FYI: Science Policy News
The Week of February 7, 2022

What’s Ahead

Eric Lander testifies at nomination hearing

Eric Lander testifies at his nomination hearing last April.

(Image credit – C-SPAN)

OSTP Staffers Revolt Against Director Eric Lander Over Abusive Behavior

An internal White House investigation has found that Office of Science and Technology Policy Director and Presidential Science Advisor Eric Lander engaged in a pattern of bullying toward his staff, according to reporting by Politico. The investigation resulted in corrective actions, but more than a dozen OSTP staff members provided accounts to Politico that suggest Lander’s behavior amounted to flagrant abusiveness. The former OSTP general counsel, whom Lander demoted to deputy, recounted that Lander “retaliated against staff for speaking out and asking questions by calling them names, disparaging them, embarrassing them in front of their peers, laughing at them, shunning them, taking away their duties, and replacing them or driving them out of the agency. Numerous women have been left in tears, traumatized, and feeling vulnerable and isolated.” Another staff member remarked, “Everyone is afraid of him. Lander yells — screams. He’ll ask the same thing over and over but getting louder and louder each time.” Lander apologized for his behavior in an email to OSTP staff on Feb. 4 that was obtained by Politico, stating he will “do better.”

Lander’s character and judgment were a major focus during his confirmation process last spring, with Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) expressing particular concern about past incidents and his attitudes toward women. For his part, Lander promised that promoting respect and equity in the scientific workplace was a priority for him. The scientific community has also placed a strong emphasis on ensuring accountability for maintaining a positive environment in scientific workplaces. Some OSTP staff members who spoke to Politico said Lander should be fired, pointing to President Biden’s pledge to treat abusive behavior as grounds for immediate dismissal. On his first day in office, Biden told his appointees, “If you are ever working with me and I hear you treat another colleague with disrespect, talk down to someone, I promise you I will fire you on the spot — on the spot, no ifs, ands, or buts.”

(Update: Lander announced on Feb. 7 that he will resign no later than Feb. 18.)

ARPA–H Proposal up for Debate in the House

On Tuesday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee is holding a hearing to solicit input as it develops legislation to create an Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health, a multi-billion dollar agency proposed by President Biden to accelerate biomedical innovation. Health Subcommittee Chair Anna Eshoo (D-CA) has insisted that ARPA–H be established as a standalone agency within the Department of Health and Human Services, rather than a division within the National Institutes of Health as proposed by other committee members and the Biden administration . Eshoo’s proposal reflects the view that establishing the agency outside of NIH would help it foster a distinct culture. Biden spoke about his desire to establish ARPA–H at an event last week where he announced a reboot of the “cancer moonshot” he headed during the Obama administration. The new initiative aims to reduce the death rate from the disease by 50% over the next 25 years, with a focus on improving screening practices and developing preventative vaccinations. The administration has not proposed any funding for the initiative, but it could be supported through ARPA–H. Biden’s science advisor Eric Lander is scheduled to testify at the hearing followed by a panel of biomedical experts. (Update: Lander was removed from the list of hearing witnesses.)

Senators to Examine NASA’s Private Sector Partnerships

On Wednesday, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee is holding a hearing to examine NASA’s partnerships with private companies across its human exploration and science portfolios. Specific subjects that will be addressed include NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration initiative, plans to sunset the International Space Station and transition to commercially operated platforms in low-Earth orbit, and the agency’s purchase of Earth observation data collected by commercial entities. The heads of NASA’s science, space technology, and human exploration systems directorates will testify, as will an official from the Government Accountability Office and the staff director of the National Space Council under the Trump administration.

Hearings to Review Infrastructure Needs for ‘Clean Hydrogen,’ Nuclear

On Thursday, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is holding a hearing to “examine the opportunities and challenges in using clean hydrogen in the transportation, utility, industrial, commercial, and residential sectors.” The witnesses include industry representatives and the director of the Department of Energy’s Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Office. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is providing DOE with almost $10 billion over five years to establish four regional clean hydrogen hubs, a clean hydrogen electrolysis demonstration program, and a clean hydrogen manufacturing and recycling program. DOE has also set the goal of reducing the price of clean hydrogen production to $1 per kilogram within a decade through the “Hydrogen Shot” it announced last year. Separately, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is considering two bipartisan nuclear energy bills on Wednesday: the American Nuclear Infrastructure Act , which among its provisions would direct DOE to create a prize competition to incentivize the licensing of advanced nuclear reactors, and the STRANDED Act , which would establish a grant program to compensate communities that host nuclear waste storage facilities and create an associated prize competition.

New FY22 Budget Extension Possible as Negotiations Continue

The House may pass a new stopgap budget measure this week to buy more time for negotiations on fiscal year 2022 appropriations legislation, according to the news outlet Roll Call. The current stopgap was enacted in December and extends through Feb. 18, but Democrats and Republicans are still working toward a framework on overarching federal spending levels and, once they reach one, will need additional time to finalize agency-level spending. Roll Call reports the new stopgap could extend to March 11, but that an agreement on the duration has not yet been reached and senators have not yet weighed in on the extension. President Biden is expected to release his budget request for fiscal year 2023 in early March.

Workshop to Kickstart US Preparations for ITER-Based Research

On Wednesday, the U.S. nuclear fusion research community is kicking off a multi-part workshop that will begin planning a national research program for the international ITER facility in France. The Department of Energy’s Fusion Energy Sciences program has sponsored the workshop to start shifting the U.S. fusion research community’s focus from construction of ITER toward maximizing the benefits from it following its “first plasma” milestone, which is slated for late 2025. The workshop will explore how to align U.S. ITER participation in support of DOE’s strategic plan for fusion and plasma science research , including its focus on developing a domestic fusion pilot plant by the 2040s. The workshop is chaired by Chuck Greenfield of the company General Atomics and Cami Collins of Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

NIST to Provide Update on Research Reactor Shutdown

The principal advisory panel for the National Institute of Standards and Technology is meeting on Wednesday. The agenda includes an update on the status of the reactor at the NIST Center for Neutron Research, which has been in a prolonged shutdown following a radiation incident last February that was caused by operator error . The update will cover an independent review that began in December, the status of efforts to filter fission products from the reactor coolant, and the need for additional funding to bring the reactor back online this year. The center usually would serve about 3,000 researchers annually and its unavailability has badly exacerbated a shortage of capacity in the U.S. for neutron-scattering research. Other items on the meeting agenda include an update on a strategic planning process currently underway for NIST’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership program, as well as a presentation on the agency’s efforts to promote diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility.

In Case You Missed It

Eddie Bernice Johnson speaks at press conference on Amwrica COMPETES Act

House Science Committee Chair Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) speaks at a Feb. 4 press conference on the America COMPETES Act.

(Image credit – House Science Committee Majority)

House Passes COMPETES Act on Partisan Vote

The House passed the America COMPETES Act of 2022 last week on a vote of 222 to 210 , with all but one Democrat voting in favor and all but one Republican opposed. The move clears the way for the House to form a conference committee that will negotiate compromise legislation with the Senate, which passed its own competitiveness policy package this summer. The two bills share many elements, such as $52 billion in semiconductor sector subsidies and proposals to expand the National Science Foundation, but the Senate bill generally has more stringent research security measures and includes none of the House’s proposals to expand STEM immigration pathways. In contrast to the Senate’s approach, House Democrats have been deliberate in not casting the legislation exclusively as a response to China’s growing technological capabilities, framing it instead as improving the ability of the U.S. both to compete globally and address challenges at home. Meanwhile, House Republicans have sought to portray the new COMPETES Act as a weak response to challenges posed by the Chinese government and have complained that, except for the science provisions, much of the bill was not developed through a bipartisan process. In a statement on the House vote, President Biden called for Congress to quickly send him a final bill and remarked, “If House Republicans are serious about lowering prices, making our economy stronger, and competing with China from a position of strength, then they should come to the table and support this legislation, which does just that.”

DOD Technology Chief Outlines R&D Strategy

On Feb. 1, Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Heidi Shyu released a memorandum outlining the Department of Defense’s “technology vision for an era of competition.” The document identifies three “technology strategy pillars” underlying the vision: “mission focus,” entailing cooperation between R&D teams and the military; “foundation building,” entailing strengthening DOD’s STEM workforce and modernizing labs and facilities; and “succeed through teamwork,” entailing cooperation between DOD and other components of the “larger innovation ecosystem.” In addition, the document identifies 14 “critical technology areas” that build on the 11 modernization priorities set out under the Trump administration. Advanced materials and renewable energy generation and storage are entirely new additions, and some existing modernization priorities have been reconfigured. For example, 5G networking has been refocused on “future-generation” wireless technology; artificial intelligence and autonomy have been combined into a single category; and advanced computing and software are now an area of their own. Shyu’s memo also states that her office is at work on the National Defense Science and Technology Strategy that Congress mandated through the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019.

DOE High Energy Physics Program Head to Retire

The Department of Energy Office of Science announced last week that the head of its High Energy Physics program, Jim Siegrist, is retiring from the department at the end of March. Siegrist has led the program since 2011 and during that time has overseen its response to the landmark 2014 Particle Physics Project Prioritization Panel (P5) report as well as the start of work on the flagship Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility and Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment project, among other efforts. According to DOE, Siegrist is timing his retirement to allow his successor the opportunity to liaise with the next P5 process, which is now ramping up. While DOE conducts its search for the next program head, Office of Science Deputy Director for Science Programs Harriet Kung will take over the role on an acting basis. Another key leader in the high energy physics community, Fermilab Director Nigel Lockyer, is also planning to step down this spring and the search for his successor is in progress.

US Publishes Quantum Workforce Development Strategy

On Feb. 1, an interagency coordination group released a strategic plan for workforce development in the fields of quantum information science and technology (QIST). The plan recommends steps for the federal government, academia, industry, and others to take to expand and strengthen the U.S. pool of quantum-ready workers. It focuses on actions needed to identify and address QIST-specific education and workforce needs, and to make careers in the field more accessible and equitable. On the same day, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the National Science Foundation convened educators and leaders in QIST for an event focused on how to engage young people in QIST and improve K–12 education and outreach. NSF also announced a new program, ExpandQISE , that will provide grants to researchers to develop new ways to cultivate and diversify the U.S. quantum workforce. The event also highlighted plans for U.S. participation in World Quantum Day on April 14, 2022.

US Releases Latest Probe of ‘Anomalous Health Incidents’

The Office of the Director for National Intelligence released a partially redacted report last week that concludes the “anomalous health incidents” (AHI) experienced by U.S. government personnel working overseas “cannot be easily explained by known environmental or medical conditions and could be due to external stimuli,” such as focused radio waves. The incidents, first reported by personnel in Havana, Cuba, often involve a painful aural sensation and enduring trauma. The report was produced by a panel of experts in acoustics, ionizing radiation and radio emissions, medicine, psychology and psychiatry, and environmental health. The panel states that “pulsed electromagnetic energy, particularly in the radiofrequency range, plausibly explains the core characteristics of reported AHIs, although information gaps exist.” The panel also lists ionizing radiation, chemical and biological agents, infrasound, audible sound, ultrasound, and psychosocial factors as possible contributors to the symptoms government personnel have reported, and it recommends actions to improve monitoring and prevention. Last month, the Central Intelligence Agency issued interim findings from its own investigation, concluding that only two dozen instances of the roughly 1,000 reported cases of AHIs cannot be explained by environmental factors, undiagnosed medical conditions, or stress, ruling out the likelihood a foreign power is conducting an expansive campaign against U.S. personnel. Congress has taken a strong interest in AHIs and recently required the White House and federal agencies to designate officials responsible for the issue. In response, the White House issued new guidance to agencies last week and designated Maher Bitar, senior director for intelligence programs for the National Security Council, as the administration’s interagency coordinator.

Astronomy Union Announces New Center to Mitigate Interference

The International Astronomical Union announced last week that it has selected the National Science Foundation’s NOIRLab and the UK-headquartered SKA Observatory as co-hosts of a new Center for the Protection of the Dark and Quiet Sky from Satellite Constellation Interference. IAU proposed the center in 2021 to coordinate international efforts to mitigate the impacts of light pollution from satellite megaconstellations, which threaten the viability of ground-based optical astronomy. The center will consist of a “SatHub” that will provide access to satellite data, software tools, and training resources, as well as hubs for national and international policy advocacy, community engagement, and industry outreach. The center’s activities align with recommendations from the SATCON2 report released by the American Astronomical Society and NOIRLab last fall. It will begin operations on April 1.

DARPA Official Picked to Helm New UK Research Agency

On Feb. 1, the government of the United Kingdom announced that U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Deputy Director Peter Highnam will be the first CEO of its new Advanced Research and Invention Agency (ARIA). Highnam is from the U.K., received his doctorate in computer science from Carnegie Mellon University, and, before his current role, led the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity. He will begin his new position on May 3. ARIA was created last year with an initial multiyear budget of £800 million. Explicitly modeled on DARPA, it aims to give its program managers significant leeway in selecting high-risk, high-reward research projects that might not be supported through agencies such as U.K. Research and Innovation, which has an annual budget of about £8 billion. ARIA is a centerpiece of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s efforts to boost U.K. R&D. Separately last week, his government also released plans to broaden the geographic distribution of R&D funding throughout the U.K. as part of its “leveling up” program to economically revitalize regions outside the London area.

Events This Week

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

Monday, February 7

National Academies: “Workshop on Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence to Advance Earth System Science: Opportunities and Challenges”
(continues through Friday)

Exchange Monitor: Nuclear Deterrence Summit
(continues through Wednesday)

Commerce Department: Civil Nuclear Trade Advisory Committee meeting
10:00 - 11:00 am

CSIS: “Complex Air Defense: Countering the Hypersonic Missile Threat”
10:00 - 11:30 am

National Academies: “Engaging Communities across Diverse Sectors at the Science Communication Colloquium”
11:00 am - 4:30 pm

Tuesday, February 8

Science|Business: “Horizon Europe: The First Assessment”
(continues Wednesday)

House: “Data Challenges Impacting Human Trafficking R&D of Anti-Trafficking Technological Tools”
10:00 am, Science Committee

House: “Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in Environmental Policy Making: The Role of Environmental Organizations and Grantmaking Foundations”
10:00 am, Natural Resources Committee

House: “Fueling the Climate Crisis: Examining Big Oil’s Climate Pledges”
10:00 am, Oversight and Reform Committee

Senate: Hearing to consider the nomination of Maria Robinson to head the DOE Office of Electricity
10:00 am, Energy and Natural Resources Committee

Columbia University: “The Nuclear Suppliers Group: Its Future in a Low-Carbon World”
10:00 - 11:30 am

House: “ARPA–H: The Next Frontier of Biomedical Research”
10:30 am, Energy and Commerce Committee

Atlantic Council: “The Arctic in Transition: Energy, Resilience, and National Security”
12:00 - 1:15 pm

National Academies: “Accelerating Decarbonization in the United States: Technology, Policy, and Societal Dimensions: Industrial Companies Open Session”
1:00 - 3:00 pm

NASA: Science Mission Directorate town hall meeting
1:30 pm

Harvard Belfer Center: “Defense Acquisition in a Competitive Era”
3:00 - 4:00 pm

Wednesday, February 9

National Academies: “Science for Judges: Development of the Reference Manual on Scientific Evidence, 4th Edition,” kickoff meeting
(continues Thursday)

NIST: Visiting Committee on Advanced Technology meeting
10:00 am - 4:00 pm

Senate: Hearing to consider the nomination of Gigi Sohn to be a FCC commissioner
10:00 am

Senate: Hearing to consider the American Nuclear Infrastructure Act and the STRANDED Act
10:00 am, Environment and Public Works Committee

US ITER: US ITER Research Program Research Needs Workshop, kickoff meeting
12:00 - 5:00 pm

National Academies: “Planetary Protection for Missions to Small Bodies,” meeting three
12:30 - 3:00 pm

Senate: “NASA Accountability and Oversight”
2:30 pm, Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee

Senate: Hearing to advance nominees for OMB director and DHS under secretary for science and technology
3:00 pm, Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee

Thursday, February 10

National Academies: “The Strategic Council for Research Excellence, Integrity, and Trust,” meeting two
(continues Friday)

Senate: “Hearing on Clean Hydrogen”
10:00 am, Energy and Natural Resources Committee

National Academies: Leading Practices for Accessibility and Inclusion,” conversation three
10:30 am - 12:00 pm

American Nuclear Society: “Black Excellence in the Nuclear Field”
2:00 - 3:00 pm

Friday, February 11

NSF: “NSF Design and Discovery Forum: Climate Science, Children, and the Media”
11:00 am - 4:00 pm

Hudson Institute: “Should Companies Subsidized by China Be Permitted to Buy US Tech Firms?,” with Reps. Scott Fitzgerald (R-WI) and Greg Stanton (D-AZ)
12:00 - 1:00 pm

National Academies: Committee to Advise the U.S. Global Change Research Program meeting
12:00 - 1:00 pm

Philosophical Society of Washington: “The ESO’s Extremely Large Telescope Challenges and Progress on the World’s Largest Telescope”
8:00 pm

Monday, February 14

NSF: Webinar on new Bridging EPSCoR Communities program
2:00 - 3:00 pm


Input Sought on Update to National AI R&D Plan

The National Artificial Intelligence Initiative Office is accepting public comments as it works on congressionally mandated updates to the National AI R&D Strategic Plan, which identifies investment priorities for federally-funded AI research. The plan was first published in 2016 and subsequently updated in 2019 . The office welcomes suggestions of R&D activities that could address subjects such as “equity, climate change, healthcare, and job opportunities, especially in communities that have been traditionally underserved,” among other areas. Submissions are due March 4.

USGCRP Accepting Comments on IPCC Synthesis Report

The U.S. Global Change Research Program is seeking expert comments on the final draft of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s “synthesis report,” which integrates findings from earlier reports on the physical science basis of climate change, expected impacts, and mitigation strategies. Though the government and expert review is open until March 20, USGCRP will accept comments until March 1.

CSET Hiring for Multiple Positions

The Center for Security and Emerging Technology at Georgetown University is accepting applications to fill several roles , including a deputy director of analysis, an analytic lead for its new Emerging Technology Observatory, and multiple analyst positions.

For additional opportunities, please visit . Know of an opportunity for scientists to engage in science policy? Email us at .

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

Around the Web

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

White House

America COMPETES Act


Science, Society, and the Economy

Education and Workforce

Research Management

Labs and Facilities

Computing and Communications


Weather, Climate, and Environment




International Affairs

More from FYI
More than a dozen major research centers launched this summer using funds from the National Science Foundation.
Budgetary constraints are poised to blunt the Biden administration’s proposals to increase funding for many clean energy R&D programs across the Department of Energy. However, DOE is ramping up distribution of a historic funding influx that Congress provided through special appropriations laws over the last two years.
NASA’s Biological and Physical Sciences portfolio is “severely underfunded,” a National Academies report argues.
The possible extension of a longstanding research agreement between the U.S. and China highlights the federal government’s struggle to balance national security concerns against the benefits of international scientific collaboration.
The Biden administration’s 2023 R&D priorities memo instructs agencies to support U.S. competitiveness in key technology areas, such as AI, including by experimenting with research funding mechanisms.
Early-stage defense R&D programs are facing significant budget cuts in fiscal year 2024, though Senate appropriators are seeking to boost basic research funding. Meanwhile, House appropriators are pushing a major initiative in commercial technology acquisition built around a vastly expanded Defense Innovation Unit.

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