The Senate returns from recess this week and will join the House in filling out the rosters of its committees. Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) are respectively taking over as chair and ranking member of the Appropriations Committee, replacing retired Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Richard Shelby (R-AL). The changeover will also involve shuffling leadership of the subcommittees that draft spending legislation, though many subcommittees may retain their leaders from the previous Congress. On the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is taking over as the top Republican from Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS), who is now the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee. The Energy and Natural Resources Committee will continue to be led by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and John Barrasso (R-WY). Meanwhile, the House has just finalized the number of seats available on each of its committees and is still populating them with members and appointing subcommittee leaders. Republicans so far have named 15 members for the House Science Committee with six vacancies remaining, while Democrats have not yet announced their roster for the panel.
The National Academies is hosting a “meeting of experts” on Wednesday and Thursday focused on whether the U.S. should revisit a presidential directive on research security known as NSDD-189. Issued by President Reagan and reaffirmed by subsequent administrations, the directive establishes that when national security concerns compel restrictions the appropriate mechanism of control is classification and that research deemed unclassified should not be subject to controls. This week’s meeting will also review a recent Academies report on research security that argues NSDD-189 “remains an important statement of principle for U.S. policy,” but, in focusing on the products rather than process of research, it does not address “the need to protect access to top talent or to preserve open environments that foster disruptive discoveries.” The meeting will begin with an address by the National Science Foundation’s Chief of Research Security Strategy and Policy Rebecca Keiser, who is sponsoring the workshop, and by Tarun Chhabra, senior director for technology and national security at the National Security Council, who will discuss technology priorities in the Biden administration’s National Security Strategy.
The National Academies is holding a kickoff meeting next Monday for a study that will assess the demand for ocean acoustics expertise across a variety of applications over the next decade and identify the necessary training programs required to meet that demand. It will also evaluate the current status of ocean acoustics education in the U.S. and explore strategies to strengthen workforce recruitment and retention. The committee is sponsored by the Naval Research Lab and is chaired by University of New Hampshire acoustics professor Jennifer Miksis-Olds.
The American Physical Society’s Annual Leadership Meeting is taking place Tuesday through Friday in Washington, D.C. Sessions include a panel discussion on the ethics of emerging technologies and another panel of policymakers addressing the prospects for science policy in a divided Congress. A keynote address will be delivered by Matt Mountain, president of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, which builds and operates astronomical observatories on behalf of the National Science Foundation. Attendees will also hear from the society’s new president, University of Chicago theoretical physicist Robert Rosner. In a recent interview with APS News, Rosner said his priorities for the coming year include continuing the Delta-Phy diversity, equity, and inclusion initiative, reviewing APS committee operations, contending with the transition to open access publishing, and strengthening relations with societies such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science and AIP. (APS is an AIP Member Society.)
Organizers of last year’s “Snowmass” particle physics strategy conference released a summary report last week that recommends priority topics and projects for the U.S. to pursue over the next decade. Distilled from the contributions of thousands of physicists, the report will serve as a key input to the Particle Physics Project Prioritization Panel, which will propose a budget-constrained 10-year plan to guide federal support for the field. The Snowmass report endorses the five main “science drivers” used in the previous P5 report, released in 2014, while also suggesting an additional focus on precision measurements of rare processes. Looking ahead to major projects for the post-2035 timeframe, the report proposes the U.S. prepare to “participate in or build” an electron-positron “Higgs factory” and a subsequent high-energy muon or hadron collider, establish an Advanced Muon Facility at Fermilab, and contribute to a next-generation gravitational wave observatory. The P5 process is about to shift into gear, with its first meeting scheduled for Feb. 6. In addition, a National Academies committee that is conducting a parallel survey of elementary particle physics is holding a meeting this week to hear from the directors of high energy physics programs at five national labs.
A federal judge declined to send chemist Franklin Tao to prison last week after Justice Department prosecutors requested a 30-month sentence. Tao had previously been found guilty of wire fraud and making false statements, based on an association with a Chinese talent-recruitment program he had not disclosed to the agencies funding his research or to his employer, the University of Kansas. However, the judge threw out the fraud convictions on the grounds that Tao had not schemed to deprive the government of anything of value. For the remaining false statement charge, the judge sentenced Tao to two years of supervision, without home detention or electronic monitoring, and explained at length why she did not believe his conduct amounted to espionage or even an attempt to receive money he was not entitled to. The judge concluded for instance that Tao’s deceit at one point concerning his whereabouts involved his exploration of an employment opportunity in China. “Frankly, a lot of people go out in the world and apply for other jobs and don't tell their employers what they're up to, for obvious reasons,” she said. Last year, the Justice Department announced it was recalibrating its prosecution of academics, delegating enforcement to science agencies in cases only involving nondisclosure of connections, though it proceeded with ongoing cases such as Tao’s. Tao and his defenders have argued he did nothing wrong and that his prosecution was unjust, costing him his job and over a million dollars in legal fees. He plans to appeal the false statement conviction.
The Department of Energy announced last week it plans to provide up to $200 million over four years for the inaugural cohort of “Energy Earthshot Research Centers,” which will have annual budgets of up to $5 million each. The centers will be led by DOE national labs and bring together multidisciplinary teams to conduct fundamental research related to one of DOE’s six Energy Earthshots, which set aggressive goals for driving down the cost of promising energy technologies. Each Earthshot is associated with specific research thrusts:
University of Texas at Austin physicist Roy Schwitters, widely known as the director of the ill-fated Superconducting Super Collider (SSC) project, died on Jan. 10 at the age of 78. After receiving his doctorate from MIT in 1971, Schwitters spent the first part of his career at SLAC, where he played an integral role in the 1974 discovery of the J/psi meson, a crucial milestone in the acceptance of quarks as real particles. Shortly after moving to Harvard University, in 1980 he took on the additional role of co-leading the group building the Collider Detector at Fermilab (CDF), which began operating in 1985. In 1989, with Fermilab blossoming as a particle collider facility of then-unmatched capability, Schwitters was recruited to direct construction of the still-more-ambitious SSC in Texas. However, that project lost congressional favor in the early 1990s, with some lawmakers protesting its growing costs and arguing it was mismanaged. A frustrated Schwitters complained during a 1993 interview with the New York Times, “We should be devoting ourselves to completing this machine as rapidly and cheaply as possible, and getting on with real science. Instead, our time and energy are being sapped by bureaucrats and politicians. The SSC is becoming a victim of the revenge of the C students.” Congress withdrew funding later that year, marking a turning point in the history of U.S. particle physics — and arguably in the country’s science policy. Schwitters resigned from the project and soon joined the JASON science advisory group, analyzing problems in national security and ultimately chairing the group’s steering committee. He told AIP in a 2020 oral history that JASON gave him new direction after the high-profile demise of the SSC. “I considered it, frankly, a lease on life for me,” he said.
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National Security Space Association: Defense & Intelligence Space Conference
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Federal Demonstration Partnership: January meeting
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10:00 am - 4:00 pm
3:00 - 5:00 pm
5:00 - 6:00 pm
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Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: Doomsday Clock announcement
National Academies: “One Health Approach for Effective Biodefense and Global Health Security”
1:00 - 2:00 pm
2:00 - 2:45 pm
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World Resources Institute: “Stories to Watch 2023”
9:00 - 10:15 am
10:30 am - 12:00 pm
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Brookings Institution: “Accelerating Federal, State, and Local Investments in the U.S. Infrastructure Workforce”
2:00 - 3:15 pm
3:30 - 5:00 pm
NSF / NASA / DOE: Astronomy and Astrophysics Advisory Committee meeting
10:00 - 11:45 am
10:30 am, Energy and Commerce Committee
11:00 am - 12:00 pm
2:00 - 3:30 pm
12:30 - 1:30 pm
6:00 - 7:00 pm
POSTPONED -- Asian American Scholar Forum: “Know Your Rights on Airport Enforcement and Border Harassment”
1:00 - 3:00 pm
National Academies: “Elementary Particle Physics: Progress and Promise,” meeting five
11:00 am - 3:00 pm
2:40 - 4:00 pm
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National Academies: “Ocean Acoustics Education and Expertise,” meeting one
9:00 am - 1:30 pm
National Academies: “Opportunities and Challenges for Digital Twins in Biomedical Sciences”
10:00 am - 4:30 pm
1:00 - 2:00 pm
1:00 - 2:30 pm
Know of an upcoming science policy event either inside or outside the Beltway? Email us at [email protected].
The University Corporation for Atmospheric Research is hiring a director for government relations. Applicants should have a master’s degree in business, public policy, or a related field and at least ten years of relevant experience working with policymakers, as well as expert knowledge of science policy and familiarity with the Earth systems science community. Applications are due Feb. 6.
The Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy is seeking a director for the Space Telescope Science Institute, which leads science operations for the Hubble Space Telescope, the James Webb Space Telescope, and the in-development Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope. Applicants should have experience leading large scientific organizations, preferably in astronomy or a closely-related field. Application review will begin March 3.
The Federation of American Scientists is seeking a director to oversee its policy fellowship programs, which will place 100 to 200 fellows across government and other policy organizations annually. Candidates should have at least ten years of professional experience in the federal government, science or technology policy, policy think-tanks or nonprofits, consulting, recruiting or technology. The Schmidt Science Fellows program is also hiring an admissions officer to manage the nomination and selection of new fellows. Candidates should have experience in a STEM field and familiarity with the academic sector, and those with an advanced degree are strongly preferred.
The Hill: The time is now for Biden and Congress to follow through on CHIPS, science, and clean energy (perspective by Rep. Sean Casten (D-IL) and Thomas Costabile)
Inside Higher Education: ‘Transformational’: Federal earmarks a boon for higher ed
House Appropriations Committee: Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) asks agency heads on potential impacts of proposed House Republican cuts
House Science Committee: Republicans raise concerns White House is giving conflicting guidance on AI
Rep. Rick Allen (R-GA): Allen introduces bill to prevent NSF research grants from going to China
China Talk: Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) on AI, the China committee, and industrial policy (audio interview)
Wall Street Journal: Finance chiefs hope new Congress will revisit tax rule on R&D expenses
Wall Street Journal: Why does the US tax code penalize R&D? (perspective by Alex Muresianu)
New York Times: Piloting a National Network for Critical Technology Assessment (interview with Erica Fuchs)
Washington Post: US politics is awful — but our science and technology offer hope for the future (perspective by Max Boot)
Issues in Science and Technology: To support evidence-based policymaking, bring researchers and policymakers together (perspective by D. Max Crowley and J. Taylor Scott)
Union of Concerned Scientists: Confronting the climate crisis with scientist activism: The essential role of rule breakers (perspective by Erika Spanger-Siegfried)
Science: Victorian values permeate contemporary scientific culture, maintains a historian (book review)
Nature: PhD training is no longer fit for purpose — it needs reform now (editorial)
Nature: You’ve heard of mentorship in science, but what about sponsorship? (perspective by Christine Parsons and Pat O’Connor)
Optics and Photonics News: Wanted: Optics and photonics technicians
ScienceInsider: National Science Board is about to get much more diverse
Slate: I wrote a viral screed against peer review. I got some emails (perspective by Adam Mastroianni)
New York Times: What happened to all of science’s big breakthroughs?
Physics in Perspective: Small physics (editorial)
Exchange Monitor: Sandia Ion Beam Laboratory reopened after tritium incident
Wall Street Journal: Rebalancing chip-supply chains will take decades, Intel CEO says
China Talk: CHIPS Act: A how-to guide (audio)
ESA: Hera’s time of trial
AIAA: Nuclear rocket redux
The Economist: Ideas for finding ET are getting more inventive
Bloomberg: How will geoengineering work? Time for some game theory (perspective by Tyler Cowen)
E&E News: Why methane capture is so difficult
New York Times: Bomb cyclone? Or just windy with a chance of hyperbole?
Science|Business: New bill to boost EU’s position in the global clean tech race
E&E News: US strikes at China with EV battery deal
CleanTechnica: The nuclear fallacy: Why small modular reactors can't compete with renewable energy (perspective by Michael Barnard)
Lex Fridman: Nuclear fusion and the future of energy (video interview with Dennis Whyte)
National Academies: Logistics and manufacturing under attack: Future pathways (report)
SpaceNews: With Starshield, SpaceX readies for battle
Washington Post: Lab-leak fears are putting virologists under scrutiny
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: Researchers hacked a lab’s pathogen containment system. Was it a good idea to publish the results? (perspective by George Poste and David Gillum)
New York Times: What do we owe lab animals?
Science: Under pressure to reinvent itself, the Chinese Academy of Sciences should concentrate on managing large-scale research infrastructures (perspective by Xiyi Yang, et al.)
Research Professional: World needs better data-sharing for research, says European Research Council president
Research Professional: Frequent blackouts cripple South African labs