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The Week of March 8, 2021

What’s Ahead

Jason Matheny speaks at a 2019 conference of the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence.

Jason Matheny speaks at a 2019 conference of the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence.

(Image credit – NSCAI)

OSTP Offering Glimpse Into Biden-Era Research Security Policy

On Thursday, officials from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy will provide an update on the Biden administration’s views on research security policy at the second meeting of the National Science, Technology, and Security Roundtable, a congressionally chartered advisory group. Jason Matheny, who has just taken on a high-level position at OSTP, will discuss the Biden administration’s outlook on science and technology issues involving China. Matheny was most recently the founding director of Georgetown University’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology and a member of the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence, which released its final report last week. He was previously director of the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity. In addition, OSTP staff member Aaron Miles will discuss the memorandum issued by President Trump on Jan. 14 that establishes requirements for research security policies across federal agencies and the accompanying set of “recommended practices” for non-federal institutions. The Biden administration has not indicated if it plans to modify the documents, which were motivated in part by statutory requirements directing OSTP to develop research security guidance and common disclosure requirements for federal grantees.

Academies Events Exploring International Science Issues

The National Academies is kicking off a workshop on Friday on international collaboration in scientific research, focusing on the role of the Global Research Council, a collaborative organization comprising heads of science funding agencies from around the world. Leaders from government science agencies in China, Japan, Russia, the UK, Ireland, South Africa, and Brazil will discuss perspectives on basic research, and a corresponding panel on the U.S. perspective will feature leaders from the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Air Force, and the Kavli Foundation. Former State Department science and technology advisers Bill Colglazier and Vaughan Turekian are convening the workshop, which continues next week. Separately, on Thursday a National Academies roundtable is discussing the state of U.S. leadership in international standards-setting with representatives of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Apple, and telecommunications company Omnispace.

China Targets At Least 7% Annual Growth in R&D Spending

China’s latest five year plan, set for approval this week, establishes a target of increasing government funding for R&D by at least 7% annually, including a 10.6% boost for basic research this year. Priority R&D areas identified in the plan include artificial intelligence, quantum information science, microelectronics, brain sciences, biotechnology, advanced medicine, and exploration of space, the deep sea, and polar regions. According to reports on a draft of the plan released last week, it also indicates China intends to expand its national lab system and work to attract more scientists from other countries. The National Science Foundation’s latest Science and Engineering Indicators report estimates that China’s government and non-government R&D spending amounted to $496 billion in 2017, equal to about 2.2% of its gross domestic product, while the U.S. spent $549 billion, or 2.8% of GDP. According to NSF, as of 2017 China had already passed the U.S. in total spending on “experimental development” but was still spending less overall on basic and applied research.

Report to Detail Pandemic Impacts on Women in STEM

The National Academies is hosting a webinar on Tuesday to mark the release of its study on how the careers of women in STEM fields have been affected by the pandemic. The study assesses how the shift to remote work may have exacerbated existing challenges faced by women in academia and it discusses potential positive outcomes of the disruptions to the research system. The report will be presented by study committee chair Eve Higginbotham, the inaugural vice dean for inclusion and diversity at the University of Pennsylvania’s medical school, and committee members Reshma Jagsi, a radiation oncology professor at the University of Michigan, and Erick Jones, the associate dean for graduate studies in engineering at the University of Texas at Arlington. The study’s sponsors include the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, and National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Congressional Climate Hearings Ramp Up

Congress is continuing its wide-ranging examination of climate change impacts across sectors with a series of hearings this week that will inform its legislative work:

  • On Wednesday, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is examining the impact of climate change on the electricity sector and ways to increase resiliency and economic growth. The next day, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is discussing the “reliability, resiliency, and affordability of electric service in the United States amid the changing energy mix and extreme weather events.” The House Science Committee also plans to consider the topic next Thursday, focusing on the recent blackouts in Texas triggered by severe winter weather.
  • Also on Wednesday, the Senate Indian Affairs Committee is holding a roundtable on the impact climate change has on Indigenous communities and the House Energy and Commerce Committee is discussing the role of the Environmental Protection Agency in addressing climate change.
  • On Thursday, the Senate Agriculture Committee is examining how the agricultural sector can address climate change through land use practices.
  • On Friday, the House Science Committee is reviewing the state of science on climate change impacts, featuring experts in Earth systems research.

In Case You Missed It

Accompanied by Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), Gina Raimondo was sworn in as secretary of commerce on March 3 by Vice President Kamala Harris.

Accompanied by Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), Gina Raimondo was sworn in as secretary of commerce on March 3 by Vice President Kamala Harris.

(Image credit – Department of Commerce)

Raimondo Confirmed as Commerce Secretary

The Senate voted 84 to 15 last week to confirm Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) as commerce secretary. In her new role, Raimondo will oversee the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and National Institute of Standards and Technology, and is responsible for matters such as implementing key provisions of the CHIPS for America Act and finalizing export controls aimed at protecting certain sensitive classes of technology from exploitation by rival nations. Meanwhile, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee is convening a hearing on Wednesday to consider the nomination of Don Graves as deputy commerce secretary and is preparing to consider the nomination of Eric Lander as director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Consult FYI’s Federal Science Leadership Tracker to stay up to date on the appointment process for key science agency positions.

NIH Director Pledges to Confront ‘Structural Racism’ in Science

Last week, National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins issued an apology to individuals in the biomedical research enterprise who have “endured disadvantages due to structural racism” and said that NIH is committed to “identifying and dismantling any policies and practices that may harm our workforce and our science.” Collins noted NIH has begun to identify potential actions through an initiative called UNITE , composed of five internal working groups focused on different aspects of the issue, and said that the agency plans to create a grant program that will spend $60 million over five years on health equity research, with a portion of the funds targeted to minority-serving institutions. The initiatives were first announced at a Feb. 26 advisory committee meeting , during which the panel released a report on “racism in science” that it developed in the wake of last summer’s nationwide protests against police brutality. NIH is collecting further input on how it can improve its diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts through April 9.

Technology Emphasized in Interim National Security Strategy

President Biden issued interim guidance on his national security priorities last week as his administration prepares a full replacement to President Trump’s national security strategy . Biden states he plans to “double down on science and technology investments” and identifies various priority areas, including “foundational computing technologies,” domestic manufacturing, 5G telecommunications, clean energy, and biotechnology. He adds that his administration will “join with like-minded democracies to develop and defend trusted critical supply chains and technology infrastructure” and will work to “forge new agreements on emerging technologies, space, cyber space, health and biological threats, climate and the environment, and human rights.” Describing China and Russia as key rivals, he states the administration will engage them in dialogues on “emerging military technological developments that implicate strategic stability.” On China specifically, he states the administration will confront “coercive economic practices that hurt American workers, undercut our advanced and emerging technologies, and seek to erode our strategic advantage and national competitiveness,” while also seeking to cooperate on shared challenges such as climate change, global health security, arms control, and nonproliferation.

Senators Seek to Build International R&D Alliances

A bipartisan group of senators led by the chairs of the Intelligence and Foreign Relations Committees introduced legislation last week that proposes to create an “International Technology Partnership Office” at the State Department that would coordinate research and technology governance initiatives with other countries. The bill also proposes that Congress allocate $5 billion for an associated partnership fund that would support joint research projects and “technology investments in third-country markets.” To be eligible for participation, countries would have to demonstrate a “strong commitment to democratic values” and have “an economy with advanced technology sectors.” Key technologies identified in the bill include artificial intelligence, 5G telecommunications, semiconductor chip manufacturing, biotechnology, quantum computing, surveillance equipment, and fiber optic cables. The bill is also sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who instructed Senate committees last month to prepare proposals for inclusion in a major competitiveness policy bill he intends to advance this spring

Hirono Named Chair of Senate Energy Subcommittee

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee finalized its roster last week and named Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) as chair of the Energy Subcommittee, which handles policy for the Department of Energy, replacing Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) as its top Democrat. In addition, Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) is replacing Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) as the top Republican on the subcommittee. Hirono is an advocate for renewable energy and energy storage, balancing the focus that Committee Chair Joe Manchin (D-WV) puts on emissions reduction technology in view of his state’s stake in fossil fuels. She also has a significant interest in increasing diversity in the STEM workforce and has been the Senate sponsor of the STEM Opportunities Act , a bill championed by House Science Committee Chair Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) that would prescribe actions to improve equity in federally funded research. With the selection of Hirono and Hoeven, all the congressional positions in FYI’s Federal Science Leadership Tracker have now been filled.

Scientists Protest Prosecution of Harvard Chemist

A group of 41 scientists, including seven Nobel laureates, published an open letter last week criticizing the Justice Department’s prosecution of Harvard chemistry professor Charles Lieber, who was arrested in January 2020 as part of the department’s “China Initiative” for allegedly lying to federal investigators about his connections to a university in China. The scientists argue the department is unjustly criminalizing failures to disclose foreign appointments and sources of research funding and charge that some of its investigations “reflect a fundamental misunderstanding of modern science, in which open-source practices make discoveries available to all.” They also criticize Harvard for not supporting Lieber’s legal defense, in contrast to MIT’s support for nanoengineering professor Gang Chen, who was arrested on Jan. 14 for allegedly failing to disclose connections to Chinese institutions when applying for a federal grant. More than 200 MIT faculty have signed an open letter in defense of Chen. Lieber is pursuing legal action against Harvard for declining to fund his defense and last week his legal team ruled out the possibility of a plea deal.

Interior Department Revokes Trump-Era ‘Open Science’ Policy

Acting Secretary of the Interior Scott de la Vega revoked a policy last week that required the Department of the Interior to favor scientific research with publicly available data when it issues rules or enters contracts. Then-Interior Secretary David Bernhardt put the policy in place in 2018 on the grounds it would improve the quality and transparency of scientific information the department employs. However, the revocation order argues that the policy hindered the department from entering contracts for “cutting-edge research,” particularly where proprietary information was involved, and from “utilizing sensitive information (e.g., regarding sacred sites or rare and threatened species) to inform complex policy decisions.” The order also states that the policy had not undergone proper review by career government officials and the scientific community. The revocation was applauded by House Science Committee Chair Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and House Natural Committee Chair Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), who had also opposed a similar action that the Environmental Protection Agency announced in 2018 and implemented this January only for it to be overturned by a federal judge weeks later.

NSF Updates Congress on Aftermath of Arecibo Collapse

Responding to a query from congressional appropriators, the National Science Foundation released a report last week that describes its actions leading up to the collapse of the Arecibo radio telescope and its planned next steps. NSF states it expects engineering firms to complete forensic investigations of the cable failures that led to the collapse by December 2021 and estimates the site cleanup will cost between $30 million and $50 million across fiscal years 2021 and 2022. On whether it will seek funds for rebuilding a telescope on the site, NSF indicates it will consider research community priorities identified in forthcoming decadal surveys and a stakeholder workshop it is aiming to hold in April. A group of astronomers affiliated with Arecibo have already advanced a preliminary concept for a new telescope, which they estimate would cost about $450 million.

Events This Week

Monday, March 8

SPIE: Quantum West
(continues through Thursday)

National Academies: “Introduction to the Vaccine R&D Landscape”
(continues through Wednesday)

National Academies: “Workshop on Quantum Science Concepts in Enhancing Sensing and Imaging Technologies: Applications for Biology”
(continues through Wednesday)

DOE: “Strengthening America’s Manufacturing and Industrial Workforce”
2:00 - 2:45 pm

National Academies: “Leveraging the Future R&D Ecosystem for the Intelligence Community,” meeting seven
3:00 - 4:00 pm

New America: “Disruptive Innovation Where You Least Expect It”
3:00 - 4:00 pm

Colorado State University/APA Justice: “Scientific Espionage, Open Exchange, and American Competitiveness”
4:00 pm

Women in Government: “Empowering Young Women to Find Their Voices: Building the Next Generation of STEAM Leaders”
4:00 - 5:00 pm

Tuesday, March 9

Senate: “Examining Our COVID-19 Response: An Update from the Frontlines”
10:00 am, Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee (106 Dirksen Office Building)

Commerce Department: Regulations and Procedures Technical Advisory Committee meeting
10:00 am

NETL/EFI: “Predicting Future Regional and National Energy Workforce Needs”
10:00 - 11:30 am

House: Meeting to consider the Supporting Early-Career Researchers Act
10:00 am, Science Committee

National Academies: “The Impact of COVID-19 on the Careers of Women in Academic Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine,” report release
11:00 am - 12:30 pm

CSIS: “Road to COP26: Just Transitions and the Climate Agenda”
11:30 am - 12:45 pm

Heritage Foundation: “A First Look at Biden’s Energy and Climate Policies”
12:00 - 12:45 pm

National Academies: “Advances in the Chemistry of CO2 Capture”
12:00 - 1:30 pm

New America: “Agent Sonya: The Most Consequential Spy in the History of Technology?”
12:00 - 1:00 pm

Resources for the Future: “A Hydrogen Future? Exploring Pathways to Decarbonization”
1:00 - 2:15 pm

National Academies: “Increasing Diversity and Inclusion in the Leadership of Competed Space Missions,” meeting two
4:00 - 6:00 pm

Wednesday, March 10

NSF: Mathematical and Physical Sciences Advisory Committee meeting
(continues Thursday)

Senate: “Building Back Better: Addressing Climate Change in the Electricity Sector and Fostering Economic Growth”
10:00 am, Environment and Public Works Committee (G50 Dirksen Office Building)

Senate: Hearing to consider the nomination of Don Graves to be deputy secretary of Commerce
10:00 am, Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee (253 Russell Office Building)

Stimson Center: “Space Sweepers: The Advent of Debris Removal Business and Need for Space Norms”
10:00 - 11:00 am

House: “The Path Forward: Restoring the Vital Mission of EPA”
10:30 am, Energy and Commerce Committee

National Academies: “Planetary Science Decadal Survey: Panel on Venus,” meeting 12
11:00 am - 1:00 pm

National Academies: “Planetary Science Decadal Survey: Panel on Small Solar System Bodies” meeting eight
11:00 am - 5:00 pm

NSF: Business and Operations Advisory Committee meeting
11:00 am - 5:30 pm

Wilson Center: “When the Chips are Down: Navigating Strengths and Strategic Vulnerabilities in the Semiconductor Industry”
12:30 - 3:00 pm

ANS: “Spotlight on National Labs: Brookhaven National Laboratory”
1:00 - 2:30 pm

Thursday, March 11

Senate: Business meeting to advance the nomination of David Turk to be deputy secretary of energy
10:00 am, Energy and Natural Resources Committee (106 Dirksen Office Building)

Senate: “The Reliability, Resiliency, and Affordability of Electric Service”
10:00 am, Energy and Natural Resources Committee (106 Dirksen Office Building)

Senate: “Farmers and Foresters: Opportunities to Lead in Tackling Climate Change”
10:15 am, Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee (628 Dirksen Office Building)

House: “Clearing the Air: Science-Based Strategies to Protect Workers from COVID-19 Infections”
10:45 am, Education and Labor Committee

National Academies: “Maintaining U.S. Leadership in International Standards Bodies”
11:00 am - 12:30 pm

Atlantic Council: “The GeoTech Decade ahead”
12:00 pm

Wilson Center: “Climate Security Risks in the Arctic”
12:30 - 2:00 pm

Aerospace Corporation: “Constructive Visioning for the Space Enterprise”
1:00 - 2:00 pm

SupChina: “The China Initiative: The Targeting of Chinese Scientists and the Subsequent Brain Drain”
1:00 - 2:00 pm

National Academies: “National Science, Technology, and Security Roundtable,” meeting two
1:00 - 3:00 pm

Senate: “Native Communities and the Climate Crisis”
2:30 pm, Indian Affairs Committee (628 Dirksen Office Building)

Friday, March 12

National Academies: “Workshop on Science Diplomacy to Promote and Strengthen Basic Research and International Cooperation”
(continues March 15 and 16)

Stimson Center: “10 Years After Operation Tomodachi: Reflection and Looking Ahead”
8:00 - 9:00 am

TFAI: “Innovation in Crisis: Emerging from a Pandemic to Restore American Competitiveness”
10:00 - 11:00 am

CSIS: “Launching the Renewing American Innovation Project: A Conversation with Andrei Iancu and Walt Copan”
11:00 - 12:00 pm

House: “Final Recommendations of the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence”
11:00 am, Armed Services Committee (2118 Rayburn Office Building)

House: “The Science Behind the Impacts of the Climate Crisis”
11:00 am, Science Committee

National Academies: “Planetary Science Decadal Survey: Panel on Mercury and the Moon,” meeting 12
12:00 - 6:00 pm

National Academies: “Planetary Science Decadal Survey: Panel on Ocean Worlds and Dwarf Planets,” meeting 19
1:00 - 2:30 pm

National Academies: “Increasing Diversity and Inclusion in the Leadership of Competed Space Missions,” meeting three 2:00 - 4:00 pm

Monday, March 15

American Physical Society: March meeting
(continues through Friday)

LSPC: Lunar and Planetary Science Conference
(continues through Friday)

NASA: NASA Astrophysics Advisory Committee meeting
(continues through Wednesday)

NOAA: Science Advisory Board meeting
(continues on Wednesday)

National Academies: “Review of Effectiveness and Efficiency of Defense Environmental Cleanup Activities of DOE’s Office of Environmental Management”
(continues Tuesday)

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

Opportunities

CRS Seeking to Fill Six S&T Analyst Roles

The Congressional Research Service is hiring to fill six openings for positions focused on science, technology, and environmental policy. Among them, CRS is seeking a S&T policy analyst focused on emerging technologies, an energy policy analyst focused on climate policy, an environmental policy analyst focused on climate science, and a natural resources policy analyst focused on resilience and risk reduction. Application due dates vary by position.

ITIF Hiring Clean Energy Innovation Analyst

The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation is hiring a senior policy analyst to work on clean energy innovation policy. Duties will include analyzing a “wide range of policies that have the potential to influence the national and global transition to a low-carbon energy system, such as research, development, and demonstration funding, taxation, and regulation.” Applicants should have an advanced degree in public policy, energy technology, or a related field with three or more years of experience.

AAAS Hiring Expert on Science and the Law

The American Association for the Advancement of Science is hiring a senior program associate in its Scientific Responsibility, Human Rights, and Law Program. The incumbent will help to expand judicial education offerings and develop projects that “address the legal and regulatory issues arising in the context of emerging areas of scientific research and technological development.” Applicants should have a law degree or doctorate with three or more years of relevant experience. Applications are due March 23.

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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