FYI: Science Policy News
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WEEK OF SEPT 18, 2023
What’s Ahead

Raimondo Intel Chip Factory .jpg

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo speaks at a 2022 event in Ohio highlighting Intel’s investment in two new chip factories in the state.

(Walden Kirsch / Intel Corporation)

CHIPS Initiatives Get Checkup From Science Committee

The House Science Committee will hold a hearing on Tuesday to examine the Commerce Department’s progress in allocating the $50 billion the CHIPS and Science Act provided for semiconductor R&D and manufacturing incentives. The sole witness is Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, who is appearing before the committee for the first time. The hearing charter previews potential lines of questioning, such as whether the department has adhered to “congressional intent” in implementing the subsidy programs. Committee Chair Frank Lucas (R-OK) criticized the department earlier this year for going beyond the act’s requirements by mandating that certain subsidy recipients guarantee their employees access to childcare services and by favoring companies that use unionized workers. The charter also highlights the impending formation of a nonprofit, public-private consortium that will manage the planned National Semiconductor Technology Center. The department recently granted a selection committee named this past summer an additional month, until the end of September, to pick the board members who will form and oversee that consortium.

Fusion Panel Reviewing International ‘Benchmarking’ Study

The Fusion Energy Sciences Advisory Committee is meeting Monday to discuss a draft subcommittee report that examines U.S. fusion energy programs in their international context. The report finds the U.S. is an international leader in some areas but also identifies various gaps in capabilities that will require international collaboration to fill. For example, it notes the U.S. is the clear leader in inertial confinement fusion due to the success of the National Ignition Facility but argues the facility must remain open to international collaboration to maintain that leadership. The report also finds that while the U.S. leads in many areas of tokamak physics, it relies on international superconducting tokamaks to study long-pulse performance and lags Europe’s UK-based JET facility in burning plasma experiment capability. It further notes that the U.S. is behind Europe and Japan in some areas of stellarator physics due to a lack of domestic experiments, though it maintains leadership in other areas due to its strength in theory and computation. In addition, the report finds that the U.S. lacks capacity for developing and testing fusion technologies such as tritium fuel development and breeding blankets, gyrotron sources, and neutral beam technology.

Asteroid Sample Returning to Earth

On Sunday, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx (Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security Regolith Explorer) mission will deliver the sample it gathered from the asteroid Bennu in 2020, sending it in a parachute-equipped reentry capsule down to the desert of western Utah. The mission follows Japan’s two Hayabusa missions that respectively returned asteroid samples to Earth in 2010 and 2020. OSIRIS-REx is the third and most recent mission to launch through NASA’s New Frontiers program, which funds the most expensive planetary science missions that the agency selects through a competitive process. It was led by a team at the University of Arizona and has cost about $1 billion. Notably, its pre-launch development undershot its baseline cost estimate by about 20%. After dropping off its sample, the spacecraft will begin a new mission that NASA approved last year, continuing on to rendezvous with the asteroid Apophis as it passes close to Earth in 2029. When it begins this journey, the mission will take on the new designation OSIRIS-APEX (Apophis Explorer).

In Case You Missed It

SLAC Cryoplant 2021.jpg

Aerial photo of the SLAC linear accelerator, which houses the LCLS laser.

(Matt Beardsley / SLAC National Accelerator Lab)

SLAC X-ray Laser Facility Completes Major Upgrade

The $1.1 billion Linac Coherent Light Source II project at SLAC National Accelerator Lab passed its “first light” milestone on Sept. 12, marking a leap in capabilities for LCLS, the only X-ray free electron laser user facility in the United States. Like synchrotron X-ray sources, XFELs are used to probe molecular and atomic structures but offer far brighter beams as well as ultrashort pulses that enable superior time resolution for studying dynamic phenomena. SLAC introduced the world’s first XFEL when it opened LCLS in 2009, and the upgrade adds a second X-ray laser employing 37 superconducting electron accelerator modules that are cooled to near absolute zero. The new laser is 10,000 times brighter than the original and has a pulse repetition rate 8,000 times faster, reaching a record-smashing one million flashes per second.

Work has already started on another upgrade, estimated to cost $710 million, that will add more accelerator modules to the new laser, more than doubling the energy of its X-rays. The follow-on upgrade will be needed to even approach the energy levels available at the European XFEL in Germany, a peer facility that started operating in 2017. However, the pulse repetition of the new LCLS laser is already roughly 40 times faster than what can currently be achieved there.

Huge Boost Sought for NASA Biological and Physical Sciences Division

The National Academies released its latest decadal survey for NASA’s Biological and Physical Sciences division on Sept. 12. The 350-page report identifies 11 key scientific questions for the division to delve into over the next 10 years and beyond. These questions are organized into three themes: adapting to space, living and traveling in space, and probing phenomena hidden by gravity or terrestrial limitations. However, the report argues that the division, which currently has an $85 million budget, is “severely underfunded” and needs a tenfold budget increase to build a “truly robust and resilient program that can meet the space exploration science needs of the nation.” The report suggests such a boost would be needed to support two major research campaigns it recommends: a “Biogenerative Life Support Systems” (BLiSS) campaign to support long-duration spaceflight, and a “Manufacturing Materials and Processes for Sustainability in Space” (MATRICES) campaign to reduce space waste by creating more sustainable materials and equipment. In addition, the report suggests pursuing a research “initiative” on the potential quantum aspects of gravitational fields and spacetime as well as an uncrewed “free flyer” vehicle concept that could expose living organisms and engineered materials to orbital conditions for extended periods.

NSF Awards Latest Cohort of Physics Frontier Centers

The National Science Foundation announced four Physics Frontiers Centers awards last week. The new Center for Living Systems at the University of Chicago is receiving $21 million over six years and will focus on how matter is able to store and retrieve information as well as the physical properties that contribute to evolutionary adaptation and the shape and motion of cells, tissues, and organs. The other three awards are for existing centers: $14 million for the Institute for Quantum Information and Matter at Caltech, $22 million for the Center for Ultracold Atoms at MIT, and $25 million for the Center for Comprehension and Control of Emerging Complexity at the Quantum Frontier at the University of Colorado Boulder. NSF now supports a total of eight Physics Frontiers Centers, which bring together large teams of researchers at universities.

Ceren Susut to Lead DOE Advanced Computing Program

The Department of Energy announced last week that Ceren Susut will be the new head of the Advanced Scientific Computing Research (ASCR) program within the Office of Science. Susut has worked in the program for 12 years, and, according to the department, was instrumental in establishing the office’s network of National Quantum Information Science Research Centers. She has been serving as the acting head of ASCR since January, following the retirement of its previous leader, Barbara Helland. Susut takes over the program as its effort to build two exascale computers winds down and attention turns towards its next steps, which advocates in DOE’s national labs hope will include a major initiative in artificial intelligence.

NASA Panel Seeks Rigor and Respect for ‘Anomalous’ Phenomena Studies

NASA released a report last week from an independent study panel that recommends NASA play a key role in a Defense Department-led effort to track and explain unidentified anomalous phenomena, pointing to the relevance of the agency’s expertise and its “global reputation for scientific openness.” The panel, chaired by astrophysicist David Spergel, does not rule out that some UAP could be of extraterrestrial origin but labels such explanations a “hypothesis of last resort.” The panel emphasizes that UAP studies are primarily of interest because of threats they might pose to national security and aerospace safety. The panel also criticizes the stigma around UAP studies, noting that some panel members were subjected to online ridicule and more generally that scientists are often warned against participating in projects such as the search for extraterrestrial technosignatures. At an event marking the report’s release, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson announced the agency’s appointment of a director of UAP research, in accord with one of the report’s recommendations. The agency initially refused to identify the person appointed, citing the danger of harassment, but relented hours later, stating it is meteorologist Mark McInerney.

Upcoming Events

All times are Eastern Daylight Time, unless otherwise noted. Listings do not imply endorsement. Events beyond this week are listed on our website.

Monday, September 18

NSF: Astronomy and Astrophysics Advisory Committee meeting
(continues Tuesday)

Atlantic Council: “Nuclear Energy Policy Summit: Accelerating Net Zero Nuclear”
(continues Tuesday)

DOE: 21st Century Energy Workforce Advisory Board meeting
10:00 am - 3:30 pm

DOE: Fusion Energy Sciences Advisory Committee meeting
12:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Tuesday, September 19

FDP: Federal Demonstration Partnership meeting
(continues through Thursday)

National Academies: “Global Microelectronics Models for the Department of Defense in Semiconductor Public-Private Partnerships,” meeting
(continues Wednesday)

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

National Academies: Air Force Studies Board meeting
(continues Wednesday)

NSF: “National AI Research Institutes Congressional Showcase”
10:00 am - 1:00 pm

House: “Chips on the Table: A One Year Review of the CHIPS and Science Act”
10:00 am, Science Committee

MITRE: “Technology Horizons Summit”
1:00 - 6:30 pm

Columbia University: “Bridging the Divide: Making Action on the Energy Transition a Reality”
1:00 - 2:00 pm

House: “Use and Regulation of Autonomous and Experimental Maritime Technologies”
2:00 pm, Transportation and Infrastructure Committee

Senate: “Advanced Technology: Examining Threats to National Security”
2:30 pm, Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee

Senate: “Advancing Intelligence in the Era of Artificial Intelligence: Addressing the National Security Implications of AI”
2:30 pm, Intelligence Committee

Senate: FCC budget request hearing
2:30 pm, Appropriations Committee

Wednesday, September 20

NSF: Geosciences Advisory Committee meeting
(continues through Friday)

NASA: Lunar Exploration Analysis Group annual meeting
(continues through Friday)

House: “Industry Perspectives on Defense Innovation and Deterrence”
9:00 am, Armed Services Committee

House: “A Bar Too High: Concerns with CEQ’s Proposed Regulatory Hurdle for Federal Contracting”
10:00 am, Science Committee

House: “American Hydropower: Unleashing Reliable, Renewable, Clean Power Across the U.S.”
10:00, Energy and Commerce Committee

National Academies: “NASA Mission Critical Workforce, Infrastructure, and Technology,” meeting 10B
10:00 am - 2:00 pm

CNAS: “Gaining the Asymmetric Advantage: Emerging Technology and the AUKUS Pillar 2 Promise”
10:00 am - 11:00 am

ANS: “Hispanic Excellence in the Nuclear Field”
1:00 - 2:00 pm

House: “IP and Strategic Competition with China: Part III – IP Theft, Cybersecurity, and AI”
3:00 pm, Judiciary Committee

NSF: “Public Listening Session on the Implementation of the National Science and Technology Council Framework for Federal Scientific Integrity Policy and Practice”
5:00 - 7:00 pm

Thursday, September 21

EPA: Science Advisory Board meeting
(continues Friday)

NSF: Cyberinfrastructure Advisory Committee meeting
(continues Friday)

AAAS: “Scientific Evidence and the Courts”
(continues Friday)

NTIA: Commerce Spectrum Management Advisory Committee meeting
1:00 - 4:00 pm

Columbia University: “Balancing Lithium Production, Investment, and Policies for a Sustainable Energy Transition”
6:00 - 7:00 pm

Friday, September 22

Brookings: “Strengthening U.S. Semiconductor Supply Chain Resilience”
10:00 - 11:00 am

Monday, September 25

National Academies: “NASA Mission Critical Workforce, Infrastructure, and Technology,” meeting 11
(continues through Friday)

NIST: Earthquake Hazards Reduction Advisory Committee meeting
1:00 - 5:00 pm

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

Opportunities

AIP Accepting Applications for Congressional Fellowships

Applications are open for the American Institute of Physics’ Congressional Fellowship Program, which places scientists in congressional offices for one year. Applicants must have a doctorate in physics or a closely related field and must be a member of an AIP Member Society. Scientists at all career levels are encouraged to apply. Applications are due Dec. 1.

NSB Seeking Nominees for Science and Society Award

The National Science Board is accepting nominations for its Science and Society Award. The award honors “individuals and groups that have made substantial contributions to increasing public understanding and appreciation of science and engineering in the United States.” Nominations are due Sept. 29.

NASA Hiring Director for Roman Space Telescope

NASA is hiring an associate director for the Roman Space Telescope. The position will be responsible for overseeing the remaining development of the telescope and its operations. Applications are due Sept. 29.

Know of an opportunity for scientists to engage in science policy? Email us at fyi@aip.org.

Around the Web

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

White House

White House: White House Cancer Moonshot announces new actions and commitments to end cancer
Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Jill Biden visits Emory cancer lab part of ‘Cancer Moonshot’
Stat: What to make of Biden’s latest efforts on cancer research
E&E News: Biden to skip UN climate summit
AP: Biden aims to beef up safeguards for government workers as GOP hopefuls vow to slash workforce

Congress

Roll Call: Doubts already surface about Republicans’ opening bid to avert shutdown on Oct. 1
National Journal: ‘Schumer University': Senate leader makes AI legislation a priority
Wall Street Journal: Musk warns senators about AI threat, while Gates says the technology could target world hunger
National Journal: Sen. Todd Young (R-IN) discusses his role in helping to craft bipartisan legislation overseeing AI (interview)
House Committee on the CCP: Republicans implore treasury secretary to shut down CCP stronghold in American battery production
Politico: House Committee on the CCP issues its first ever subpoena as it investigates a Chinese-owned lab in California
Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL): Keep STEM Talent Act reintroduced by Reps. Foster and Michael Lawler (R-NY)
Project On Government Oversight: Commerce Department inspector general again facing congressional scrutiny for alleged mismanagement

Science, Society, and the Economy

DOE: DOE unveils new interactive map showcasing clean energy investment announcements nationwide
NSF: NSF launches pilot program to identify barriers and tools for historically underrepresented communities in the innovation ecosystem
SSTI: IRS provides new direction on R&D expenses
South China Morning Post: China aims to see 15% of its population become scientifically literate by 2025 and increase the ratio to 25% by 2035
Journal of Science Policy and Governance: Special issue on science, technology, and global security
Science: As AAAS turns 175, future generations are watching how we will shape the scientific enterprise (perspective by Sudip Parikh)
Nature: Ancient-human fossils sent to space: Scientists slam ‘publicity stunt’
NSF: NSF awards over $11 million to National Air and Space Museum to create ‘Discovering Our Universe’ exhibition

Education and Workforce

Nature: First-generation students have to overcome obstacles other students don’t (editorial)
China Data Lab: Three decades of Chinese students in America, 1991-2021 (report)
The Conversation: Quantum information science is rarely taught in high school — here’s why that matters (perspective by Karen Matsler)
E&E News: ‘No left-wing indoctrination': Climate science under attack in classrooms
NSF: New NSF effort expands I-Corps Teams training program

Research Management

ScienceInsider: NIH sticks to new requirement that foreign partners share lab notebooks
NIH: Further clarifying NIH’s foreign subaward agreement policy: Addressing community feedback
COGR: University associations raise concerns about draft government-wide disclosure requirements for grant applicants
Retraction Watch: The Retraction Watch Database becomes completely open — and RW becomes far more sustainable
Science: Scientific retractions may become easier to spot as Retraction Watch finds new partner
Association of Research Libraries: Do not restrict the promise of generative AI, ARL and coalition partners tell Congress
Brown University: Brown physicist Brad Marston elected to presidential line of the American Physical Society
The Guardian: ‘Theory of all matter’ physicists among 2023 Breakthrough prize winners
Nature: This alternative way to measure research impact made judges cry with joy (audio)

Labs and Facilities

Science: US cancels or curtails half of its Antarctic research projects
UCAR: UCAR to continue managing the National Center for Atmospheric Research, NSF raises five-year budget ceiling to $938 million
Chicago Tribune: Fermilab’s $1 billion accelerator project remains on hold during investigation into May accident that injured construction worker
Livermore Lab: Scorpius Accelerator: 24 line-replaceable units mark major milestone
AUI: $21 million NSF award will bring ngVLA design to life
NSF: New $50 million institute aims to use the power of math to model, predict biological processes
Berkeley Lab: Ana Kupresanin tapped to lead Berkeley Lab’s scientific data division
Air Force Research Lab: AFRL’s newest supercomputer ‘Raider’ promises to compute years’ worth of data in days
South China Morning Post: US guru Jack Dongarra says China’s supercomputer power may exceed all countries but flies under the radar because of sanctions

Computing and Communications

The Economist: How science will be transformed by AI
National Academies: AI to assist mathematical reasoning: Proceedings of a workshop (report)
Washington Post: Nvidia, Palantir, and more companies join White House AI pledge
Research Professional: European Commission president wants IPCC-like body to oversee AI
Politico: How Silicon Valley doomers are shaping Rishi Sunak’s AI plans
Semianalysis: China AI and semiconductors rise: US sanctions have failed
South China Morning Post: Amid US tech sanctions, Chinese scientists say they made the world’s most powerful radar chip
NSF: NSF and partners invest $45 million in the future of semiconductors
Wall Street Journal: Some quantum software works today. down the road, it might not
Quantum.gov: Comments requested on three draft standards for post-quantum cryptography
CRS: The FCC’s spectrum auction authority: History and options for reinstatement (report)

Space

Science: Costly Mars Sample Return is squeezing smaller NASA missions
SpaceNews: Air Force Research Laboratory delays lunar experiment
NASA: Primary instrument for NASA’s Roman Space Telescope completed, begins tests
NASA: NASA welcomes Germany as newest Artemis Accords signatory
Washington Post: Venezuela vows to send astronauts to the Moon on Chinese spaceship
Reuters: Berlin blocks complete takeover of satellite startup by Chinese firm
WIRED: New report lays out a modern way to search for alien societies
The Atlantic: NASA learns the ugly truth about UFOs

Weather, Climate, and Environment

Wall Street Journal: Inside Exxon’s strategy to downplay climate change
Financial Times: Science Based Targets initiative to split into separate fee-charging company and non-profit standards body
Wall Street Journal: SEC declines to give timeline for final climate disclosure rule
SpaceNews: Ball wins $489.6 million contract to deliver next-generation weather satellite sounder
NOAA: NOAA to spend $24 million of IRA funds on marine carbon dioxide removal research
NSF: Dear colleague letter on CO2 removal and solar radiation modification strategies
The Guardian: The world’s biggest carbon capture facility is being built in Texas

Energy

DOE: ‘Pathways to Commercial Liftoff’ reports released for industrial decarbonization and virtual power plants
NBER: Climate change, directed innovation, and energy transition: The long-run consequences of the shale gas revolution (paper by Daron Acemoglu, et al.)
American Nuclear Society: Abilene Christian University opens facility designed for advanced nuclear research
Exchange Monitor: NRC finds no serious issues with Centrus low-enriched uranium operation
BWXT: BWXT awarded contract to evaluate microreactor deployment for Wyoming
Science: UK mulls associate membership of ITER fusion project after ditching full participation
Kyoto Fusioneering: Kyoto Fusioneering establishes R&D center in Kyoto

Defense

DOD: DOD releases Space Policy Review and strategy on protection of satellites
SpaceNews: Space Force to release guidelines for the use of commercial satellite services
SpaceNews: China’s military sets up new base for space domain awareness
Wall Street Journal: Hypersonic missiles are game-changers, and America doesn’t have them
GAO: Chemical weapons: Status of forensic technologies and challenges to source attribution (report)
NNSA: NNSA and Global Affairs Canada partner with Kazakhstan to build new radioactive source storage facility
War on the Rocks: The biodefense posture review needs focus to succeed (perspective by Albert Mauroni)

Biomedical

ARPA–H: New ARPA–H program to make medical research findings easier to use to improve health outcomes for Americans
Nature: First global survey reveals who is doing ‘gain of function’ research on pathogens and why
CRS: US oversight of lab biosafety and biosecurity: Current policies, recommended reforms, and options for Congress (report)
Science: CIA bribed its own COVID-19 origin team to reject lab-leak theory, anonymous whistleblower claims
Roll Call: Threats like AI-aided bioweapons confound policymakers

International Affairs

NSF: NSF, international partners, invest $76.4 million in inaugural Global Centers Competition awards
Nature: Russia’s war in Ukraine is disrupting Antarctic science
New York Times: In Ukraine, mathematics finds a home at last
Business Insider: Putin’s daughter publishes papers in West despite Ukraine war
Caixin Global: China’s top academics told to toe party line with public statements
Foreign Affairs: American universities shouldn’t cut all ties with China (perspective by Rafael Reif)
Emerging Technology Observatory: U.S.-China research collaboration may be falling, but not in AI
Tech Won’t Save Us: How US-China rivalry distracts from tech harms (audio interview with Yangyang Cheng)
Science|Business: Despite UK deal, it may be slow work to expand Horizon membership to other nations
Science|Business: Horizon Europe, Euratom, Erasmus: What EU programs has the UK signed up for?
Science|Business: Swiss expect to wait until at least 2025 for association after UK Horizon Europe deal
Science|Business: Graphene start-ups contemplate life after Europe’s €1 billion flagship
Science|Business: Europe eyes closer research and innovation cooperation with Africa
Research Professional: Australia releases draft science and research priorities
Nature: Argentina: publicly funded science under threat (perspective by Humberto Debat)

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