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WEEK OF AUGUST 14, 2023
What’s Ahead

Spallation Oak Ridge Sign

Starting this week, Oak Ridge National Lab’s Spallation Neutron Source will be shut down for almost a year to accommodate the completion of its Proton Power Upgrade.

Spallation Neutron Source Closes for Upgrade Work

On Thursday, the Spallation Neutron Source user facility at Oak Ridge National Lab will start a shutdown lasting until July of next year to install equipment for its Proton Power Upgrade project. The facility will add new superconducting radio-frequency accelerating structures to its proton beam, replace some of the magnets in its accumulator ring, and upgrade its proton beam target to accommodate higher beam power. Following the upgrade’s first phases, SNS has already reached a new world-record power level of 1.7 megawatts, and after resuming operations it will ramp up to 2.0 megawatts by late 2026. In tandem with a larger follow-on project to build a Second Target Station at the facility, the beam power will eventually reach 2.8 megawatts. The Proton Power Upgrade is set to receive the last installment of its total $272 million budget in fiscal year 2024.

The upgrade and the Second Target Station project will keep SNS at the global vanguard for its type of facility. That status will be challenged when the European Spallation Source in Sweden begins operations, currently scheduled for late 2027, with an initial beam power of 2.0 megawatts. In the immediate future, the SNS shutdown will place a new burden on the U.S. community of neutron scattering researchers, who have been grappling for years with a shortage of domestic research capacity. Exacerbating that shortage, the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Center for Neutron Research has been closed for two and a half years following a radiation incident and it is currently operating at low power as it works toward resuming normal science operations. Aside from SNS and the NIST facility, the only other major national neutron-scattering user facility in the U.S. is Oak Ridge’s High Flux Isotope Reactor.

NSF Board Examining Agency Workforce Shortages, CHIPS Implementation

The National Science Board, the governing body of the National Science Foundation, is holding its quarterly meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday. Tuesday’s agenda includes a panel on STEM workforce shortages across the federal government and a briefing from NSF’s Office of International Science and Engineering about its strategic vision and potential collaborative opportunities. On Wednesday, the board will discuss the agency’s progress in standing up new programs created by the CHIPS and Science Act, including the Research Security and Integrity Information Sharing and Analysis Organization and the Regional Innovation Engines program, which recently selected 16 finalists from a set of 34 semifinalists announced in June. In addition, agency officials will hear an update from the NSF-NSB Commission on Merit Review, which is assessing potential changes to NSF’s criteria for assessing grant applications and plans to offer initial recommendations by year’s end. The commission just held a separate meeting where officials from five federal agencies detailed their own grant-review criteria.

Commission Weighing In on DOD Technology Planning Reforms

A special commission that Congress tasked with recommending reforms to the Department of Defense’s Planning, Programming, Budgeting, and Execution (PPBE) framework will release its interim report at an event on Tuesday. The department has employed different versions of PPBE over the past six decades to plan its allocation of resources from year to year. Critics charge the framework is outdated and overly rigid, particularly in placing constraints on technology development projects that, in their view, prevent DOD from responding quickly to changes in the technology landscape and military requirements. However, Senate appropriators have recently cautioned that modifications to PPBE could end up relaxing controls set up in the wake of prior episodes of mismanagement and cost growth. They also argued that Congress has been responsive to DOD requests to reprogram funds outside the ordinary budget cycle. The PPBE commission has 14 members and is chaired by former DOD comptroller Bob Hale. It expects to submit its final report in March 2024.

In Case You Missed It

Joe Biden Virtual China Summit

President Biden during a virtual meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2021.

(Susan Walsh / AP)

Biden Selects Technologies for China-Bound Investment Bans

President Biden issued an executive order on Aug. 9 that authorizes the Treasury Department to bar U.S. persons from investing in companies in China developing technologies with military, intelligence, or surveillance applications in the specific areas of semiconductors and microelectronics, quantum information technologies, and artificial intelligence. The White House framed the move as part of a “small yard, high fence” strategy, noting that prohibitions on investments will be limited to subcategories of each of the three technology areas that “pose the most acute national security risks.” The Treasury Department is now collecting input until Sept. 28 on how to implement the investment restrictions, including what particular technology subcategories they will apply to. Investments in areas deemed less risky will not be prohibited but may trigger a requirement that they be disclosed to the department. The Senate has proposed creating such a disclosure requirement via this year’s National Defense Authorization Act that would apply to a broader set of technologies and to investments in any entities with certain connections to “countries of concern,” but stopped short of creating a prohibition mechanism.

Particle Physics Panel Suggesting Ways to Make US a ‘Reliable Partner’

Last week, the High Energy Physics Advisory Panel discussed findings from its forthcoming “benchmarking” study that will evaluate U.S. particle physics in its international context. Study co-chair Patricia McBride emphasized the highly collaborative nature of particle physics research, which led the study committee to focus its assessments on U.S. leadership within international collaborations and the country’s ability to be a “partner of choice” for other nations. She observed that the U.S. has not always been viewed as a reliable partner, largely due to unpredictable budgets and “inadequate communication between U.S. decision-makers and international partners,” citing as examples various project terminations that caught partners off guard. She also presented draft recommendations aimed at improving international engagement and project governance. Among its other conclusions, the committee found that other nations tend to be nimbler in launching new small-scale projects and recommends that the U.S. establish a new funding mechanism for small projects. HEPAP intends to finalize the report early this fall, and the draft report will serve as an input for the forthcoming Particle Physics Project Prioritization Panel (P5) report, which will set an agenda for U.S. high energy physics experiments and facilities over the next decade. P5 Chair Hitoshi Murayama presented at the HEPAP meeting on progress assembling the report.

DOE Selects First Sites for $3.5 Billion Carbon Dioxide Removal Hubs

The Department of Energy announced last week it plans to provide up to $1.2 billion total to projects in Texas and Louisiana that will aim to remove large amounts of carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere and store it underground. Pending successful award negotiations, these two technology demonstration projects will be the first of four planned “regional direct air capture hubs,” which altogether will receive $3.5 billion through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021. The company Battelle will lead the Louisiana project team and a subsidiary of the company Occidental Petroleum will lead the Texas project. DOE also announced last week it intends to allocate nearly $100 million across 19 other carbon removal projects for feasibility and design studies, and it previewed plans to launch a “Responsible Carbon Management Initiative” that will develop voluntary principles to which companies can pledge to adhere.

DOE Research Capacity-Building Initiative Issues First Grants

Last week, the Department of Energy Office of Science announced its first grants from the Funding for Accelerated, Inclusive Research (FAIR) initiative, which aims to build research capacity at institutions historically underrepresented in the office’s portfolio. The office plans to provide a total of $37 million over three years for 52 projects at 44 institutions, of which all but one are classified as “emerging research institutions,” defined as those that receive less than $50 million annually in federal research funds. Twenty-five of the awardees are also classified as minority serving institutions. The awards will support basic research projects across the office’s portfolio and are designed to help faculty foster “mutually beneficial relationships” with partner institutions, including DOE national labs. The program complements the office’s Reaching a New Energy Sciences Workforce (RENEW) initiative, which focuses on supporting training opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students at institutions underrepresented in its portfolio. DOE announced its first round of RENEW grants late last year.

Revised Government-Wide Grantee Disclosure Forms Open for Comment

The latest draft of disclosure forms that scientists will be required to use when applying for federal research grants was opened for a 30-day public comment period on Aug. 7. The forms will collect information on applicants’ institutional affiliations as well as details on their current and pending sources of research support, encompassing both monetary and “in-kind” contributions. An interagency panel is developing the forms in response to a presidential policy on research security known as NSPM-33. Alongside the latest draft, the panel also published a summary of how it revised the initial version in response to public comments. Among the changes is that a requirement to disclose in-kind support is now limited to contributions that have an estimated monetary value of $5,000 or more. Individual agencies are allowed to implement additional disclosure requirements after submitting a justification to the interagency panel.

Upcoming Events

All times are Eastern Daylight Time, unless otherwise noted. Listings do not imply endorsement.

Monday, August 14

NSF: NSB-NSF Commission on Merit Review meeting
9:00 am - 12:00 pm

Tuesday, August 15

NSF: National Science Board meeting
(continues Wednesday)

National Academies: “Workplace Safety in Hybrid Federal Laboratories”
(continues Wednesday)

PPBE Commission: Interim report launch
2:00 - 3:00 pm

National Academies: “Global Microelectronics Models for the Department of Defense in Semiconductor Public-Private Partnerships”
12:00 - 1:00 pm

National Academies: USGCRP Advisory Committee Draft Prospectus for the National Nature Assessment
2:00 - 4:00 pm

Thursday, August 17

National Academies: “NASA Mission Critical Workforce, Infrastructure, and Technology,” meeting seven
(continues Friday)

FCC: Technological Advisory Council meeting
10:00 am - 3:00 pm

National Academies: “The Current Status and Future Direction of High Magnetic Field Science in the United States, Phase II”
10:00 am - 3:00 pm

Issues in S&T: “What Happens to Science if US-China Collaboration Stops?”
2:00 - 3:00 pm

Sunday, August 20

SPIE: Optics and Photonics 2023
(continues through Thursday)

Biophysics Society: “Proton Reactions: From Basic Science to Biomedical Applications”
(continues through Thursday)

Monday, August 21

National Academies: “NASA Mission Critical Workforce, Infrastructure, and Technology,” meeting eight
(continues through Friday)

Know of an upcoming science policy event either inside or outside the Beltway? Email us at fyi@aip.org.

Opportunities

Science Committee Democrats Hiring DOE Oversight Staffer

House Science Committee Ranking Member Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) is hiring a professional staff member who will focus on oversight of the Department of Energy. Applicants should have experience in DOE R&D activities or related energy and environmental policy. Applicants should send a cover letter and resume to SciResumes@mail.house.gov .

National Academies ‘New Voices’ Program Accepting Applications

The National Academies is accepting applications for the New Voices program, which provides networking and policy engagement opportunities for early and mid-career researchers. The program seeks U.S.-based emerging leaders in all disciplines of science, engineering, and medicine who have earned their terminal degree within the past 15 years and “demonstrated commitment to service beyond their immediate discipline and institution.” Applications are due August 24.

Comments Sought on Draft National Nature Assessment Framework

The U.S. Global Change Research Program is seeking public comment on the proposed themes and framework of the first National Nature Assessment, which will “assess the status, observed trends, and future projections of America’s lands, waters, wildlife, biodiversity, and ecosystems and the benefits they provide.” The four draft themes are: conservation and natural resource management, economic interests, human health and well-being, and safety and security. Comments are due Sept. 18.

Around the Web

News and views currently in circulation. Links do not imply endorsement.

White House

White House: Biden-Harris administration marks progress one year after the CHIPS and Science Act
White House: Statement from President Biden on first anniversary of CHIPS and Science Act
White House: Understanding the economics of investing in America: A collection of resources
Science: White House manufacturing order has tech transfer experts sighing relief
FedScoop: White House science adviser defends ‘conflicting’ AI frameworks released by Biden administration
White House: Accounting for ecosystem services in benefit-cost analysis (perspective by Richard Revesz and Arati Prabhakar)
OSTP: RFI on the National Strategy for a Sustainable Ocean Economy
NSTC: Sustainable chemistry report: Framing the federal landscape (report)
PLOS Blog: The Fully OA group responds to the House Appropriations Committee’s proposal to block OSTP public access policy (perspective by Alison Mudditt, et al.)

Congress

Roll Call: White House releases $40.1 billion supplemental funding request
Roll Call: No sign of ‘debt limit 2.0’ talks as shutdown looms
Tulsa World: House Science Committee Chair Frank Lucas (R-OK) receives successful hip surgery after injury on Oklahoma ranch
House Science Committee: Republicans question Granholm on stock holdings at DOE
House Science Committee: Committee leaders tell Commerce inspector general to stop withholding documents
AAAS: House appropriations: A review of R&D-intensive agency budgets
AAAS: Senate appropriations: A review of R&D-intensive agency budgets

Science, Society, and the Economy

NBER: Accelerating innovation ecosystems: The promise and challenges of regional innovation engines (paper by Jorge Guzman, et al.)
New York Times: The face of Israel’s protests is a particle physicist (interview with Shikma Bressler)
Science: Israeli scientists speak out against ‘destructive’ education policies
Physics Today: Physicists need to be talking about nuclear weapons (perspective by Stewart Prager and Frank von Hippel)
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: Failed visionaries: Scientific activism and the Cold War (perspective by Anna Pluff and John Emery)

Education and Workforce

CSET: The race for US technical talent (report)
Foreign Policy: The US’ quantum talent shortage is a national security vulnerability (perspective by Sam Howell)
The Economist: America is building chip factories. Now to find the workers
Semiconductor Industry Association: America faces significant shortage of tech workers in semiconductor industry and throughout US economy (report)
Science: NIH researchers say agency seeks to block unionization effort
Science: NIH withdraws opposition to unionization effort
Nature: How to get more women in science, with Athene Donald (audio interview)
Bloomberg: Math professor’s tax return, foreign bank convictions upheld
State Department: Blinken speaks at the 50th Anniversary of the AAAS S&T Policy Fellowships Program

Research Management

Times Higher Education: NIH reports universities try to keep abusive researchers on major projects
Nature: ChatGPT-like AIs are coming to major science search engines
Nature: AI search engines wrangle academic literature
AAS: The future of virtual participation at AAS Meetings
Nature: How remote conferencing broadened my horizons and opened career paths (perspective by Svetlana Ugarcina Perovic)
Washington Post: Space inspires awe. So does collaboration that helps us understand it (perspective by Lorraine Daston)
Science: The short, spectacular life of that viral room-temperature superconductivity claim
Macroscience: Rather than dismissing the LK-99 moment, we should be celebrating the whole crazy discourse (perspective by Tim Hwang)
Dan Garisto: Science as a live sporting event
Washington Post: To speed scientific progress, do away with funding delays (perspective by Heidi Williams)
NBER: Research and/or Development? Financial frictions and innovation investment (perspective by Filippo Mezzanotti and Timothy Simcoe)

Labs and Facilities

Physics Today: National Ignition Facility earns its name for a second time, surpassing previous landmark energy yield
Nature: Dreams of new physics fade with Fermilab’s latest Muon g-2 result
SLAC: Electrons now moving through the superconducting accelerator that will power SLAC’s LCLS-II X-ray laser
FRIB: DOE awards Michigan State University new five-year, $529 million cooperative agreement to operate Facility for Rare Isotope Beams
Diamond Light Source: Gianluigi Botton has been appointed as the new CEO of the UK’s national synchrotron
Berkeley Lab: Mary Ann Piette named Berkeley Lab’s associate director for energy technologies
PPPL: Granholm discusses a clean-energy workforce during first in-person visit to Princeton Plasma Physics Lab
JPL: NASA’s space-based quantum science lab keeps getting better
CERN: Photostory of leak repair following magnet quench at Large Hadron Collider
NOIRLab: International Gemini Observatory operations suspended after cyberincident
Nature: Closing down an icon: Will Arecibo Observatory ever do science again?
NSF: ‘Crushing’ chemical innovations at the heart of newly expanded Center for the Mechanical Control of Chemistry at Texas A&M
EE Times: University of Arkansas to build groundbreaking NSF-funded silicon carbide facility

Computing and Communications

New York Times: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) wields political heft in bid for New York CHIPS funds
New York Times: Indiana tests if the heartland can transform into a chip hub
New York Times: Why TSMC will keep its roots in Taiwan, even as it goes global
Research Professional: Industry giants team up to build new chip plant in Germany
Foreign Policy: Tech giants need to take climate into account or risk seeing their investments go up in smoke
EE Times: Intel CEO voices concerns about CHIPS funds, export controls
EE Times: Former US officials urge new export alliance on China
Semiconductor Industry Association: State of the Industry report highlights challenges and opportunities facing US chip industry
Nature: Rules to keep AI in check: Nations carve different paths for tech regulation
NSF: NSF to award AI institutes focused on astronomical sciences and materials research
Fermilab: Fermilab’s SQMS Center hosts inaugural US Quantum Information Science program to develop quantum workforce
NTIA: Biden-Harris administration awards first grants from Wireless Innovation Fund

Space

Nature: Russia launches Luna 25, its first Moon mission in half a century: What it means for science
South China Morning Post: NASA chief warns Moon’s south pole may become ‘another South China Sea’
NASA: NASA’s LunaH-Map mission ends, validates science instrument performance
JPL: NASA Mars Ascent Vehicle continues progress toward Mars Sample Return
JPL: NASA reestablishes full communications with Voyager 2 following ‘shout’ from Deep Space Network
ESA: Euclid test images tease of riches to come
New York Times: Killer asteroid-spotting software could help save the world
Space Review: Effect of upgrades to Starlink Generation 2 satellites on visual brightness
Space Review: Nuclear space gets hot
Space Review: Minding the space station gap
Space.com: China aims to boost low-cost space science with ‘Innovation X’ rideshare program
NASA: Establishment of the Biological and Physical Sciences Advisory Committee

Weather, Climate, and Environment

Science: ‘Still in shock.’ Amid wildfire tragedy, Maui scientists assess their research losses
Science: As two landmark climate satellites go dark, NASA scales back their planned successor
ESA: Aeolus: A historic end to a trailblazing Earth science mission
E&E News: A sun shield over Earth? Catch an asteroid and it might work
Washington Post: Republicans want to plant a trillion trees. Scientists are skeptical
Commerce IG: Evaluation launched of NOAA’s tornado forecast and warning performance

Energy

Power: Vogtle Unit 3 enters commercial operation: First ‘newly constructed’ US nuclear power plant in decades
DOE: DOE releases final environmental assessment for Molten Chloride Reactor Experiment
Physics Today: What’s old is new in DOE’s choice of fusion hopefuls
Institute for Progress: Geothermal energy needs permitting reform
Physics Today: Tidal turbine development ebbs and flows
DOE: Notice of final determination on 2023 DOE Critical Materials List

Defense

Defense One: NATO creates $1.1 billion investment fund to target tech startups
New York Times: The loss of space command headquarters brings an Alabama city down to Earth
National Defense Magazine: Years after kicking off, US hypersonic programs still in development
National Defense Magazine: New facility aims to propel US hypersonics research
DOD: Defense Department announces generative AI taskforce
Defense One: To compete with China in STEM, Pentagon should invest in HBCUs (perspective by Jaret Riddick)
Emerging Technologies Institute: Previewing the Emerging Technologies Conference with Under Secretary Heidi Shyu (video interview)
State Department: Continued implementation of the new START treaty is in the national security interest of the US (report)
Exchange Monitor: Granholm met with congresswoman, faced the press, over Manhattan Project contamination during trip to Missouri

Biomedical

New York Times: Family of Henrietta Lacks settles with company that used her cells
Nature: How the ‘groundbreaking’ Henrietta Lacks settlement could change research
Stat: Henrietta Lacks settlement hailed by experts as step toward correcting medicine’s racist history
Nature: Alzheimer’s drug trials plagued by lack of racial diversity
Stat: NIH begins long-delayed clinical trials for long COVID, announces new research office
The Hill: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT): Price controls on drug innovations repeat a failed strategy (perspective by Paul Dabbar)
Science: Long-running ProMED email service for alerting world to disease outbreaks is in trouble
Wired: AI is building highly effective antibodies that humans can’t even imagine

International Affairs

NSF: NSF announces effort to support Ukrainian scientists
Nature: China has surpassed the US to become the leading nation in the Nature Index
Bureau of Industry and Security: Expansion of nuclear nonproliferation controls on the People’s Republic of China and Macau
Nuclear Regulatory Commission: Order suspending authority to export special nuclear material, source material, and deuterium to the People’s Republic of China
Axios: Future of 44-year-old science agreement caught in middle of U.S.-China tensions
Wall Street Journal: A DuPont China deal reveals cracks in US national-security screening
Science|Business: Bans, flagships, and a green pivot: The state of EU–China research relations
South China Morning Post: China universities waste millions, fail to make real use of research, audit finds in indictment of tech-sufficiency drive
Research Professional: Post-Brexit talent visa route gets just three applicants in two years
Research Professional: Six months of DSIT: UK science department gets mixed reviews

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