Issued each Monday, FYI This Week highlights upcoming science policy events and summarizes news from the past week.
The Thwaites Glacier is a major channel for ice loss in West Antarctica.
(Image credit – James Youngel / NASA)
The House Science Committee has invited five scientists to testify at a hearing Thursday on the worldwide recession of glaciers and ice sheets. Alongside decreases in the seasonal coverage of sea ice, the retreat of permanent masses of land-based ice represents one of the most visible early effects of climatic warming. Melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet and the rapid deterioration of parts of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet are anticipated to be major sources of sea level rise over the remainder of this century and beyond. The disappearance of mountain glaciers, meanwhile, threatens to disrupt water supplies in many parts of the Earth. NASA, the National Science Foundation, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration all support research portfolios dedicated to studying these issues.
The House is scheduled to consider its version of this year’s National Defense Authorization Act on the floor this week. The Rules Committee is meeting on Tuesday to decide which amendments will receive a vote, many of which relate to science and technology policy. The House is expected to pass the bill, sending it to a conference committee that will reconcile it with the version the Senate passed late last month. While neither the House nor Senate are entertaining major new R&D policy initiatives this year, numerous provisions under consideration would modify current efforts in areas such as research security, climate change resilience, artificial intelligence, microelectronics production, and quantum information science.
The Department of Commerce’s annual conference on export controls begins this week with a spotlight on “emerging technologies, strategic trade, and global threats.” Responding to recent legislation, the department is currently developing export controls on emerging technologies, and identified 14 “representative” categories of interest last year, including quantum information technology, advanced materials, and artificial intelligence. A number of scientific societies and universities have warned that such controls could harm U.S. innovation if implemented too broadly. The department is also expected to implement analogous controls on “foundational technologies” but has not yet issued a notice of rulemaking. A number of major business associations have urged the department to provide 90 days for such a notice, as opposed to the 30 days initially provided for its emerging technologies notice. In a separate effort, the department recently implemented new multilateral controls in five emerging technology areas, including post-quantum cryptographic algorithms.
NASA’s long-term plans for the International Space Station and other activities in low Earth orbit will be the focus of a hearing on Wednesday convened by the House Science Committee. The Trump administration has proposed to begin transitioning ISS operations to commercial entities by 2024, and in June NASA released a plan for expanding commercial use of the station and permitting private astronaut missions. Reacting to the plan, Space Subcommittee Chair Kendra Horn (D-OK) issued a statement indicating she intends to review the plan “as we thoughtfully consider the best pathway to transition beyond the long and successful operation of the unique ISS facility.” Among the witnesses for the hearing are the head of NASA’s human space exploration directorate, Bill Gerstenmaier, and NASA’s inspector general, Paul Martin.
On Wednesday, the Energy Subcommittee of the House Science Committee is meeting to consider three newly introduced research bills: the Solar Energy R&D Act, Fossil Energy R&D Act, and Wind Energy R&D Act. The text of the bills is not yet posted, though committee members previewed some of their interests and concerns at hearings on solar and wind technologies in May and fossil energy research in June. All three bills have Republican cosponsors, none of whom are on the Science Committee. At the May hearing, Subcommittee Ranking Member Randy Weber (R-TX) criticized spending increases recommended in the draft solar and wind bills, saying the industries are mature, obviating the need for intensified federal support for applied R&D in those areas.
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is meeting Tuesday to receive testimony from two Department of Energy officials on a number of bipartisan energy storage and R&D bills, including the Better Energy Storage Technology Act, Promoting Grid Storage Act, Expanding Access to Sustainable Energy Act, Joint Long-Term Storage Act, and the Launching Energy Advancement and Development Through Innovations for Natural Gas Act. The Committee will also consider the Reducing the Cost of Energy Storage Act, which currently does not have a Republican cosponsor. Later this week, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee will also hold a markup at which it will vote on the bipartisan Supporting Veterans in STEM Careers Act and Global Leadership in Advanced Manufacturing Act, among 11 other bills.
The Basic Energy Sciences Advisory Committee, which serves the Department of Energy, is meeting Thursday and Friday in Rockville, Maryland. Among the items on the agenda are discussions of two recently released National Academies reports. University of Texas chemical engineer Joan Brennecke will present on a study she chaired that outlines a research agenda for separations science. The field concerns the division of chemical mixtures into their distinct components and is employed in industrial and environmental applications, among other areas. Yale University chemist Nilay Hazari will discuss a separate study on research needs related to the utilization of gaseous carbon waste streams. Linda Horton, who heads DOE’s Materials Science and Engineering Division, will also report on a recent workshop the department sponsored on basic research needs related to manufacturing. Near the end of the meeting, Chris Fall, the newly confirmed director of the DOE Office of Science, will make his first presentation to a DOE advisory committee, offering a general update on the office’s activities.
This week’s meeting of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Science Advisory Board will feature discussion of new technologies and data systems. The board will receive a briefing on the agency’s plans to establish an office that would coordinate the use of unmanned systems for ocean exploration and research. NOAA requested $4 million for the office in its budget request for fiscal year 2020, which would address requirements of the Commercial Engagement Through Ocean Technology Act signed last year. The agenda also includes a session on “data science and public-private partnerships” that will review cloud computing technologies developed by Microsoft and Amazon.
An artist’s conception of a commercially provided lunar lander.
(Image credit – NASA)
NASA announced on July 1 that it has selected seven new science payloads and five technology demonstrations that will fly to the Moon on landers provided through the agency’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program. The 12 payloads join 12 others selected in February. A month ago, NASA also picked commercial lander missions that will convey as many as 23 of these payloads to three scientifically appealing destinations on the Moon’s near side between September 2020 and July 2021. The agency indicated at that time it would choose which payloads will fly on which landers by the end of this summer. NASA regards the CLPS program as pioneering a new model for missions that intertwines scientific and commercial activities and it intends for the program to pave the way for the crewed lunar landing planned for 2024.
Last week, Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Brian Schatz (D-HI) introduced the Building Indigenous STEM Professionals Act, which would build on the federal government’s support for the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program to offer grant funding to STEM education programs for Native Alaskan and Native Hawaiian students. The legislation adds to a series of recently introduced bills focused on STEM education:
All times are Eastern Daylight Time and all congressional hearings are webcast, unless otherwise noted. Listings do not imply endorsement.
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SRI International is seeking a research analyst to work in its Center for Innovation Strategy and Policy, which works to help organizations and countries “achieve long-term economic and social impact through effective investments in science, technology, and innovation.” Applicants must have a background in science, engineering, economics, or statistics and one to five years of relevant work experience.
The Naval Research Laboratory is seeking a director for its Materials Science and Technology Division, which supports the conception and formulation of materials technologies for the U.S. military. The director will guide the division’s research portfolio, which spans basic research, applied research, and technology development. Applications are due July 31.
The United States Patent and Trademark Office is seeking individuals to serve on the National Medal of Technology and Innovation Nomination Evaluation Committee. The committee makes recommendations of candidates for the nation's highest honor for technological innovation, awarded directly by the president. Nominations are due Aug. 1.
For additional opportunities, please visit www.aip.org/fyi/opportunities. Know of an opportunity for scientists to engage in science policy? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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