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The Week of March 2, 2020

What’s Ahead

APS March Meeting Canceled

Image credit – APS

Scientists Scramble as Coronavirus Threat Derails APS March Meeting

Citing “rapidly escalating health concerns” associated with the spread of the coronavirus disease COVID-19, the American Physical Society cancelled its annual March meeting less than 48 hours before the conference was set to begin on Monday. APS explained the decision was in part due to a large number of attendees coming from outside the U.S., including from countries for which the Centers for Disease Control had just upgraded its travel warning. The meeting is the largest physics conference in the world and the APS website stated that more than 10,000 attendees were expected this year. Many had already arrived or were in transit when word of the cancellation came , leading them to search for alternative ways to share their research. APS is encouraging researchers to upload the presentations they were due to deliver and is refunding registration fees.

DOE Budget Hearings Continue

Congressional committees are holding five hearings this week to review the budget request for the Department of Energy and National Nuclear Security Administration:

  • Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette is testifying before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday and at a Senate appropriations subcommittee hearing on Wednesday . In his first appearance before appropriators last week, Brouillette faced several questions about the administration’s reversal of support for storing nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain and its proposed cuts to energy research programs. He defended the cuts while highlighting initiatives in grid-scale energy storage research, artificial intelligence, and quantum information science.
  • NNSA Administrator Lisa Gordon-Hagerty is testifying before the House Armed Services Committee on Tuesday and will appear before the House appropriations subcommittee for DOE alongside three deputy NNSA administrators on Wednesday . NNSA is seeking nearly a 20% budget increase to accelerate modernization of the U.S. nuclear weapons enterprise, leading some lawmakers to question the affordability of the agency’s plans.
  • The heads of five applied energy offices at DOE are testifying at an appropriations subcommittee hearing on Tuesday . DOE has proposed steep cuts for its renewable and nuclear energy offices, while holding the fossil energy office about level and requesting increases for electric grid R&D programs.

Other agencies scheduled to defend their budget requests before Congress this week include the National Institutes of Health , Commerce Department , Interior Department , and Environmental Protection Agency . For details on agency proposals, consult FYI’s Federal Science Budget Tracker .

Geoengineering, Ozone, and Algal Bloom Bills Up for Review

The House Science Committee is holding a subcommittee meeting on Wednesday to vote on three bipartisan environmental research bills. The Atmospheric Climate Intervention Research Act would direct the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to study the potential effects of atmospheric geoengineering strategies, such as stratospheric aerosol injection, on Earth’s climate. Congress has already provided funding to begin such work, but the bill would provide statutory backing for a sustained research effort. The subcommittee will also consider the Background Ozone Research Act , which would direct the Environmental Protection Agency to commission an assessment of how natural processes contribute to ground-level ozone in the U.S., and the Harmful Algal Bloom Essential Forecasting Act , which would enable NOAA’s work in this area to continue during a government shutdown.

Academic Security Conference Convenes Amid Federal Crackdown

This week, Texas A&M University is hosting the fourth annual Academic Security and Counter Exploitation conference , which brings together federal and university officials to discuss “the threat posed by foreign influence and theft of academic research.” This year’s conference occurs amid a ramp up in federal prosecutions of researchers accused of failing to disclose significant foreign conflicts of interest or commitment. In the latest reported case, a University of Tennessee engineering professor was arrested last week for allegedly hiding his connection with a Chinese university while working on a NASA-funded project. Among the keynote speakers are the head of the Justice Department’s “China Initiative,” the director of the Defense Department’s Protecting Critical Technology Task Force , and the director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. The conference will also feature a presentation on the JASON advisory panel’s recent report on research security, which argues for enhancing commitment to disclosure policies in lieu of placing new restrictions on the conduct of fundamental research.

NASA Expanding Use of Dual-Anonymous Peer Review

On Tuesday, NASA is holding a virtual townhall to discuss its plans to expand the use of dual-anonymous peer review, wherein the identities of grant reviewers and applicants are not revealed to each other during the review process. Following a successful use of the procedure as a way to address gender bias in time allocation for users of the Hubble Space Telescope, NASA is piloting it across several grant programs in 2020. The town hall meeting will provide guidance on how to write and review anonymized proposals. Slides for a previous town hall meeting on application of the procedure in NASA’s Astrophysics Division are posted here .

In Case You Missed It

The headquarters of the National Science Foundation

NSF’s headquarters

(Image credit – Maria Barnes / NSF)

NSF Treads Fine Line in Response to JASON Report

On March 2, the National Science Foundation published its response to a report on fundamental research security that it commissioned from the JASON advisory panel. Addressing the panel’s call for reaffirming the principles of a presidential directive that establishes classification as the primary mechanism for safeguarding sensitive research, NSF notes its governing board issued a statement in support of the directive in 2018, while adding, “In some cases, there may be a need to protect certain data and information for national, military, or economic security purposes. NSF will work with other U.S. government agencies to maintain the distinction between research that should continue to be made open to the scientific community and research that should be protected due to security concerns.” Responding to the panel’s recommendation that failures to disclose conflicts of interest or commitment should be handled similarly to scientific misconduct, NSF notes its Office of the Inspector General has treated some cases in that way, while referring others that “may merit civil or criminal action” to the Department of Justice. NSF also highlights how it has created a new position dedicated to overseeing research security policies and strategy.

Senate Energy Innovation Package Arrives

Last week, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee released the text of the American Energy Innovation Act, a major energy efficiency and innovation policy bill that Committee Chair Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Ranking Member Joe Manchin (D-WV) plan to introduce on the Senate floor this week. The bill consolidates a large number of individual bills that the committee already approved last year. Among them are the Nuclear Energy Leadership Act , Nuclear Energy Renewal Act , Enhancing Fossil Fuel Energy Carbon Technology (EFFECT) Act , ARPA–E Reauthorization Act , and bills focused on solar , wind , marine , and geothermal energy R&D. Although the bill does not propose a unified R&D funding initiative, it does recommend substantial funding increases across existing programs at the Department of Energy. During a webinar last week, House Science Committee staff members said they are looking forward to reconciling their counterpart legislation with the Senate version. However, they also highlighted the contrast between House Democrats’ focus on DOE’s applied R&D programs and Republicans’ focus on basic research across agencies.

New Bills Focus on National Labs Workforce and Infrastructure

Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), co-chair of the National Labs Caucus, introduced a set of bills last week that aim to address workforce and infrastructure issues at the labs, including the Restore and Modernize Our National Labs Act , which would recommend spending $6 billion on maintenance and recapitalization projects. Another, the TechSMART Workforce Development Act , would authorize a grant program in the Department of Labor to support state and local career and technical training programs. A third bill, the Leveraging Our National Labs to Develop Tomorrow’s Technology Leaders Act , would provide statutory backing to the Department of Energy’s Lab-Embedded Entrepreneurship Programs , which supports the commercialization of research by providing access to facilities and experts at national labs.

Science Committee Presses OSTP on Environment, Research Security

Making his first appearance before the House Science Committee last week as director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Kelvin Droegemeier faced an array of questions about the administration’s policies as well as its latest budget request. Democratic members focused on the administration’s proposed cuts to environmental research programs. Droegemeier largely sidestepped questions about budget cuts and instead highlighted research priorities such as improving the spatial resolution of climate models. He also said he would look into the recent exodus of staff from two Department of Agriculture research agencies that was triggered by their relocation to Kansas City. Responding to questions from several Republican committee members on research security, Droegemeier said universities have been enhancing their emphasis on disclosure and that the law enforcement community should conduct “periodic audits” of such disclosures. Given impediments to sharing information between universities and federal agencies, he added that the administration is “looking now at legal mechanisms or possibly coming to Congress and saying we need to change the laws.”

NOAA Outlines Harassment Prevention Initiatives

Neil Jacobs, the acting head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, testified to the House Natural Resources Committee last week about the agency’s efforts to prevent sexual harassment . He said NOAA’s Workplace Violence Prevention and Response Program is “working to set up agency-wide prevention services and to establish victim advocacy for the agency,” adding that NOAA will be “the first civilian federal agency to have embedded victim advocates.” He further noted that the program’s goals are “in line” with the recommendations laid out in the 2018 National Academies report on sexual harassment in science. The witnesses, who included two experts representing organizations dedicated to combating sexual abuse and assault, spoke in detail about the issues faced by the agency’s fishery observers , who work for extended periods aboard private fishing boats.

Earth Science Project Is First to Respond to 2017 Decadal Survey

NASA announced on Feb. 26 that it will fund the development of an instrument called Libera that will be installed aboard the JPSS-3 weather satellite to measure the Earth’s energy radiation budget . As the inaugural selection in NASA’s new Earth Venture Continuity program, it is the first project the agency has supported in response to recommendations in the 2017 National Academies Earth science decadal survey . The survey proposed the program as a way to promote low-cost ways to maintain the long-term continuity of targeted measurements important to the Earth science community. Libera’s measurements will continue those currently performed by the Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System (CERES) instruments that have been installed on several Earth-observing satellites. JPSS-3 will be operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and is scheduled for launch in 2027.

Canadian Government Charts Out Open Science Agenda

Chief Science Advisor of Canada Mona Nemer released a “Roadmap for Open Science” last week that sets out a set of principles and 10 recommendations for the government to follow. Among its recommendations, the roadmap states that all scientific articles produced by government researchers should be open access with no embargo period by January 2022 and all their other publications should be openly accessible by January 2023. It also recommends that departments and agencies fully implement FAIR (findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable) principles for research data by January 2025. The roadmap states the chief science advisor should develop a separate open science strategy specifically for government-funded research following a stakeholder consultation process that is to be completed by December 2021. The three principal Canadian science-funding agencies currently require that articles stemming from research they fund be made publicly accessible within 12 months of publication.

Events This Week

All times are Eastern Standard Time and all congressional hearings are webcast, unless otherwise noted. Listings do not imply endorsement.

Monday, March 2

ASCE: Academic Security and Counter Exploitation Program conference (continues through Friday) Texas A&M (College Station, TX) National Academies: “Advancing Commercialization from the Federal Laboratories Committee,” meeting four (continues Tuesday) Keck Center (500 5th St. NW, DC) DOE: Nuclear Science Advisory Committee meeting 8:15 am - 4:00 pm, Crystal City Marriott (Arlington, VA) Webcast available Florida House of Representatives: Select Committee on the Integrity of Research Institutions 4:00 - 5:00 pm, Sumner Hall (Tallahassee, FL)

Tuesday, March 3

Senate: DOE budget request hearing 9:15 am, Energy and Natural Resources Committee (366 Dirksen Office Building) Bipartisan Policy Center: “America’s Energy Infrastructure: Where Do We Go From Here?” 9:30 - 11:00 am, Bipartisan Policy Center (1225 Eye St. NW, DC) Webcast available Senate: “Securing U.S. Leadership in the Bioeconomy” 10:00 am, Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee (562 Dirksen Office Building) House: “50 Years of the Non-Proliferation Treaty: Strengthening the NPT in the Face of Iranian and North Korean Nonproliferation Challenges” 10:00 am, Foreign Affairs Committee (2172 Rayburn Office Building) House: “Building a 100% Clean Economy: Advanced Nuclear Technology’s Role in a Decarbonized Future” 10:30 am, Energy and Commerce Committee (2322 Rayburn Office Building) DOE: “Importance of Accelerating New Nuclear Fuels” 11:30 am - 1:00 pm, 2044 Rayburn House Office Building NASA: “Virtual Town Hall on Dual Anonymous Peer Review” 12:30 pm House: DOE applied energy programs budget request hearing 2:00 pm, Appropriations Committee (2362-B Capitol) House: Nuclear forces and atomic energy defense activities budget request hearing 2:30 pm, Armed Services Committee (2212 Rayburn Office Building)

Wednesday, March 4

C2ES: 2020 Climate Leadership Conference (continues through Friday) Detroit, MI Jefferson Lab: “A.I. for Nuclear Physics Workshop” (continues through Friday) Newport News, VA RFF: “Policy Leadership Series with Former Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz” 9:00 - 10:00 am, Resources and Conservation Center (1400 16th St. NW, DC) Webcast available House: EPA budget request hearing 9:30 am, Appropriations Committee (2359 Rayburn Office Building) Senate: Interior Department budget request hearing 10:00 am, Appropriations Committee (124 Dirksen Office Building) House: Interior Department budget request hearing 10:00 am, Natural Resources Committee (1324 Longworth Office Building) House: NIH budget request hearing 10:00 am, Appropriations Committee (2358-C Rayburn Office Building) House: “Reauthorizing the National Apprenticeship Act: Strengthening and Growing Apprenticeships for the 21st Century” 10:15 am, Education and Labor Committee (2175 Rayburn Office Building) ITIF: “Decarbonizing Industrial Heat” 12:00 - 1:30 pm, Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (700 K St. NW, DC) Webcast available NSF: “Broadening Participation in STEM: Brought to You By NSF” 1:00 - 3:00 pm, 2325 Rayburn House Office Building House: Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Subcommittee Member day hearing 1:45 pm, Appropriations Committee (H-309 Capitol) House: NNSA budget request hearing 2:00 pm, Appropriations Committee (2362-B Rayburn Office Building) House: Markup of three environmental research bills 2:00 pm, Science Committee (2318 Rayburn Office Building) Carnegie Endowment: “The Geopolitics and Geoeconomics of Submarine Cable Networks” 2:00 - 3:30 pm, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (1779 Massachusetts Ave. NW, DC) National Academies: Astro2020 Panel on State of the Profession and Societal Impacts, teleconference 2:15 - 3:30 pm Senate: DOE budget request hearing 2:30 pm, Appropriations Committee (138 Dirksen Office Building) Senate: DOD budget request hearing 2:30 pm, Armed Services Committee (216 Hart Office Building) NYU: “Higher Temps and Rising Tides: The Fast-Melting Truths of Climate Change” 6:30 - 8:00 pm, New York University D.C. Office (1307 L St. NW, DC) Webcast available

Thursday, March 5

NASA: Astrophysics Advisory Committee meeting (continues Friday) NASA headquarters (300 E St. SW, DC) Webcast available Senate: Commerce Department budget request hearing 10:00 am, Appropriations Committee (192 Dirksen Office Building) Senate: Education Department budget request hearing 10:00 am, Appropriations Committee (124 Dirksen Office Building) WRI: “Environmental and Sustainability Data for Decision-Making” 10:00 - 11:00 am, Webinar CSIS: “Strategic Implications of NASA’s Moon to Mars Plan” 11:00 - 12:30 pm, Center for Strategic and International Studies (1616 Rhode Island Ave. NW, DC) Webcast available National Academies: Astro2020 Decadal Survey Committee teleconference 12:00 - 1:30 pm DOD: Defense Innovation Board meeting 2:00 - 4:00 pm CST, Capital Factory (Austin, TX) ESEP: Science policy happy hour 5:30 - 7:30 pm

Friday, March 6

DOE: Energy Storage Grand Challenge Initiative Stakeholder meeting Seattle, WA Wilson Center: “Rural Climate Action in the U.S. and China” 9:00 - 11:00 am, Woodrow Wilson Center (1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, DC) WRI: “Towards Ocean Equity” 11:00 am, Webinar AAAS: “Building Community for Professional Science Communicators” 12:00 - 1:00 pm, Webinar

Monday, March 9

NASA: Planetary Science Advisory Committee meeting (continues through Wednesday) NASA headquarters (300 E St. SW, DC) Webcast available National Academies: “Astro2020 Panel on An Enabling Foundation for Research,” meeting three (continues through Wednesday) Keck Center (500 5th St. NW, DC) Aspen Institute: “The Quantum Future” (continues Tuesday) Aspen, CO DOE: Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technical Advisory Committee meeting (continues Tuesday) North Building Conference Center (955 L’Enfant Plaza SW, DC) Aerospace Corporation: “Space Domain Awareness: Building Trust in the Data” 11:00 am - 12:30 pm EDT, George Washington University (1957 E St. NW, DC) Belfer Center: “Geopolitical Implications of the Rapidly Changing Arctic” 11:45 am - 1:00 pm EDT, Harvard University (Cambridge, MA)

Opportunities

NSF Seeking Leader for Math and Physical Sciences Directorate

The National Science Foundation is accepting nominations of candidates to lead its Mathematical and Physical Sciences Directorate, which funds more than $1.5 billion in research annually across the fields of astronomy, chemistry, physics, math, and materials science. The new director will succeed Anne Kinney, who has served in the role since 2018. Nominations are due April 30.

Reviewers Sought for IPCC Report

The State Department is seeking experts to review drafts of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s assessment of the physical science basis of climate change and its associated summary for policymakers. Comments are due April 2.

National Academies Hiring Program Officers

The National Academies is seeking program officers for its Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate , Space Studies Board , and Committee on International Security and Arms Control . The officers will conduct background research and assist in the production of consensus study reports. Applicants must have at least three years of relevant professional 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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