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The Week of January 23
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 January 23
Welcome to FYI This Week
Welcome to the inaugural edition of FYI This Week! We have been working hard to develop a publication that will provide a panoramic picture of the week in science policy, posted every Monday morning. Each edition will include a look at the week ahead and a review of the week just passed. It will also list upcoming events, opportunities to get engaged, and links to articles from other publications. To receive each edition via email, sign up here.
As always, if you would like to send us feedback, news, or listings, we look forward to hearing from you at fyi [at] aip.org.
The FYI Team
Mike Henry, Mitch Ambrose & Will Thomas
Trump Budget Director Pick to Face Confirmation Hearing
On Tuesday morning, the Senate Budget Committee will hold a hearing to consider President Trump’s nomination of Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) to be director of the White House Office of Management and Budget. Mulvaney is a fiscal conservative, a founding member of the House Freedom Caucus, and a member of the Republican Study Committee, which has pushed for deep cuts in federal spending. In the past, he has also voted for large funding cuts to the NSF and DOE science budgets. Senators may ask Mulvaney about a recent report in The Hill about plans to dramatically shrink of the size of the federal government, including major funding reductions at the Departments of Commerce and Energy. OMB coordinates the president’s annual budget request and influences policy and funding priorities across the government.
House to Vote on Major Energy Science and Nuclear Technology Bills
The House is scheduled to vote on Tuesday afternoon on the bipartisan “DOE Research and Innovation Act,” sponsored by House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX). The bill would authorize research programs within DOE’s Office of Science and encourage lab-to-market commercialization of energy technologies. The bill also incorporates the “Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act,” reintroduced from the 114th Congress (see FYI 2016 #27). On Monday evening, the House is scheduled to consider a separate bill to require the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to develop a plan to license the nation’s next generation of advanced nuclear reactors. The House passed similar legislation last year (see FYI 2016 #103).
Senate Committee to Vote on Commerce Secretary Nominee, Space Weather Research & Women in STEM Bills
The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee will hold a business meeting on Tuesday morning to consider the nominations of billionaire Wilbur Ross as Commerce Secretary and Elaine Chao as Transportation Secretary. The committee will also consider a long list of bills, including the “Space Weather Research and Forecasting Act,” reintroduced from the last Congress, and two other reintroduced bills promoting the advancement of women in STEM fields: the “INSPIRE Women Act” (see FYI 2016 #38) and the “Promoting Women in Entrepreneurship Act.” The House passed the latter two by voice vote on Jan. 10.
AMS Annual Meeting Convenes in Seattle
The American Meteorological Society is holding its annual meeting this Sunday through Friday at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle, and a number of policy sessions are on the agenda, including a town hall on the next National Academy of Sciences earth sciences decadal survey. See the “Events This Week” section for highlights.
APS to Host Holdren, Holt, Foster, Murray at Meeting
On Saturday morning, the American Physical Society is hosting a policy-focused plenary session at the society’s meeting in Washington, D.C. The session will feature former Obama science advisor John Holdren, AAAS CEO and physicist Rush Holt, physicist congressman Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL), and former director of the DOE Office of Science Cherry Murray. Additional policy-related events at the meeting are listed in the “Events This Week” section. UPDATE: Holdren is no longer listed as a speaker.
AAAS to Host Webinar on Trump’s First 100 Days and the New Congress
AAAS CEO Rush Holt and American Enterprise Institute political scientist Norm Ornstein are headlining a webinar on Thursday afternoon on the outlook for science in the new administration and Congress. Topics will include science policy in Trump’s first 100 days, an updated outlook for research funding, and how the new administration and Congress may handle science-based policymaking.
President Trump Alludes to American Science in Inaugural Address
President Trump’s inaugural address was notable for its dark portrait of “American carnage” and for its combative promise to shift power from “Washington, D.C.” back “to the American people” and to put “America first.” However, a short passage focusing on science, technology, and medicine, struck a more traditional, optimistic tone, with Trump declaring, “We stand at the birth of a new millennium, ready to unlock the mysteries of space, to free the Earth from the miseries of disease, and to harness the energies, industries and technologies of tomorrow.” The Washington Post reports that, in crafting the speech, Trump was “intrigued” by President John F. Kennedy’s call in 1961 for the nation to land astronauts on the moon by the end of that decade.
Senate Confirms James Mattis as Defense Secretary
On Inauguration Day, the Senate voted 98 to 1 to confirm retired general James Mattis as Defense Secretary. Mattis now oversees a $580 billion Defense Department, including over $12 billion in basic and applied research and advanced technology development. In answers to written questions from the Senate Armed Services Committee, Mattis said he would “establish a culture of innovation” across the DOD and prioritize S&T investments that are a part of the present Third Offset strategy (see FYIs 2016 #125 and #138 for more on the Third Offset).
Additional Trump Cabinet Nominees Face Science Questions
Some of Trump’s other Cabinet nominees faced science-related questioning before Senate committees last week.
- Former Texas Governor Rick Perry, Trump’s pick for Energy Secretary, embraced the department’s basic research and other mission areas, promised to visit the national labs soon, and called DOE scientists and labs “the envy of the world.” He also acknowledged climate change and expressed regret for his earlier call to eliminate the department.
- Billionaire investor Wilbur Ross, nominee for Commerce Secretary, faced multiple questions about scientific integrity at NOAA and responded that he has “great respect for the scientific quality of NOAA” and expressed an appreciation of the importance of scientific independence.
- Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, nominee for EPA Administrator, said human activity has “some impact” on climate change and added he would not attempt to overturn EPA’s endangerment finding that linked carbon emissions to public health risks.
- Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), nominee for Health and Human Services Secretary, said he supported the recent funding increases for NIH, adding the agency is “a treasure for our country.”
David Gelernter Under Consideration for Trump Science Advisor
Trump spokesman Sean Spicer reported that Yale University computer scientist David Gelernter met with Trump last Monday and is under consideration for the position of science advisor. Gelernter is known for his work in parallel computing, but his views on science policy are not well known. He has sharply criticized academia, writing a 2013 book entitled “America-Lite: How Imperial Academia Dismantled Our Culture (and Ushered in the Obamacrats).” Princeton physicist William Happer also recently met with Trump. Happer served in DOE under President George H. W. Bush and has garnered criticism for arguing that climate change trends are overstated and that increased atmospheric carbon dioxide is beneficial.
UCS Releases Report on Scientific Integrity in Federal Policymaking
The Union of Concerned Scientists, an advocacy organization, released a new report last week focused on preserving scientific integrity in the federal government. The report lists four key principles of scientific integrity in federal policymaking and warns the Trump administration against “abuses of science,” which the authors emphasize can take many forms. The report also reviews the Bush and Obama administrations’ records on scientific integrity.