FYI: Science Policy News
THE WEEK OF MAY 29, 2023
What’s Ahead

Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) speaks with reporters about negotiations to lift the federal debt limit.

(Image credit – Office of Speaker McCarthy)

Debt Limit Deal Sets Up Stagnant Funding for Science

Republicans and Democrats are lining up votes in Congress this week to pass an agreement that President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) forged over the weekend to lift the national debt limit and cap federal spending. If enacted, the agreement will hold the federal non-defense discretionary budget essentially flat in fiscal year 2024 and limit it to a 1% increase in fiscal year 2025, and the debt limit will be taken out of play until sometime in 2025. Since most science programs are funded through discretionary spending, the agreement means any increases they receive will generally have to be paid for with cuts elsewhere. For that reason, appropriations likely will fall well behind the budget targets set out in last year’s CHIPS and Science Act and any increases would be focused on the highest-priority programs and projects. The agreement does not affect the multiyear funding already appropriated through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the Inflation Reduction Act, and the semiconductor provisions of the CHIPS and Science Act.

Biden administration officials are arguing that the outcome is probably similar to what Republicans and Democrats would have negotiated to finalize fiscal year 2024 appropriations later this year. Notably, the two years of caps set by the agreement are much less than the decade of caps put in place following a debt-limit standoff early in the Obama administration, meaning the next presidential election will have more direct implications for the future direction of spending than the 2012 election did. In the near term, the agreement means appropriators will have firm guidelines to follow when formulating their fiscal year 2024 spending proposals, and the drafts they release in the coming weeks will give a stronger indication of final outcomes than those released during the past two budget cycles, for which spending limits were not agreed on until late in negotiations. Because disagreements on overarching spending levels are typically among the main impediments to finalizing spending legislation, the agreement may also expedite enactment of fiscal year 2024 budgets.

OSTP and NSF Hosting Listening Sessions on Open Science

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy is kicking off a series of webinars this week to collect input from early-career researchers on opportunities and challenges associated with advancing open-science practices. The series is part of the White House’s Year of Open Science and follows OSTP’s directive last year generally requiring articles and data resulting from federally funded research to be made freely available upon publication. All federal agencies are required to implement the policy by the end of 2025. The National Science Foundation is holding its own series of listening sessions as it prepares to implement the policy. One on Friday will focus on research supported by its STEM education and social sciences directorates, which follows a session in April focused on its physical sciences and technology directorates. NSF intends to publish its new public-access policy by the end of 2024 and will post recordings of the listening sessions to its public-access website . Among other agencies, NASA and the National Institutes of Health have already published updated access plans in response to the OSTP directive and opened them for public comment. NASA’s chief science data officer will discuss that agency’s efforts to foster open-science practices on Wednesday as part of a two-day meeting of the NASA Advisory Council’s Science Committee.

NASA Finalizing Study on ‘Anomalous’ Objects

A team appointed by NASA to study unidentified anomalous phenomena (UAP) is holding a public meeting on Wednesday as it prepares to publish its conclusions this summer. UAP is the Department of Defense’s term for sightings that appear to be vehicles exhibiting improbable behaviors. The NASA study is chaired by astrophysicist David Spergel and is focused on developing ways to study UAP using scientific methods rather than resolving past encounters. Interest in UAPs spiked in 2020 when DOD confirmed the legitimacy of three Navy videos of unidentified objects that had previously leaked to the public. DOD has since created an “All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office” to study unidentified aerial, undersea, and space-based objects. The office’s director, physicist Sean Kirkpatrick, told the Senate Armed Services Committee in April that it “has found no credible evidence thus far of extraterrestrial activity, off-world technology, or objects that defy the known laws of physics.”

In Case You Missed It

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm visited Idaho National Lab last week to announce an initiative focused on developing more sustainable fuels and chemicals.

(Image credit – DOE)

Latest DOE ‘EarthShot’ Targets Clean Fuels and Products

The Department of Energy launched a “Clean Fuels and Products Shot” last week focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the fuel and chemical industry, the seventh in its series of Energy Earthshots. The initiative aims to reduce emissions by 85% compared to fossil-based sources by 2035 and to develop sustainable zero-emissions technologies that can meet 50% of the projected demand for maritime, rail, and off-road fuels and carbon-based chemicals by 2050, as well as 100% of the projected demand for aviation fuel. Energy Secretary Granholm announced the initiative at Idaho National Laboratory, where she also celebrated the completion of upgrades to the Biomass Feedstock National User Facility, which will contribute to the new Earthshot by accelerating the development and commercialization of biofuels and bioproducts.

DOE Cancels Embattled Microvast Grant

The Department of Energy informed Congress last week that it has reversed plans to award a $200 million grant to the battery company Microvast that would have supported construction of a new component manufacturing facility in Kentucky to supply one of the company’s existing factories in Tennessee. The grant was part of a $2.8 billion set DOE announced last November as part of its implementation of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021, but Republicans in both the House and Senate quickly criticized the award, observing that the bulk of Microvast’s operations are in China. While they argued Microvast’s dealings with the Chinese government presented a security risk, pointing to the company’s disclosures to investors on the subject, DOE maintained the grant would help the company shift its business to the U.S. The department has not offered a specific reason for canceling the grant, but it did so as Republicans on multiple committees continued to press the matter. Following DOE’s move, House Science Committee Chair Frank Lucas (R-OK) wrote in a statement that he remains concerned about the department’s processes for vetting grant recipients and the quality of its responses to congressional inquiries. Meanwhile, Microvast stated it is “considering all of its options,” insisting it is not under the “control or influence” of the Chinese government.

Barrasso Pressing DOE to Restrict China Ties, Expand Polygraphs

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member John Barrasso (R-WY) introduced a pair of bills this month that respectively would prohibit the Department of Energy from funding companies with certain ties to China and require DOE to administer polygraphs to prospective and current national lab employees who are citizens of China and not U.S. permanent residents. Barrasso is among the leading critics of DOE’s now-canceled grant to the battery company Microvast on account of its connections to China, and more broadly he has pressed the department to expand its research security policies. The prohibition on funding China-linked companies would apply to any entity that is a joint venture with state-owned enterprises in China or whose board of directors includes participants in a foreign talent recruitment program administered by the Chinese government. The polygraph requirement would also apply to other designated “countries of concern,” which include Russia, Iran, and North Korea. Barrasso is currently the sole sponsor of both bills.

LIGO Back in Action

Last week, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) officially began its fourth run of science operations, known as O4, following an upgrade that increased its sensitivity by 30%. LIGO leaders expect its twin detectors will now observe a merger of black holes or neutron stars every two or three days, and they may have detected the merger of a black hole and a neutron star during startup operations before even commencing O4. The facility had been offline since March 2020, when it concluded its third run about a month early due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Italian Virgo detector was expected to return to operations alongside LIGO, but technical problems during an upgrade have delayed its start by several months. Japan’s KAGRA detector, which became operational just before LIGO shut down, will join the new run for a month before shutting down for further commissioning and it hopes to rejoin O4 before its conclusion about 20 months from now. Running at least three detectors simultaneously can help locate the sources of gravitational-wave events, allowing observatories to search for electromagnetic or neutrino signatures if the event is of a type that produces them.

Events This Week

All times are Eastern Daylight Time, unless otherwise noted. Listings do not imply endorsement.

Monday, May 29

Memorial Day holiday

Tuesday, May 30

AAAS: “Inclusion and Advancement of LGBTQ+ People in STEM Fields”
1:00 - 7:30 pm

National Academies: “International Talent Programs in the Changing Global Environment,” meeting two
12:25 - 1:00 pm

ITIF: “Further Energizing Innovation: Assessing the Federal Energy RD&D Budget for FY24 and Beyond”
12:00 - 1:00 pm

Wednesday, May 31

UN: Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space meeting
(continues through June 9)

Society for Scholarly Publishing: 45th annual meeting
(continues through Friday)

Industry Studies Association: Annual conference
(continues through Friday)

National Nanotechnology Initiative: “Refreshing the NNI’s Environmental, Health, and Safety Research Strategy”
(continues Thursday)

NASA: Science Advisory Council meeting
(continues Thursday)

NSF: Education and Human Resources Advisory Committee meeting
(continues Thursday)

Senate: Meeting to consider the Accelerating Deployment of Versatile, Advanced Nuclear for Clean Energy (ADVANCE) Act
9:30 am, Environment and Public Works Committee

ITIF: “The Importance of the Innovation Ecosystem”
9:45 am - 5:30 pm

Senate: “Countering China: Advancing U.S. National Security, Economic Security, and Foreign Policy”
10:00 am, Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee

NASA: Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena Study meeting
10:30 am - 2:30 pm

OSTP: “Open Science Possibilities for Lowering Barriers to Entry: Perspectives from Early Career Researchers on Engaging in Open Science”
1:00 - 3:00 pm

NSF: Technology, Innovation and Partnership Directorate updates webinar
1:30 - 2:30 pm

DOE: “Advancing the Bold Decadal Vision: Launching a Milestone-Based Fusion Development Program”
2:00 pm

Thursday, June 1

National Academies: Space Weather Roundtable spring meeting
(continues Friday)

Senate: “Hearing on Reliability and Resiliency of Electric Services in the U.S. in Light of Recent Reliability Assessments and Alerts”
10:00 am, Energy and Natural Resources Committee

National Academies: “Representing Lived Experience in the Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool”
10:00 am - 5:00 pm

NSF: Astronomy and Astrophysics Advisory Committee meeting
10:30 am - 4:45 pm

National Academies: “Ocean Acoustics Education and Expertise: Higher Education and Training Program Panel”
11:00 am - 12:30 pm

National Academies: “The Past, the Present, and the Future of Artificial Intelligence”
11:00 am - 12:00 pm

EESI: “Maximizing the Climate Benefits of Hydrogen”
12:00 - 1:30 pm

Friday, June 2

International Institute of Space Law: Working Group on Light Pollution webinar
8:00 - 10:00 am

Arms Control Association: Annual Meeting
9:00 am - 5:00 pm

National Academies: “Development of a Plan to Promote Defense Research at HBCUs, Tribal Colleges and Universities, and Hispanic-Serving Institutions Committee,” meeting one
12:00 - 3:00 pm

NSF: “Listen and Learn: Implementing Public Access 2.0”
1:00 - 2:00 pm

Monday, June 5

National Academies: Committee on Science, Engineering, Medicine, and Public Policy meeting
(continues Tuesday)

National Academies: “Preserving and Developing Ukraine’s Human Capital in Research, Education, and Innovation”
9:00 am - 1:00 pm

National Academies: “Disrupting Ableism and Advancing STEM: A National Leadership Summit”
11:00 am - 4:30 pm

Atlantic Council: “Beyond Chatbots: How the US-China Tech Race Will Define AI’s Future,” with Rep. Mike Waltz (R-FL)
11:30 am

OSTP: “Research Security Programs Standard Requirement Listening Session One: Working with the Higher Education Community toward NSPM-33 Implementation”
1:00 - 2:30 pm

NSPN: “Science Diplomacy 101”
1:00 - 2:00 pm

OSTP: “Open Science Possibilities for Equitable Participation and Access: Perspectives from Early Career Researchers at Emerging Research Institutions”
1:00 - 3:00 pm

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


OSTP Seeking Input on National AI Strategy

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy is seeking public input to inform a forthcoming National Artificial Intelligence Strategy. The office is specifically interested in policies and procedures that could minimize the risks of AI, as well its potential impacts on innovation, national security, the economy, and civil rights. Comments are due July 7.

NASA Seeking Input on New Demographic Data Collection Process

NASA is seeking input on a new procedure for collecting data on the demographics of its grant applicants, which the agency uses to identify and address inequities associated with its grant review and awards processes. Applicants provide data on a voluntary basis when they submit their proposals, and NASA is particularly interested in ways to reduce the burden of submission and enhance the quality of the data. Comments are due June 26.

DOE Hiring Energy Justice Fellows

The Department of Energy is seeking science policy fellows to join the Office of Energy Justice Policy and Analysis, which coordinates the Justice40 initiative and other equity-focused efforts across the department. Candidates must have technical experience in an energy technology field and knowledge of environmental and energy justice issues.

Around the Web

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

White House

OSTP: Biden-Harris administration takes new steps to advance responsible artificial intelligence research, development, and deployment
White House: Vice President Harris highlights multi-billion-dollar semiconductor R&D investments


Nature: How the US debt-ceiling crisis could cost science for years to come
The Messenger: At risk in debt talks: Cuts to R&D can give China tech supremacy (perspective by Divyansh Kaushik and Matt Hourihan)
Roll Call: Lawmakers suggest agency to supervise artificial intelligence
Exchange Monitor: House Energy and Commerce Committee easily sends Russian uranium ban to floor

Science, Society, and the Economy

FAS: What should come next for the NSF Innovation Engines communities? (And what about those that just missed out?)
Science: Pathways for diversifying and enhancing science advocacy (perspective by Fernando Tormos-Aponte, et al.)
Nature: Trolled in science: ‘Hundreds of hateful comments in a single day’ (interview with Katharine Hayhoe and Chris Jackson)
Axios: Worries mount about misinformation in science
APS: Results of American Physical Society member survey on public engagement

Education and Workforce

NBC News: After being wrongfully accused of spying for China, physicist Xiaoxing Xi wins appeal to sue the government
New York TImes: Like it or not, America needs Chinese scientists (perspective by Dan Murphy)
Department of Education: Department of Education, NASA strengthen partnership to advance STEM and space education
Commerce Department: Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo emphasizes importance of more women in tech at the 2023 Select USA Summit
Nature: A mental-health crisis is gripping science — toxic research culture is to blame
Nature: To diversify the scientific workforce, postdoc recruitment needs a rethink
Wall Street Journal: A scientist’s sexuality shouldn’t matter (perspective by Lawrence Krauss)

Research Management

Science: Safeguarding integrity and collaborations (perspective by Michael Lauer and Patricia Valdez)
NIH: Details on letter to Science magazine on safeguarding integrity and collaboration
Science: US ‘China initiatives’ promote racial bias (perspective by Shan-Lu Liu, et al.)
Science: A conversation with NIH extramural research head Michael Lauer (interview)
Science: Lauer opens up (perspective by Holden Thorp)
Daily Beast: UC Berkeley failed to disclose $220 million tech deal with China to US government
Nature: Study finds anonymizing peer review makes the process more just
Research Professional: UKRI to replace ‘principal investigator’ title and streamline research roles across its councils
Science|Business: EU research ministers make fresh call for a full transition to free open-access publishing
Research Professional: ‘Very ambitious’ EU publishing stance signed off and welcomed

Labs and Facilities

Idaho Falls Post Register: DOE extends Battelle’s contract to manage Idaho National Lab
Power: MARVEL microreactor prototype installed at Idaho National Lab, gearing up for testing
Idaho National Lab: Secretary Granholm heralds upgraded Biomass Feedstock National User Facility
National Renewable Energy Lab: Inflation Reduction Act invests $150 million in NREL projects
Fermilab: Construction worker severely injured from fall in PIP-II construction area
Physics Today: Urgent measures are needed to shore up NIST’s crumbling facilities
Oak Ridge National Lab: Matt Sieger selected to lead ORNL’s next supercomputer, OLCF-6
Science|Business: Fraunhofer president resigns amid allegations of misuse of funds
AP: Staff at Ukraine’s experimental nuclear site pick up pieces from Russian strikes

Computing and Communications

Reuters: Applied Materials to invest $4 billion in Silicon Valley chip research center
Wall Street Journal: Once mighty Intel struggles to escape ‘mud hole’
Wall Street Journal: Chip companies, wary of break with China, seek looser limits on federal cash
National Review: Why the CHIPS Act will fail (perspective by Jordan McGillis and Clay Robinson)
National Review: Rebuttal to criticism of CHIPS Act (perspective by Robert Atkinson)
White House: Joint statement on the launch of the North American Semiconductor Conference and North American Ministerial Committee on Economic Competitiveness
Nature: Quantum computers: What are they good for?
MIT Technology Review: IBM wants to build a 100,000-qubit quantum computer
Nature: Quantum sensors will start a revolution — if we deploy them right (perspective by Kai Bongs, et al.)
New York Times: AI poses ‘risk of extinction,’ industry leaders warn


SpaceNews: China sets sights on crewed lunar landing before 2030
SpaceNews: Impulse and Relativity target 2026 for launch of first Mars lander mission
New York Times: Ispace’s Japanese Moon lander crashed because of software glitch
NASA: NASA pursues Lunar Terrain Vehicle services for Artemis missions
NASA OIG: NASA’s management of the Space Launch System booster and engine contracts (report)
NASA: NASA extends Space Telescope Science Institute contract for Roman Telescope science operations
NASA: NASA selects PoISER cubesat mission to study ice clouds, help observe our dynamic atmosphere
New York Times: Coded signal from Mars to test SETI systems
LinkedIn: A holistic approach for launchers and exploration in Europe (perspective by Josef Aschbacher)
Aerospace America: Science advocate (interview with Nicky Fox)
ETH Zurich: Former NASA science head Thomas Zurbuchen is joining ETH Zurich to lead development of new space research and teaching program

Weather, Climate, and Environment

E&E News: Supreme Court erases protections for most wetlands
E&E News: ‘Thumb on the scale': Kagan rebukes SCOTUS environment rulings
Nature: Against climate hypocrisy: Why the IPCC needs its own net-zero target (perspective by Benjamin Sanderson)
E&E News: EPA under pressure to revive noise pollution program
Nature: Major ocean database that will guide deep-sea mining has flaws, scientists warn
South China Morning Post: Beijing’s new research ship expected to explore contested waters
E&E News: USGS rejects push to make copper a ‘critical’ mineral
Reuters: Carbon removal industry challenges findings of skeptical UN body


New York Times: The new climate law is working. Clean energy investments are soaring (perspective by Brian Deese)
Bloomberg: The Pentagon is helping bring the next generation of nuclear technology to life
Idaho National Lab: New study examines US markets for microreactors
The Economist: Fusion power is coming back into fashion
Inside Climate News: Hobbled by bureaucracy, a German energy R&D program falls short of climate-friendly goals


Roll Call: Hill-favored research projects called defense budget’s ‘black hole’
GAO: S&T spotlight on directed energy weapons (report)
SpaceNews: Next-Gen OPIR polar-orbiting missile-warning satellite passes preliminary design review
National Defense: Rapid innovation fund needs funds, official says
National Defense: DOD needs flexible funding to keep pace with ideas
GAO: Nuclear security: DOE should take actions to fully implement insider threat program
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: ‘Right of boom’: Meet the experts who respond to nuclear disaster
DOE: Strategic vision for the Office of Environmental Management (report)
Outrider Foundation: Time magazine and Outrider Foundation announce collaboration on fellowship program supporting critical nuclear security reporting
NATO: NATO and Ukraine boost partnership through greater cooperation on science, technology, and innovation


ProPublica: Why scientists have a hard time getting money to study the root causes of outbreaks
ScienceInsider: New US lab will work with deadly animal pathogens — in the middle of farm country
Washington Post: Tally of COVID-19 cases after CDC conference climbs to 181
ScienceInsider: COVID-19 vaccines may undergo major overhaul this fall
Nature: Why the world needs more transparency on the origins of novel pathogens (perspective by Marietjie Venter)
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: Long-shot research won’t fix what ails US health care (perspective by John Alic)
ScienceInsider: NIH toughens enforcement of delayed clinical trials reporting

International Affairs

CNN: Death of Russian deputy science minister on return from Cuba is latest unexplained incident involving Moscow’s elites
Physics in Perspective: Before and after the fall: Geography of Soviet and Post-Soviet physics surveyed via leading journals (paper by Ivan Sterligov)
Nature: China’s souped-up data privacy laws deter researchers
South China Morning Post: Xi Jinping calls for global cooperation on technology at Zhongguancun as Beijing courts top scientists
Sinica: Harvard’s William Kirby on China’s higher education system and his book ‘Empires of Ideas’ (audio interview)
Science|Business: Research ministers want an EU knowledge exchange to help in curbing foreign interference
Science|Business: Hungarian universities challenge Horizon Europe funding ban in EU court
Research Professional: Polish research agency chief decries lack of funding
Science|Business: Switzerland announces €625 million in backup funding for Horizon Europe applicants
Science|Business: Time to bring EU–Japan science relations to the ‘next level’, European Commission official says
Nature: Japanese government draws ire over plans to reform influential science council
Nature: Turkey’s researchers fear loss of freedom after Erdoğan re-elected
Nature: Boost African research in exchange for debt relief (editorial)

More from FYI
More than a dozen major research centers launched this summer using funds from the National Science Foundation.
Budgetary constraints are poised to blunt the Biden administration’s proposals to increase funding for many clean energy R&D programs across the Department of Energy. However, DOE is ramping up distribution of a historic funding influx that Congress provided through special appropriations laws over the last two years.
NASA’s Biological and Physical Sciences portfolio is “severely underfunded,” a National Academies report argues.
The possible extension of a longstanding research agreement between the U.S. and China highlights the federal government’s struggle to balance national security concerns against the benefits of international scientific collaboration.
The Biden administration’s 2023 R&D priorities memo instructs agencies to support U.S. competitiveness in key technology areas, such as AI, including by experimenting with research funding mechanisms.
Early-stage defense R&D programs are facing significant budget cuts in fiscal year 2024, though Senate appropriators are seeking to boost basic research funding. Meanwhile, House appropriators are pushing a major initiative in commercial technology acquisition built around a vastly expanded Defense Innovation Unit.

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