The Week of July 16

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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 July 16

The Week Ahead

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Lisa Murkowski and Maria Cantwell

Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) are convening a hearing this week to examine the Trump administration’s agency reorganization proposals.

(Image credit - Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee)

Senators to Review Trump's Agency Reorganization Plans

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is holding a hearing on Thursday on the Trump administration’s recently announced proposals to reorganize the Departments of Energy and the Interior. The witness list has not yet been announced. As part of its comprehensive government reorganization plan, the administration aims to merge DOE’s applied R&D programs within a single Office of Energy Innovation and expand DOI’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to absorb the functions of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service. On Wednesday, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs is holding a hearing on the administration’s plan as a whole.

National Science Board Convening With Focus on Artificial Intelligence

The governing board of the National Science Foundation is holding its quarterly meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday at the agency’s headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia. The first day will feature a panel discussion with leading experts in artificial intelligence research moderated by Andrew Moore, dean of Carnegie Mellon’s School of Computer Science. NSF’s annual investment in AI research now exceeds $100 million, and it plans to further increase its focus on the subject through several of its ‘Big Ideas,’ according to NSF Director France Córdova in her latest monthly newsletter message. On Wednesday, the board will discuss its preliminary plans to replace its biennial Science and Engineering Indicators report with a series of “thematic” reports. The board has been grappling with how to better adapt the report to a digital format and deal with the “unsustainable” growth in its size. In closed session, the board will vote on a number of facilities-related actions, including whether to use NSF’s Major Research Facilities and Equipment Construction account to fund upgrades for two flagship particle detectors at the Large Hadron Collider in Europe.

NOAA Science Advisory Board to Meet in New Hampshire

On Tuesday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Science Advisory Board (SAB) will tee off a two-day meeting in New Hampshire with a discussion led by Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Environment and Observations Neil Jacobs on advancing the agency’s research-to-operations pipeline, followed by an update from Acting Chief Scientist Craig McLean on the general state of NOAA science. SAB members will also hear presentations on the range of scientific activities NOAA is supporting in the Northeast, and on Wednesday will consider a 2016 review of NOAA’s Arctic ecosystem research including its contribution to the U.S. National Strategy for the Arctic. New Hampshire is represented by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, the top Democrat on the Senate appropriations subcommittee that writes spending legislation for NOAA. Both days’ proceedings will be webcast, and speaker presentations will be posted here.

House Intelligence Committee to Examine Chinese Pursuit of US Research

On Thursday, the House Intelligence Committee will hold a full committee open hearing titled, “China’s Threat to American Government and Private Sector Research and Innovation Leadership.” A witness list has not yet been announced. The committee is the latest of several congressional committees this year to turn its attention to the Chinese government’s aggressive pursuit of technological advantage through R&D, business maneuvers, academic exchange, and espionage.

National Academies Releasing Open Science Report

On Tuesday, the National Academies will release a report titled, “Open Science by Design: Realizing a Vision for 21st Century Research.” The report aims to facilitate movement “towards open science as the default for scientific research” that benefits from public funding. The report defines open science as public access to all articles, data, computer code, algorithms, and other digital products “with limited exceptions for privacy, proprietary business claims, and national security.” The public release event will be webcast.

EPA Holding Public Hearing on Controversial Science Rule

The Environmental Protection Agency is holding a public hearing on Tuesday to receive comments on a proposed rule that would limit the science the agency can use as the basis for many new regulations. On the grounds of increasing the transparency of EPA decision-making, the rule would in many cases prevent the agency from relying on research where the underlying data is not publicly available. Critics of the proposal argue it would unduly limit the scientific basis on which EPA makes decisions, and the agency’s Science Advisory Board recently voted to review the rule after some of its members raised their own concerns. This week’s hearing is part of a public comment period that ends Aug. 16.

Science Committee to Highlight Innovation in Fossil Energy

The House Science Committee is holding a subcommittee hearing on Tuesday dedicated to exploring the future of fossil energy technologies. The witnesses will be Roger Aines, a senior scientist in the Atmospheric, Earth, and Energy Division at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory; Klaus Brun, a program director in the Fluids and Machinery Engineering Department at Southwest Research Institute; Shannon Angielski, executive director of the Carbon Utilization Research Council; and Jason Begger, executive director of the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority. Rep. Marc Veasey (D-TX), the top Democrat on the subcommittee, and full committee Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) will promote legislation they introduced in May to reauthorize the Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy with a focus on the development of new technologies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Although David McKinley (R-WV), whose district is home to the National Energy Technology Laboratory, is signed on as a Republican co-sponsor of the bill, no Science Committee Republicans have voiced support.

University Leaders to Tout Basic Research Impacts on Capitol Hill

On Wednesday, vice presidents for research from 10 U.S. universities are participating in a roundtable discussion of the economic impacts of fundamental scientific research. The event is sponsored by the Association of American Universities and the Science Coalition, a non-profit organization that advocates for federal support of fundamental research. The event is only open to members of the media, but it will be live streamed on the coalition’s Facebook page. Following the roundtable, the Science Coalition is holding a “Champions of Science” reception, at which Reps. Kevin Yoder (R-KS) and Bill Foster (D-IL) are scheduled to speak.

In Case You Missed It

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Thom Mason

(Image credit – Oak Ridge National Laboratory)

Thom Mason Named Director Designate of Los Alamos National Lab

The new management consortium for Los Alamos National Laboratory announced its senior leadership team for the lab last week, revealing that Thom Mason will serve as director designate during a four-month transition period and will become director on Nov. 1. Last month, DOE awarded the multi-year, multi-billion dollar management contract to Triad National Security LLC, a partnership between the University of California, Texas A&M University, and Battelle. Mason currently is senior vice president for Global Laboratory Operations at Battelle, which is involved in the operation of six other DOE national labs. Prior to joining Battelle in 2017, Mason spent much of his career at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, including 10 years as its director.

Trump Disregards Bridenstine with Choice for NASA Deputy Administrator

On July 12, President Trump announced his intention to nominate James Morhard, the deputy Senate sergeant-at-arms, to be deputy administrator of NASA. A longtime staff member in the Senate, Morhard was previously staff director of the Senate Appropriations Committee and managed its Commerce-Justice-Science Subcommittee, which is responsible for NASA’s budget. He holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting from St. Francis University, an MBA from George Washington University, and a law degree from Georgetown University. The pick disregards NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine’s publicly stated wish that the job go to Janet Kavandi, the director of NASA’s Glenn Research Center. Last year, the choice of Bridenstine as administrator drew criticism for his thin background in spaceflight, science, and administration, as well as for his history as a politician. In backing Kavandi, Bridenstine had said his deputy “needs to be somebody who has a lot of space experience, a space professional.”

Trump Picks ARPA-E Director from Energy Finance Sector

President Trump announced his intention on July 10 to nominate Lane Genatowski to be director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy. Like Department of Energy Under Secretary for Science Paul Dabbar and Under Secretary of Energy Mark Menezes, Genatowski’s background is in energy sector finance. He has held positions with JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Banc of America Securities, and Kidder, Peabody & Company, and he is currently a managing partner at Dividend Advisors, a firm he co-founded in 2012. Genatowski holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Hunter College and a law degree from Fordham University. Although the Trump administration has twice proposed terminating ARPA–E, Congress has continued to strongly back the agency. ARPA–E’s current top official, Chris Fall, is currently awaiting Senate confirmation as director of the DOE Office of Science.

DOE Launches Tool to Facilitate Partnerships with National Labs

On July 10, the Department of Energy introduced the Lab Partnering Service, an online tool containing information about expertise, capabilities, and technologies available through the department’s system of 17 national laboratories. The new tool, which was created by the DOE Office of Technology Transitions, is intended to help investors and innovators within the energy and academic sectors discover new partnership opportunities with the labs.

Members of New STEM Education Advisory Panel Announced

Last week, the National Science Foundation announced the initial membership roster of the newly formed STEM Education Advisory Panel. Created by the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act, its primary duty is to advise the National Science and Technology Council’s Committee on STEM Education (CoSTEM), an interagency coordination body that is responsible for developing five-year strategic plans for federal STEM education programs. CoSTEM is due to issue an update to the current plan by the end of fiscal year 2018.

House Resolution Advocates Greater Diversity in Physics

Reps. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) and Barbara Comstock (R-VA) introduced a resolution last week stressing the importance of increasing diversity in physics and other STEM fields. It praises the American Physical Society’s Bridge Program, which aims to increase the number of underrepresented minority students earning physics Ph.D. degrees by reducing barriers to admission and improving mentoring services. The resolution states the program has helped to close the “representation gap” in physics — the disparity between the percentage of African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Native Americans who earn physics bachelor’s degrees versus the percentage who earn doctoral degrees.

Science Committee Explores Research Applications of Machine Learning

At a July 12 House Science Committee hearing, committee members examined emerging scientific applications of machine learning in leveraging the expansive data sets that are becoming available across a variety of scientific and engineering fields. The committee focused particularly on the role of the Department of Energy and its national laboratories in supporting the development of next-generation computers, new methods in data analysis, and their application to cutting-edge scientific challenges. Energy Subcommittee Chair Randy Weber (R-TX) said DOE is “uniquely equipped” to advance machine learning and should prioritize work in the area. Witnesses highlighted recent advances in areas including computer science, neuroscience, materials science, and astronomy, and discussed the differences between artificial intelligence and machine learning and their respective roles in advancing research.

Events this week

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

Monday, July 16

Committee on Space Research: 42nd COSPAR Scientific Assembly (continues through Sunday)
Pasadena Convention Center (Pasadena, CA)

EESI: "Decommissioning Nuclear Power Plants: What Congress, Federal Agencies and Communities Need to Know"
2:00 - 3:30 pm, U.S. Capitol Building (HC-8)
Webcast available

Tuesday, July 17

NSF: National Science Board meeting (continues Wednesday)
Open sessions: 8:00 am - 2:00 pm, Tue; 8:00 - 9:30 am, 11:50 am - 2:15 pm, Wed
NSF headquarters (Alexandria, VA)
Webcast available

EPA: “Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science” public hearing
8:00 am - 8:00 pm, EPA headquarters (1201 Constitution Ave. NW, DC)

National Academies: “Committee to Advise the US Global Change Research Program” meeting (continues Wednesday)
Open sessions: 9:00 am - 5:30 pm, Tue; 9:00 am - 1:00 pm, Wed
National Academies (2101 Constitution Ave. NW, DC)
Webcast available

NOAA: Science Advisory Board meeting (continues Wednesday)
9:45 am - 5:45 pm, Tue; 8:00 am - 1:00 pm, Wed
Hugh Gregg Coastal Conservation Center (Greenland, NH)
Webcast available

Senate: Hearing to examine the Interior Department’s final list of critical minerals
10:00 am, Energy and Natural Resources Committee (366 Dirksen Office Building)

House: “The Future of Fossil: Energy Technologies Leading the Way”
10:00 am, Science Committee (2318 Rayburn Office Building)

NSF: “New Directions for International Climate Research”
12:00 - 1:00 pm, NSF headquarters (Alexandria, VA)

National Academies: “Open Science by Design: Realizing a Vision for 21st Century Research” report release
1:30 - 2:30 pm, Keck Center (500 5th St. NW, DC)

Wednesday, July 18

DOD: Defense Science Board meeting (continues Thursday)
8:00 am - 5:00 pm, Wed; 8:00 am - 3:00 pm, Thu
Closed to the public

House: “Powering America: The Role of Energy Storage in the Nation’s Electricity System”
9:00 am, Energy and Commerce Committee (2322 Rayburn Office Building)

House: Full committee markup of the “DOE Veterans’ Health Initiative Act” and the “Chemical Assessment Improvement Act”
10:00 am, Science Committee (2318 Rayburn Office Building)

Senate: “Reviewing the Administration’s Government Reorganization Proposal”
10:00 am, Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (342 Dirksen Office Building)

Senate: “SHARKS!”
10:00 am, Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee (253 Russell Office Building)

Science Coalition / AAU: “2018 University Senior Research Officer Media Roundtable: The Economic Impact of Fundamental Scientific Research
1:00 - 2:30 pm, Reserve Officers Association (1 Constitution Ave. NE, DC)
Livestream available

House: Markup of the "Advancing U.S. Civil Nuclear Competitiveness and Jobs Act" and the "Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness and Advancing Innovation Act"
1:00 pm, Energy and Commerce Committee (2123 Rayburn Office Building)

AAAS: “A Day in the Life of an S&T Policy Fellow” live webchat
3:00 pm

Science Coalition / AAU: “Champions of Science All-Star Reception”
5:00 - 7:00 pm, Reserve Officers Association (1 Constitution Ave. NE, DC)
RSVP to tsc [at] sciencecoalition.org

Thursday, July 19

House: “China’s Threat to American Government and Private Sector Research and Innovation Leadership”
8:30 am, Intelligence Committee (1100 Longworth Office Building)

Brookings Institution: “Evidence-based policy: How is it faring in the Trump era?"
9:00 - 11:00 am, Brookings Institution (1775 Massachusetts Ave. NW, DC)
Webcast available

Senate: Full committee hearing on administration reorganization proposals for DOE and DOI
10:00 am, Energy and Natural Resources Committee (366 Dirksen Office Building)

DOD: Army Science Board meeting
10:00 am - 2:00 pm, Beckman Center (Irvine, CA)

FASEB: “Understanding the Difference Between Regulations and Policies” webinar
2:00 - 3:00 pm

Friday, July 20

AAAS: “Facilitating Engagement with Policymakers” virtual discussion
12:00 - 1:00 pm

National Air and Space Museum: "Innovations in Aerospace Technology: 10 Million Patents and Beyond"
1:00 pm, National Air and Space Museum (600 Independence Ave SW, DC)
Webcast available

POSTPONED -- Union of Concerned Scientists: Federal Scientist Survey Pre-Release Briefing
2:30 - 3:30 pm

Monday, July 23

NASA: Astrophysics Advisory Committee meeting (continues Tuesday)
8:00 am - 5:00 pm, NASA headquarters (300 E St. SW, DC)
Webcast available

CASIS: International Space Station R&D Conference (continues through Thursday)
(San Francisco, CA)

CSIS: “Celebrating NASA’s 60th Anniversary with Administrator Jim Bridenstine”
1:00 - 2:30 pm, CSIS headquarters (1616 Rhode Island Ave. NW, DC)
Webcast available

CSIS: “Verifying Denuclearization: Where Do We Go from Here?”
1:30 - 4:45 pm, CSIS headquarters (1616 Rhode Island Ave. NW, DC)
Webcast available

National Academies: “Supplemental Treatment of Low-Activity Waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation” public meeting (continues Tuesday)
1:30 - 6:30 pm PDT, Mon; 8:30 am - 5:00 pm PDT, Tue
Red Lion Hotel Richland (Richland, WA)
Webcast available

Know of an upcoming science policy event? Email us at fyi@aip.org.

Opportunities

AMS Seeking Volunteers for Geosciences Congressional Visit Day

The American Meteorological Society is seeking volunteers among its members to participate in a Congressional Visit Day taking place September 12 and 13 focused on the geosciences and geoscience education. The goal of the event, which AMS is hosting in collaboration with other geosciences societies, is to cultivate relationships between scientists and congressional offices. The application deadline is Aug. 9.

Nonproliferation Policy Fellowship Seeking Applicants

The Nonproliferation Policy Education Center is accepting applications for its fall public policy fellowship. The program provides participants with scientific, technological, legal, and historical background of civil and nuclear policy in order to “cultivate a bipartisan community of practical experts focused on nuclear policy issues.” Congressional staff, Executive Branch employees working in intelligence, defense, and foreign affairs, diplomatic staff, and journalists are encouraged to apply by Aug. 3.

World Climate Research Programme Seeking Input on Strategic Plan

The World Climate Research Programme, a network of international climate research projects, is accepting public comment on its draft 10-year strategic plan, set to be implemented from 2019 to 2029, through Aug. 31. The plan’s overarching objectives include improving fundamental understanding of the climate system, advancing predictive skill on timescales of up to a decade, and connecting climate science with policy and services. The National Science Foundation is hosting a lecture on July 17 about the future directions of the program.

Know of an upcoming science policy opportunity? Email us at fyi@aip.org.

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