The memo also details the cross-cutting areas the budget priorities should address. Agencies should try to:
Increase the productivity of federal research institutions, including research universities and major public and private laboratories and research centers;
Strengthen science, technology, engineering and mathematics education at every level, from pre-college to post-graduate to lifelong learning;
Improve and protect the country’s information, communication and transportation infrastructure, which is essential to the country’s commerce, science and security alike; and
Enhance the United States’ capabilities in space, which are essential for communications, geopositioning, intelligence gathering, Earth observation and national defense, as well for increasing the understanding of the universe.
“In their budget submissions, agencies should describe the expected outcomes from their research in relation to these four practical challenges and cross-cutting areas, providing quantitative metrics where possible and describe how they plan to evaluate the success of various techniques to increase support for high-risk research,” the memo states.
“Budget submissions should also describe how agencies are strengthening their capacity to rigorously evaluate their programs to determine what has been demonstrated to work and what has not. Budget submissions should show how such assessments allowed agencies to eliminate or reduce funding for less-effective, lower-quality, or lower-priority programs in 2011, and how they will be applied in the future.”
Orszag and Holdren also want agencies to develop data sets that will help explain how these investments are impacting the country. And all of this information should be publicly available.
“Agencies should develop outcome-oriented goals for their science and technology activities, establish procedures and timelines for evaluating the performance of these activities and target investments toward high-performing programs,” the memo states. “Agencies should develop ‘science of science policy’ tools that can improve management of their research and development portfolios and better assess the impact of their science and technology investments. Sound science should inform policy decisions, and agencies should invest in relevant science and technology as appropriate.”