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WEEK OF JAN 29, 2024
What’s Ahead

US EU Trade Council Meeting May 2023.jpg

A meeting of the U.S.-EU Trade and Technology Council in May 2023. This week, the council is meeting for the fifth time since its establishment in 2021.

(Chuck Kennedy / State Department)

EU Officials to Discuss Research Security Initiatives

The U.S.-EU Trade and Technology Council will convene on Tuesday in Washington, DC, a week after the European Union announced new economic security initiatives that focus on research security, export controls, and investment screening. Among the initiatives are research security recommendations that aim to increase the consistency with which EU member states handle tasks such as risk reviews of potential collaborators. The EU has also developed a proposal for regulating outbound investments in advanced technologies such as semiconductors and quantum computing, analogous to steps recently taken by the Biden administration to block U.S. persons from investing funds in certain Chinese companies. Council co-chair Margrethe Vestager will discuss the economic security initiatives on Tuesday at the Atlantic Council with Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and on Wednesday at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Separately this week, the House Financial Services Committee will explore different approaches to regulating outbound investments at a hearing on Tuesday, and the U.S.-China Economic and National Security Commission will meet on Thursday to examine China’s research into military applications of AI and quantum information science, among other subjects. Notably, the commission has recently proposed that Congress expand inbound foreign investment reviews to include research contracts. (Correction: This item has been updated to correct the time of the Atlantic Council event. It is on Tuesday, not Wednesday as originally reported.)

Earthquake and Windstorm Mitigation Programs Slated for Refresh

The House Science Committee will meet Tuesday to discuss potential updates to the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP) and the National Windstorm Impact Reduction Program (NWIRP). Congress created NWIRP in 2004 to mitigate economic losses from severe windstorms and last updated it in 2015. Science Committee members introduced bipartisan legislation in 2022 to further update the program but it did not advance. Congress created NEHRP in 1977 to improve earthquake monitoring and resilience and last revised the program in 2018. Bipartisan legislation to update the program has already been introduced in the Senate. The witnesses for this week’s hearing are Jason Averill, deputy director of the engineering lab at NIST; Edward Laatsch, director of the safety, planning, and building science division at the Federal Emergency Management Agency; Gavin Hayes, earthquake hazards program coordinator at the U.S. Geological Survey; and Susan Margulies, head of the Engineering Directorate at the National Science Foundation. Each of these agencies participates in the programs, with NIST overseeing both. According to the hearing charter, the hearing will examine the programs’ strengths and weaknesses, how they have improved the understanding of windstorms and earthquakes, how interagency collaboration helps advance their goals, and what updates are needed to address emerging challenges.

NTIA to Host Symposium on National Spectrum Strategy

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration will host a symposium Thursday focused on the National Spectrum Strategy. The Biden administration released the strategy last November to improve management of the increasingly scarce radio spectrum, including through a “moonshot effort” in spectrum sharing R&D. The strategy requires NTIA to publish an implementation plan by early March, and dozens of companies and trade groups have submitted comments ahead of its release. Among the keynote speakers at the symposium is Arati Prabhakar, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, which the strategy tasks with developing the National Spectrum R&D Plan.

Nuclear Deterrence Summit Kicks off in DC

Numerous leaders from the National Nuclear Security Administration are in Washington, DC, this week for the 16th annual Nuclear Deterrence Summit. The directors of Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos, and Sandia National Labs will discuss geopolitical challenges facing the nuclear security enterprise in a panel discussion on Wednesday. Top weapons R&D officials from each lab will also speak on Thursday about challenges facing warhead life extension programs, following a keynote address by NNSA Administrator Jill Hruby.

In Case You Missed It

Engines Map Jan 2024.jpg

A map of the National Science Foundation’s 10 inaugural Regional Innovation Engines.

(NSF)

NSF Announces First Winners of Major ‘Engine’ Awards

On Monday, the National Science Foundation announced the 10 inaugural Regional Innovation Engines, each of which will receive up to $160 million over a decade to catalyze regional ecosystems for R&D. Selected from among 16 finalists, the awardees are:

  • The Central Florida Semiconductor Innovation Engine,
  • The Colorado - Wyoming Climate Resilience Engine,
  • The Great Lakes Water Innovation Engine,
  • The Louisiana Energy Transition Engine,
  • The North Carolina Textile Innovation and Sustainability Engine,
  • The North Dakota Advanced Agriculture Technology Engine,
  • The Paso del Norte Defense and Aerospace Innovation Engine,
  • The Piedmont Triad Regenerative Medicine Engine,
  • The Southwest Sustainability Innovation Engine, and
  • The Upstate New York Energy Storage Engine.

The regenerative medicine and sustainable textiles Engines were announced separately last Friday at an event with First Lady Jill Biden. Among the finalists that did not make the cut is the only quantum-focused proposal: the University of Chicago’s “Quantum Crossroads.” In announcing the awards, NSF said that some of the remaining finalists and semifinalists will be invited to apply for Engines Development Awards, grants of up to $1 million that aim to help refine applications for future Engine awards. NSF has already provided 44 such grants. The White House also highlighted how other agencies will support Engine awardees in a press release.

NSF Launches AI Research Infrastructure Pilot

The National Science Foundation launched the pilot version of the National AI Research Resource (NAIRR) on Jan. 24 in response to a requirement from President Biden’s executive order on AI. A website set up to manage the NAIRR states the pilot “aims to connect U.S. researchers and educators to computational, data, and training resources needed to advance AI research and research that employs AI.” The pilot program has four focus areas:

  • open AI research through NAIRR Open, 
  • secured, private research through NAIRR Secure,
  • interoperability efforts through NAIRR Software, and
  • educational efforts through NAIRR Classroom.

The computing resources currently on offer through the NAIRR include Summit at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Delta GPU at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, Lonestar6 and Frontera at the Texas Advanced Computing Center, the AI Testbed at Argonne National Lab, and Neocortex at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center. The pilot program is accepting usage requests through March 1.

STEM Visa Expansion Efforts Detailed by Biden Officials

The National Institute of Standards and Technology held a webinar on Jan. 23 to highlight recent U.S. policy initiatives that aim to attract international talent to the country by streamlining visa application and renewal processes. Among them, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services issued new guidance on national interest waivers for EB-2 immigrant visas, clarified eligibility for O-1A nonimmigrant extraordinary ability visas, and is running a pilot program allowing H-1B visa holders to renew their visas without leaving the country – a step that officials participating in the webinar said would reduce wait times and decrease uncertainty for applicants and employers. More details shared during the webinar can be found here .

Prospective US Ambassador to UNESCO Shares Goals for Rejoining Agency

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on Jan. 25 to consider the nomination of Courtney Diesel O’Donnell as U.S. ambassador to UNESCO, a United Nation agency that advances educational, scientific, and cultural initiatives. O’Donnell currently is a senior advisor to Vice President Kamala Harris and acting chief of staff for Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff. If confirmed, O’Donnell said her priorities would be to increase transparency at UNESCO, counter the influence of China, Russia, and other competitors within the agency, and fight anti-semitism and anti-Israel bias. The U.S. withdrew from the agency in 2017, accusing it of anti-Israel bias, but rejoined in 2023. In her opening statement during the nomination hearing, O’Donnell said she is “fully aware that institutions like UNESCO are far from perfect, but issues critical to our national security are being addressed there every day” and the U.S. should be at the table. While UNESCO is best known for its work on World Heritage sites and preserving cultural treasures, O’Donnell emphasized to senators that the agency is also involved in developing norms and standards for emerging technologies such as AI and neurotechnology, leading scientific collaborations across nations, and expanding STEM education opportunities for women and girls.

NASA Retires Overachieving Mars Ingenuity Helicopter

Ingenuity Flight.jpg

NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter photographed in flight by the Perseverance Mars Rover.

(NASA / JPL-Caltech / ASU / MSSS)

On Jan. 25, NASA ended the mission of its Ingenuity helicopter, which has been operating on Mars since it arrived there nearly three years ago. Ingenuity cost $80 million to build and accompanied the Perseverance rover as a technology demonstration, with the goal of undertaking five flights over 30 days to test the feasibility of flying in the planet’s extremely thin atmosphere. After Ingenuity surpassed expectations, NASA extended its mission and incorporated it into Perseverance’s science operations. Surveying the terrain around the rover’s path, Ingenuity ultimately performed 72 flights, flying for a total of more than two hours, before it damaged one of its rotors during its last landing. The helicopter’s astonishing success has led NASA to integrate similar vehicles into its design for its Mars Sample Return mission. Ingenuity’s operators at the Jet Propulsion Lab are now performing final tests on its systems and downloading imagery and data from onboard memory before powering it down.

Upcoming Events

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

Monday, January 29

ITIF: “Tech Policy 202: Winter 2024 Educational Seminar Series for Congressional and Executive Branch Staff”
(continues through March 11)

UN: Office for Outer Space Affairs S&T Subcommittee meeting
(continues through Feb. 9)

American Meteorological Society: 104th annual meeting
(continues through Thursday)

DOD: Navy Science and Technology Board meeting
(continues through Wednesday)

National Academies: “Workshop on Advancing Antiracism, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in STEMM Organizations: Current Context and Challenges”
(continues Tuesday)

National Academies: “Committee to Assess NASA Science Activation 2.0,” meeting two
(continues Tuesday)

NSF: NSB-NSF Commission on Merit Review teleconference
3:00 - 5:00 pm

Tuesday, January 30

US-EU Trade and Technology Council: Fifth meeting

US-EU Trade and Technology Council: “Crafting the Transatlantic Green Marketplace”
(continues Wednesday)

NASA: NASA Small Bodies Assessment Group meeting
(continues Wednesday)

House: “Strengthening CCP Sanctions and Exploring Alternatives to Bureaucratic Regimes”
10:00 am, Financial Services Committee

House: “Artificial Intelligence: Innovations within the Legislative Branch”
10:30 am, Administration Committee

Carnegie Endowment: “Kazakhstan’s Actions to Address Nuclear and Biological Risks”
1:30 - 2:45 pm

House: “From Risk to Resilience: Reauthorizing the Earthquake and Windstorm Hazards Reduction Programs”
2:00 pm, Science Committee

Atlantic Council: “Gina Raimondo and Margrethe Vestager on the Future of US-EU Economic Ties”
3:00 pm

Wednesday, January 31

Exchange Monitor: Nuclear Deterrence Summit
(continues through Friday)

National Academies: “International Talent Programs in the Changing Global Environment: Committee,” meeting nine
(continues Thursday)

National Academies: “Understanding and Addressing Misinformation about Science,” meeting eight
(continues Thursday)

Potomac Officers Club: 10th Annual Defense R&D Summit
7:00 am - 4:30 pm

Senate: “Avoiding, Detecting, and Capturing Methane Emissions from Landfills”
10:00 am, Environment and Public Works Committee

House: “Overseeing the Department of Health and Human Services’ Compliance with Congress”
10:00 am, Oversight Committee

CSET: “AI Executive Order Report Card: Reviewing the First 90 Days”
12:00 - 1:00 pm

CSIS: “The Transatlantic Economic Security Agenda”
12:30 - 1:30 pm

NASA: Science Mission Directorate quarterly community town hall
1:00 - 2:00 pm

House: Hearing on the National Landslide Preparedness Reauthorization Act and three other bills
2:00 pm, Natural Resources Committee

NASA: “Gateway Utilization Town Hall for the International Science Community”
3:00 pm

National Academies: “Roles, Responsibilities, and Expectations of Graduate Students and Postdoctoral Scholars: The Current Landscape and History of Graduate Student and Postdoctoral Scholar Labor Movements”
3:00 - 4:30 pm

Thursday, February 1

NTIA: 2024 Spectrum Policy Symposium
9:00 am - 4:30 pm

US-China Commission: “Current and Emerging Technologies in U.S.-China Economic and National Security Competition”
9:30 am - 3:25 pm

EESI: “Energy Earthshots: The Frontier of Climate Innovation,” with Reps. Frank Lucas (R-OK) and Deborah Ross (D-NC)
2:00 - 3:30 pm

Friday, February 2

House: “Artificial Intelligence and Intellectual Property: Part II – Identity in the Age of AI”
9:00 am, Judiciary Committee

Monday, February 5

National Academies: “Advancing Risk Communication with Decision-Makers for Extreme Tropical Cyclones”
(continues Tuesday)

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

White House: Key AI actions following President Biden’s executive order
White House: New commitments toward equitable workforce development in advanced manufacturing
E&E News: White House slaps $1 trillion price tag on climate record
Financial Times: White House science chief signals US-China cooperation on AI safety

Congress

GAO: Selected emerging technologies highlight the need for legislative analysis and enhanced coordination (report)
CAPAC: Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus members lead effort to prevent the relaunch of Trump-era China Initiative
Boston Globe: Why does the US House want to reinstate the China Initiative? (perspective by Gang Chen)
CSIS: Sens. Todd Young (R-IN) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) discuss global technology competition during CSIS event

Science, Society, and the Economy

Business Insider: Priscilla Chan says CZI is now a ‘science-focused philanthropy’ as its COO leaves
Axios: Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt launches new science charity
NASA: 2024 technology spinoff report released
AAUP: New resource on political interference
Inside Higher Ed: The University of California is considering a policy to limit ‘personal or collective opinions’ on department websites
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: In 2024, the Doomsday Clock remains at 90 seconds to midnight
The Athletic: Total Eclipse of the Park: The Guardians’ home opener coincides with a rare solar eclipse

Education and Workforce

The City: STEM jobs on brink of eclipsing Wall Street in NYC economy
Education Week: STEM is failing people of color. What educators can do (perspective by Ebony McGee)
Times Higher Education: Canada universities reel from student visa cut
Varsity: ‘However hard I tried to be a scientist, the press were always going to feature me as a young woman’ (interview with Jocelyn Bell Burnell)

Research Management

COGR: Comments on NSF’s Public Access Plan 2.0
NIH: Carrying the momentum from a Year of Open Science forward in 2024
Science: Open-access papers draw more citations from a broader readership
Science: Errors found in dozens of papers by top scientists at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Science: Whistleblowers flagged 300 scientific papers for retraction. Many journals ghosted them
Science|Business: EU Commission tells universities and funders to bolster research security
Science|Business: Academic research could be dragged into new EU foreign influence rules

Labs and Facilities

Nature: Several organizations are vying for the contract to manage Fermilab, after it received failing grades from DOE
Fermilab: From Director Lia Merminga: Updates to Fermilab’s Batavia site access
Fermilab: MAGIS-100 quantum experiment at Fermilab bolstered by support from UK
Physics World: Influential US particle-physics panel calls for muon collider development
Purdue University: DOE Undersecretary Richmond visits Purdue nuclear and fluid power facilities
Oak Ridge National Lab: ORNL announces plans for research collaborative focused on energy resilience, quantum technology
Nature: China’s new dark-matter lab is biggest and deepest yet

Computing and Communications

Wall Street Journal: Eager for economic wins, Biden to announce billions for advanced chips
HPCwire: OpenAI CEO Sam Altman wants to be the king of chip-making but challenges await
DOD: DOD awards $49 million to improve advanced semiconductor packaging capabilities
Science|Business: Europe ‘on a par with US’ as installation of its first exascale supercomputer nears completion
Science|Business: EU Commission proposes ‘artificial intelligence factories’ in bid to give start-ups access to supercomputers
UCAR: Now retired, the Cheyenne supercomputer advanced all aspects of Earth system science
HPCwire: US leads user rush to try China’s quantum computer
Breaking Defense: US moves to dismiss Ligado spectrum lawsuit, disputes court jurisdiction and claims

Space

Ars Technica: It turns out NASA’s Mars helicopter was much more revolutionary than we knew
Ars Technica: What happens when an astronaut in orbit says he’s not coming back?
Science: Is NASA too down on space-based solar power?
Wall Street Journal: Your satellite needs a tow? Call the semi trucks of space
Nature: ‘Sci-fi instrument’ will hunt for giant gravitational waves in space
SpacePolicyOnline: Artemis Accords: Belgium makes it 34
Science|Business: The EU wants to play its part in solving Europe’s launcher crisis
SpaceNews: Europe sets up space finance taskforce
New York Times: Japan explains how it made an upside-down moon landing

Weather, Climate, and Environment

AP: Kerry and Xie exit roles that defined generation of climate action
USPTO: USPTO, NOAA sign collaborative agreement to advance climate technology
NOAA: NOAA invests $85 million for Industry Proving Grounds program to strengthen climate resilience
Sen. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM): Luján and Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) introduce legislation to strengthen weather forecasting
PEER.org: EPA’s latest scientific integrity plan – big hat, no cattle
House Science Committee: Republicans question EPA’s scientific integrity in chemical assessments
House Science Committee: Republicans finds evidence of inappropriate influence in Biden administration rulemaking on contractor disclosures of greenhouse gas emissions
House Science Committee: Republican committee chairs open investigation into Chinese influence in American energy and environmental policy

Energy

Bloomberg: China added more solar panels in 2023 than US did in its entire history
Inside Climate News: It could soon get a whole lot easier to build solar in the western US
DOE: DOE announces $254 million to decarbonize America’s industrial sector and revitalize domestic manufacturing
Idaho National Lab: Commercial advanced nuclear fuel arrives in Idaho for testing
Physics Today: UK, like US, begins subsidizing fuel for advanced reactors
IEEE Spectrum: The case for nuclear cargo ships
E&E News: NRC nominee’s demise stokes fears about nuclear oversight
NETL: DOE plans to expand domestic critical minerals and materials projects

Defense

Breaking Defense: Transparent Sea: AUKUS looks to AI, quantum in hunt for Chinese submarines
Emerging Technologies Institute: Directed energy weapon supply chains (report)
DEPS: Harry Sinsheimer named new executive director of the Directed Energy Professional Society
GAO: Better performance tracking and documentation needed for NNSA minor construction projects (report)
Institute for Defense Analyses: Support for the Planning, Programming, Budgeting, and Execution (PPBE) Reform Commission (report)

Biomedical

Federation of American Scientists: Tracking the progress of the bioeconomy executive order
Bloomberg: COVID ‘long haulers’ seek GOP support for clinical trial boost
The Hill: Senate duo questions NIH director over proposal to omit ‘lengthen life’ from mission statement
Nature: CRISPR-edited crops break new ground in Africa
Biotechnology Innovation Organization: New BIO report finds more innovation and investment needed in vaccine development
Science: Protein design meets biosecurity (perspective by David Baker and George Church)
House CCP Committee: Bills to ban foreign adversary biotech companies introduced in House and Senate

International Affairs

Science: Argentina’s controversial new science head faces protests over cuts and privatization
Research Professional: Ottoline Leyser to step down as UKRI chief executive next year
Science|Business: EU Commission launches bid to expand funding of dual-use research in Horizon Europe’s successor
Science|Business: Axe the European Institute of Innovation and Technology and move missions and Widening out of Horizon Europe successor, Danish government says
Research Professional: European Education Area ‘a long way’ off track
Science|Business: Number of joint patents between companies from China and Europe is increasing
Foreign Affairs: America can’t win the tech race alone (perspective by Christopher Thomas and Sarah Kreps)

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A potential steep budget cut to the Mars Sample Return mission has prompted the lab to lay off over 500 employees.

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