FYI covers House and Senate activity related to the physical sciences, including their oversight of the federal science agencies as well as the development and consideration of legislation that sets policy for science and funds the science agencies.
Final appropriations legislation enacted today provides steady or increased funding to research programs at science agencies that have been operating on stopgap spending from the outset of fiscal year 2019.
Over the past two years, Congress passed legislation updating and endorsing a wide range of federal R&D activities, including marquee bills focused on quantum information science, energy research, weather forecasting, and hazard preparedness.
Efforts by Congress and the Department of Energy to spur the development and commercialization of advanced nuclear reactors have gained steam in recent months, though some moves have received criticism.
The Democratic takeover of the House has brought new leadership to the appropriations subcommittees that write spending legislation for federal science programs, while the top members of the counterpart panels in the Senate are unchanged from the previous Congress.
The enactment of the National Quantum Initiative Act on Dec. 21 creates a multiagency program spanning the National Institute of Standards and Technology, National Science Foundation, and Department of Energy. As part of the initiative, NSF and DOE will each establish between two and five competitively awarded research centers.
The 2018 midterm election’s immediate effects on federal science policy will manifest primarily through changes in the composition of congressional committees, with the Democratic takeover of the House bringing new leadership to science policy and spending panels.
Congress sent two bills to the president last week that provide policy direction to the Department of Energy Office of Science and Office of Nuclear Energy, respectively. The House also passed legislation to establish a National Quantum Initiative, which now awaits action in the Senate.
University of Oklahoma meteorologist Kelvin Droegemeier received broad, bipartisan praise from senators at a hearing on his nomination to lead the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Droegemeier repeatedly stressed that science must be free from political influence and outlined his views on growing global R&D competition, particularly from China.