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The Week of May 22, 2023

What’s Ahead

President Biden meets with congressional leaders

President Biden meets with congressional leaders to discuss legislation to raise the federal debt limit. (Image credit – The White House)

Science Cuts on the Table in Debt Limit Negotiations

With the U.S. due to start defaulting on its debt in early June, negotiations are intensifying this week over legislation that would raise the federal debt limit in exchange for constraining federal spending. According to reporting by Politico, Biden administration officials have proposed providing flat funding for domestic programs, including scientific research, noting that would represent a cut after accounting for inflation. However, leaders of the Republican-controlled House are insisting on steeper cuts to domestic programs to offset spending increases on defense programs. As an opening move in the debt limit negotiations, the House passed legislation in April that would cut the current annual discretionary budget by $131 billion and limit it to 1% annual increases for the following nine years. House Republicans have not yet indicated what specific science programs they would cut under such constraints. Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee began advancing security-focused spending bills last week but have yet to reveal what spending limits the remaining bills will be subject to. Meanwhile, leaders of the Senate Appropriations Committee have committed to begin advancing bipartisan spending bills in June. The absence of an overall agreement on spending levels for the fiscal year and the looming debt limit expiration have significantly delayed the appropriations process as well as work on Congress’ annual defense policy bill .

House Preparing Spectrum Allocation Legislation

On Tuesday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee is holding a hearing with National Telecommunications and Information Administration head Alan Davidson to discuss an array of proposals the committee is developing to update policy for the agency. Several of these proposals address NTIA’s representation of federal agencies in radio spectrum allocation decision-making, which is carried out by the Federal Communications Commission. Agency access to spectrum has become a contentious issue as telecommunications technologies have encroached on bandwidths used for satellite weather observations and the Global Positioning System, among other applications. A related issue currently occupying Congress is the recent lapse of the FCC’s authority to auction spectrum bands after lawmakers failed to pass a long-term extension.

Nobel Laureates Brainstorm Ways to Boost Trust in Science

The National Academies is hosting the 2023 Nobel Prize Summit starting Wednesday. Titled “Truth, Trust, and Hope,” the three-day event will bring together Nobel Prize winners and other experts to discuss misinformation and strategies for building trust in science. The program includes a “deliberative polling exercise” that will explore the possibility of engaging large groups of citizens to “democratically vet policy proposals concerning the information landscape.”

Editor’s note: Next month, FYI is launching a new website with a fresh look and new features, including major upgrades to our Federal Science Budget Tracker and Bill Tracker. More details to come.

In Case You Missed It

Blue Moon lunar lander

An illustration of Blue Origin’s Blue Moon lunar lander. (Image credit – Blue Origin)

NASA Picks Blue Origin to Provide Crewed Lunar Lander

On May 19, NASA announced it has selected the company Blue Origin to build a crewed lunar lander called Blue Moon for the agency to first use on its Artemis V mission, tentatively targeted for 2029. The contract requires the agency to pay $3.4 billion, while Blue Origin, which is owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, expects its share of the project to cost “well north of that,” according to its vice president for lunar transportation. NASA is already paying the company SpaceX $2.89 billion to provide a crewed lunar lander for the Artemis III mission and an additional $1.15 billion for the Artemis IV lander. Both the SpaceX and Blue Origin contracts allow the companies to retain ownership of their landers while also requiring them to bear the burden of any cost overruns. NASA had originally planned to issue more than one lander contract for the Artemis campaign, but in 2021 it selected only SpaceX’s proposal after Congress provided a smaller appropriation than requested. Lawmakers then urged NASA to make a second selection, citing the need for redundancy and competition. The contracts will need continuing support through annual appropriations, but, notably, Blue Origin is headquartered near Seattle, which is represented in the Senate by the chamber’s lead appropriator, Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA). In a statement responding to the company’s selection, she remarked, “This is great news for Washington state and our growing aerospace industry. … As chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I will do everything I can to support investments in innovation right here in Washington state.”

Manchin Puts Nomination for Renewable Energy Office on Ice

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chair Joe Manchin (D-WV) has blocked action on the nomination of Jeff Marootian to lead the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) within the Department of Energy. The nomination had been scheduled for a vote at a committee meeting last week, but Manchin ultimately removed it from the agenda. He explained in a statement that he was “not comfortable moving forward with Mr. Marootian at this time” because EERE has proposed new regulations on gas stoves. “While I appreciate that these rules would only apply to new stoves, my view is that it’s part of a broader, administration-wide effort to eliminate fossil fuels,” he remarked. Due to various energy policy disagreements with the Biden administration, Manchin has previously blocked certain other nominations his committee controls and recently withheld his support for all Environmental Protection Agency nominations, which are controlled by another committee. The Energy Committee did advance the nomination of David Crane to be DOE under secretary for infrastructure on a vote of 13 to 6 and it will now proceed to a final vote by the whole Senate.

DOE Names New Head for Fusion Science Program

The Department of Energy announced last week that it has selected nuclear engineer Jean Paul Allain to lead the Fusion Energy Sciences program within its Office of Science. An expert in plasma-material interactions and fusion technology, Allain currently leads the nuclear engineering department at Penn State University, where he has focused on expanding experimental facilities, increasing recruitment of faculty and staff, and establishing strategic initiatives with external partners. Allain is a member of the FES Advisory Committee and previously held faculty positions at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Purdue University. Allain’s start date has not yet been announced. The previous FES head Jim Van Dam retired in September and the program is currently led on an acting basis by John Mandrekas, director of its research division.

STEM Immigration Advocates Press Case to House China Committee

A bipartisan group of former high-ranking government officials who served in national security and science roles is making a renewed push to convince Congress to expand visa pathways for STEM degree holders. Last week they petitioned the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party to hold a hearing on how current immigration policies could be improved in light of the increasing competition between the U.S. and China, and to then recommend policy changes to committees that have the power to advance legislation. Many of the same former officials unsuccessfully pressed Congress last year to expand STEM visa pathways through the CHIPS and Science Act. Democrats, who controlled the House in the previous Congress, included such provisions in their version of the legislation but the final version dropped them due to objections from Senate Republicans. A lead sponsor of the provisions was Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), who is now the top Democrat on the China committee. Krishnamoorthi again made the case for expanding STEM immigration at a hearing the committee held last week, at which former Google CEO Eric Schmidt also outlined his own proposal for creating special visa pathways for STEM graduates from “partner countries” that could later be expanded to additional countries, including China. Committee Chair Mike Gallagher (R-WI) did not discuss the subject at the hearing.

G7 and Quad Countries Deepen Technology Coordination

Coordination of research and technology initiatives was high on the agenda at last week’s summit of the Group of Seven, comprising the United States, Canada, Japan, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Italy. In a joint statement released at the conclusion of their meeting in Hiroshima, Japan, the countries summarized commitments to better protect dual-use technologies from exploitation, enhance nuclear non-proliferation , and accelerate progress toward achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 through a new G7 Clean Energy Economy Action Plan , among many other initiatives. The countries’ science ministers also met just prior to the summit and issued their own joint statement outlining shared priorities in areas such as open access, research security, international talent mobility, and sustainable use of outer space. For instance, the ministers declared support for “immediate open and public access to government-funded scholarly publications and scientific data” and are set to release a white paper on “best practices for secure and open research.” They also warned of growing problems from orbital debris and emphasized the need to mitigate the effects of new satellite constellations on Earth-bound astronomy .

Leaders of the Quad countries, comprising Australia, Japan, India, and the United States, also met during the G7 summit. Among their announcements , the group issued joint principles on standards development for critical and emerging technologies and launched the Quad Investors Network , which will funnel public and private investment from the four nations into “critical technologies and supply chain resilience to develop innovative solutions to the greatest economic and security challenges in the Indo-Pacific region.” They also highlighted the inaugural cohort of the Quad Fellowship, which will annually support 100 students in pursuing STEM graduate studies in the U.S.

Barrasso Presses DOE to Restrict Use of AI Tools

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member John Barrasso (R-WY) sent a letter to the secretaries of energy and the interior last week asking them to immediately block access to third-party artificial intelligence tools such as ChatGPT out of concern that prompts given to them could include sensitive information. Barrasso noted that the Environmental Protection Agency has already blocked such access on its computers, as have various private companies , and he stated the Energy Department is “a prime target for adversaries that wish to undermine our national security and technological capabilities.” The letter also asks the agencies to conduct an internal review of the use of AI tools by their personnel and publish guidance on such tools by June 30. Barrasso’s letter comes as AI regulation and security have become a hot topic on Capitol Hill. Sam Altman, CEO of the company that created ChatGPT, appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, where he called on legislators to create an agency that would issue licenses and safety regulations for AI language models. Altman defended the value of the technology and its potential to reshape the economy, but also warned of potentially severe consequences if it is allowed to proliferate uncontrolled.

New DOJ Technology Protection Team Makes First Charges

Last week, the Justice Department announced five cases it is prosecuting through the “Disruptive Technology Strike Force” it formed with the Commerce Department in February to prioritize cases involving illegal acquisition of sensitive technology by “nation-state adversaries.” Two of the cases focus on technology exports to Russia, two on trade-secret theft benefiting China, and one on weapons programs in Iran. For instance, one of the China-focused cases involves an employee of a U.S. company who allegedly stole source code for 3D modeling technology he used to support his own company and who sought to participate in the Thousand Talents program sponsored by the Chinese government. The cases were announced by the head of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, Matt Olsen, who sunsetted the “China Initiative” label the department had used to prioritize cases involving China and replaced it with a broader framing involving additional countries. Many of the cases pursued under the China Initiative involved academic researchers, whereas none of the five cases from the strike force involve academics.

Events This Week

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

Monday, May 22

National Academies: “Equitable and Effective Teaching in Undergraduate STEM Education: A Framework for Institutions, Educators and Disciplines,” meeting two
(continues Tuesday)

National Academies: “Building Defense Research Capacity at HBCUs, TCUs, HSIs and ANNHSIs: Town Hall on Facilitating True Partnerships”
(continues Tuesday)

National Academies: National Science, Technology, and Security Roundtable, meeting nine
9:00 am - 2:15 pm

NIST: Safety Commission meeting
8:30 am - 5:00 pm

Hudson Institute: “Running Out of Space: The Future of Space Traffic Management”
10:00 - 11:00 am

NNI: “Overview of U.S. Government Activities Addressing Micro- and Nanoplastics Issues”
10:30 am - 12:00 pm

National Academies: “GeoAI and the Future of Mapping Implications for 21st-Century Digital Resilience”
11:00 am - 4:30 pm

National Academies: “The Current Status and Future Direction of High Magnetic Field Science in the United States, Phase II,” meeting three
12:00 - 1:00 pm

NASA: Webinar on Moon to Mars architecture
2:00 - 3:00 pm

Tuesday, May 23

NDIA: 23rd Annual Science and Engineering Technology Conference
(continues through Thursday)

National Academies: “Assessment of the NIST Physical Measurement Laboratory”
(continues through Thursday)

National Academies: Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate meeting
(continues Wednesday)

National Academies: “Independent Study on Potential Environmental Effects of Nuclear War,” meeting two
(continues Wednesday)

NSF: Microelectronics Education Virtual Workshop
(continues Wednesday)

Resources for the Future: “Workshop on Tracking and Evaluation of RD&D Programs at DOE”
8:30 am - 12:00 pm

House: “Legislative Hearing on Oversight and Reauthorization of the NTIA”
10:00, Energy and Commerce Committee

House: NOAA budget request hearing
10:15 am, Natural Resources Committee

House: “Growing the Domestic Energy Sector Supply Chain and Manufacturing Base: Are Federal Efforts Working?”
10:30, Energy and Commerce Committee

National Academies: “Standards Development for Critical and Emerging Technologies”
1:00 - 2:00 pm

House: Legislative hearing on wildfire-related bills
2:00 pm, Natural Resources Committee

CSIS: “Financing U.S. Decarbonization: A Conversation with Jigar Shah”
3:00 - 3:30 pm

National Academies: “Pathways to Doctoral Degrees in Computing,” meeting eight
6:00 - 8:00 pm

Wednesday, May 24

Nobel Prize Summit: “Truth, Trust, and Hope”
(continues through Friday)

Federal Demonstration Partnership: May meeting
(continues through Friday)

National Academies: “Future Directions for Southern Ocean and Antarctic Nearshore and Coastal Research,” open session three
10:00 am - 1:00 pm

NSF: NSB-NSF Commission on Merit Review teleconference
12:00 - 1:00 pm

NSF: Webinar on the Development of the U.S. Research Security and Integrity Information Sharing Analysis Organization
1:00 - 3:00 pm

House: “Modernizing U.S. Arms Exports and a Stronger AUKUS”
2:00 pm, Foreign Affairs Committee

RAND: “Climate and Readiness”
3:00 - 4:00 pm

Thursday, May 25

NIST: Manufacturing USA 2023 Network Meeting
9:00 am - 5:25 pm

National Academies: “Climate Conversations: Nuclear Energy”
3:00 - 4:15 pm

CSET: “How Important is Compute to the Future of AI?”
4:00 - 5:00 pm

Friday, May 26

No events start today.

Opportunities

NASA Seeks Input on Open Access Policy

NASA is seeking public input on its new Public Access Plan, which lays out policies and procedures for increasing access to scholarly publications, scientific data, and software. The agency updated the plan in response to a 2022 White House policy that requires agencies to provide public access to certain scientific papers and data immediately upon publication. Comments are due Aug. 17.

AAAS Solicits Science and Diplomacy Prize Nominations

The American Association for the Advancement of Science is seeking nominations for the 2024 David and Betty Hamburg Award for Science Diplomacy, which recognizes members of the scientific or foreign policy community who have made outstanding contributions to promoting science cooperation between societies. Nominations are due June 30.

Research Partnership Roundtable Seeks Program Officer

The National Academies is hiring a senior program officer for the Government-University-Industry Research Roundtable, which aims to facilitate dialogue across sectors on critical science and technology issues. Applicants should have a master’s degree and at least six years of related experience, preferably including experience within a federal agency involved in science policy, research, or national security.

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

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

Around the Web

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

White House

GAO: Priority open recommendations: Office of Science and Technology Policy (report)

OSTP: OSTP Director Prabhakar represents US at G7 Science and Technology Ministerial meeting

OSTP: Readout of US-Japan Joint High Level Committee Meeting

OSTP: Readout of U.S.-ROK Joint Committee Meeting

White House: Vice President Kamala Harris to visit semiconductor company Applied Materials

Weather Geeks: A conversation about climate change with Vice President Kamala Harris (audio interview)

Congress

FAS: CHIPS and Science funding update: FY23 omnibus, FY24 budget both short by billions

Brookings: The bold vision of the CHIPS and Science Act isn’t getting the funding it needs (perspective by Matt Hourihan, et al.)

AAAS: Research on R&D funding: The impacts of budget cuts

Politico: On AI, the government gets ready to throw its weight around

Axios: Bipartisan Senate group looks to tackle AI legislation

Washington Post: Rep. Jay Obernolte (R-CA) stands out for his AI expertise. Can he help Congress?

The Hill: Digital data guardrails are the first step in regulating AI (perspective by Rep. Jay Obernolte (R-CA))

New York Times: Manchin clashes with Biden administration over climate law

Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY): Barrasso bills safeguard taxpayer money, protect American innovation against Communist China

SpacePolicyOnline: Senate Republicans claim Biden administration politicizing NASA with diversity, climate initiatives

The Hill: It’s time for Congress to help the Congressional Research Service (perspective by Kevin Kosar)

Science, Society, and the Economy

Research Policy: The geography of breakthrough invention in the US over the 20th century (paper by Christopher Esposito)

Brookings: What state and local leaders need to know about the federal government’s Regional Tech Hubs competition (perspective by Mark Muro, et al.)

Science: Don’t let the Supreme Court disrupt science (perspective by Adam Falk and Lorelle Espinosa)

E&E News: How Supreme Court gutting Chevron doctrine could haunt Republicans

Chronicle of Higher Education: A controversial blog at the University of Iowa shuts down. Are lawmakers to blame?

New York Times: The naming of the James Webb telescope kindled an unexpected firestorm in the agency and across the wider scientific community (audio)

Simons Foundation: Former Outreach, Education, and Engagement division is now renamed Science, Society, and Culture

Nature: Can giant surveys of scientists fight misinformation on COVID, climate change, and more?

Xinhua: Chinese vice-premier stresses science popularization

Education and Workforce

Axios: Group of experts pushes Congress for more high-skilled immigrants to compete with China

Foreign Affairs: To compete with China on tech, America needs to fix its immigration system (perspective by Eric Schmidt)

Physics Today: Physics graduate students join their peers in unionization efforts

Nature: How geoscientists are making their field more welcoming

APS News: It’s time to rethink alcohol at work events (perspective by Nathalie Vriend)

NIH: Learn more about UNITE’s progress towards ensuring equity and opportunity in biomedical research

Science Advances: Pathways for diversifying and enhancing science advocacy (perspective by Fernando Tormos-Aponte, et al.)

ProPublica: The newest college admissions ploy: Paying to make your teen a ‘peer-reviewed’ author

Research Management

NSF: NSF selects Susan Marqusee to head the Biological Sciences Directorate

AGU: AGU CEO stepping down after three years of service

NIH: Update on simplifying review criteria: Analysis of comments from the RFI

APS: American Physical Society signs Declaration on Research Assessment

Times Higher Education: As anger mounts over cost of open access deals, moves to finance diamond journals and expand state-run digital platforms in the EU have divided opinion

The Guardian: Is it the beginning of the end for scientific publishing? (audio)

ScienceInsider: After outcry, disgraced sexual harasser removed from astronomy manuscript

Ars Technica: Replication of high-temperature superconductor comes up empty

Nature: Audit AI search tools now, before they skew research (perspective by Michael Gusenbauer)

Emerging Technology Observatory: Introducing our Research Almanac

Labs and Facilities

Fermilab: Accessing Fermilab’s Batavia site: A message from Director Lia Merminga

Fermilab: Stefano Miscetti elected as Mu2e co-spokesperson

Science: Damage delays restart of Italy’s giant gravitational wave detector

CERN Courier: CERN shares beampipe know-how for gravitational-wave observatories

HPCwire: NERSC and the HPC community bid farewell to Cori supercomputer

Computing and Communications

New York Times: US semiconductor boom faces a worker shortage

UK Government: National semiconductor strategy

Research Professional: EU poised to give green light to Chips Act

AP: China tells tech manufacturers to stop using Micron chips, stepping up feud with US

Financial Times: Global chipmakers to expand in Japan as tech decoupling accelerates

Wall Street Journal: IBM, Google give $150 million for US-Japan quantum-computing push as China looms

Defense One: Chinese breakthroughs bring quantum tools closer to practicality

Physics World: Australia sets out AU$1 billion national quantum strategy

Nature: For chemists, the AI revolution has yet to happen

Caltech: New Caltech center sheds light on the future of generative AI, innovation, and regulation

Nature: Create an IPCC-like body to harness benefits and combat harms of digital tech (perspective by Joseph Bak-Coleman, et al.)

CSET: Spotlight on Beijing Institute for General AI (report)

Space

NASA: NASA completes heart of Roman Space Telescope’s primary instrument

NBC News: To win the race to Mars, NASA is prepared to go nuclear

South China Morning Post: China launches Macau Science 1 satellites to monitor Earth’s magnetic field

South China Morning Post: China and the US are reaching for same region of the Moon. Could they work together?

Jerusalem Post: Israeli Beresheet 2 Moon mission in jeopardy after losing biggest donors

CBO: Large constellations of low-altitude satellites: A primer (report)

IAU: IAU Centre for the Protection of the Dark and Quiet Sky from Satellite Constellation Interference welcomes support from G7 science ministers

Scientific American: Elon Musk’s Starship won’t save astronomy from satellites cluttering the sky (perspective by Phil Plait)

Wall Street Journal: China seeks to counter Musk’s Starlink with own satellite network

SpaceNews: China launches new science probes, SAR sat and replacement Beidou satellite

Nature: China’s mysterious spaceplane returns to Earth — what we know

DARPA: Space manufacturing (audio)

Weather, Climate, and Environment

National Academies: Assessment of commercial space platforms for Earth science instruments (report)

NSF: NSF and NOAA partner to promote the creation of centers for modeling catastrophic impacts and risk assessment of climate change

DOE: New DOE portal connects researchers and students with climate science and training opportunities

Washington Post: Why Montana is emerging as a must-watch climate battleground

Nature: Three climate policies that the G7 must adopt — for itself and the wider world (perspective by Edward Barbier)

Energy

Fusion Industry Association: FIA releases supply chain report

Scientific American: What is the future of fusion energy?

Berkeley Lab: Fusion Q&A: The path forward

ITIF: Energizing innovation in fiscal year 2024 (report)

DOE: DOE invests $251 million to expand infrastructure to support CO2 transport and storage

E&E News: A crucial climate technology, carbon sequestration, provokes fears in oil country

Chartbook: Green hydrogen, the ‘gas of the future’? (perspective by Adam Tooze)

New York Times: Can the world make an electric car battery without China?

New York Times: The US needs minerals for electric cars. Everyone else wants them too

Naval Research Lab: NRL to launch first in-space laser power beaming experiment

Defense

New York Times: Start-ups bring Silicon Valley ethos to a lumbering military-industrial complex

Defense News: Pentagon seeks approval to fund NATO defense technology accelerator

Air Force Research Lab: AFWERX announces new mantra, mission, vision statements

NNSA: NNSA to award $100 million for Stewardship Science Academic Alliances Centers of Excellence

NNSA: NNSA leaders visit Austria and the UK

Foreign Policy: Aging weapons and domestic politics could lead to a return to explosive testing (perspective by Cheryl Rofer)

Nature: The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons just opened a brand-new lab

DOD: Pentagon Cyber official provides progress update on Zero Trust Strategy Roadmap

Biomedical

Institute for Progress: Building a better NIH (perspectives)

Nature: Four challenges facing Biden’s nominee for NIH director

Washington Post: Advice for the next NIH director: Drive with both feet (perspective by Thomas Insel)

ARPA–H: ARPA–H’s first program seeks innovative proposals to reverse osteoarthritis

Physics: It’s time to take quantum biology research seriously (perspective by Clarice Aiello)

NTI: New report recommends biosecurity safeguards for benchtop DNA synthesis devices

New York Times: Your DNA can now be pulled from thin air. Privacy experts are worried

International Affairs

Nature: China overtakes US on contribution to research in Nature Index

South China Morning Post: Beijing unveils ‘battle plan’ to supercharge innovation hub, lure foreign talent

Science|Business: Despite risks, EU continues to fund research with Chinese military-linked universities

Science|Business: The five EU research projects involving China’s military-linked universities

Noahpinon: Interview with China specialist Dan Wang on decoupling, export controls, industrial policy, state control, and lots more

Washington Post: Russian experts in hypersonic technology arrested for treason

Moscow Times: Russia has lost over 50,000 scientific researchers in the past five years, says senior member of Russian Academy of Sciences

Treasury Department: With over 300 sanctions, US targets Russia’s circumvention and evasion, military-industrial supply chains, and future energy revenues

Science|Business: Mixed reception for Vestager as temporary stand in as European research commissioner

Research Professional: Experts sought to advise on future of EU R&D programs

Nature: Thousands protest Mexico’s new science law

Research Professional: Australian Research Council to act on foreign interference

Nature: Australia is overhauling its research evaluation system — an opportunity for it, and other countries, to review what makes a system work for everyone (editorial)

Research Professional: ‘Science city’ research hubs announced in New Zealand budget

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