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WEEK OF MAY 13, 2024
This Week

Dan Reed at his last NSB meeting

Dan Reed, pictured chairing his last meeting of the National Science Board early this month, is testifying before Congress this week.

(NSB)

NSF Leaders to Testify

The House Science Committee will examine the National Science Foundation’s priorities for 2025 and beyond at a hearing on Thursday, featuring testimony from NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan and former NSF board chair Dan Reed. NSF is facing tough decisions on what to prioritize given that Congress cut its budget by 8% to just over $9 billion for the current fiscal year. NSF is also struggling to decide which of the numerous proposals for new large research facilities it will support. Among them are the Thirty Meter Telescope and the Giant Magellan Telescope, for which Panchanathan announced earlier this month he will convene an external panel of experts to help aid his decision on whether either telescope should progress to the final design stage. Mounting infrastructure modernization backlogs in Antarctica are also throwing a wrench into plans for new research projects on the continent.

Reed, who stepped down as NSB chair this month after his six-year term on the board expired, may use his remarks to call for Congress to develop a follow-on to the National Defense Education Act of 1958, which focused on improving STEM education in the wake of the Soviet Union’s launch of the Sputnik satellite the year prior. Previewing his thoughts at a board meeting earlier this month, Reed said it is time for the U.S. to embrace a 21st-century version of the legislation, noting the original act “galvanized” the entire country to think about the importance of STEM-based education. “Yes, some of those things were artifacts of the Cold War, but you could argue, in a very reasonable sense, that we are in a geopolitical competition. It’s different from the previous one, but just as real,” Reed said. “We have to re-inspire people.”

Spectrum Bills Advancing in Senate and House

Legislation that proposes using spectrum auctions to raise billions of dollars for CHIPS and Science Act initiatives is scheduled for a vote by the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee on Thursday. The Spectrum and National Security Act is authored by Committee Chair Maria Cantwell (D-WA) but does not have Republican cosponsors, which suggests the legislation may face obstacles. Among its other provisions, the bill would restore the Federal Communication Commission’s spectrum auction authority, which expired in March 2023, and would provide policy guidance to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. Meanwhile, the House plans to vote Tuesday on its own bill to update NTIA. That legislation does not include provisions to restore FCC’s auction authority or to use auction proceeds for R&D programs.

AI-Enhanced Forecasting to be Focus of AMS Policy Forum

The American Meteorological Society’s annual Washington Forum runs this Tuesday through Thursday, with the subject of artificial intelligence featuring heavily at the event. The entire Wednesday itinerary is dedicated to the topic, with sessions exploring how AI can be incorporated into weather and climate forecasting, the data needs of AI-enhanced models, and efforts to incorporate AI into the education of student and early-career researchers. AI will also be a focus of a keynote on Tuesday by Michael Morgan, the top official for environmental observation and prediction programs at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Beyond AI, NOAA staff will discuss the role of the Weather Modification Reporting Act in regulating geoengineering efforts. The 1972 act has traditionally been used to monitor cloud seeding, but NOAA recently determined that it also applies to solar radiation modification experiments aimed at altering the climate. Other sessions will focus on the future of NOAA’s satellite data acquisition methods, next-generation radar, and the agency’s new action plan for equitably delivering climate information to decision-makers. (AMS is an AIP Member Society.)

Bills We’re Watching

  • The BIOSECURE Act, a bipartisan bill to prohibit federal agencies from procuring biotechnology equipment or services from China and other “countries of concern,” is scheduled for a vote by the House Oversight Committee. (Wednesday)
  • The Invent Here, Make Here Act, a bipartisan bill to create a domestic manufacturing preference for certain federally funded inventions, is scheduled for a vote by the Senate Commerce Committee. The act would also prohibit waivers to the requirement in cases where the invention would be substantially manufactured in a country of concern. (Thursday)
  • A slate of bills relating to sanctioning the Russian nuclear corporation Rosatom and strengthening export controls are scheduled for votes by the House Foreign Affairs Committee. (Thursday)

Also on Our Radar

  • The Senate will set up a final vote on the nomination of Courtney Diesel O’Donnell as the U.S. representative to the U.N. Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. (Tuesday)
  • The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing on the future of arms control and deterrence. (Wednesday)
  • The Society for Science at User Research Facilities will hold its annual meeting. (Wednesday)
  • As part of Republicans’ ongoing probe into the origins of COVID-19, the deputy director of the National Institutes of Health, Lawrence Tabak, will testify before the House Oversight Committee on NIH’s procedures for “funding and overseeing scientific research.” (Thursday)
  • As part of NSF’s Spectrum Week, a workshop is being held to inform the National Spectrum R&D Plan. (Friday)
In Case You Missed It

A cosmic microwave background telescope at the South Pole near where the proposed CMB-S4 telescopes would be placed.

A telescope at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station near where the proposed CMB-S4 telescopes would be placed.

(Alexander Pollak / University of Chicago)

NSF Puts CMB-S4 Plans on Ice

The Cosmic Microwave Background Stage 4 experiment — a project that would construct multiple small and large telescopes in Chile and at the South Pole — will not progress to the design stage “in its current form,” the National Science Foundation announced last week. Chris Smith, interim director of the Astronomical Sciences Division at NSF, explained at a May 7 meeting that aging infrastructure at the South Pole has created major challenges for the CMB-S4 project, despite strong scientific support for the experiment. In a statement shared during the meeting, NSF said the agency “must prioritize the recapitalization of critical infrastructure at the South Pole so that the groundbreaking research it enables can continue to thrive.” NSF added that the forthcoming South Pole Master Plan will outline proposed infrastructure investments and will be open to public comment later this month.

The CMB-S4 project was identified as a top priority in recent major planning exercises by U.S. astronomy and particle physics communities. It was also marked as “absolutely central” and “ready for construction” in the High Energy Physics Advisory Panel’s facilities prioritization report, published the day after the decision to put the project on hold was announced. Smith emphasized that the decision not to move the project from the development to the design phase is specific to its current form, leaving the door open to pursuing an alternative approach. Smith added that NSF is committed to cosmic microwave background science and will continue to support current CMB activities at the South Pole and in Chile. “This is very fresh news. We are in active discussions with our DOE colleagues and the project to understand what this means in terms of moving forward with the community on the support of CMB science,” Smith said.

DOE Announces $160 Million for New Microelectronics Research Centers

The Department of Energy opened applications last week for up to $160 million in funding to create Microelectronics Science Research Centers. DOE plans to issue clusters of awards that will collectively form centers focused on increasing the energy efficiency of microelectronics technologies or their ability to function in extreme environments, such as under high radiation, cold temperatures, or high magnetic fields. Each proposal is encouraged to relate to at least two of the following topics: “new or improved materials, surface processing and control, chemistry, synthesis, and fabrication; advanced computing paradigms and architectures; integrated sensing, edge computing, and communication; or processing in extreme environments, radiation, radiation transport, and materials interaction.” The department anticipates that each award will last four years and provide $750,000 to $3 million annually, with the total funding for each overarching center capped at $25 million per year. Awardees are set to be announced in August, with $40 million being delivered by the end of fiscal year 2024. Congress directed DOE to launch these centers through the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, though the act did not provide any dedicated funds for that purpose, in contrast to the other semiconductor programs it created. Therefore, DOE is funding the centers out of its base budget.

White House Report Paints Dire Picture of U.S. Research Infrastructure

An interagency assessment released this month by the White House stresses that many federal research facilities are now well beyond their 40-50-year estimated lifespan, with about half rated to be in poor or critical condition. “U.S. scientists and engineers are now faced with conducting 21st century R&D in many facilities designed in the 1950s that cannot support modern research and current laboratory practices in health and safety,” the report states. The report flags numerous negative statistics, including that nearly 40% of Department of Energy facilities are rated as substandard or inadequate, more than 60% of the square footage at the National Institute of Standards and Technology is classified as being in poor or critical condition, and about 75% of NASA facilities are beyond their designed lifespan. It attributes the situation to decades of inadequate funding and deprioritization of maintenance. It also warns that remediating aging facilities instead of replacing them still incurs significant costs while missing out on the benefits of properly upgrading those facilities.

The report points out cases where other countries’ research infrastructure has passed that of the U.S. For example, it states that China has overtaken the U.S. in number of supercomputers and that the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts has pulled ahead of NOAA’s Global Forecast System. However, the issues driving this divide are not limited to advanced equipment, with the report citing widespread problems with basic infrastructure such as insufficient power, unreliable HVAC systems, and failing plumbing systems at U.S. facilities. Among its recommendations, the report proposes that U.S. research agencies increase their benchmarking against facilities abroad and promptly identify places where a gap may be forming, noting such an effort could also be used as a basis for increasing international cooperation.

Aviation Bill Passed Without Amendments Onboard

The Senate opted to not allow any amendments to legislation it passed last week to extend key aviation authorities, dashing the hopes of proponents of various unrelated initiatives that were hoping to hitch a ride. Among the amendments were proposals to speed the development of fission and fusion reactors, expedite environmental reviews for certain semiconductor projects, and expand compensation criteria for persons affected by radioactive waste associated with the Manhattan Project. The aviation legislation is considered to be one of the few major bills that Congress will pass before the election this fall, which is what attracted broad interest in using it as a vehicle for other pending measures.

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, May 13

NSF: Spectrum Week 2024
(continues through Friday)

ASA: Acoustical Society of America meeting
(continues through Friday)

ISC: ISC High Performance 2024
(continues through Thursday)

LPI: Extraterrestrial Materials Analysis Group spring meeting
(continues through Wednesday)

New America: Space Intersections Symposium
(continues Tuesday)

National Academies: AI for scientific discovery: Proceedings release
10:00 am - 12:00 pm

National Academies: Enabling US leadership in AI for weather
10:30 am - 4:30 pm

CSIS: The strategic value of modern grid technologies
1:00 - 1:30 pm

Tuesday, May 14

National Academies: Assessment of the NIST Engineering Lab
(continues through Thursday)

AMS: 2024 Washington Forum
(continues through Thursday)

National Academy of Medicine: Fostering action to address ethical and societal implications of emerging science, technology, and innovation in health and medicine: A workshop
8:30 am - 5:30 pm

Brookings: Biosafety and the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic: Evidence and policy implications
1:30 - 4:00 pm

National Academies: Committee on Solid Earth Geophysics spring meeting
1:00 - 5:00 pm

DOE: Driving biotechnology and biosecurity, congressional briefing and reception
3:00 - 7:00 pm

Harvard Belfer Center: Crafting climate policy that sticks: An Arctic case study
4:00 - 5:15 pm

Wednesday, May 15

National Academies: Empowering communities to benefit from federally funded energy projects
(continues Thursday)

SSURF: Society for Science at User Facilities annual meeting
8:30 am - 5:00 pm

Senate: The future of arms control and deterrence
10:00 am, Foreign Relations Committee

Senate: Budgeting for the storm: Climate change and the costs to national security
10:00 am, Budget Committee

House: Meeting to advance the BIOSECURE Act
10:00 am, Oversight Committee

House: EPA budget request hearing
10:00 am, Energy and Commerce Committee

National Academies: Universities as engines of growth
10:00 - 11:00 am

National Academies: Biotechnology capabilities for national security needs – leveraging advances in transdisciplinary biotechnology, kick-off meeting
10:00 am - 4:00 pm

House: NTIA budget request hearing
10:30 am, Energy and Commerce Committee

Carnegie Endowment: What is climate foreign policy? A transatlantic perspective
11:00 am - 12:15 pm

National Academies: Regulatory challenges and approaches for deploying digital twins
2:00 - 4:00 pm

Senate: Commerce Department budget request hearing
2:30 pm, Appropriations Committee

NSF: Office hour for RFI on future directions for developing the geoscience workforce
2:00 - 3:00 pm

Thursday, May 16

USGS: Scientific Earthquake Studies Advisory Committee meeting
(continues Friday)

NIST: CHIPS R&D Manufacturing USA Institute proposer’s day
7:30 am - 5:00 pm

House: Oversight and examination of NSF’s priorities for 2025 and beyond
10:00 am, Science Committee

Senate: Meeting to advance the Spectrum and National Security Act
10:00 am, Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee

House: Meeting to advance export control and Rosatom sanctions legislation
10:00 am, Foreign Affairs Committee

CNAS: One year in: DIU 3.0 and the path forward
10:00 - 11:00 am

House: CEQ budget request hearing
10:00 am, Natural Resources Committee

Senate: Examining State Department modernization and management, focusing on building a department to address 21st-century challenges
10:30 am, Foreign Relations Committee

Friday, May 17

NSF: Workshop on the National Spectrum R&D plan
8:00 am - 3:30 pm

Springer Nature: Safeguarding the sky: The science and policy of space junk
12:00 - 1:00 pm

ANS: Unlocking Africa’s potential with nuclear energy
1:00 - 2:00 pm

NASA: Boeing Starliner crew flight test
6:16 pm

Monday, May 20

Directed Energy Professional Society: Annual Directed Energy Science and Technology Symposium
(continues through Friday)

IAEA: International Conference on Nuclear Security
(continues through Friday)

National Academies: Inventorship, entrepreneurship, and systems for nurturing Black people in applied and translation fields: A workshop
(continues Tuesday)

National Academies: Committee on Atomic, Molecular and Optical Sciences spring meeting
(continues Tuesday)

National Academies: Committee on Astrobiology and Planetary Sciences, New Frontiers mission list review, meeting three
10:00 am - 12:30 pm

ANS: Past DOE nuclear energy officials roundtable
11:00 am - 12:00 pm

Hudson Institute: Strategic synergies: India-US technology cooperation
11:00 am - 1:00 pm

National Academies: Public infrastructure for effective climate mitigation and adaptation: A workshop
1:00 - 3:30 pm

National Academies: Continued efforts to improve pathways to undergraduate STEM degrees with the Roundtable on Systemic Change in Undergraduate STEM Education
1:00 - 4:45 pm

RAND: Climate change and critical infrastructure
2:30 pm

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

Opportunities

Deadlines indicated in parentheses. Newly added opportunities are marked with a diamond.

Job Openings

AIP: Science policy reporter (ongoing)
NSF: Science advisor for public access (ongoing)
National Academies: Senior program officer, Board on Mathematical Sciences and Analytics (ongoing)
◆DOD: Deputy assistant secretary of defense for applied technology (May 17)
AAS: Deputy director of public policy (May 24)
Office of Naval Research: Division director, directed energy (May 28)
DOE: Associate director, Office of Basic Energy Sciences (May 30)
◆NSF: Program director, particle astrophysics (May 30)
COGR: Director for costing and financial compliance (May 31)
◆AAAS: Program associate for science policy and mass media fellowships (June 2)
NSF: Division director, Division of Astronomical Sciences (June 24)
AAS: Public policy fellowship (July 1)

Solicitations

NSF: NSF advisory panels call for new members (ongoing)
BIS: Export control advisory committees call for new members (ongoing)
◆NIST: NIST advisory committees call for new members (ongoing)
USPTO: RFI on translating more innovation to the marketplace (May 14)
DOE: RFI on critical materials market dynamics (May 20)
NOAA: Advisory Committee on Excellence in Space call for nominations (May 29)
◆NIST: Request for comments on draft documents relating to AI executive order (June 2)
NOAA: Public comment on the draft prospectus of the Sixth National Climate Assessment (June 7)
◆NSF: Scientific Earthquake Studies Advisory Committee call for new members (June 7)
◆DOE: RFI on clean energy supply chains (June 10)
◆NSF: Request for public comment on draft Arctic research plan (June 10)
PCAST: RFI on groundwater challenges (July 1)
Commerce Department: RFI on AI and open government data assets (July 16)

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

New York Times: White House tightens rules on risky virus research
E&E News: Arati Prabhakar’s job: Ensuring AI and radical climate fixes don’t backfire
Washington Post: US-China talks on AI risks set to begin in Geneva
White House: Readout of workshop on AI and weather prediction
White House: Readout of event on opportunities at the AI research frontier
Wisconsin Public Radio: Biden announces $3.3 billion investment from Microsoft for AI data center in Mount Pleasant
Politico: Biden’s $1.6 trillion visions hit reality

Congress

FedScoop: Schumer says AI roadmap coming soon from Senate working group
Nature: Congress is taking on AI — this computer scientist is helping (interview with Kiri Wagstaff)
Reuters: US committee targets Georgia Tech’s alleged ties to Chinese military-linked research
Senate HELP Committee: Ranking Member Bill Cassidy (R-LA) releases new proposals to modernize NIH
Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY): Senate Republicans demand Biden reject WHO agreements
Science: Mr. Thorp goes to Washington (perspective by Holden Thorp)

Science, Society, and the Economy

HPCwire: Illinois considers $20 billion quantum ‘Manhattan Project,’ says report
Wall Street Journal: As Silicon Valley pivots to patriotic capital, China ties linger
New York Times: Jim Simons, math genius who conquered Wall Street, dies at 86
Jefferson Lab: Giving local business a ‘boost’ with national lab technology
Nature: US TikTok ban: how the looming restriction is affecting scientists on the app

Education and Workforce

CBC: Over 50 SNOLAB employees in Sudbury on strike after turning down latest offer
Nature: Dozens of Brazilian universities hit by strikes over academic wages
NIH: Age of principal investigators at the time of first R01 remains level with recent years in FY 2023
NREL: Clean energy is for everybody: Black employee resource group seeks to make it so

Research Management

BIS: Commerce adds 37 PRC entities to entity list for enabling PRC quantum and aerospace programs, aiding Russian aggression in Ukraine
South China Morning Post: China’s quantum tech ‘core strength’ targeted by latest US trade blacklist, Chinese physicists warn
Research Professional: UK government ‘profoundly worried’ about research security
Science|Business: National academies call for incoming EU Parliament not to raise barriers to open scientific cooperation
NIH: Notice to announce the significant changes to the NIH grants policy statement for fiscal year 2024
NASA: Small steps, giant leaps: Accelerating discoveries with open science (audio)
ChinaTalk: MITRE on national S&T strategy (audio)
Universities Space Research Association: USRA establishes a new region for international universities

Labs and Facilities

Nature: China first in Asia to build next-generation synchrotron
Oak Ridge National Lab: Proton Power Upgrade reaches turning point, heads for finish line
swissinfo.ch: Removing Russia from CERN ‘helps Putin’, scientists fear
Research Professional: UK’s National Physical Laboratory joins CERN facility
Physics World: US DIII-D National Fusion Facility resumes operations following series of upgrades
NASA: NASA Glenn looking to lease facilities
NOAA: NOAA breaks ground on a new Marine Operations Center Facility in Newport, Rhode Island
Lawrence Livermore: Harnessing the power of AI for a safe and secure future

Computing and Communications

Top500: Frontier keeps top spot, but Aurora officially becomes the second exascale machine
Science: Australia bets big on dark horse quantum computing technology
Bloomberg: Chip technology spending gets $81 billion boost in China rivalry
Reuters: South Korea prepares support package worth over $7 billion for chip industry
Star Tribune: Polar Semiconductor lands up to $120 million from CHIPS program
Axios: DOE aims to move “FASST” on AI
Axios: China tops the US on AI research in over half of the hottest fields: report
Brookings: The Beijing dilemma: Dependencies in global AI research
NSF: National AI Research Resource Pilot awards first round access to 35 projects in partnership with DOE
Science: NAIRR aims to make supercomputers available to more researchers
MITRE: Federal AI sandbox

Space

NASA: NASA names first Chief Artificial Intelligence Officer
SpaceNews: Congressional letter seeks big increase in NASA science budget
Ars Technica: NASA wants a cheaper Mars Sample Return — Boeing proposes most expensive rocket
SpaceNews: Space economics 101: Why the math on refueling just doesn’t add up (perspective by Charles Beames)
SpaceNews: NASA’s strategy for space sustainability
Payload: NASA stuck in the middle of Starliner contractors’ valve fight

Weather, Climate, and Environment

New York Times: Solar storm crashes GPS systems used by some farmers, stalling planting
NASA: New proposals to help NASA advance knowledge of our changing climate
National Academies: Incorporating climate change and climate policy into macroeconomic modeling (report)
Nature Climate Action: The importance of distinguishing climate science from climate activism (perspective by Ulf Büntgen)

Energy

DOE: DOE appoints inaugural board of directors for groundbreaking new foundation
Wall Street Journal: There’s not enough power for America’s high-tech ambitions
PPPL: Fusion record set for tungsten tokamak WEST
World Nuclear News: Proud of progress on new nuclear, but pace needs to increase (interview with Kathryn Huff)
American Nuclear Society: DOE receives CD-0 approval for interim SNF storage facility
Reuters: First TerraPower advanced reactor on schedule but fuel a concern
S&P Global: US nuclear industry clamors for waiver process details as Russian uranium ban looms
American Nuclear Society: G7 pledges support for nuclear at Italy meeting
Nature: Argentina’s pioneering nuclear research threatened by huge budget cuts
Bloomberg: Biden’s solar factory boom slows as cheap imports flood market

Defense

National Academies: Risk analysis methods for nuclear war and nuclear terrorism: Phase II (report)
Breaking Defense: New details emerge of Russia’s potential nuclear space weapon
The Wire China: What happened at America’s own military-civil fusion fair

Biomedical

New York Times: Republicans step up attacks on scientist at heart of COVID lab leak theory
Bipartisan Commission on Biodefense: The national blueprint for biodefense (report)
USDA: EPA, FDA, and USDA issue joint regulatory plan for biotechnology
Stat: CDC wastewater surveillance dashboard to track bird flu hotspots

International Affairs

NASA: NASA administrator to engage officials in Italy, Vatican, Saudi Arabia
Reuters: Russia starts developing nuclear power unit for joint lunar station with China, RIA says
SpaceNews: Serbia becomes latest country to join China’s ILRS moon base project
World Nuclear News: China and France aim to strengthen nuclear energy cooperation
Science|Business: The challenges facing South Korean academics in Horizon Europe
Science|Business: Ten graphs show how the research landscape in EU 2004 members has changed
Research Professional: Sunak says science and tech are UK’s ‘new national purpose’
Science: A scientist asked to join the UK House of Lords — and got in
Export Compliance Daily: Iran military exploiting partnerships between Swedish, Iranian universities, report says
Wall Street Journal: Academic deans showed me critiques of Israeli research papers that ignored the scientific merits and attacked the country’s military actions (perspective by Leor Weinsberger)

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