Mick Mulvaney, the new director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, has been a leader in efforts to downsize the federal government. During the Senate confirmation process, he said he believes there is a “proper role for federal government in research.”
At a hearing convened to discuss future directions for NASA, leaders of the House Science Committee stressed the need for continuity between administrations. Democratic members highlighted the agency’s earth science activities, which could be affected by a “rebalancing” the chairman intends to pursue.
The House and Senate have announced who will lead the appropriations subcommittees for the 115th Congress, and there are a few new faces atop the four subcommittees that oversee the lion’s share of federal R&D spending.
The Defense Science Board has released its Defense Research Enterprise Assessment, presenting conclusions of a year-long task force study of Defense Department laboratories and technology centers. The assessment recommends the labs be granted greater managerial independence and a stronger role in acquisitions and the formulation of technology requirements.
At a Senate Commerce Committee hearing with four inspector general witnesses, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) underscored their role in protecting whistleblowers and highlighted a bill he introduced to strengthen federal scientific integrity policies. Among the witnesses was the National Science Foundation’s inspector general, who described ongoing efforts to strengthen the foundation’s oversight of large facilities and reduce costs associated with its use of rotating personnel, among other management challenges.
At a House Science Committee hearing, Republican and Democratic committee members squared off on the question of whether regulatory activity at EPA currently meets high standards of scientific quality or requires reform. Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) also used the hearing to air a new allegation of scientific misconduct at NOAA.
At a meeting of the American Physical Society, two physicist-congressmen and a former top federal science official discussed challenges the science community may face in the coming years and sketched out ways to respond.
The chairman’s plans include reforming the use of science in EPA rulemaking, prioritizing basic research at the Department of Energy, promoting STEM education, overseeing cybersecurity investigations, and adjusting NASA’s mission portfolio.
Last week, a flurry of reports out of science-related federal agencies indicated that they had restricted external communications, among other changes. Although these changes now appear not to have represented any immediate long-term shift in policy on scientific communications, scientific organizations have reaffirmed their commitment to scientific freedom and integrity.