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The Week of August 9, 2021

What’s Ahead

IPCC Warming Projection Chart

Projected changes in mean near surface air temperature relative to a 1850-1900 temperature baseline under an intermediate scenario for greenhouse gas emissions increases. Image generated using the IPCC’s new interactive atlas.

IPCC

IPCC Report Brings New Clarity About Earth’s Future Climate

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the first part of its sixth climate assessment report on Monday, addressing the physical science basis of climate change and its impacts. The report maintains that limiting global warming to under 2 degrees Celsius is infeasible without rapid decarbonization and it emphasizes that many of the human-induced changes observed in the climate system are “unprecedented in thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of years.” Among the main conclusions in the report’s summary for policymakers is that many of these changes are “irreversible for centuries to millennia, especially changes in the ocean, ice sheets, and global sea level.” Announcing the report’s release, UN Secretary-General António Guterres called the findings a “code red for humanity.”

This latest IPCC assessment cycle has placed a much greater emphasis on examining regional impacts of climate change, with the final third of the new report’s 12 chapters dedicated to regional issues. The report is accompanied for the first time by an interactive climate atlas , which can be used to explore potential climate futures across different regions. It has also added a chapter assessing advances in scientists’ ability to attribute characteristics of extreme events to anthropogenic climate change. Compiled by 234 authors from 66 countries and leaning on more than 14,000 studies, the report arrives ahead of a major international meeting in November in Glasgow, Scotland, at which new climate action measures will be negotiated. Reacting to the report, Presidential Climate Envoy John Kerry tweeted , “Now is the time for action and Glasgow must be a turning point in this crisis.”

Wrapping Up Infrastructure Bill, Senate Turns to Partisan Package

The Senate voted 68 to 29 over the weekend to end debate on the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, clearing the 60-vote threshold needed to advance the multiyear spending package to a final vote early this week. If enacted in its current form, the legislation would provide about $1 trillion to programs across federal agencies, of which about half would be for budget increases and new programs. More than $20 billion would go to clean energy and carbon mitigation demonstration projects , and about $500 million would go to U.S. Geological Survey initiatives. Nearly $3 billion would go to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a portion of which would be for improving environmental monitoring and modeling systems.

After passing the infrastructure package and before departing for its August recess, the Senate plans to approve an outline for a separate, 10-year spending package totaling about $3.5 trillion that will use Congress’ budget reconciliation procedure to circumvent the 60-vote threshold. Accordingly, it will focus on Democratic priorities in social spending and climate change and is poised to include some funding for research-related programs. A memorandum for Democratic senators indicates unspecified amounts will be for the National Science Foundation’s proposed technology directorate, climate research, pandemic preparedness, and research infrastructure at minority-serving institutions and Department of Energy national labs. A draft of the outline indicates $45.5 billion will be for programs falling under the jurisdiction of the House Science Committee. Negotiations over the two packages will become more deeply intertwined when Congress sets about its fall business, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has said she will not bring the infrastructure package up for a floor vote until the reconciliation package clears the Senate.

Study on NSF Materials Research Spinning Up

A National Academies committee tasked with assessing the National Science Foundation’s contributions to the cross-agency Materials Genome Initiative is kicking off this week, holding a closed meeting on Tuesday and an open session on Wednesday with NSF staff. The committee is co-chaired by Ronald Latanision, an emeritus professor of materials science and engineering at MIT, and Karin Rabe, a Rutgers University physicist and president of the Aspen Center for Physics. NSF has asked the committee to provide recommendations on how its Designing Materials to Revolutionize and Engineer our Future (DMREF) program can better accelerate materials research, leverage new data-related tools such as artificial intelligence, and attract a diverse talent pool. DMREF is the agency’s primary mechanism for supporting the Materials Genome Initiative, which launched in 2011.

In Case You Missed It

FY 22 Budget Proposals: Department of Energy
FY22 Budget Proposals: DOE Office of Science

Senate Appropriators Release DOE Spending Proposals

On a vote of 25 to 5 last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved its version of the bill that will fund the Department of Energy for fiscal year 2022 and the accompanying committee report detailing its program-level proposals. The Senate bill would increase the DOE Office of Science budget by 7% to $7.5 billion, exceeding both the Biden administration’s request and the House’s counterpart proposal. Both bills would create an Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations in DOE and provide a funding surge for DOE’s applied energy offices, though in most cases the increases are not as large as those requested. In addition, both bills would terminate funding for the Versatile Test Reactor, a proposed multibillion-dollar testing facility for nuclear reactor materials that is backed by the administration, and neither bill supports the administration’s proposal to create an Advanced Research Projects Agency for Climate. For details across DOE programs, consult FYI’s Federal Science Budget Tracker .

DOE Science Nominees On Track for Confirmation

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing last week on President Biden’s nominations of physical chemist Geri Richmond and soil biogeochemist Asmeret Asefaw Berhe for key science roles at the Department of Energy. Committee members roundly welcomed Richmond’s nomination to be under secretary for science and energy, citing her scientific contributions and the various leadership and advisory positions she has held in the research community. In her testimony, Richmond stressed the need to confront climate change and outlined her priorities for the department, which include increasing the demographic and geographic diversity of the STEM workforce and improving DOE’s contributions to “every step in the process of innovation.” The committee also appears likely to advance Berhe’s nomination to direct the DOE Office of Science. Although Committee Ranking Member John Barrasso (R-WY) argued her background in soil science is not well-matched to DOE’s scientific work and that she lacks experience administering large organizations, Committee Chair Joe Manchin (D-WV) expressed unambiguous support for her, saying it is “clear” she has the scientific qualifications needed for the job.

DOE Office of Science Policy and Infrastructure Gain Senate Attention

Two days after examining the nominations for senior science jobs at the Department of Energy, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing focused on the policy needs of the department’s Office of Science. Committee Chair Joe Manchin (D-WV) remarked that he is interested in pursuing measures to advance the office’s “programmatic mission” as well as to address deferred maintenance and the need for new infrastructure and equipment at DOE’s national labs and elsewhere. Noting that the Senate-passed U.S. Innovation and Competition Act recommends Congress provide DOE nearly $17 billion over five years above its base budget, he said that the funding is “just to maintain the research” and suggested the department requires another $35 billion for infrastructure. Committee Ranking Member John Barrasso (R-WY) focused most of his attention on the DOE EPSCoR program , which allocates funding to states and territories that have historically received a disproportionately low share of research funds. Aside from suggesting the program should receive more funding, he also inquired whether DOE advisory committees should have more members from EPSCoR jurisdictions. Although no legislation has been introduced in the Senate focused on the Office of Science, the House passed legislation in June that would provide extensive policy direction for the office and recommend Congress ramp up its annual budget from $7 billion to $11.1 billion over five years.

Defense R&D and Nuclear Nonproliferation Nominees Announced

President Biden announced on Aug. 4 that he is nominating David Honey to be deputy under secretary of defense for research and engineering and Corey Hinderstein to lead nuclear nonproliferation efforts at the National Nuclear Security Administration. Honey is currently serving as a special assistant to the director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and previously was director of science and technology in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the deputy assistant secretary of defense for research. He earned a doctorate in solid state science from Syracuse University in 1994. Hinderstein previously served in a senior nonproliferation staff role at NNSA from 2015 to 2017 and led preparations for the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit. Most recently, she was in charge of efforts to reduce proliferation risks presented by nuclear reactor fuel at the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a nonprofit organization she had previously worked for from 2006 to 2015.

Intelligence Panel Spotlights Research Security Threats From China

On Aug. 4, the Senate Intelligence Committee held a hearing to spotlight a variety of illicit and legal methods the Chinese government uses to acquire advanced technologies and scientific know-how from other nations. Committee Chair Mark Warner (D-VA) said the hearing was a follow-on to the series of non-public threat briefings he and other committee members have held in recent years with leaders from the business and academic sectors. Warner stressed at several points in the hearing that U.S. efforts to counter malign activities of the Chinese government must not foment xenophobia of Chinese nationals and Chinese Americans. Among the witnesses was Anna Puglisi, a former U.S. counterintelligence official, who offered proposals on ways to address the Chinese government’s use of “non-traditional collectors” to acquire intellectual property, such as increasing disclosure requirements for scientists and enforcing “true reciprocity” in research collaborations with China. She also remarked, “Beijing in many ways understands our societal tensions, and its statecraft is directed at them, exploiting identity politics and promoting any changes to U.S. policy as ethnic profiling. Extreme positions, such as closing our eyes or closing the doors, only benefits China.”

APS Criticizes Federal Crackdown on Research Ties to China

The presidential line of the American Physical Society published a statement on Aug. 9 that argues the federal government is damaging the U.S. research system through efforts to prevent the Chinese government from exploiting the openness of scientific exchange. Protesting recent arrests of academic scientists who allegedly maintained undisclosed connections to Chinese institutions, they write, “As scientists we understand that integrity in research reporting is essential. But we also have an obligation to call out wildly disproportionate responses when we see them, and the current response is that.” They also raise concerns about chilling effects of the government’s actions, stating, “Many U.S. scientists, and particularly those of Chinese origin, now fear that any contact with our colleagues in China is likely to be punished, no matter how divorced from real espionage or theft.” Referring to a recent Department of Energy order that bars national lab employees from participating in talent recruitment programs sponsored by certain foreign governments, they add, “even benign activities that are essential for the conduct of science, such as serving on international science advisory committees for Chinese research institutes, now require a waiver that must be approved by the Secretary of Energy herself. Needless to say, the result of such an order is to curtail most of these activities, and the United States is the poorer for it.” As an alternative to the government’s current approach, the APS leaders advocate for the scientific community to play a greater role in enforcing research integrity principles, noting there have been recent instances where federal officials have been “willing to let our community handle the infraction, and careers have been preserved.” (APS is an AIP Member Society.)

EPA Names Members of Reconstituted Science Advisory Board

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan announced the new roster of the agency’s Science Advisory Board last week, stating that its membership is now the “most diverse” since the board was established. Among the 47 members selected, 19 have previously served on the board, of whom six were members at the end of the Trump administration and 13 are other former members of the board or its standing committees. In March, Regan dismissed all members of the previous board and the EPA Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee in order to “reverse deficiencies” created by a 2017 policy barring recipients of EPA grants from serving on the agency’s advisory boards. Critics of the policy alleged it rebalanced the boards toward industry interests and a 2019 Government Accountability Office review found that the fraction of SAB members with academic affiliations dropped significantly between 2017 and 2018. A federal judge ultimately voided the policy after determining it was poorly justified.

Events This Week

Monday, August 9

NASA: Earth Science Applications Week
(continues through Thursday)

AIAA: Propulsion and Energy Forum
(continues through Wednesday)

National Academies: “Climate-Resilient Supply Chains: A Workshop,” planning meeting one
2:00 - 5:00 pm

Tuesday, August 10

National Academies: “Wind Turbine Generator Impacts to Marine Vessel Radar,” meeting two
(continues Wednesday)

LLNL: “Machine Learning for Industry Forum”
(continues through Thursday)

NREL: Webinar on Storage Futures Study
9:00 - 10:00 am MDT

National Academies: “Protecting Critical Technologies for National Security in an Era of Openness and Competition,” meeting six
1:00 - 4:00 pm

NIST: Earthquake Hazards Reduction Advisory Committee meeting
1:00 - 4:00 pm

DOE: “Celebrating the Nevada National Security Site: The Premier National Security Resource”
2:00 - 3:00 pm

NSPN / ESEP: Science policy happy hour
7:00 - 8:30 pm

Wednesday, August 11

Commerce Department: Supply Chain Competitiveness Advisory Committee meeting
11:00 am - 12:00 pm

National Academies: “Assessment of High Energy Density Science,” town hall one
11:00 am - 12:30 pm

National Academies: “Planetary Science Decadal Survey: Panel on Venus,” meeting 22
11:00 am - 5:00 pm

Atlantic Council: “The Future of Data, Oceans, and International Affairs”
12:00 pm

NIH/OSTP: “Ninth Listening Session on ARPA-H: Advocates for Research on Genomics, Biomedical Engineering and Imaging, and Health Informatics, and Medical Libraries”
12:00 - 1:15 pm

National Academies: “Advising NSF on its Efforts to Achieve the Nation’s Vision for the Materials Genome Initiative,” kickoff meeting
2:00 - 3:00 pm

OECI: “Introduction to the NOAA Ocean Exploration Cooperative Institute: Exploring the US’ Blue Frontier”
3:00 pm

Zócalo / Issues in Science and Technology: “Is Cutthroat Science Hindering Discovery?”
4:00 pm

National Academies: “Addressing Inaccurate and Misleading Information about Biological Threats through Scientific Collaboration and Communication,” meeting three
8:00 - 10:00 pm

Thursday, August 12

NASEO: “Meeting Climate and Resilience Goals with Emerging Technologies”
(continues Friday)

National Academies: “Defense Research at Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Other Minority Institutions,” meeting six
10:00 am - 5:00 pm

Aerospace Corporation: “Diversity and Inclusion Across the Nation’s FFRDCs”
1:00 - 2:00 pm

NSF: Geosciences Directorate quarterly webinar
2:00 - 4:00 pm

National Academies: “Foundation for Assessing the Health and Vitality of the NASA Science Mission Directorate’s Research Communities,” meeting five
2:00 - 5:00 pm

Thursday, August 12

NASEO: “Meeting Climate and Resilience Goals with Emerging Technologies”
(continues Friday)

National Academies: “Defense Research at Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Other Minority Institutions,” meeting six
10:00 am - 5:00 pm

Aerospace Corporation: “Diversity and Inclusion Across the Nation’s FFRDCs”
1:00 - 2:00 pm

NSF: Geosciences Directorate quarterly webinar
2:00 - 4:00 pm

National Academies: “Foundation for Assessing the Health and Vitality of the NASA Science Mission Directorate’s Research Communities,” meeting five
2:00 - 5:00 pm

Monday, August 16

NDIA: “Responding Now – Preparing for Future CBRN Threats”
(continues through Wednesday)

ISS National Lab: ISS R&D Conference: Technical Sessions
(continues through Wednesday)

National Academies: “Decadal Survey on Biological and Physical Sciences Research in Space 2023-2032,” kickoff meeting
(continues Tuesday)

National Academies: “Assessment of High Energy Density Science,” town hall two
3:30 - 5:00 pm

Opportunities

NSF Hiring Legislative Policy Analyst

The National Science Foundation is hiring a science policy analyst within its Office of Legislative and Public Affairs. Position duties include preparing materials for congressional hearings and developing NSF’s legislative strategy, among other duties. Applications are due Aug. 16.

New Science Policy Blog Seeks Contributors

A new digital science policy publication, Forefront, is seeking article submissions and volunteer editors. The focus of Forefront is “primarily on ‘science and technology informing policy’ though some areas of ‘policy for science and technology,’ such as STEM education are also welcome.” Submission formats include policy memos and analysis, opinion pieces, and fact sheets.

New Civic Science Fellows Roles Posted

Several scientific organizations are partnering to sponsor the 2021-2022 cohort of Kavli Civic Science Fellows, who will work to support various civic engagement activities and research projects. Organizations with applications due in August include the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, the Center for Innovation in Informal STEM Learning at Arizona State University, the Berman Institute of Bioethics at Johns Hopkins University, and the publication Science News.

For additional opportunities, please visit www.aip.org/fyi/opportunities . Know of an opportunity for scientists to engage in science policy? Email us at fyi@aip.org .

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

Around the Web

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