FYI: Science Policy News
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WEEK OF JUNE 3, 2024

IAH Houston Airport Biometrics and CBP Operations

A U.S. border control agent at an airport checkpoint. An event this week will explore how some STEM graduate students and researchers from China were denied entry to the U.S. at airports despite having valid visas.

(Donna Burton / U.S. Customs and Border Protection)

FBI to Field Concerns Over Research Security Enforcement

FBI officials will field questions from representatives of academic and Asian American groups at a public event on Thursday at Rice University focused on research security. The organizers note continuing concerns in the research community over how agencies are applying security policies, citing recent media reports about how STEM graduate students and researchers from China have faced increased screening at U.S. airports and in some cases have been denied entry despite having valid visas. Among the organizers is physicist Neal Lane, who was science advisor to President Bill Clinton. Lane joined with leaders of the APA Justice Task Force to issue an “urgent call” last month for clearer enforcement procedures, arguing that a “gap” has emerged between the intent of research security policy and how it is being applied by law enforcement officers. The event will explore ways of bridging this gap and the prospect of establishing more formal communication channels between academic researchers and FBI field offices.

Congress Struggling to Extend Radiation Exposure Law

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) canceled a vote planned for this week on legislation to extend the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) following backlash from supporters of a more expansive bill passed by the Senate earlier this year. Those supporters are renewing their calls for Johnson to bring that bill to a vote. The narrower bill would keep the current compensation structure active for another two years, whereas the Senate-passed bill would keep the fund active for six more years and greatly expand RECA benefits. In particular, it would add eligibility for people from more downwind states, people affected by waste from other Manhattan Project sites, and people who worked in uranium mines and mills. Critics dispute whether the government is to blame for some of the newly added exposure conditions and note the high costs of the eligibility expansion. The current compensation program will expire June 10 absent action from Congress.

NOAA Science Budget Cuts Up for Review

Rick Spinrad, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, will testify on the Biden administration’s fiscal year 2025 budget request for NOAA at a Tuesday hearing held by the House Science Committee. The hearing charter notes the administration proposes an 11% cut to the agency’s main research arm, the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research. This decrease would follow the nearly 5% cut that Congress just made to the office, bringing its annual budget to $726 million for the current fiscal year. The administration justifies the 11% cut by citing a general need to support “other NOAA and administration priorities” amid the flat budget caps set by Congress. Among their top priorities is to develop next-generation weather satellites such as the Geostationary Extended Observations (GeoXO) constellation that will succeed the GOES series, whose final satellite is scheduled to launch on June 25. GeoXO is envisioned as a set of six satellites, with the first targeted for launch in 2032.

In Case You Missed It

NSF Director Panch Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Subcommittee Hearing May 2024

National Science Foundation Director Sethuraman Panchanathan testifies before Senate appropriators on May 23.

(NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Senators Criticize NSF’s Changes to EPSCoR Program

The National Science Foundation’s recent restructuring of the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) is drawing criticism from senators who argue the changes have resulted in funding cuts for their states’ program offices. Sens. Jack Reed (D-RI) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) raised the subject in testy exchanges with NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan at a hearing last week by the Senate Appropriations Committee. The agency is sunsetting a longstanding EPSCoR subprogram that supported research infrastructure improvements, called RII Track-1, and has replaced it with two new RII subprograms called EPSCoR Collaborations for Optimizing Research Ecosystems (E-CORE) and EPSCoR Research Incubators for STEM Excellence (E-RISE). Reed argued that NSF did not do enough to help states prepare for the transition and said Rhode Island’s EPSCoR office now may run out of money this August. Panchanathan defended the changes and noted NSF’s total funding for EPSCoR jurisdictions is on track to exceed the growth targets set in the CHIPS and Science Act. “I expect that we’re going to outperform because I am a firm believer that talent and ideas are all across our nation,” Panchanathan said. He also committed to consider providing “transition” funding to keep EPSCoR offices operating.

NSF Board Elects IBM Executive as New Chair

Last month, the National Science Board elected IBM Research Director Darío Gil as chair, marking the first time in over three decades that the chair is actively working in industry. Gil replaces Dan Reed, a computer science professor at the University of Utah and former Microsoft executive, whose six-year term on the board ended in May. Prior board chairs who were also industry executives when they were appointed include chemist Mary Good of Allied Signal, physicist Roland Schmitt of GE, and physicist Lewis Branscomb of IBM. Gil has a background in electrical engineering and since 2020 has been a member of the board, which oversees the National Science Foundation and advises the government on science and engineering policy. The board reelected Victor McCrary, vice president for research at the University of the District of Columbia, to serve a third term as vice chair. There are currently eight open seats on the board, which comprises 24 members appointed directly by the president.

NASA Funds Tech Maturation Projects For Future Telescopes

Last week, NASA selected three proposals from industry to help mature technologies needed for the proposed Habitable Worlds Observatory mission, which would focus on searching for life outside our solar system. Billed as a “historically ambitious mission” by Mark Clampin, astrophysics division director at NASA, the telescope would require, for example, an optical system that does not move more than an atom’s width during observations. The industry awards total $17.5 million, split between BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman. In announcing the awards, NASA also noted it is in the process of establishing a Habitable Worlds Observatory Technology Maturation project office at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. These actions respond to the latest astronomy decadal survey’s recommendation that NASA dedicate more resources to refining technologies needed for flagship telescopes before it commits to cost estimates, drawing on lessons learned from the James Webb Space Telescope. Clampin and the former chief scientist of the Webb telescope, John Mather, will discuss NASA’s approach to developing next-generation telescopes at an event this Wednesday hosted by AIP. The event will be livestreamed.

White House Seeks to Spur Nuclear Energy Deployment

At a summit last week on progress in growing the U.S. nuclear industry, the White House announced it will form a Nuclear Power Project Management and Delivery working group to “help identify opportunities to proactively mitigate sources of cost and schedule overrun risk.” The working group will include experts in the construction of “megaprojects” and have representatives from various federal agencies including the Department of Energy and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. The White House also indicated the Army will soon solicit input on its plans to deploy small modular reactors and microreactors to bases and other sites. Other announcements from the event readout highlighted ongoing initiatives such as the recent legislative restrictions on Russian uranium imports and associated efforts to bolster domestic supplies of uranium fuel.

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, June 3

NSF: NSF Grants Conference
(continues through Wednesday)

National Academies: Design and delivery of large engineering projects: An ideas forum
(continues Tuesday)

House: A hearing with Dr. Anthony Fauci
10:00 am, Oversight Committee

Atlantic Council: US Trade Representative Katherine Tai on the future for US-EU trade
1:00 pm

DHS: Homeland Security Academic Partnership Council meeting
2:00 - 3:30 pm

Tuesday, June 4

Colorado School of Mines: Space Resources Roundtable
(continues through Friday)

National Academies: Assessment of the NIST Information Technology Laboratory meeting
(continues through Thursday)

National Academies: Board on Science Education meeting
(continues Wednesday)

National Academies Polar Research Board spring meeting
(continues Wednesday)

NIST: CHIPS R&D standardization readiness level workshop
(continues Wednesday)

House: NOAA budget request hearing
10:00 am, Science Committee

House: Powering AI: Examining America’s energy and technology future
10:00 am, Energy and Commerce Committee

Center for Climate and Energy Solutions: Opportunity and costs: A potential bipartisan pathway for pricing carbon in 2025
10:30 - 11:30 am

CDC: Advisory Board on Radiation and Health meeting
11:00 am - 4:00 pm

National Academies Philanthropy and basic research: Partnerships and new pathways for sustainable funding
11:00 am - 12:00 pm

Senate: FBI budget request hearing
2:30 pm, Appropriations Committee

Senate: Artificial intelligence and its potential to fuel economic growth and improve governance
2:30 pm, Joint Economic Committee

Wednesday, June 5

NRC: Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards meeting
(continues through Friday)

National Academies Space Studies Board meeting
(continues through Friday)

National Academies Forum on engineered AI systems
(continues Thursday)

DOE: Electricity Advisory Committee meeting
(continues Thursday)

National Academies: Air Force Studies Board meeting
10:00 am - 5:00 pm

Senate: Riskier business: How climate is already challenging insurance markets
10:00 am - 5:00 pm, Budget Committee

AEI: Securing AI deployment: Balancing safety and benefits
3:30 - 5:15 pm

AIP: The next great space telescope: Lessons for success in the search for life outside the solar system
5:45 pm

Thursday, June 6

NIH: The future of scientific conferencing
(continues on Tuesday and June 11)

COGR: Council on Governmental Relations meeting
(continues Friday)

National Academies: Quadrennial review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative meeting
(continues Friday)

National Academies Committee on Science, Engineering, Medicine, and Public Policy spring meeting
(continues Friday)

NSF: Advisory Committee for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences meeting
(continues Friday)

NSF: Astronomy and Astrophysics Advisory Committee meeting
9:30 - 5:00 pm

New America: Unpacking the education, labor, and workforce impact of NSF engines: America’s broadest investment in regional innovation ecosystems
10:00 - 11:00 am

CSET: Assessing the AIxBio policy landscape
12:00 pm

National Academies: Nuclear and Radiation Studies Board meeting
1:00 - 5:00 pm

SIA: Emerging resilience in the semiconductor supply chain discussion
2:00 - 3:00 pm

Issues: How can philosophy help NASA explore the cosmos?
2:30 - 3:30 pm

Baker Institute: A dialogue between the academic and Asian American communities and the FBI
4:00 - 6:00 pm CT

Friday, June 7

No events.

Monday, June 10

CERN: Future Circular Collider Conference
(continues through Friday)

National Academies: Disrupting ableism and advancing STEM: A year of reflections and actions
1:00 - 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

APS: Science writer (ongoing)
FAS: Director of government capacity (ongoing)
FAS: Associate director for artificial intelligence policy (ongoing)
FAS: Director of emerging technologies and competitiveness (ongoing)
DOE: Deputy assistant secretary for renewable energy (June 6)
DOE: Director, Advanced Computing Technology Division (June 17)
NSF: Division director, Division of Astronomical Sciences (June 24)
AAS: Public policy fellowship (July 1)
NSF: Division director for Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental, and Transport Systems (July 9)

Solicitations

Issues in S&T: Survey on who does science and technology policy (ongoing)
NOAA: RFI on draft prospectus of the Sixth National Climate Assessment (June 7)
USGS: Scientific Earthquake Studies Advisory Committee call for new members (June 7)
DOE: RFI on clean energy supply chains (June 10)
NSF: RFI on draft Arctic research plan (June 10)
NSF: RFI on aircraft in support of NSF operations in Antarctica and Greenland (June 14)
NSF: Request for comment on draft South Pole Station Master Plan (June 17)
◆OSTP: Request for comment on federal flood standard support website and tool beta version (extended to June 18)
◆FCC: Request for comment on impacts of the May 2024 geomagnetic storm on the US communications sector (June 24)
FCC: RFI on mitigation of orbital debris in the new space age (June 27)
◆USPTO: Nominations for Patent Public Advisory Committee (July 5)
FAS: Call for ideas on science-based policy innovations (July 15)
Commerce Department: RFI on AI and open government data assets (July 16)
NOAA: RFI on the NOAA Space Weather Scales (July 31)

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

Washington Post: Biden science adviser Arati Prabhakar on the new hard line on China (interview)
White House: Readout of second convening on climate-risk macroeconomic forecasts
E&E News: Gina McCarthy outlines climate playbook if Trump wins
OSTP: White House releases new strategies to advance sustainable ocean management

Congress

Politico: Congress is already bracing for a 2025 fiscal pileup
E&E News: Sen. Joe Manchin (I-WV) to keep Energy gavel after dumping Democratic Party
Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA): Murray emphasizes need for strong nondefense investments to keep propelling NIH’s lifesaving research
New York Times: NIH officials tried to evade public records laws, lawmakers say
Politico: ‘Little Tech’ sets its sights on Washington
The Hill: Lobbyists for AI-related issues surged in 2023: Report

Science, Society, and the Economy

Wall Street Journal: Elon Musk’s latest dust-up: What does ‘science’ even mean?
NASA: NASA Goddard, Maryland sign memo to boost state’s aerospace sector
Research Professional: To level up, make regional R&D funding more equal (perspective by Huanjia Ma, et al.)

Education and Workforce

NSF: New report shows the importance of foreign-born talent to the US STEM workforce
Bloomberg: Expulsions of Chinese students spread confusion from Yale to UVA
Chronicle of Higher Education: Is a celebrated STEM program for Black doctoral students engaged in hazing?
Nature: I had my white colleagues walk in a Black student’s shoes for a day (interview with Freeman Hrabowski)
Washington Post: Chosen to be the first Black astronaut, he got to space six decades later
American Nuclear Society: Retirees and older pros return to the nuclear industry

Research Management

Nature: Japan’s push to make all research open access is taking shape
Research Professional: Ireland gets national guidelines for open-access publishing
AGU: AGU introduces a new policy to foster inclusion in global research
NIH: Updates to NIH institutional training grant applications and required data tables

Labs and Facilities

Nature: Disputed dark-matter claim to be tested by new lab in South Korea
Fermilab: Deep under the ground at Fermilab is a new quantum sensor and computing research center called QUIET
PNNL: Updating the way the lab computes
Argonne National Lab: Aurora supercomputer heralds a new era of scientific innovation
NETL: NETL direct air capture center begins testing, seeks partnerships
NCAR: Christopher Castro named director of Research Applications Lab

Computing and Communications

Wall Street Journal: The US gave chip makers billions. Now comes the hard part
Fabricated Knowledge: An interview with Dan Kim and Hassan Khan of the CHIPS Program Office (video)
Financial Times: Chinese chipmakers push to limit foreign suppliers
ChinaTalk: To win the chip war, the US must prioritize revolutionary research (perspective by Jordan Schneider, et al.)
NIST: NIST launches ARIA, a new program to advance sociotechnical testing and evaluation for AI
FedScoop: HHS names acting chief AI officer as it searches for permanent official
Wall Street Journal: The AI revolution is already losing steam (perspective by Christopher Mims)

Space

SpacePolicyOnline: China lands sample return probe on the far side of the Moon
SpaceNews: Japanese billionaire cancels planned Starship lunar mission
Nature: How NASA astronauts are training to walk on the Moon in 2026
Space Review: Why planetary protection matters to the future of space exploration (perspective by Dylan Taylor)
The Conversation: The rush to return humans to the Moon and build lunar bases could threaten opportunities for astronomy (perspective by Martin Elvis)
The Guardian: ‘Once in a lifetime’: UK and European space scientists urged to join NASA mission to Uranus
Planetary Society: What are competed planetary missions?
Space Review: Starlink’s disruption of the space industry

Weather, Climate, and Environment

Scientific American: During May’s solar superstorm, the little-known science of heliophysics kept us safe
E&E News: Biden aims to tame the ‘Wild West’ of unregulated carbon markets
E&E News: Climate denial group wants to subvert NOAA data with its own
NASA: Earth Science Information Partners celebrate 25 years of collaboration
Ars Technica: No physics? No problem. AI weather forecasting is already making huge strides
E&E News: Welcome to the critical mineral craze, K Street

Energy

American Nuclear Society: DOE ready to consider Russian uranium ban waivers
World Nuclear News: US companies join up to lower nuclear investment costs
E&E News: France to the US: Leave the tiny nuclear reactors to us
GAO: Science and tech spotlight: Hydrogen uses
NSF: NSF and DOE partner on new internship opportunity in clean hydrogen energy
IEEE Spectrum: Space-based solar power: A great idea whose time may never come (perspective by Harry Goldstein)

Defense

Breaking Defense: 5% GDP: Top SASC Republican pitches dramatic jump in defense spending, $55B more in FY25
Defense News: Nearly a dozen face charges for sending military tech, oil to Russia
Government Executive: Nuclear agency needs more insights into its workforce recruitment efforts, GAO says
NNSA: US and Australia sign memorandum of understanding on nuclear security and nonproliferation
Emerging Technologies Institute: The future of positioning, navigation, and timing (video)

Biomedical

Science: NIH adds its voice to call for expanding RNA research
Stat: NIH documents show how $1.6 billion long COVID initiative has failed so far to meet its goals
STAT: Anthony Fauci, facing GOP accusers, says debate on COVID origins has been ‘seriously distorted’
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: To protect global health security, Africa needs more pathogen research labs (perspective by Tom Kariuki and Denis Chopera)
The Guardian: Top Canadian scientist alleges in leaked emails he was barred from studying mystery brain illness

International Affairs

E&E News: Mexico elects climate scientist Claudia Sheinbaum as 1st woman president
The Wire China: Beijing wants science to focus on self-reliance
Science: Science takes a hit in New Zealand’s budget, prompting researchers to organize
Science|Business: EU convenes key Israel council as Gaza boycotts spread
Nature: Nature’s message to South Africa’s next government: talk to your researchers (editorial)
Research Professional: Australian Research Council ‘must drop commercial focus,’ Australian Academy of Science says

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