Freilich Earth Science Satellite Set for Launch
Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich is scheduled for launch this Saturday, the first of two Sentinel satellites that will ensure continuity of sea-level observations dating back to 1992. Named after former NASA Earth Science Division Director Michael Freilich, who died this year, the satellite will collect higher-resolution data than its predecessor, especially near coastlines, informing studies of sea-level rise and climate change. It will also collect data on atmospheric temperature and humidity that will be used in weather forecast models. Sentinel-6 is a joint project of NASA and the European Space Agency, with NASA’s contribution to the development and operations of the two satellites totaling $515 million. The second Sentinel-6 satellite is targeted for launch by November 2026. A pre-launch briefing on the mission’s science goals will be held on Friday.
Two Initiatives Weigh In on US–China Technological Competition
On Monday, a 28 member working group of scientists, China scholars, and former government officials is rolling out recommendations for the next administration on how to navigate competition with China in fundamental research, 5G telecommunications, artificial intelligence, and biotechnology. Stanford University physicist and former dean of research Arthur Bienenstock and University of California San Francisco vice chancellor Keith Yamamoto are among the group members who will speak. On Tuesday, the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab is hosting a separate panel discussion on “the feasibility and potential consequences of decoupling technology linkages between the United States and China,” led by former Navy Secretary Richard Danzig. The event will showcase a new paper series examining tensions in the arenas of bioeconomy, space, AI, semiconductors, telecommunications, university research, and STEM talent development.
Agencies Reflecting on Federal STEM Education Plan
On Tuesday, the Department of Education is holding an event to highlight progress on implementing the five year STEM education strategy the Trump administration released in December 2018. The strategy focuses on expanding work-based learning opportunities, increasing participation of underrepresented groups in STEM, and improving STEM literacy across the entire U.S. population, among other priorities. Speakers at this week’s event include representatives from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, NASA, the National Science Foundation, and the Department of Defense.
Intelligence Community Assessing Ties to R&D Ecosystem
A National Academies committee tasked with exploring the links between U.S. intelligence agencies and the broader U.S. R&D “ecosystem” is holding its first open meeting on Friday. Its study is to cover both how the intelligence community could “contribute to the maintenance of the R&D ecosystem” as well as benefit from R&D supported by other government agencies and the private sector. John Beieler, the director of science and technology for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which is sponsoring the study, will discuss further expectations for it at the meeting. The study committee is led by Southern Methodist University computer scientist Frederick Chang and University of California, Berkeley chemistry professor Michael Marletta.
Versatile Test Reactor in Spotlight at ANS Meeting
The American Nuclear Society’s winter meeting this week will feature nine sessions focused on the Versatile Test Reactor, a proposed irradiation facility that would provide a U.S.-based capability for testing fuels and materials intended for use in a number of advanced nuclear power reactor designs. The project is a priority for the Department of Energy, which recently approved a conceptual design for the facility and established a preliminary cost range estimate of $2.6 billion to $5.8 billion. Although it was mandated through legislation enacted two years ago, congressional appropriators have so far moved slowly on the project, rejecting DOE’s request to ramp up project funding from $65 million to $295 million this fiscal year. House appropriators have proposed level funding, while Senate appropriators propose a cut to $45 million and direct the department to consider reworking it as a public–private partnership. Other sessions at the meeting include a panel with congressional staffers on the post-election outlook for nuclear energy, a keynote by former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, and discussion of a forthcoming ANS position statement on the use of highly enriched uranium in space applications.
In Case You Missed It
Senate Stakes Out Science Funding Priorities
The Senate Appropriations Committee released its spending bills for fiscal year 2021 last week as it prepares to negotiate a final agreement with the House before current funding expires in early December. Like the House, the Senate is proposing mostly steady funding for science agencies, with a few notable exceptions, such as allocating billions of dollars in additional spending for the National Nuclear Security Administration and National Institutes of Health. However, its bills include no equivalent of the House’s proposals for billions of dollars in one-time “emergency” spending at NIH and the Department of Energy. Republicans have so far opposed incorporating emergency funding into the regular appropriations process. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has said he aims to pass appropriations and a separate, “highly targeted” relief bill by year’s end.
Controversial Appointees Take Charge of Interagency Climate Program
According to the Washington Post, two recent appointees to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, David Legates and Ryan Maue , have both been detailed to the U.S. Global Change Research Program to oversee planning for the next National Climate Assessment. Legates, who dismisses anthropogenic climate change as a cause for concern, is now leading the program after its previous executive director, climate scientist Michael Kuperberg, was reassigned to the Department of Energy, where he holds a permanent position. Kuperberg had been on detail to USGCRP since 2015. Maue, who disputes the severity of climatic warming trends, is NOAA’s chief scientist and his exact role at USGCRP has not been reported. Together, Legates and Maue will have an opportunity to shape the scope of the assessment as well as the roster of scientists who contribute to it. However, the incoming Biden administration will also be able to review and reverse their actions. To lead the assessment, the Trump administration recently appointed atmospheric scientist Betsy Weatherhead, who is regarded as a mainstream choice.
Biden Ramps Up Agency Transition Plans
President-elect Biden named members of his “agency review teams” last week who are tasked with laying groundwork for his administration to begin on Jan. 20, including at science agencies and offices.
- The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy team is led by Cristin Dorgelo, the office’s chief of staff during the Obama administration.
- The team lead for the Department of Energy is Arun Majumdar, who was the inaugural director of ARPA–E during the Obama administration and is rumored to be under consideration for energy secretary.
- The NASA team is led by National Air and Space Museum Director Ellen Stofan, who was the agency’s chief scientist during the Obama administration.
- The National Science Foundation is grouped within the “Arts and Humanities” team, which includes Kei Koizumi and Mahlet Mesfin, who are also on the OSTP team.
- The Department of Commerce team includes Kathryn Sullivan, who led the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration during the Obama administration.
Biden has also reportedly formed a special transition team focused on COVID-19 that is distinct from the 13 member COVID-19 advisory board he announced on Nov. 9. Currently, the ability of Biden’s transition effort to interact with current officials has been hampered by the refusal of the General Services Administration to officially designate Biden as the “apparent winner” of the election, in accord with President Trump’s refusal to concede. For example, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar has said the current coronavirus task force will not communicate with Biden’s team until GSA makes its determination.
Biden Advisers Offer Climate Action Blueprint
A group of climate experts, Obama administration alumni, and members of President-elect Biden’s transition team who comprise the “Climate 21 Project” released a policy blueprint last week aimed at enabling a “rapid-start, whole-of-government climate response” once Biden takes office in January. Assembled over the past year and a half, the report recommends the White House establish a National Climate Council, “co-equal” to the Domestic Policy Council and the National Economic Council, to steer the administration’s climate change efforts across agencies. It further recommends building up a climate team within each relevant federal agency and forming a Cabinet-level task force to develop a four year “Climate Ambition Agenda” within 90 days. The report also recommends budget priorities and identifies “key program opportunities” for 11 individual federal agencies and offices.
White House Releases Earth System Predictability R&D Roadmap
The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy’s fast-track committee on Earth system predictability released an R&D roadmap last week, aiming toward a national strategy that “connects stakeholder-driven predictability theory with observations, process research, modeling, and technology.” The roadmap identifies five “areas of opportunity” that include expanding theory development, leveraging advanced modeling techniques and collaborative modeling, focusing research on critical knowledge gaps, better utilizing available data, and improving data collection. As examples of emerging sources of new data, the report cites robotic floats and aerial vehicles, small-satellite constellations, mobile phones, and a “robust and growing ecosystem of commercial providers.” It also highlights new opportunities for optimizing observations to improve predictability by coupling understanding of scientific and social needs for data with understanding of observational capabilities, including through the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning methods.
Panel Flags Mars Sample Return Cost and Schedule Estimates
An independent review board affirmed last week that NASA is “ready” to undertake a mission to return samples from Mars in cooperation with the European Space Agency, while questioning NASA’s current cost and schedule estimates. Still in its early planning stages, the mission’s proposed architecture comprises a lander and rover that will retrieve samples obtained by the Perseverance rover and then launch them off the surface for transfer to an orbiter, which will transport them back to Earth. Emphasizing the mission’s complexity and risks, the board recommends that NASA plan for a launch in 2028 rather than the agency’s notional target of 2026. The board also estimates the mission will probably cost NASA between $3.8 billion and $4.4 billion, whereas the agency has been planning around a figure of about $3 billion. Noting NASA is already expecting to need $500 million more for the mission than initially supposed in fiscal years 2022 and 2023, the board agrees the funding is needed to prevent increases in overall costs later on. It also indicates there are no ways to significantly reduce the mission’s scope should it be deemed necessary to cut costs.
Events This Week
Monday, November 16
NSF: Grants Conference (continues through Thursday) AAAS: 2020 S&T Policy Leadership Seminar (continues through Thursday) American Nuclear Society: Winter Meeting (continues through Thursday) AIAA: ASCEND conference (continues through Wednesday) NASA: Venus Exploration and Analysis Group meeting (continues Tuesday) National Academies: “DOD Engagement with Its Manufacturing USA Institutes,” meeting two 10:00 am - 12 :00 pm UCSD: “Meeting the China Challenge: A New American Strategy for Technology Competition” 2:00 pm
Tuesday, November 17
fPET: Forum on Philosophy, Engineering, and Technology (continues through Thursday) ITIF: “Manufacturing Workforce Development and Strengthening Manufacturing Supply Chains: What Can States Do?” 10:00 am - 12:30 pm National Academies: “Planetary Science and Astrobiology Decadal Survey 2023-2032: Panel on Mars,” meeting two 10:30 am - 4:30 pm National Academies: “Geoheritage and Geoscience Education (K-12, Undergraduate, Informal)” 11:00 am - 12:00 pm Department of Education: “Federal STEM Education Strategic Plan: Two Years Later” 1:30 - 3:00 pm House: “Ocean Climate Action: Solutions to the Climate Crisis” 12:00 pm National Academies: “The Experiences of Postdoctoral Women During the COVID-19 Pandemic” 2:00 - 3:30 pm CSIS: “Space Situational Awareness and Space Traffic Management Coordination Among U.S. Agencies” 2:00 - 3:00 pm Senate: “Examining the American Manufacturing Industry’s Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic” 2:30 pm, Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee (253 Russell Office Building) NASA: Science Mission Directorate community town hall meeting 3:00 pm JHU Applied Physics Laboratory: “Measure Twice, Cut Once: Assessing Some China–US Technology Connections” 4:00 - 5:30 pm
Wednesday, November 18
Senate: Hearing to consider the Space Preservation And Conjunction Emergency (SPACE) Act and 12 other bills 9:30 am, Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee (G50 Dirksen Office Building) National Academies: “Planetary Science and Astrobiology Decadal Survey 2023-2032: Panel on Small Solar System Bodies,” meeting four 10:00 am - 6:00 pm ITIF: “Battery Manufacturing Powers Up: Transatlantic Catch-Up and Cooperation” 10:00 - 11:00 am CNAS: “Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT) on Investment and Innovation in the Intelligence Community” 11:00 am - 12:00 pm Foreign Policy: “Dialogue on Clean Energy Innovation” 11:00 am - 12:15 pm NSF: “Deep Dive Into Deep Tech Incubation” 12:00 - 1:00 pm Harvard Belfer Center: “Innovation for the Future of Intelligence: A Conversation with IARPA Director Stacey Dixon” 12:00 - 1:15 pm Industry Studies Association: “Industrial Policies and National Security” 12:00 - 2:00 pm IRIS: “Tracking the Career Outcomes of Research-Funded Employees with IRIS” 1:00 pm S&T Policy Academy: “Presidential Transitions and S&T Policy” 6:00 - 7:00 pm
Thursday, November 19
OFCM: Space Weather Enterprise Forum (continues Friday) World Resources Institute: “State of Climate Action: Assessing Progress Toward 2030 and 2050” 9:00 am - 10:00 am Commerce Department: Materials and Equipment Technical Advisory Committee meeting 10:00 am National Academies: “International Collaboration in the COVID-19 Era” 11:00 am - 12:30 pm Argonne National Lab: “Future of Energy Storage” 11:00 am - 1:30 pm USRA: “Lunar Surface Science Workshop: Foundational Data Products” 12:00 - 5:45 pm National Academies: Imagining the Future of Undergraduate STEM Education Symposium 1:00 - 4:30 pm AAAS: “Equity Flattens the Curve: The Importance of Diverse Populations in Combating COVID-19” 1:00 - 2:00 pm Belfer Center: “Building a 21st Century Government: Why the Biden Administration and the New Congress Should Hire Scientists and Technologists Into Policy Roles” 1:00 - 2:00 pm AIP: Launch event for AIP Foundation 6:00 pm
Friday, November 20
National Academies: Integrating Earth Systems Science and Engineering Workshop 11:00 am - 3:30 pm National Academies: “Planetary Science and Astrobiology Decadal Survey 2023-2032: Panel on Mercury and the Moon,” meeting three 12:00 - 6:00 pm National Academies: “Leveraging the Future R&D Ecosystem for the Intelligence Community,” meeting two 12:00 - 5:00 pm National Academies: Space Technology Industry-Government-University Roundtable meeting 12:00 - 3:45 pm National Academies: “Planetary Science and Astrobiology Decadal Survey 2023-2032: Panel on Ocean Worlds and Dwarf Planets,” meeting seven 1:00 - 4:00 pm National Academies: “Radioactive Sources: Applications and Alternative Technologies” 1:00 - 3:10 pm APS: “TEAM-UP Report: The TIME is Now — Charting a Course to 2030” 2:00 - 4:00 pm
Saturday, November 21
Monday, November 23
Commerce Department: Industry Day for Space Policy Directive-3: Open Architecture Data Repository (continues Tuesday) National Academies: “Planetary Science and Astrobiology Decadal Survey 2023-2032: Panel on Mars,” meeting three
Scientific Societies Seeking Congressional Policy Fellows
Several scientific societies are now accepting applications for their 2021-2022 Congressional Science Fellowships programs, including the American Institute of Physics , American Physical Society , The Optical Society , American Geophysical Union , American Geosciences Institute , Geological Society of America , and American Chemical Society , among others. Fellows will spend a year working for a congressional office or committee in Washington, D.C., gaining experience in the policymaking process. Application deadlines vary by society.
Biden Team Accepting Applications for Administration Jobs
The Biden-Harris transition team is accepting applications for political positions across the federal government, including at science agencies and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Applicants must identify their preferred policy areas from a list of 39 categories that includes science, technology, and climate change.
Society of Physics Students Hiring Science Policy Interns
The Society of Physics Students is seeking applications from undergraduate physics and astronomy students for its summer science policy internship program sponsored by AIP. The Mather Public Policy Internship aims to place two students in congressional offices and one at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. SPS also places a student within FYI to assist with the production of science policy newsletters. Applications are due Jan. 15, 2021, though the Mather positions may be filled before the deadline.
Know of an upcoming science policy event either inside or outside the Beltway? Email us at email@example.com .
Around the Web
News and views currently in circulation. Links do not imply endorsement.
- Biden has a bold agenda, but a divided Congress could constrain him (ScienceInsider)
- What can Biden do for science? Experts share their views (Science|Business)
- US president-elect Joe Biden must quickly restore science to government (Nature, editorial)
- Science after Trump: What we learned and how the Biden administration can build back (Union of Concerned Scientists, perspective by Gretchen Goldman)
- With Ron Klain, Biden picks a pandemic-response veteran for chief of staff (STAT)
- Biden plans to name a COVID-19 coordinator, says incoming chief of staff (USA Today)
- Joe Biden’s COVID plan is taking shape — and researchers approve (Nature)
- With inauguration 10 weeks away, Biden’s pandemic plans face agonizing wait (ScienceInsider)
- Fauci and Biden team steer clear of each other — for now (Politico)
- Biden adviser calls for overhaul of Trump’s ‘Warp Speed’ vaccine effort (Financial Times)
- Trump coronavirus adviser Scott Atlas urges Michigan to ‘rise up’ against new COVID-19 measures (CNN)
- White House task force physician ‘not concerned’ that Trump doesn’t attend COVID-19 meetings (The Hill)
- John Podesta explains how the Biden administration should address a warming planet (Bloomberg)
- Transitioning tech policy in an existential crisis (Brookings, perspective by Tom Wheeler)
- US Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator joint strategic plan (White House)
- Chairwoman questions removal of Dr. Kuperberg from National Climate Assessment panel (House Science Committee)
- Multi-society letter endorsing the Saving the Civil Service Act (American Meteorological Society)
Science, Society, and the Economy
- Building a 21st-century American economy (Harvard Belfer Center, report)
- In the tech race, what is the US doing to get ahead? (The Wire China)
- The chip wars of the 21st century (War on the Rocks, perspective by Steve Blank)
- Will government incentives make or break China’s semiconductor industry? (SupChina)
- Endless industrial policy (Issues in Science and Technology, perspective by John Alic)
- State technology and science index 2020 (Milken Institute, report)
- On vaccines, evolution, and more, rejection of science has followed a familiar pattern (Scientific American, perspective by Sean Carroll)
- An unfought geoscience battle in US prisons (Eos)
- Q&A: Jonathan Bagger, APS’s new CEO, on the role of physics in society (Physics Today)
Education and Workforce
- More international students were coming to US universities — then COVID hit (Nature)
- The pandemic may have changed international recruiting forever (Chronicle of Higher Education)
- University associations send letter expressing concern about DHS interim final rule on H-1B Visas (AAU)
- University associations send letter identifying ‘six fatal flaws’ in DOL interim final rule on high-skilled wages (AAU)
- Chinese talent program tracker (CSET)
- University researcher pleads guilty to lying on grant applications to develop scientific expertise for China (DOJ)
- Science suffers when the DOJ profiles scientists with ties to China (Chemistry World, perspective by Sarina Neote)
- Why some Stanford professors want the Hoover Institution gone (Chronicle of Higher Education)
- French professor faces disciplinary case over hydroxychloroquine claims (The Guardian)
- Department clarifies its enforcement authority for failure to report foreign gifts and contracts (Department of Education)
- A growing number of American colleges and universities have formed joint ventures to operate in China — despite the risks (The Wire China)
- Significance statements communicate our science more widely (Journal of Climate)
- China’s ‘paper mills’ are grinding out fake scientific research at an alarming rate (Coda Story)
- Scientific publishers consider installing spyware in university libraries to protect copyrights (Coda Story)
- Venture research with Donald Braben (Idea Machines, audio)
- What NASA missions can teach us about teamwork (Nature, book review)
Labs and Facilities
- Iconic radio telescope in Puerto Rico is at risk of collapsing (National Geographic)
- Mu2e reaches milestone in construction of novel experiment (Fermilab)
- Preparatory ‘pre-lab’ proposed for ILC (CERN Courier)
- Lincoln Laboratory establishes Biotechnology and Human Systems Division (Lincoln Laboratory)
- How scientists around the country are using the Advanced Photon Source to fight COVID-19 (Argonne National Lab)
- Major European facilities to remain open amid lockdowns (Research Professional)
- CERN publishes first environmental report (CERN Courier)
- Top 10 emerging technologies of 2020 (Scientific American)
- AI, quantum R&D funding to remain a priority under Biden (Wall Street Journal)
- AI is wrestling with a replication crisis (MIT Technology Review)
- US takes an important step toward quantum internet (Inside Science)
- Two quantum research conferences to focus on Navy, federal collaboration (Naval Research Lab)
- Quantum computing: A bubble ready to burst? (PCMag)
- AI professionals’ views on working with DOD (CSET, report)
- Ajit Pai urged to accept Trump loss and stop controversial rulemakings (Ars Technica)
- Jim Bridenstine is leaving NASA. How should we assess his 30 month tenure? (Ars Technica)
- Biden administration expected to emphasize climate science over lunar exploration at NASA (SpaceNews)
- Moon 2020-something (Space Review)
- NASA IG: Gateway not likely to be ready by 2024 (SpacePolicyOnline)
- NASA opens PRISM call for more lunar and science technology experiments for near-side and far-side destinations (NASA)
- Office of Space Commerce gets boost from Senate, but will remain in NOAA (SpacePolicyOnline)
- Audit launched of the next-generation satellite system architecture planning and implementation (NOAA IG)
- NASA selects new science teams for astrobiology research (NASA)
- NASA letter to the astrobiology community (Astrobiology Web)
Weather, Climate, and Environment
- How Biden aims to amp up the government’s fight against climate change (Washington Post)
- To achieve his climate goals, Biden needs to bring scientists back to work in the government (The Verge)
- Biden’s climate diplomacy has already begun (Washington Post)
- An overview of CBO’s work on climate change (Congressional Budget Office, report)
- Fixing the US National Climate Assessment (The Honest Broker)
- Thawing Arctic permafrost: A local and (likely) global disaster (Harvard Belfer Center, perspective by John Holdren)
- Yet more Sentinel satellites are to be built for the EU’s Copernicus Earth observation network (BBC News)
- Meet Biden’s energy team (E&E News)
- Former ARPA-E Director Arun Majumdar seen as top pick for energy secretary (Bloomberg)
- FY20 recap with ARPA–E Director Lane Genatowski (ARPA–E)
- Auditors say ITER nuclear fusion project still causing concern (Science|Business)
- NuScale boosts SMR module capacity; UAMPS mulls downsizing nuclear project (Power)
- Energy Department releases its hydrogen program plan (DOE, report)
- Trump DOE makes late push on hydrogen and solar to secure clean energy legacy (Washington Examiner)
- US nuclear lab partnering with utility to produce hydrogen (AP)
- Lessons from the history of space nuclear development projects (IDA, paper by Lincoln Butcher, et al.)
- NNSA administrator fired while on leave; energy secretary tracked her for months (Exchange Monitor)
- Senate appropriators cut R&D to buy more weapons (Breaking Defense)
- Emerging technology intersections and partnerships for counterproliferation (National Academies, report)
- Neutrinos for peace (CERN Courier)
- Fired two-star research lab commander charged with sexual assault (Air Force Times)
- Biden administration not seen as a threat to Space Force (SpaceNews)
- Here’s what to expect from Biden on top nuclear weapons issues (Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, perspective by Sara Kutchesfahani)
- New Army Museum highlights innovation and individual stories (Washington Post)
- The CDC chief lost his way during COVID-19. Now his agency is in the balance (USA Today)
- As the pandemic surges, CDC issues increasingly assertive advice (New York Times)
- Fauci says delayed transition is a public health issue as COVID-19 cases soar nationwide (NBC News)
- COVID-19 strategic science initiative launched (National Academies)
- Advantages and trade-offs of COVID-19 diagnostic tests, national testing strategies examined in new rapid response to government (National Academies, report)
- The strange and twisted tale of hydroxychloroquine (Wired)
- Enhancing the diversity of clinical trial populations (FDA)
- Considerations for gene drives research and an emerging biotechnology framework (NIH)
- Congressionally directed medical research programs (CRS, report)
- California voters approve another round of funding for stem cell research (STAT)
- Introducing the Stephen I. Katz Early Stage Investigator Research Grant Program (NIH)
- Where did COVID come from? WHO investigation begins but faces challenges (Nature)
- Brazil halts trial of Chinese vaccine. But was science or politics to blame? (New York Times)
- International collaboration during the COVID-19 crisis: Autumn 2020 developments (SSRN, paper by Xiaojing Cai, et al.)
- US software fuels China’s military research, despite Washington ban (South China Morning Post)
- China’s 14th five year plan: A first look (CRS, report)
- Biden wants to be the climate president. He’ll need some help from Xi Jinping (New York Times)
- Horizon Europe research program gets €4 billion boost (Nature)
- Implementing pro-active management of the European Innovation Council pathfinder for breakthrough technologies: Lessons from the ARPA model and other international practices (EIC Expert Group, report)
- Departure of PM’s chief adviser adds to doubts over UK ARPA (Research Professional)
- Australian gov amends foreign veto bill to ease university concerns (PIE News)