The Week of February 26

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Start your week fully informed with a preview of what's ahead in science policy and funding along with a recap of last week's news.

The Week of February 26

The Week Ahead


Rep. Barbara Comstock

Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA) spoke on the House floor this month in favor of a bill reforming legislative branch procedures for handling sexual harassment complaints made by its employees. On Tuesday, Comstock will chair a House Science Committee hearing on sexual harassment in science.

(Image credit – C-SPAN)

House Science Committee to Review Sexual Harassment

The House Science Committee is holding a hearing on Tuesday focused on sexual harassment in science. An all-woman expert panel will describe how federal science agencies and research institutions handle claims of sexual harassment and other workplace misconduct and it will offer recommendations on improving the reporting process and overall culture in science. Among the witnesses are Rhonda Davis, head of the National Science Foundation’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion, who is leading the implementation of NSF’s new reporting requirements on harassment; and Christine McEntee, executive director of the American Geophysical Union, who has played a key role in the society’s adoption of an updated ethics policy that defines sexual harassment as scientific misconduct. The hearing follows the committee’s recent bipartisan request for a Government Accountability Office report on how science agencies handle claims of sexual harassment against researchers.

Next-Generation Geostationary Weather Satellite to Launch

The second of four satellites in the $11 billion Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES) - R series is scheduled to launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Thursday. NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which operates the GOES network, are holding a pre-launch news conference and science briefing to discuss how the satellites are expected to enhance weather forecasting. The first satellite in the series, GOES-16, launched in November 2016 and took over NOAA’s geostationary observations of the eastern U.S. on Jan. 8. The new satellite, to be designated GOES-17 when it becomes operational, will eventually take over observations of the western U.S., extending geostationary coverage by state-of-the-art observational satellites to the entire country.

Planetary Science and Astrophysics Panels Meeting

Two meetings this week are apt to offer insights into the implications of NASA’s fiscal year 2019 budget request for its Planetary Science and Astrophysics Divisions. The National Academies committee conducting the midterm review of the current decadal strategy for planetary science will be meeting on Monday through Wednesday. Planetary Science Division Director Jim Green will be presenting and may address the Trump administration’s proposal to expand the division’s funding and add new lunar science and planetary defense programs to its portfolio. Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Astrophysics Division Director Paul Hertz will provide a program update at a meeting of the interagency Astronomy and Astrophysics Advisory Committee. The administration is proposing a long-term decrease in the size of NASA’s astrophysics budget and the cancellation of its flagship Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope.

Fusion Panel to Review Strategies of Several Countries and Companies

A National Academies committee tasked with charting potential futures for the U.S. burning plasma fusion research program is convening this week in San Diego, California, at the headquarters of General Atomics, which hosts the DIII-D tokamak funded by the Department of Energy. During the open portion of the meeting, which will be webcast, the committee will receive presentations on the fusion strategies of Korea, Japan, and China, delivered by representatives of each country. In addition to learning about General Atomics’ fusion plans, the committee will hear from a co-founder of the company Tri Alpha Energy on the “capability and prospects of private-sector fusion ventures.” In closed session, the committee will also meet with staff from the ITER fusion facility.

In Case You Missed It


NSF Facilities Governance Board First Meeting

A photo taken at the first meeting of the National Science Foundation’s Facilities Governance Board. (Not all individuals pictured are members of the board.) Chaired by Chief Officer for Research Facilities Jim Ulvestad (third from left), its members include NSF’s chief financial officer and the heads of all its research directorates except for the Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences Directorate, which does not support large facilities.

(Image credit - NSF)

NSF Briefs Governing Board on Competitiveness Act Implementation

At its first meeting of the year, the National Science Board received an update on implementation of last year’s American Innovation and Competitiveness Act, which made the first major changes to the agency’s authorizing statute since the America COMPETES Act of 2010. National Science Foundation officials described steps they have since taken and summarized their recent interactions with Congress, such as a Senate hearing on the act held last month. One goal of the legislation was to strengthen NSF’s facility management practices, and in response the agency has created a Facilities Governance Board and created a chief facilities officer position, among other actions. Jim Ulvestad, the first person to occupy the new role, stressed that facilities do not now all report to him and that he is not in charge of the Large Facilities Office. Rather, he said his role is focused on coordinating information flow, ensuring facilities oversight is uniform across the agency, and keeping the Office of Director “fully in the loop.” Other presentations delivered at the meeting are available here.

More DOE Budget Documents Released, NSF’s Expected Soon

The complete fiscal year 2019 budget request documents for the Department of Energy Office of Science and the National Nuclear Security Administration are now posted here. The full documents for DOE’s other offices are still not yet available. The last-minute addendum to the request has delayed the budget rollout for several agencies. The full document for the National Science Foundation is set to be released this week.

Science Coalitions Advocate for FY18 Spending Boosts

Four D.C.-based advocacy coalitions, representing numerous scientific organizations and universities, as well as private companies, sent letters to congressional appropriators this month urging them to allocate new funds, made available through the recent bipartisan budget deal, to science agencies and programs. The Energy Sciences Coalition letter calls for a $5.7 billion appropriation for the Department of Energy Office of Science, which would reflect 4 percent real growth above fiscal year 2017 levels. The Coalition for National Science Funding letter calls for a $8 billion appropriation for the National Science Foundation, representing 4 percent annual real growth from the fiscal year 2016 level. The Coalition for Aerospace and Science letter calls for a $20.5 billion appropriation for NASA, a 5 percent increase above the House proposal for fiscal year 2017. And the Coalition for National Security Research letter takes a less specific approach, urging appropriators to provide robust funding for Department of Defense Science and Technology and warning of the consequences of proposed cuts. (AIP is a member of ESC, CNSF, and CAS.)

NSF to Shutter Its International Offices

The National Science Foundation announced on Feb. 21 that it will be closing its three overseas offices — located in Belgium, China, and Japan — by this summer. According to reporting from Science|Business, NSF’s decision is based on budgetary considerations and understaffing issues at the agency’s headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia, and is not politically motivated. In its statement, NSF emphasized that the office closings are “an opportunity to modernize and broaden our international collaboration,” and that the agency will continue those efforts by “[deploying] NSF experts for short-term expeditions to selected areas to explore opportunities for collaboration.” NSF will be holding a briefing on March 1 that will discuss the changes to its overseas offices.

University of Central Florida to Manage Arecibo Observatory

The National Science Foundation announced on Feb. 22 that a consortium led by the University of Central Florida will take over management of the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico. The contract is expected to run for five years, over which time NSF will decrease its annual funding for the facility from about $8 million to $2 million as part of its broader plan to divest from several astronomical facilities. The university says that among the strategies it will pursue to help pay for operating costs are “offering short-term operational partnerships for telescope time to the scientific community and private and public agencies; seeking donations; seeking additional partners; and setting up tourism programs around the facility that will generate revenue and help the local Puerto Rican economy.”

State of Lunar Science Report Released

The Lunar Exploration Analysis Group, a forum established in 2004 to support NASA, released an interim report last week on the state of lunar science and opportunities for future work. NASA’s Planetary Science Division requested the report last April to update a 2007 National Academies report, “The Scientific Context for Exploration of the Moon.” The new report reviews progress made on the research agenda detailed in the previous report and identifies three new high-priority subjects for research: the lunar volatile cycle, the origins of the moon, and lunar tectonism and seismicity. It arrives in the wake of NASA’s revelation of plans to establish a new lunar research program within the Planetary Science Division to complement the Moon-centered human exploration program that President Trump ordered late last year.

Academies Committee Examines Extent of Research Irreproducibility

At its second meeting, a National Academies committee examining reproducibility and replicability in research heard from a panel of experts on the subjects. John Ioannidis, a professor of medicine at Stanford University and an early critic of research replicability, said the problem is “very extensive.” He emphasized the wide differences across scientific fields in the use, applications, and extent of reproducibility and replicability, but warned that investigators in nearly all fields underestimate experimental bias. Brian Nosek, director of the Center for Open Science, cautioned that while the full extent of the problem is unknown, it is “extensive enough to know it’s improveable.” He recommended the scientific community establish norms, incentives, and requirements that encourage researchers to share their work.

Space Council Appoints Advisory Panel, Holds 2nd Meeting

On Feb. 21, the White House announced 29 appointees to the National Space Council’s Users Advisory Group. Its members range from former astronauts and leaders of private sector space companies to Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. A few currently work in science-focused positions: G.P. Bud Peterson, president of the Georgia Institute of Technology and a member of the National Science Board; Pete Worden, executive director of the Breakthrough Starshot initiative and a former director of NASA Ames Research Center; David Wolf, a visiting engineering professor at Purdue University and a former astronaut; and Pamela Vaughan, a science teacher. The next day, the National Space Council held its second meeting, which focused on regulatory reform.

AAAS Meeting Highlights Biomedical Innovation Efforts

The annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which concluded last week, included a number of addresses and sessions at the intersection of science, policy, and society, with a focus on national efforts underway to promote biomedical innovation. In his plenary address, former Vice President Joe Biden described cancer research as at an “inflection point,” saying breakthroughs are possible if the scientific and health communities are open to changing their traditional practices. He described how the private Biden Cancer Initiative is working to complement the National Institutes of Health’s new Beau Biden Cancer Moonshot Initiative. Cori Bargmann, the Chan Zuckerberg Science Initiative’s president of science, also addressed the meeting, describing how the initiative is making investments and experimenting with new ways of organizing the scientific community, with the goal of eradicating all disease by the end of the century. The issues surrounding sexual harassment and other misconduct in the sciences were also a major subject of discussion throughout the meeting.

Events this week

All times are Eastern Standard Time and all congressional hearings are webcast, unless otherwise noted. Listings do not imply endorsement.

Monday, February 26

National Academies: “A Strategic Plan for US Burning Plasma Research,” meeting seven (continues through Wednesday)
Open sessions: 9:00 am - 8:00 pm, Mon; 1:30 - 5:00 pm, Tue; 9:00 - 11:00 am, Wed; PST
General Atomics (San Diego, CA)
Webcast available

National Academies: “Review of Progress Toward Implementing the Decadal Survey Vision and Voyages for Planetary Sciences,” meeting six (continues through Wednesday)
Keck Center (500 5th St. NW, DC)

National Academies: “Best Practices for a Future Open Code Policy for NASA Space Science,” meeting ten (continues through Wednesday)
Beckman Center (Irvine, CA)
Closed in its entirety

Center for Climate and Security/EESI: “Climate and National Security Forum 2018”
9:30 am - 12:30 pm, Capitol Visitor Center (1st St. NE, DC)
Webcast available

New America: “A New National Security Innovation Base”
10:00 - 11:00 am, New America headquarters (740 15th St. NW, DC)
Webcast available

Bipartisan Policy Center: “Improving the Efficiency of US Export Controls for Nuclear Energy Technologies”
10:00 - 11:30 am, Bipartisan Policy Center headquarters (1225 Eye St. NW, DC)
Webcast available

Tuesday, February 27

National Academies: “Data Science: Opportunities to Transform Chemical Sciences and Engineering” workshop (continues Wednesday)
8:30 am - 5:00 pm, Tue; 8:30 am - 12:00 pm, Wed
National Academy of Sciences (2101 Constitution Ave. NW, DC)
Webcast available

Arizona State University CSPO: “Debunking the ‘War on Coal’”
8:30 - 10:30 am, NYU Washington Center (1307 L St. NW, DC)

Center for Data Innovation: “What Can Be Done to Protect Endangered Government Data?”
9:00 - 10:30 am, Center for Data Innovation (1101 K St. NW, DC)
Webcast available

House: “Review of Sexual Harassment and Misconduct in Science”
10:00 am, House Science Committee (2318 Rayburn Office Building)

House: “State of the Nation’s Energy Infrastructure”
10:00 am, Energy and Commerce Committee (2123 Rayburn Office Building)

Hudson Institute: “The New US Nuclear Posture Review: Implications for Nuclear Nonproliferation and Security”
10:00 - 11:30 am, Hudson Institute (1201 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, DC)

STEM4US!: “Black History Month Infrastructure Workforce Summit”
11:00 am - 1:00 pm, NASDAQ DC (1100 New York Ave. NW, DC)

NSF: Astronomy and Astrophysics Advisory Committee teleconference
12:00 - 4:00 pm

NASA/NOAA: News conference and science briefing on the upcoming launch of GOES-S satellite
1:00 pm, Kennedy Space Center (Cape Canaveral, FL)
Webcast available

POSTPONED – Senate: “Accelerating New Technologies to Meet Emerging Threats”
2:30 pm, Armed Services Committee (232A Russell Office Building)

Wednesday, February 28

Bipartisan Policy Center: “Opportunities and Challenges for the Use of Evidence: Lessons Learned in the Past 20 Years”
10:00 am - 11:30 am, Bipartisan Policy Center headquarters (1225 Eye St. NW, DC)

AEI/ASU: “Minding the skills gap: The future of education in the future of work”
1:15 - 5:30 pm EST, Arizona State University (Tempe, AZ)
Webcast available

Senate Career and Technical Education Caucus: Congressional briefing on “How Reauthorization of the Higher Education Act Can Better Reflect Today’s CTE Landscape”
1:30 – 2:30 pm (430 Dirksen Office Building)

NSF: Public meeting on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for Sacramento Peak Observatory
6:30 - 8:30 pm MST, New Mexico Museum of Space History (Alamogordo, NM)

Thursday, March 1

ADDED – Senate: Hearing to consider nominations for NSA director, NNSA deputy administrator for nuclear nonproliferation, and DOE assistant secretary for environmental management
9:30 am, Armed Services Committee (G50 Dirksen Office Building)

Senate: “The Administration’s Framework for Rebuilding Infrastructure in America”
10:00 am, Environment and Public Works Committee (406 Dirksen Office Building)

CSIS: “Assessing the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review”
1:30 - 6:00 pm, CSIS headquarters (1616 Rhode Island Ave. NW, DC)

NSF: “NSF’s Engagement with China”
3:30 - 4:30 pm, NSF headquarters (Alexandria, VA)
Webcast available

George Washington University: “Advanced Manufacturing - the New American Innovation Policies”
5:00 - 7:00 pm, Elliott School of International Affairs (1957 E St. NW, DC)

Friday, March 2

No events.

Monday, March 5

APS: March Meeting (continues through Friday)
Los Angeles Convention Center (Los Angeles, CA)

USGS: Scientific Earthquake Studies Advisory Committee meeting (continues Tuesday)
Caltech Avery Library (Pasadena, CA)

Know of an upcoming science policy event? Email us at


USGS Seeks Comments on Draft Critical Minerals List

The U.S. Geological Survey is soliciting public feedback on a draft list of 35 minerals and mineral material groups that are critical to the U.S. economy and national security. USGS published the list in accordance to an executive order on reducing U.S. dependence on the foreign supply of critical minerals issued last December. The list will guide USGS efforts to improve topographical, geological, and geophysical mapping of U.S. mineral resource potential and increase private sector accessibility to mapping data. Comments will be accepted through March 18.

NASA Science Directorate Seeking Temporary Policy Analysts

NASA is currently accepting applicants to serve as policy analysts in the Science Mission Directorate under an Intergovernmental Personnel Act appointment. The agency intends to hire at least one person to provide policy support for up to two years on science missions. Duties include developing congressional testimony and reports, coordinating with the White House offices, supporting development of interagency agreements and international relationships, among other responsibilities. Interested individuals who have an advanced degree in public policy, have experience working on space policy, and are not federal employees are encouraged to email jens.feeley [at]

before March 9.

AAAS Hiring Associate in Research Competitiveness Program

The American Association for the Advancement of Science is hiring an associate in its Research Competitiveness Program, which works to improve peer review systems and provides independent assessments on university STEM programs, among other functions. Interested individuals with a bachelor’s degree and at least one year of experience supporting peer review activities should apply by March 6.

For additional opportunities, please visit Know of an upcoming science policy opportunity? Email us at

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