpoint, the partnering that  we have with the labs (e.g. with PNNL through MBI and ONAMI) is a model for how to engage academia.NREL logo So my questions, then, given our other relationships with DOE labs (NETL, NREL and Idaho National Lab, as examples): Are there opportunities for commercialization that we might want to push?  Are there areas where we might want to build new partnerships with DOE labs, based on the potential for collaboration over new intellectual property?

I started the week in DC by sitting on a working group at the National Science Foundation, discussing the challenges of what NSF calls “unsolicited mid-scale research.”  The National Science Board will be developing a report on this subject within the next year, and we should keep an eye out for that report.

Please see our examples of  outcomes of Federal Agency support for OSU research

– Rick Spinrad
Vice President for Research

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2 thoughts on “What’s Hot in DC

  1. Rick, I’d be interested in contributing to white papers. I’m not an ideas person, but I do catalyze action among others. And I can write. You don’t mention USDA NIFA, but I work closely with a number of researchers in SCRI and BFR grants. If there is a push to influence the direction of those programs, I’d be interested in making a contribution.

  2. In response to some comments emailed:
    Thanks for the interest in helping out. More on that later.
    I didn’t mention USDA NIFA in this entry, but note that I had a very good meeting with them during my DC visit several months ago.

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