Senate Resumes Work as Budget Deadline Approaches
Senators are returning to business this week following Congress’ August recess, while their House colleagues will not come back until next week. The top item on the Senate agenda is to line up funding for fiscal year 2024, which begins in less than four weeks. A stopgap measure will almost certainly be needed to extend current funding levels and avoid a government shutdown while lawmakers negotiate spending legislation for the year. However, a potential standoff is looming over the stopgap, with right-wing House Republicans poised to demand concessions in exchange for their support. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is aiming to isolate holdouts by showcasing bipartisan support in the Senate for the spending limits that President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) agreed on in May as well as for supplemental funding for Ukraine aid and disaster relief that could be attached to the stopgap.
Other items Congress will address in the weeks ahead include the annual National Defense Authorization Act. The House and Senate both passed their respective versions of the bill over the summer, with House Republicans attaching partisan provisions that will meet stiff resistance from Senate Democrats, including one that would prohibit the Defense Department from implementing executive orders related to climate change. Schumer is also aiming to rapidly advance legislation covering artificial intelligence. On Sept. 13, he will convene the first in a planned series of “AI insight forums” that will take place behind closed doors to gather perspectives from leaders from the tech industry as well as other groups such as workers’ unions, civil rights organizations, and the research community.
Hearing Examining DOE Role in AI
As the Senate prepares for a major legislative push on artificial intelligence, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing this Thursday on the Department of Energy’s role in advancing AI and other emerging technologies. The witness panel includes Deputy Energy Secretary David Turk, Hewlett Packard Labs Vice President Andrew Wheeler, and Center for Security and Emerging Technology senior fellow Anna Puglisi. Also testifying is Rick Stevens, a senior official at Argonne National Lab, who is among a group of leaders from DOE’s national labs that recently presented proposals to lawmakers for an ambitious AI research effort that would make DOE a leading agency for funding and coordinating U.S. AI research. That effort, detailed in a 206-page report, also proposes dozens of ideas for specific AI-related research projects.
Rebooted Homeland Security Academic Panel to Meet
The Department of Homeland Security is expected to hold the inaugural public meeting of its newly reinstated academic advisory council on Sept. 6. The meeting was originally scheduled for Aug. 7 but was delayed due to inclement weather. The council, officially known as the Homeland Security Academy Partnership Council, will provide recommendations to the department on issues such as research security, workforce development, and funding opportunities, according to its charter. DHS disbanded a similar advisory council 2017, prompting calls from university leaders and some lawmakers to reestablish it.
PCAST Urges Science Agencies to Step Up Public Engagement
The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology is urging the White House to “issue a clarion call” to federal agencies to make science and technology communication and public engagement into a “core component of their mission and strategy.” In a letter sent to President Biden on Aug. 29, the council explains that, because of public concerns about the “societal impacts and ethical implications” of discoveries and innovations, it is necessary to strive harder to incorporate scientific understanding and community values into public policy. In addition, while the council suggests there is generally high public trust that scientists will act in the public’s best interest, it also points to “low levels of institutional trust among certain groups: marginalized racial and ethnic communities, people with less education and lower income, and younger people.” To support agencies’ public engagement efforts, the council further recommends creating an office that can offer expertise in areas such as “the use of social science-informed techniques for participatory engagement and cutting-edge digital technologies.” Separate from its letter, PCAST is meeting on Friday to discuss recent advances in the social sciences.
NASA Pushes Back Next New Frontiers Mission by Three Years
NASA’s Planetary Science Division issued a notice to the scientific community on Aug. 24 stating it is delaying the next solicitation of proposals for its New Frontiers program, which it had expected to open in November. Citing “budget uncertainty,” the division now estimates the solicitation will open in 2026 at the earliest. Although the division’s budget is more than double its fiscal year 2016 level, the growing cost of the flagship Mars Sample Return mission has recently been putting budgetary pressure on other missions in NASA’s science portfolio. Now, House and Senate appropriators are proposing to cut the portfolio’s overall budget by 5% and 6%, respectively. The Biden administration sought a 6% increase, which would itself have been insufficient to keep all missions under development on track. New Frontiers missions are the most expensive planetary science missions that NASA selects using a competitive process and proposals must be for visits to destinations recommended through the National Academies’ decadal survey process. The community notice indicates that NASA plans to consult the Academies to determine how it should adjust the list of eligible destinations, given the length of the delay.
Graduate Student Charged With Murder Following Lab Shooting
University of North Carolina materials scientist Zijie Yan was shot to death in his laboratory building on Aug. 28 and one of his graduate students, Tailei Qi, has been charged with his murder. The shooting put the campus on lockdown for several hours and drew a heavy police response. Several thousand students stood vigil for Yan two days later. Yan earned degrees from Huazhong University of Science and Technology in China before relocating to the U.S. and receiving his doctorate from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 2011. He then held a postdoctoral position at the University of Chicago and a faculty position at Clarkson University before moving to UNC in 2019. Qi earned degrees from Wuhan University and Louisiana State University before joining Yan’s lab last year.
In addition to being a major domestic political issue, surveys have found that gun violence is a serious concern
for international scholars considering studying in the U.S. Two years ago, the shooting death of Dennis Zheng Shaoxiong, a Chinese graduate student at the University of Chicago, led students and faculty at the university, many from abroad, to rally in protest
against threats to their safety.
All times are Eastern Daylight Time, unless otherwise noted. Listings do not imply endorsement.
Tuesday, September 5
National Academies: “Global Microelectronics: Models for the Department of Defense in Semiconductor Public-Private Partnerships” meeting
12:00 - 1:00 pm
Wednesday, September 6
NRC: Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards meeting
Continues through Friday
Stimson: “Nuclear Security for Nuclear Newcomers: Exploring Türkiye’s Readiness”
9:30 - 10:30 am
ITIF: “How Can States Help the CHIPS Act Succeed?”
10:30 am - 12:00 pm
NIST: “Forensic Science Program Long-Term Vision and Strategic Priorities” roundtable discussion
Thursday, September 7
Senate: “Recent Advances in Artificial Intelligence and the Department of Energy’s Role in Ensuring U.S. Competitiveness and Security in Emerging Technologies”
10:00 am, Energy and Natural Resources Committee
BIS: Materials and Equipment Technical Advisory Committee meeting
Friday, September 8
Atlantic Council: “Accelerating US-Emerging Market Clean Energy Partnerships”
PCAST: President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology meeting
11:10 - 2:40 pm
Monday, September 11
Department of the Air Force: Scientific Advisory Board meeting
8:00 am - 2:00 pm
NOAA: Science Advisory Board meeting
10:30 - 11:30 am
Know of an upcoming science policy event either inside or outside the Beltway? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
AIP Opens Applications for State Department Fellowship
The American Institute of Physics is accepting applications for its State Department Fellowship . The program seeks scientists who are interested in gaining foreign policy experience while contributing valuable scientific and technical expertise to the department. Selected fellows work at the department headquarters in Washington, D.C., for one year. Applications are due Nov. 1.
NASA Hiring Director for Marshall Space Flight Center
NASA is seeking a director for the Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama, which leads research and development of space transportation and propulsion systems and has an annual budget of $4 billion. Candidates must have experience leading “large, complex, multi-million dollar space or defense-related programs.” Applications are due Sep. 19.
NASA Ames Research Center Hiring Deputy Director for Science
NASA’s Ames Research Center in California is hiring a deputy director of science, who will support the director of science in managing basic and applied research programs in astrophysics, Earth and planetary science, and biological sciences. Applicants should have scientific expertise in one of the directorate’s core mission areas as well as experience managing a large and diverse portfolio of research projects. Applications are due Oct. 3.
Know of an opportunity for scientists to engage in science policy? Email us at email@example.com.
News and views currently in circulation. Links do not imply endorsement.
OSTP: G20 Chief Science Advisers’ Roundtable meeting outcome document and chair’s summary
NSF: NSF Director Panchanathan heads the US Delegation at the G20 Chief Science Advisers’ Roundtable in India, signs bilateral agreement
OSTP: Building for a new age of open space exploration (perspective by Matthew Daniels)
The Hill: Biden: ‘Nobody intelligent’ can deny the impact of climate crisis
Washington Post: U.S. investment in problematic Chinese companies has to stop
(perspective by Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI)
Slow Boring: A serious case for dynamic scoring: Here’s how Congress can fix innovation policy’s budget problem (perspective by Doug Elmendorf and Heidi Williams)
Science, Society, and the Economy
Economic Development Administration: Biden-Harris administration’s tech hubs competition received 378 applications
ITIF: Speed up America, slow down China, or both? The key strategic question for the 21st century (perspective by Robert Atkinson)
Symmetry: Rap with an undercurrent of physics
Nature: University mourns nanoscientist killed on UNC campus
Optica: Remembering Zijie Yan, a valued colleague and respected scholar
Education and Workforce
Inside Higher Ed: West Virginia University, a flagship research university … without language degrees or math PhDs?
E&E News: EPA staff survey: Touch telework and I’m out of here
Physics Today: Helping the pandemic generation (perspective by Brad Conrad and Matthew Wright)
Physics Today: Q&A with Sola Mahfouz: Physics was her ticket out of Afghanistan
Los Angeles Times: After Stanford president controversy, we’re retracting papers. That’s part of how science must work
(perspective by Holden Thorp)
Times Higher Education: Critics say NIH ban on AI in grant review ‘lacks technological understanding’
Science|Business: European Parliament to debate potential legislation on scientific freedom in September
Research Professional: Plan S: Stay the course (perspective by Robert-Jan Smits)
Scientific American: English may be science’s native language, but it’s not native to all scientists (perspective by Gabriel Nakamura and Bruno Soares)
The Guardian: There’s no room-temperature superconductor yet, but the quest continues (perspective by Philip Ball)
Nature: How would room-temperature superconductors change science?
Labs and Facilities
South China Morning Post: Could robots help China save the world’s only giant radio telescope from collapse?
South China Morning Post: China plans to build $618 million Super Tau-Charm Facility, a particle collider to test modern theory of matter
Culham Centre for Fusion Energy: Scientific community to conduct final tritium experiments at Joint European Torus
NSF: NSF announces $35 million award to University of Chicago to operate new Synchrotron for Earth and Environmental Science facility
Nature: Antarctic research stations have polluted a pristine wilderness
Computing and Communications
FedScoop: Increase in Department of Energy’s reported AI uses reflects ‘enhanced’ guidance from White House
Oak Ridge National Lab: Artificial intelligence research must remain an American priority (perspective by Prasanna Balaprakash)
Science|Business: Germany promises huge boost in artificial intelligence research funding and European coordination
Science|Business: Commission’s research directorate to develop a new artificial intelligence in science policy
Meet the Press: US will not sell its ‘most sophisticated’ semiconductors to China, Raimondo says (video)
JAXA: XRISM launch now set for Sept. 7
SpaceNews: NASA Deep Space Network reaches ‘critical point’ as demand grows
SpaceNews: NASA gears up for return of OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample
SpacePolicyOnline: Small Bodies Analysis Group wants reconnaissance mission to Apophis before it reaches Earth
SpaceNews: Chinese scientist proposes solar system-wide resource utilization roadmap
Washington Post: India launches Aditya-L1 mission to the Sun after lunar landing win
SpaceNews: India’s Moon lander set for nighttime as solar mission soars
Ars Technica: India’s accomplishments in space are getting more impressive (perspective by Stephen Clark)
Reuters: Kremlin plays down Moon landing failure, says space exploration program will continue
Weather, Climate, and Environment
SpaceNews: Ball, Northrop Grumman, Orbital Micro Systems, and Spire claim NOAA contracts to design sounders for next-generation satellites
Weather Geeks: New hurricane forecast and analysis system (interview with Sundararaman Gopalakrishnan)
Federation of American Scientists: Systems thinking in climate: Positive tipping points jumpstart transformational change
E&E News: Biden walks back WOTUS rule. Industry is still expected to sue
Inside Climate News: Scientists find success with new direct ocean carbon capture technology
DOE: Biden-Harris administration announces availability of $350 million in grants to states to cut methane emissions from oil and gas sector
Power Magazine: US Air Force selects Oklo fast microreactor for nuclear power pilot
Power Magazine: Centrus, Oklo sign MOU to solidify HALEU fuel cycle, trade advanced nuclear power and fuel
American Nuclear Society: Project Pele in context: An update on the DOD’s microreactor plans
American Nuclear Society: The US nuclear fuel Gordian knot: The uncertain path forward
Pacific Northwest National Lab: Opening in 2024, Grid Storage Launchpad will accelerate development of future battery technology
DOE: United States and Norway move ahead with plan to eliminate all highly enriched uranium in Norway
DOD: Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks keynote address: ‘The urgency to innovate’
Defense One: The Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Unit’s new chief has a new strategy
Breaking Defense: Navy weighs creation of ‘disruptive capabilities’ office to rapidly field tech to fleet
National Defense Magazine: DOD’s APFIT program aims to bridge valley of death’s ‘30-foot gap’
Breaking Defense: After two years of experimenting, Pentagon to evaluate RDER tech
DefenseScoop: Inside the DOD’s trusted AI and autonomy tech review that brought together hundreds of experts
National Defense Magazine: Will US–India pact boost defense innovation?
Defense News: ‘Bring it’: Adm. Aquilino open to greater directed-energy trials
DOD: The Department of Defense launches the All-Domain Anomaly Resolution Office website
DefenseScoop: Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks takes direct oversight of Pentagon’s UAP office
GAO: NNSA’s Enhanced Capabilities for Subcritical Experiments program would benefit from program management improvements
Washington Post: Scientists trace surprising radioactivity of Germany’s wild boars to nuclear weapons testing
Science: White House seeks input on tightening rules for risky pathogen research
CSET: Understanding the global gain-of-function research landscape (report)
South China Morning Post: China’s ‘bat woman’ Shi Zhengli nominated to join Chinese Academy of Sciences
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: Public health position available: Low pay. Promise of burnout and harassment. Master’s preferred
Federation of American Scientists: ‘The US needs to lean into an old strength’: Maintaining progress and growing US biomanufacturing
Washington Post: 3M to pay $6 billion to settle hearing-loss lawsuits over military earplugs
Reuters: Nobel Foundation cancels Russia, Belarus, Iran invitations to annual prize awards
Science: U.S.–China tensions could complicate effort to renew key research pact
Research Professional: South Africa and China vow to improve science coordination
Science|Business: Work on creating a single European market for research enters the next phase
Research Professional: Small businesses want half of all UK government R&D funding