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WEEK OF MARCH 11, 2024
What’s Ahead

OMB Director Shalanda Young views printed copies of the president's FY2024 budget

White House Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young, second from left, views copies of the president’s budget request being printed by the Government Publishing Office.

(GPO)

Most Non-Defense Science Agencies Would See Increases Under FY25 Budget

President Joe Biden is seeking to raise the budgets of most non-defense science agencies for fiscal year 2025, though the increases are dampened by the budget cuts Congress just made to many science agencies for fiscal year 2024. Biden submitted his budget request to Congress on March 11, and congressional committees will hold hearings with science agency leaders over the coming weeks to review the details as they prepare their own spending proposals.

Among the most favored agencies in the request are the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the National Science Foundation. NIST’s base budget (excluding earmarks) would increase nearly 30% to $1.50 billion and NSF’s budget would increase 12% to $10.18 billion. Other major funders of the physical sciences would see smaller increases. The budget of the Department of Energy’s Office of Science would increase 4% to $8.58 billion and the budget for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate would increase 3% to $7.57 billion, only partially reversing the 6% cut it just received for fiscal year 2024.

A notable exception to the trend of budget increases for non-defense agencies is that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research would be cut 11% to $646 million. As for defense agencies, the budget requests steep cuts to the Department of Defense’s portfolio of early-stage science and technology programs, seeking a total of $17.2 billion, down from the fiscal year 2023 level of $22.3 billion and similar to the amount requested for fiscal year 2024. In recent years Congress has routinely exceeded presidents’ budget requests for DOD’s science and technology portfolio, though it has yet to finalize the department’s appropriation for fiscal year 2024.

Agencies are continuing to release documents with details on their budget proposals, which will be collected in FYI’s Federal Science Budget Tracker.

Science and Engineering Indicators Report Set for Release

The National Science Board will release the biennial Science and Engineering Indicators report on Wednesday at a live-streamed rollout event hosted by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. The S&E Indicators report compiles data about the composition of the U.S. research enterprise and its trajectory relative to that of other nations, complementing thematic reports released throughout the year. Previewing this year’s edition, the board stated the Indicators report shows that China has surpassed the U.S. in “STEM talent production, research publications, patents, and knowledge-and technology-intensive manufacturing.” The board also noted it has “sounded the alarm” over the past decade about this trend and lamented that the U.S. has not followed through on the science budget targets proposed in the CHIPS and Science Act. For instance, Congress just cut the National Science Foundation’s budget by 8% to $9 billion, whereas the act proposed NSF receive $15.6 billion in fiscal year 2024.

House to Press Case for Cutting Russian Nuclear Fuel Imports

The House Foreign Affairs Committee will explore U.S. efforts to cut ties with Russia’s nuclear industry at a Tuesday hearing focused on the state energy corporation Rosatom, a major exporter of nuclear fuel and technology. The House passed a bill in December 2023 that would restrict imports of low-enriched uranium from Russia, and a similar bill has bipartisan backing in the Senate. House Republicans have also called for further sanctions on Rosatom to hinder its cooperation with China. Congress has already moved to reduce dependence on Russian nuclear fuel through the Nuclear Fuel Security Act of 2023 and related appropriations measures, which focus on establishing a domestic supply of high-assay low-enriched uranium. HALEU fuel is needed for many proposed advanced reactors and Russia is currently the dominant global supplier. Congress has permitted DOE to repurpose up to $2.7 billion in previously appropriated infrastructure funds to implement the Nuclear Fuel Security Act.

PCAST to Meet with UK Science Advisors

The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology will meet on Friday with the UK Prime Minister’s Council for Science and Technology to discuss “global challenges.” The councils will hear presentations from Derek Cummings, a professor of emerging pathogens at the University of Florida; Judith Green, a professor of health and medicine sociology at the University of Exeter; Sarah Kapnick, chief scientist of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; and Nick Pidgeon, professor of environmental psychology and risk at Cardiff University. In a separate session, PCAST will consider approving a report on “reducing diet-related diseases and food insecurity through advancing nutrition science.”

In Case You Missed It

President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the Capitol, Thursday, March 7, 2024, in Washington. Standing at left is Vice President Kamala Harris and seated at right is House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La.

President Joe Biden delivers the 2024 State of the Union Address.

(Francis Chung/POLITICO/AP)

Biden Touches on Research in Address to Congress

In his State of the Union address last week, President Joe Biden mentioned a few of his priority research and technology initiatives in a speech focused on making his case for reelection. Biden said the CHIPS and Science Act has helped boost domestic semiconductor manufacturing and claimed the U.S. is now “investing more in research and development than ever before.” He called for Congress to continue supporting the new Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA–H) as part of an effort to “do big things like end cancer as we know it,” the goal of his Cancer Moonshot. He also highlighted the recent launch of the White House Initiative on Women’s Health Research, led by First Lady Jill Biden, which he said is motivated by the fact that such research “has always been underfunded.” In a brief mention of efforts to mitigate climate change, Biden reiterated his goal of cutting carbon emissions in half by 2030 and highlighted his nascent Climate Corps workforce training initiative. Commenting on his stance toward China, Biden said, “I want competition with China, not conflict.” Alluding to his expansion of export controls, he said “I’ve made sure that the most advanced American technologies can’t be used in China.” He also noted that he has worked to expand technological alliances with other countries in the region, such as the “Quad” partnership with India, Australia, and Japan. In concluding his speech, Biden urged Congress to pass legislation to “harness the promise of AI to protect us from peril,” in part by banning AI voice impersonations.

Senate Passes Radiation Exposure Compensation Act

By a 69-30 vote, the Senate passed legislation last week that would expand the types of atmospheric nuclear testing and nuclear material exposure covered by the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act as well as the time window for damage claims. Specifically, people exposed to atmospheric nuclear tests in Nevada and the Pacific from 1958 to 1962 would now be eligible for damage claims. The current law limits claims relating to atmospheric testing to parts of Arizona, Nevada, and Utah; the bill would expand that area to include all of those states as well as Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Utah, and Guam. The bill also expands the list of uranium mining-related jobs that qualify for compensation, notably adding workers involved in remediation efforts at uranium mines and mills. It extends the coverage to include mines that operated through 1990, instead of through 1971. In addition, the bill creates a new claim eligibility for people affected by Manhattan Project waste in Missouri, Tennessee, Alaska, and Kentucky. The compensation fund itself is set to expire in June, following a previous extension that Congress passed in 2022. The new legislation would extend the fund to 2030. The bill is sponsored by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), who has frequently drawn attention to the enduring effects of radiological contamination in his state. The Biden administration has endorsed the legislation.

Barrasso Quizzes DOE on China Interactions

Senate Energy and Natural Resource Committee Ranking Member John Barrasso (R-WY) sent a letter to the Department of Energy last week expressing concern over a series of meetings between DOE officials and representatives of the Chinese government. The letter asserts the meetings “went beyond mere diplomatic courtesies” and, in some cases, “served as forums in which the taxpayer-funded research and development of our national labs was offered up for the benefit of Chinese state-owned enterprises and, by extension, the Chinese Communist Party.” The meetings, such as one between the director of DOE’s China Office and the president of the state-owned China Construction Technology Company were publicized only in Chinese-media, Barrasso wrote, raising “significant concern about DOE’s transparency and broader collaboration with the CCP.” His letter requests a list of all trips taken by DOE employees to China, as well as details of how staff are prepared for these visits, and a justification for DOE’s “conscious decision not to publicize these meetings.” A DOE spokesperson defended the meetings in a statement to news outlets. “Global collaboration on key issues — such as basic scientific research and addressing the climate crisis — are critical to sustaining America’s global leadership while promoting greater prosperity and economic growth for generations to come,” the spokesperson wrote. “To that end, department officials have and will continue to strategically engage with partners and competitors from across the globe to protect and promote American innovation, advance our technological competitiveness, and strengthen our national security.”

Input on AI Sought by DOE and NTIA

The Department of Energy and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration are soliciting public comments to inform reports mandated by President Joe Biden’s recent executive order on artificial intelligence. NTIA is seeking input by March 27 on the “potential risks, benefits, other implications, and appropriate policy and regulatory approaches to dual-use foundation models for which the model weights are widely available.” DOE is seeking input by April 1 on a report that will detail AI’s potential to forecast the impacts of climate change and to improve electric grid planning and resilience.

Upcoming Events

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

Tuesday, March 12

LPSC: Lunar and Planetary Science Conference 2024
(continues through Friday)

National Academies: “Statistical and Data-driven Methods for Additive Manufacturing Qualification: A Workshop”
(continues through Wednesday)

House: “2024 Annual Threat Assessment”
10:00 am, Intelligence Committee

House: “Bridging the Valley of Death: ARPA-E’s Role in Developing Breakthrough Technologies”
10:00 am, Science Committee

House: “The Power Struggle: Examining the Reliability and Security of America’s Electrical Grid”
10:00 am, Oversight and Accountability Committee

House: “Mission Critical: Restoring National Security as the Focus of Defense Production Act Reauthorization”
10:00 am, Financial Services Committee

Senate: “American Made: Growing U.S. Manufacturing Through the Tax Code”
10:00 am, Finance Committee

Senate: “Findings and Recommendations of the Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission”
10:00 am, Energy and Natural Resources Committee

Senate: “The President’s Fiscal Year 2025 Budget Proposal”
10:15 am, Budget Committee

NSF: Webinar on the National Medal of Science call for nominations
11:00 am - 12:00 pm

House: “Going Nuclear on Rosatom: Ending Global Dependence on Putin’s Nuclear Energy Sector”
2:00 pm, Foreign Affairs Committee

Senate: “Youth Apprenticeships: Building Partnerships, Strengthening Career Pathways”
2:00 pm, Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee

CSIS: “The Albany NanoTech Complex: A National Asset”
2:00 - 3:00 pm

NSF: Webinar on NSF’s revised Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide
2:00 - 3:00 pm

Senate: “The Fiscal Situation of the United States”
2:30 pm, Joint Economic Committee

House: “U.S. and Adversary Hypersonic Capabilities”
3:00 pm, Armed Services Committee

Resources for the Future: “Digging Deep: Critical Minerals, Electric Vehicles, and the Role of Innovation”
4:00 - 5:00 pm

Wednesday, March 13

House: “Too Critical to Fail: Getting Software Right in an Age of Rapid Innovation”
9:00 am, Armed Services Committee

National Academies: “2025-2035 Decadal Survey of Ocean Sciences for NSF,” interim report release
10:00 - 11:00 am

Brookings Institution: “Delivering on Nuclear Deterrence: A Conversation with NNSA Principal Deputy Administrator Frank Rose”
10:00 - 11:00 am

White House: Release event for the 2024 U.S. Science and Engineering Indicators report
10:30 am

NIH: “How Does Diversity Impact Innovation in Team Science?”
10:30 am - 12:00 pm

Carnegie Endowment: “The Future of American Innovation: A Conversation With FTC Chair Lina Khan”
12:00 - 1:00 pm

Beyond Earth Institute: “Sacred Skies-Integrating Diverse Spiritual Perspectives in Space Policy”
12:00 - 1:30 pm

ITIF: “Transatlantic Innovation and Competitiveness: Europe’s New Agenda vs. the CHIPS and Science Act”
1:00 - 2:00 pm

NASA: Town hall meeting on the Science Mission Directorate budget
1:00 - 2:00 pm

Foundation for Defense of Democracies: “Fortifying Cyber-Physical Resilience: Recommendations from the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology”
3:00 - 4:15 pm

Thursday, March 14

White House: President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology meeting
(continues Friday)

Senate: “A Nation on Fire: Responding to the Increasing Wildfire Threat”
10:00 am, Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee

Senate: HHS budget request hearing
10:00 am, Finance Committee

RAND: “Policy Lab: Understanding Climate Science and the Pursuit of Climate Equity”
12:00 - 1:00 pm

DOE: “DOE’s Pathways to Commercial Liftoff: Virtual Power Plants Deep Dive”
3:00 - 4:00 pm

Friday, March 15

No events.

Monday, March 18

National Academies: Space Science Week 2024
(continues through Friday)

European Commission: Research and Innovation Week
(continues through Thursday)

National Academies: “Workshop on Climate Change and Human Migration: An Earth Systems Science Perspective”
(continues Tuesday)

National Academies: “Caring Institutions, Successful Students: A Focus on Indigenous Students with the Roundtable on Systemic Change in Undergraduate STEM Education”
(continues Tuesday)

House: “Victims of Regulatory Overreach: How the SEC’s Climate Disclosure Rule Will Harm Americans”
10:00 am, Financial Services Committee

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

Nature: Trump versus Biden: What the rematch could mean for three key science issues
Chronicle of Higher Education: Trump and his allies are preparing to overhaul higher education (perspective by Steven Brint)
White House: Scaling and expanding the use of registered apprenticeships in industries and the federal government
OMB: The federal government’s budget exposure to financial risk due to climate change (report)
Asian American Scholar Forum: White House welcomes AASF and celebrates Asian American scholar contributions to our country

Congress

Politico: How Congress defanged Biden’s big science push
AAAS: Automatic cuts to R&D will have devastating impacts on STEMM (perspective by Sudip Parikh)
Emerging Technologies Institute: What is the National Defense Authorization Act about? Part 2 (video)
Science: Congress is using more science, but the two parties rarely cite the same studies
American Nuclear Society: Bipartisan support launches pronuclear bill from Congress
Senate Environment and Public Works: Carper statement on NRC proposal for advanced reactor licensing framework

Science, Society, and the Economy

Nature: The science of Oppenheimer: Meet the Oscar-winning movie’s specialist advisers (interview)
Union of Concerned Scientists: Three things from Oppenheimer that are happening again
Nature: Geologists reject the Anthropocene as Earth’s new epoch — after 15 years of debate
PNAS: Trends in US public confidence in science and opportunities for progress (paper by Arthur Lupia, et al.)

Education and Workforce

Washington Post: State and local programs benefiting underrepresented groups in a range of professions have become ripe targets for conservative activists
Chronicle of Higher Education: Colleges contend with a tidal wave of new undergrad unions
Macro Polo: The Global AI Talent Tracker 2.0
Washington Post: Silicon Valley is pricing academics out of AI research
National Academies: Review of EPA’s use of Title 42 special hiring authority (report)
NIH: How many researchers: The FY 2023 cumulative investigator rate
Stat: Disabled scientists are often left out of academia. The NIH can help change that (perspective by Elizabeth Weaver II and Kiana Jackson)

Research Management

Nature: China promises more money for science in 2024
Nature: Superconductivity scandal: The inside story of deception in a rising star’s physics lab
Science: Science integrity sleuths welcome legal aid fund for whistleblowers
International Science Council: Protecting science in times of crisis (report)
Science: UK science minister pays damages to researcher she accused of airing ‘extremist’ views
Nature: Nature publishes too few papers from women researchers — that must change (editorial)
Wall Street Journal: Oppenheimer couldn’t run a hamburger stand. How did he run a secret lab?

Labs and Facilities

Washington Post: NIST is fighting mold, floods, and pests
World Nuclear News: Sino-French consortium awarded a contract to assemble ITER vacuum chamber modules
New Scientist: UK spurns European invitation to join ITER nuclear fusion project
Research Professional: UK not seeing sufficient returns from £160 million annual investment in CERN, science committee hears
HPCwire: Oak Ridge’s Summit supercomputer lives for another year with SummitPLUS
ABC7 Chicago: Aurora at Argonne National Lab on track to be world’s fastest supercomputer, revolutionizing science

Computing and Communications

Bloomberg: Intel stands to win $3.5 billion to produce chips for military
Bloomberg: US could tighten controls on chip exports to China: Raimondo
China Talk: What America can learn from how Taiwan subsidizes its chip industry
VentureBeat: NIST staffers revolt against expected appointment of ‘effective altruist’ AI researcher to US AI Safety Institute
Oak Ridge National Lab: Contributing to community standards for AI security, privacy
American Meteorological Society: Letter to the FCC on spectrum emissions rule

Space

SpaceNews: China targets 2030 for Mars sample return mission, potential landing areas revealed
Wall Street Journal: Space burial firm creates a dust-up by sending ashes to the moon
NPR: NASA is trying to fix Voyager 1, but the old spacecraft’s days are numbered (audio)
Dark Sky: Oregon Outback becomes the largest International Dark Sky Sanctuary
PBS NewsHour: Hundreds of miles above Earth, 2 astronauts cast their votes

Weather, Climate, and Environment

Politico: SEC signs off on landmark climate rule as legal backlash looms
Union of Concerned Scientists: Final SEC climate disclosure rule fails to reflect science
DOE: New members appointed to advisory committee to reduce emissions across the industrial sector
National Academies: Climate intervention in an Earth systems science framework (report)
Bloomberg: Why carbon capture is seen as vital climate solution that’s falling short
MIT Technology Review: Emissions hit a record high in 2023. Blame hydropower
New Atlantis: Did Exxon make it rain today? (perspective by Ted Nordaus)
PBS NewsHour: Arizona’s health department has named the first statewide heat officer to address extreme heat

Energy

Power: NRC sets stage for advanced nuclear with new Part 53 rule
Princeton Plasma Physics Lab: INFUSE workshop gives private and public fusion partners a chance to network and share experiences
American Nuclear Society: Grossi, Putin meet to discuss Ukraine nuclear plant concerns
Reuters: Russia says it is considering putting a nuclear power plant on the moon with China
DOE: DOE announces $425 million to decarbonize and manufacture clean energy products in former coal communities

Defense

Defense News: ‘Big changes’: Congressional panel proposes new defense budget system
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: Nuclear testing in the 21st century — legacies, tensions, and risks (article collection)
Science News: ‘Countdown’ takes stock of the US nuclear weapons stockpile
SpaceNews: Russian space weapons amplify security concerns
New York Times: Atom bombs in space are back to scare us again
Breaking Defense: Space Force Futures Command won’t need ‘giant’ resources
Washington Post: Pentagon report finds no evidence of alien visits, hidden spacecraft

Biomedical

Science: ‘I’m never going to be Tony’: Jeanne Marrazzo, Anthony Fauci’s successor, vows a new direction at NIAID (interview)
Stat: Preventing the weaponization of AI-designed proteins
White House: Improving cancer care through better electronic health records: Voluntary commitments and call to action
NNSA: NNSA partners with Hungary to transition country to X-ray technology for blood irradiation

International Affairs

Voice of America: US-China S&T pact is renewed for another six months
Nature: China–US climate collaboration concerns as Xie and Kerry step down
Wall Street Journal: China intensifies push to ‘delete America’ from its technology
Science|Business: New NSF directorate on the hunt for international partners (interview with Erwin Gianchandani)
AP: Ukraine needs more than a billion dollars to rebuild its scientific infrastructure, UN agency says
Science|Business: South Korean association to Horizon Europe ‘imminent’
Science|Business: UK and France pledge more cooperation in sensitive research fields
Research Professional: Danish universities to conduct background checks on certain foreign applicants to research programmes
Reuters: Nobel laureates sound alarm as Argentina cuts science funding
CERN Courier: By accepting sanctions in science, we allow the dominance of politics over scientific cooperation (perspective by Hannes Jung)

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