Obama tries to boost science funding on his way out.

Nature reports on the outgoing president’s attempt to boost research & development funding by a mandatory four percent:

With less than a year before he leaves office, US President Barack Obama is making a strong push to increase spending on scientific research. His fiscal year 2017 budget plan, released on 9 February, calls for a 4% bump in research and development funding across the federal government.

But science advocates and lawmakers alike say that they’re unhappy with Obama’s decision to boost science by relying on ‘mandatory’ spending. Normally, research funding is ‘discretionary’, meaning that Congress decides how much money each agency will receive. But lawmakers have little leeway to adjust mandatory programmes, which must be supported by a dedicated revenue stream — such as the oil tax that Obama has proposed should go to fund some clean-transportation programmes. That makes them a tough sell to Congress, which must approve the government’s budget.

If Congress does not adopt the mandatory spending proposal for the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), for example, the NIH budget would drop by US$1 billion, based on the president’s budget. The budget of the National Science Foundation (NSF) would increase by roughly 1%.

Within Obama’s request, the National Cancer Institute would receive $680 million for the cancer ‘moonshot’, an effort to cure cancer that will focus on research areas such as genomics and ‘big-data’ analyses.

The budget request for NASA is $19 billion — $300 million less than Congress gave the agency in 2016. Funding for its science division would remain essentially flat, at $5.6 billion.

Within that, though, there are some clear winners and losers. Earth sciences would get a $111-million boost to $2 billion, to continue the development of missions such as the IceSAT-2 cryosphere-monitoring satellite and a follow-on to the GRACE gravity satellites that measure changes in groundwater and ice.

The FDA, which has responsibilities that range from approving new drugs to overseeing aspects of food safety, would receive $5.1 billion in fiscal year 2017 — an increase of 8% over the 2016 budget. The bulk of that increase, $269 million, would come from user fees collected from industry stakeholders, including food producers and pharmaceutical companies.