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The Week of June 28, 2021

What’s Ahead

Workers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory inspect an electricity substation.

Workers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory inspect an electricity substation.

(Image credit – DOE)

Tentative Infrastructure Deal Excludes R&D Proposals

Last week, President Biden endorsed a bipartisan framework for a multi-year infrastructure spending package totaling $579 billion. A portion of the package is focused on energy and climate change, with $73 billion allocated for “power infrastructure,” $47 billion for “resilience,” and $15 billion for electric vehicle infrastructure. The package does not include the R&D spending initiatives that Biden proposed in his American Jobs Plan, which the White House has indicated he is willing to pursue through separate legislation. The package was developed by a bipartisan group of senators and now must be translated into legislative text and secure support from at least 60 senators. Democratic leaders have offered general support for pursuing a bipartisan package focused on physical infrastructure, while also indicating they intend to use the budget reconciliation process to advance a separate bill focused on more partisan priorities, such as elements of Biden’s American Families Plan. Republicans have objected to coupling the bipartisan infrastructure framework to a partisan reconciliation package, which could ultimately undermine the deal.

House to Vote on NSF and DOE Expansion Bills

On Monday, the House is scheduled to vote on the NSF for the Future Act and DOE Science for the Future Act , which propose comprehensive policy updates for the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy Office of Science. The House is considering both bills under suspension of the rules, an expedited procedure that indicates the legislation is not expected to encounter significant opposition. The bills are the first in a series the House is expected to pass in preparation for reconciling them with the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (USICA), which the Senate passed earlier this month. On Wednesday, the House Foreign Affairs Committee is scheduled to consider its Ensuring American Global Leadership and Engagement (EAGLE) Act, which is analogous to provisions in the USICA that establish U.S. foreign policy towards China. The Biden administration has broadly endorsed both the House and Senate efforts. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan met with House lawmakers last week to encourage them to pass legislation “like the USICA and the NSF for the Future Act.”

House Appropriators to Endorse 25% Budget Boost for USGS

House appropriators are meeting Monday to advance legislation that funds the U.S Geological Survey and Environmental Protection Agency, among other agencies. A draft bill released ahead of the meeting matches the Biden administration’s request to increase the USGS budget by 25% to $1.6 billion and would increase EPA’s science and technology budget by 11% to $807 million, slightly less than requested. The bill’s accompanying committee report, which is not yet public, will indicate to what extent appropriators support more specific administration requests, such as the $60 million it wants for USGS to help launch a new cross-government Advanced Research Projects Agency for Climate (ARPA–C). Another meeting is being held in closed session on Wednesday to advance the bill that funds the Department of Defense. The Biden administration has proposed to increase the budget for DOD Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation (RDT&E) programs by 3% to $114 billion, pushing it past its already historically high level. However, within this total the administration seeks to cut funding for its basic and applied science programs by 15% each to $2.3 billion and $5.5 billion, respectively.

House Panel to Probe Federal Wildfire Science

As a historic heatwave increases wildfire risk in the Pacific Northwest this week, the House Science Committee is holding a hearing on Tuesday on the future of federal wildfire science and its coordination across agencies. The witnesses for the hearing are Craig Clements, a meteorologist at San José State University; Jessica McCarty, a geographer at Miami University; George Geissler, a forester with the Washington Department of Natural Resources; and Erik Litzenberg, a retired fire chief and chair of the International Association of Fire Chiefs’ Wildland Fire Policy Committee. The Science Committee has already included a provision in its NSF for the Future Act that lists wildfire science as a focus area for NSF’s risk and resilience research program. In its fiscal year 2022 budget request , the Biden administration is seeking $7 million for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to establish a new Fire Weather Testbed to facilitate emergency managers and NOAA researchers in the development of decision-support tools and models that help protect lives and property and predict air-quality impacts.

Lawmakers Examining Alleged Profiling of Chinese Scientists

House Civil Rights Subcommittee Chair Jamie Raskin (D-MD) and Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus Chair Judy Chu (D-CA) are holding a roundtable on Wednesday titled, “Researching While Chinese American: Ethnic Profiling, Chinese American Scientists, and a New American Brain Drain.” The roundtable follows up on letters Raskin and Chu sent to the FBI and National Institutes of Health in early 2020 seeking details on the agencies’ expansive investigations of scientists suspected of concealing ties to China. The agencies maintain they are targeting specific unethical behaviors, while critics argue their enforcement actions are overzealous and disproportionately affect researchers of Chinese descent. Witnesses appearing at the roundtable include physics professor Xiaoxing Xi and hydrologist Sherry Chen, whom the Justice Department prosecuted during the Obama administration, though it later dropped the charges in each case. Also speaking are Randy Katz, vice chancellor for research at the University of California, Berkeley and former Energy Secretary Steve Chu, who has recently spoken out about the contributions of immigrant scientists to the U.S. and the harms of creating a hostile climate for them.

National Academies Convenes Summit on Anti-Racism in STEM

Starting Tuesday, the National Academies is holding a two-day summit to explore policies and practices for “confronting systemic racism” within the STEM community. The summit will include a pre-recorded keynote address by House Science Committee Chair Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), who asked the Academies last year to “assess the influence of systemic racism in academia on the careers of individuals belonging to racial and ethnic groups historically underrepresented” in STEM fields. The meeting will conclude with a panel discussion between former Princeton University President Shirley Tilghman, National Science Board Chair Ellen Ochoa, and the National Institutes of Health’s chief officer for scientific workforce diversity, Marie Bernard.

In Case You Missed It

The National Carbon Capture Center in Alabama is a Department of Energy-funded research facility that evaluates capture technologies for potential commercial deployment.

The National Carbon Capture Center in Alabama is a Department of Energy-funded research facility that evaluates capture technologies for potential commercial deployment.

(Image credit – DOE)

DOE Official, Senators Discuss Energy Infrastructure Priorities

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing last week to discuss a 423-page energy infrastructure spending bill drafted by committee Democrats that would, among other provisions, directly fund Department of Energy R&D programs and demonstration projects in areas such as carbon capture, energy storage, advanced nuclear reactors, renewable energy, critical minerals, and industrial decarbonization. Kathleen Hogan, who is currently acting as DOE’s under secretary for science and energy, noted the bill is largely aligned with President Biden’s American Jobs Plan but said the department needs “additional capabilities, flexibilities, and funding” not included in the draft. She called for broadening the scope of DOE’s loan programs, implementing a clean energy standard, making greater investments in supply chains “beyond the batteries and critical minerals sphere,” and providing more funds to “help retool existing factories and transition workers.” Committee Chair Joe Manchin (D-WV) said he hopes the bill can garner bipartisan support, noting that it builds on the bipartisan Energy Act of 2020. However, Ranking Member John Barrasso (R-WY) expressed concern about the proposal’s price tag, saying, “I’m aware of no precedent where this committee appropriated anything close to the $100 billion included in this draft bill.”

Top DOE Appropriator Skeptical of ARPA–Climate

At a hearing last week on the Department of Energy’s budget request, the top Senate appropriator for the department, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), expressed reservations about the Biden administration’s proposal to create a cross-government Advanced Research Projects Agency for Climate. Feinstein said it is “unclear exactly how that would work and why it’s needed,” asking how it would relate to DOE’s existing ARPA–Energy. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm explained that ARPA–C would draw resources from multiple agencies to focus on non-energy technologies relevant to mitigating climate change and its impacts, citing wildfire mitigation as an example. Aside from the request for ARPA–C, Feinstein expressed interest in exceeding the Biden administration’s request for a $414 million increase for the DOE Office of Science, calling for more investment in priority areas such as quantum information science, exascale computing, and artificial intelligence.

Biomedical Innovation Bill Backs ARPA–H, Pandemic Recovery

Last week, Reps. Fred Upton (R-MI) and Diana DeGette (D-CO) released a draft of legislation they are preparing as a follow-up to the 21st Century Cures Act of 2016, referring to it as “Cures 2.0” The draft includes a provision that would create an Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health with a recommended initial budget of $6.5 billion, matching the amount specified in the Biden administration’s budget request for the National Institutes of Health. The bill also incorporates Upton and DeGette’s Research Investment to Spark the Economy (RISE) Act , which recommends Congress provide about $25 billion to defray researchers’ pandemic-related losses. NIH Director Francis Collins and White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Director Eric Lander elaborated on the administration’s vision for ARPA–H in an article in Science last week. While there has been some disagreement over where to house ARPA–H within the federal government, Collins and Lander strongly advocate for placing it within NIH. Although the new agency’s culture and organization would contrast significantly with other parts of NIH, they argue that close integration would allow it to leverage NIH’s capabilities and avoid duplication of effort.

NSF Clarifies Grant Disclosure Requirements

Last week, the National Science Foundation published an updated version of its policy manual for grant applications and awards that clarifies requirements concerning disclosure of research support obtained from other sources, as summarized in an accompanying table . The table notes that sources such as certain consulting engagements and in-kind contributions should be reported but that scientists do not need to disclose honoraria, unrestricted gifts, paid conference travel, teaching and mentoring commitments, academic-year salary, involvement of visiting scholars, and graduate/postgraduate researcher time spent on the project. The updated manual also requires grantees to “summarize potential overlap” posed by their current and pending projects to help NSF officials assess possible duplication of effort. It does not adopt a policy advanced by the National Institutes of Health that requires grantees to provide translated copies of foreign grants, gifts, and contracts. The new version of the manual goes into effect on Oct. 4.

DOD Seeks Authority to Screen Grantees for ‘Foreign Preference’

As part of its package of legislative proposals submitted to Congress for inclusion in this year’s National Defense Authorization Act, the Department of Defense requests the authority to create a “pilot program to identify risks associated with foreign influence and foreign preference of individuals performing unclassified research funded by the Department of Defense who would not otherwise undergo federal personnel vetting.” It explains the pilot would be used to “identify the barriers, value, and costs associated with vetting the population of personnel participating in DOD funded research” as well as to “determine the feasibility and proper scope of a permanent program and its potential future availability to other departments and agencies within the executive branch.” Prior NDAAs have included various provisions aimed at protecting DOD-funded academic research from exploitation by rival governments, including by authorizing the department to gather “appropriate information” on funded researchers, but they have not explicitly raised the prospect of screening for “foreign preference.” The House Armed Services Committee plans to begin advancing its version of this year’s NDAA in late July.

‘Unidentified Aerial Phenomena’ Puzzle Intelligence Agencies

Last week, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a congressionally mandated assessment of “unidentified aerial phenomena” (UAP) reported by military aviators. The assessment finds no definitive explanation for the reports but suggests five possible categories: “airborne clutter, natural atmospheric phenomena, [U.S. government] or U.S. industry developmental programs, foreign adversary systems, and a catchall ‘other’ bin.” The assessment reviewed reports made between 2004 and 2021, of which 144 were from U.S. government sources and 80 involved “observation with multiple sensors.” It states the UAPs reported “probably” represent physical objects, given that a majority of them “registered across multiple sensors, to include radar, infrared, electro-optical, weapon seekers, and visual observation.” It also offers options for further analysis, such as standardizing reporting mechanisms, reviewing historical radar data, and developing an R&D roadmap. The report was requested by the Senate Intelligence Committee, whose leaders issued statements last week describing it as just an initial step in studying the issue.

Events This Week

Monday, June 28

National Academies: “Accelerating Decarbonization in the U.S.: Technology, Policy, and Societal Dimensions,” meeting four
(continues Tuesday)

National Academies: “DOD Engagement with Its Manufacturing USA Institutes Phase 2 Study,” meeting 39 part two
2:00 - 3:00 pm

American Geosciences Institute: Critical Minerals Mapping Initiative Forum
3:00 - 5:00 pm

National Academies: “Enhancing the U.S. Chemical Economy through Investments in Fundamental Research in the Chemical Sciences: Energy Information-Gathering Meeting”
3:00 - 5:00 pm

House: Subcommittee hearing to advance the Interior-Environment appropriations bill
5:30 pm, Appropriations Committee (2118 Rayburn Office Building)

National Science Policy Network: “The Early Career Scientist’s Guide to Personal Finance”
7:00 - 8:30 pm

Tuesday, June 29

National Academies: “Addressing Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Anti-Racism In 21st Century STEMM Organizations: A Summit”
(continues Wednesday)

NASA: Astrophysics Advisory Committee meeting
(continues Wednesday)

USGS: National Geospatial Advisory Committee meeting
(continues Wednesday)

EuroScience: 1st EuroScience Policy Forum
(continues Wednesday)

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

CSIS: “Space Race in the 21st Century: Understanding Russia’s Evolving Military Capabilities”
9:00 - 10:00 am

Atlantic Council: “Ocean and Climate Ambition from COP25 to COP26 and Beyond – International Partnership on MPAs, Biodiversity, and Climate Change”
10:00 - 11:00 am

House: “The State of Federal Wildland Fire Science: Examining Opportunities for Further Research and Coordination”
10:00 am, Science Committee (2318 Rayburn Office Building)

House: “The CLEAN Future Act and Electric Transmission: Delivering Clean Power to the People”
10:30 am, Energy and Commerce Committee (2123 Rayburn Office Building)

DOE: “Labs of the Future Workshop: Mental Health and Work-Life Balance Post-COVID”
11:00 am

ITIF: “U.S. Manufacturing Priorities for the Biden Administration and 117th Congress”
11:00 am - 12:15 pm

Bipartisan Policy Center: “Preparing for the Next Pandemic: Strengthening the U.S. Public Health System”
11:00 am - 12:30 pm

National Academies: “Panel on Assessment of NIST’s Center for Neutron Research,” kickoff meeting
12:00 pm - 12:30 pm

The Hill: “The Future of Missile Defense”
12:30 pm

MITRE: “U.S. Leadership and the Semiconductor Supply Chain Crisis”
1:00 - 4:00 pm

NSF: “Center Directors’ Perspectives on Catalyzing Convergence”
4:00 - 5:00 pm

National Academies: “Review of Effectiveness and Efficiency of Defense Environmental Cleanup Activities of DOE’s Office of Environmental Management,” meeting six
5:30 - 7:00 pm

Wednesday, June 30

Commerce Department: Civil Nuclear Trade Advisory Committee meeting
9:00 am - 4:00 pm

Space Court Foundation: “Operating in a New Space Age: Does Space Security Matter to Industry?”
9:00 am

House: Subcommittee hearing to advance the Defense appropriations bill
10:00 am, Appropriations Committee (200 Capitol Visitors Center) Closed to the public

Energy Futures Initiative: “Building to Net-Zero: A U.S. Policy Blueprint for Gigaton-Scale CO2 Transport and Storage Infrastructure”
10:00 am

House: “A Safe Wireless Future: Securing our Networks and Supply Chains”
10:30 am, Energy and Commerce Committee (2123 Rayburn Office Building)

National Academies: “DOD Engagement with Its Manufacturing USA Institutes Phase 2 Study,” meeting 40
11:00 am - 12:00 pm

National Academies: “The Revolution in Intelligence Affairs: Strategic, Operational, and Organizational Impact”
11:00 am - 5:00 pm

National Academies: “Planetary Science Decadal Survey: Panel on Venus,” meeting 20
11:00 am - 5:00 pm

National Academies: “Foundation for Assessing the Health and Vitality of the NASA Science Mission Directorate’s Research Communities,” meeting three
11:00 am - 5:00 pm

National Academies: “Increasing Diversity and Inclusion in the Leadership of Competed Space Missions,” meeting seven
11:00 am - 6:00 pm

NASA: “Earth System Observatory Community Forum”
12:00 - 1:00 pm

House: Meeting to advance the Ensuring American Global Leadership and Engagement (EAGLE) Act
1:00 pm, Foreign Affairs Committee

NOAA: Ocean Exploration Advisory Board meeting
1:00 - 5:30 pm

NOAA: “Leveraging the Cloud for Numerical Weather Prediction Data”
1:30 - 3:00 pm

House: “Addressing Climate as a Systemic Risk: The Need to Build Resilience within Our Banking and Financial System”
2:00 pm, Financial Services Committee

House: “Transportation Investments for Solving the Climate Crisis”
2:00 pm, Climate Crisis Committee

Hoover Institution: “The Artificial Intelligence Revolution”
2:00 pm

House: “Researching while Chinese American: Ethnic Profiling, Chinese American Scientists, and a New American Brain Drain”
3:30 pm, Oversight and Government Reform Committee

Argonne National Lab: “The Next 75 Years of Discovery and Impact”
7:00 - 8:15 pm CDT

Thursday, July 1

House: Full committee hearing to advance the Interior-Environment appropriations bill
9:30 am, Appropriations Committee (1100 Longworth Office Building)

Argonne National Lab: “Decarbonization Within Reach: Keynote Address by Arun Majumdar”
10:00 - 11:30 am CDT

R Street Institute: “Energy Innovation Policy Starts with Good Economic Policy”
11:00 am

CSIS: “Accelerating U.S. Energy Innovation”
11:00 am - 12:00 pm

Wilson Center: “Legislating U.S.–China Policy: The Strategic Competition Act of 2021”
2:00 - 3:00 pm

Friday, July 2

WeShareData.org: “Journal Data Policies: Getting started with a Framework and Examples from Society Journals”
10:00 - 11:00 am

Monday, July 5

Federal Holiday (observance of Fourth of July holiday)

Opportunities

Interagency Scientific Integrity Task Force Seeking Input

The White House’s Scientific Integrity Task Force is seeking public input on “ways to help ensure that scientific integrity is paramount in federal governance for years to come.” The task force was created in response to a Jan. 27 memorandum by President Biden titled, “Restoring Trust in Government Through Scientific Integrity and Evidence-Based Policymaking.” Submissions are due July 28.

FAS Organizing ‘Science Councils’ for Congress

The Federation of American Scientists is seeking scientists interested in helping to establish external science advisory councils for individual members of Congress, modeled on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. FAS’ first “Science Council” will advise Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL) and comprises seven scientists and technologists. Interested individuals should contact sciencepolicy@fas.org .

National Academies Hiring For Several Policy Roles

The National Academies is hiring a senior director for its Committee on Science, Engineering, Medicine, and Public Policy and a director for its Board on Environmental Change and Society . Both roles require a doctoral degree and more than 10 years of experience. The Academies is also hiring a senior program officer for its Nuclear and Radiation Studies Board , seeking applicants with graduate degrees in relevant fields and at least six years of experience.

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 .

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