On Monday, the Biden administration began releasing its fiscal year 2023 budget request to Congress. Echoing last year’s request, the administration is seeking major expansions of clean energy and climate R&D as well as a scale up of STEM workforce diversity programs. Accordingly, agencies such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Geological Survey, and the Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy would receive double-digit percentage increases. The administration is also seeking $5 billion for the newly established ARPA for Health and $880 million for the National Science Foundation’s new Directorate for Technology, Innovation, and Partnerships as part of a nearly 20% proposed increase to NSF’s topline. However, requests for increases across programs within the Department of Energy Office of Science are generally small, notwithstanding proposals pending in Congress to significantly expand them. NASA’s science divisions would mostly see essentially flat or mildly declining topline budgets, except Earth Science would receive a major increase. Early-stage R&D programs at the Department of Defense would also be pared back.
Individual science agencies are still posting their full budget justifications, which include detailed proposals. As of Monday afternoon, full budget documentation had been posted for NSF, NASA, and NIST. Summary figures will be added to FYI’s Federal Science Budget Tracker as they become available. Congress will also begin convening hearings this week as the House and Senate Appropriations Committees start developing their responses to the request. Newly confirmed White House Budget Director Shalanda Young will be testifying before the House Budget Committee on Tuesday and the Senate Budget Committee on Wednesday.
On Thursday, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is holding a hearing that will explore “opportunities and challenges facing domestic critical mineral mining, processing, refining, and reprocessing.” Among the witnesses is Steve Fortier, director of the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Minerals Information Center, which helped develop the recent congressionally mandated update to the list of minerals designated by USGS as critical to economic or national security. Committee Ranking Member John Barasso (R-WY) has criticized the USGS list for not including uranium or helium, especially given that Russia commands a significant share of the global supply of each. Barrasso may also discuss legislation he introduced last week with Committee Chair Joe Manchin (D-WV) that would establish a federal grant program to support universities that offer mining and geological engineering degrees. The other witnesses are Paul Ziemkiewicz, director of the West Virginia University Research Institute; Scott Melbye, president of the Uranium Producers of America; Julie Padilla, chief regulatory officer of Twin Metals Minnesota; and Abigail Wulf, vice president for critical minerals strategy at Securing America's Future Energy.
The Department of Energy’s Advanced Scientific Computing Advisory Committee is holding a two-day meeting beginning Tuesday, at which it will receive a charge for a study to evaluate DOE’s computing programs in the context of global efforts. DOE’s Basic Energy Sciences Advisory Committee completed a similar report last year, and the advisory panels for the department’s High Energy Physics and Biological and Environmental Research programs are currently undertaking their own international benchmarking studies. The meeting will also feature updates on DOE efforts in exascale computing and quantum information science, including an overview of the QIS research centers DOE launched in 2020, and a discussion of results from a recent request for information on researchers' access to quantum systems, which will inform a roadmap DOE is preparing. In addition, the committee will vote on an external review of the Advanced Scientific Computing Research program that it organized last year.
Speaking on March 21 at the National Academies’ annual Space Science Week, NASA Science Mission Directorate head Thomas Zurbuchen reported significant changes on two of the agency’s flagship planetary science missions. On its Mars Sample Return mission, he said NASA has decided against using a single lander to carry both a sample retrieval rover and an ascent vehicle because it would require a significant departure from proven technologies. NASA will instead use a two-lander architecture, which he said will push the mission’s target launch date from 2026 to 2028, with the aim of returning samples to Earth in 2033. He did not say how the change will affect the mission’s cost. The European Space Agency is building the mission’s rover as well as an orbiter that is expected to launch in 2027 and transport the samples from Mars orbit to Earth. Zurbuchen further reported that the Europa Clipper mission has just moved into its final phase of integration and testing and remains on target to launch in fall 2024. He said NASA has adjusted the mission’s total lifecycle cost upward from $4.25 billion to $5 billion, with most of the increase stemming from revised expectations about how much it will cost to operate. The mission will make dozens of flybys of Jupiter’s icy moon Europa, which is believed to harbor a vast subsurface ocean that could be capable of supporting life.
Also speaking at Space Science Week, NASA Heliophysics Division Director Nicky Fox said the agency selected three awardees for DRIVE Science Centers on March 17: Stanford University’s Consequences of Fields and Flows in the Interior and Exterior of the Sun (COFFIES) center, Boston University’s Solar wind with Hydrogen Ion Exchange and Large-scale Dynamics (SHIELD) center, and the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory’s Center for Geospace Storms. An acronym for “Diversify, Realize, Integrate, Venture, Educate,” DRIVE was proposed as a top-priority initiative by the 2013 National Academies heliophysics decadal survey as a way of fostering low-cost interdisciplinary research that has a potential for high scientific impact. The centers were presented as embodying the “V” in DRIVE. NASA chose the three centers from nine that received preliminary “phase 1” awards two years ago, when the agency anticipated the winners of the “phase 2” awards would receive about $3 million per year over five years.
Semiconductor industry executives testified last week in favor of pending legislation that would appropriate $52 billion to support domestic chip manufacturing and R&D. Speaking to the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger argued the funds are necessary for the U.S. to stay competitive in the face of even larger incentive packages offered by governments abroad. Gelsinger also noted Intel has provided detailed recommendations on how the funds should be structured, in response to a request for information by the Commerce Department that closed last week and received more than 200 submissions. Committee leaders from both parties endorsed the subsidy concept, while a handful of senators expressed skepticism or sought additional commitments from the companies.
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) argued the funds amounted to the government “picking winners,” and Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) said he had not seen enough evidence that the funds would offer a sufficient return on investment. Meanwhile, Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) pressed the witnesses to make stronger sustainability commitments, noting for instance that chip manufacturing can be water intensive, and Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) raised the idea of giving the government a stake in any company that accepts funds. Baldwin has endorsed an amendment to implement such a condition offered by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who gave a floor speech last week blasting the subsidies as a “bailout” for a highly profitable industry. Sanders secured a commitment from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to eventually hold a floor vote on the amendment, in exchange for not holding up a procedural vote scheduled for this week that will enable the House and Senate to convene a conference committee to reconcile the broader legislative packages the semiconductor funds are attached to.
Marvin Adams, the nominee to lead defense programs at the National Nuclear Security Administration, fielded questions from senators last week about the fiscal and personnel costs of NNSA’s approach to restarting production of plutonium “pits,” the cores of nuclear warheads. NNSA plans to produce at least 30 pits per year at Los Alamos National Lab and at least 50 per year at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina. Senate Armed Services Committee Chair Jack Reed (D-RI) said he has heard concerns there could be a “brain drain from Los Alamos to Savannah, which might leave both institutions without the critical mass of talent to get the job done.” He also suggested that staff might be reluctant for personal reasons to move “from the deserts of New Mexico to the coast of South Carolina.” Adams replied he shared the concern “early on” but now views the plan as a “win-win situation” that has already proven mutually beneficial for the sites, offering to provide details in closed session. Reed and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) also probed why NNSA’s cost estimate for the Savannah River component of the project had ballooned from $4.6 billion to the current range of $8 billion to $11 billion. Adams replied the initial estimate was made before the facility design was matured and pledged to improve NNSA’s cost assessment process.
Last week, the National Academies released the first-ever decadal survey of the “physics of living systems,” recommending actions to cement biological physics as a distinct field rather than as a particular application of physics methods. In a statement, Committee Chair William Bialek argued that “realizing the full potential of the field requires that we rethink how to teach physics, biology, and science in general, revise fragmented funding structures, and welcome and nurture diverse aspiring scientists.” The report asserts that funding for biological physics is “dangerously close to the minimum needed for the health of the field,” and suggests agencies such as the National Science Foundation, which sponsored the study, the Department of Energy, and the National Institutes of Health should increase their level of support and the size of individual grants. The report also recommends that physics departments at research universities build “identifiable efforts in biological physics,” noting that current educational opportunities are limited, particularly at the undergraduate level.
As part of its ongoing coverage of ethical and personal disputes within the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, news outlet Politico reported on March 28 that previously revealed concerns within OSTP about staff members accepting outside funding related specifically to Schmidt Futures, a philanthropic initiative. According to internal correspondence Politico obtained, former OSTP Director Eric Lander used consultants from Schmidt Futures and sought funding from it to pay OSTP staff members’ salaries as part of his effort to expand the office. However, concerns were raised about the propriety and extent of such arrangements by OSTP legal staff, including then-General Counsel Rachel Wallace, who recently filed a whistleblower complaint against OSTP leaders.
It is not uncommon for OSTP to use consultants and to employ fellows recruited through nonprofit organizations. However, Lander has extensive personal links to Schmidt Futures founder Eric Schmidt, who was formerly CEO of Google and in March 2021 donated $150 million to the Broad Institute, a research center Lander had directed for two decades. Schmidt is also a major advocate in federal science and technology policy, including as co-chair of the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence, and last fall Schmidt Futures agreed to administer the Quad Fellowship, a new education initiative that is part of the U.S. effort to strengthen its science and technology partnerships with Australia, India, and Japan. Lander, who was a member of President Biden’s Cabinet, resigned from federal service in February after complaints from Wallace and others about his treatment of staff members became public. An OSTP spokesperson told Politico that the office has been consistently in full compliance with ethics policies.
The government of the United Kingdom announced on March 27 it will suspend bilateral science partnerships with Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine, the latest in a series of Western countries to freeze ties. The U.K. has paused all payments of public research funds and implemented a moratorium on new collaborations, while stopping short of prohibiting interactions with individual Russian scientists. “Our aim is to introduce measures that will negatively impact the Russian state, and individuals and organizations with strong links to the Kremlin, but not to sanction individual innocent Russian scientists or innovators with benign research interests,” explained U.K. science minister George Freeman in a statement.
(continues through April 8)
Atlantic Council: “The Geopolitics of the Energy Transition”
10:00 am, Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee
Heritage Foundation: “How to Reform DOD’s PPBE Process”
11:00 - 11:45 am
(continues through Thursday)
Lunar and Planetary Institute: “Low-Cost Science Mission Concepts for Mars Exploration”
(continues through Thursday)
(continues on Thursday)
9:00 - 10:00 am
9:30 - 11:00 am
Bipartisan Policy Center: “Leveraging Natural Gas Networks to Achieve Net-Zero,” with Rep. Scott Peters (D-CA)
10:00 - 11:15 am
10:00 am, Budget Committee
10:00 - 11:00 am CEST
Environmental Law Institute: “Updates to Energy and Environmental Justice: A Fireside Chat with DOE and Senate Staff”
12:00 - 1:00 pm
National Academies: “Accelerating Decarbonization in the U.S.: Non-profit Perspectives”
12:00 - 2:00 pm
12:30 - 2:30 pm
1:00 - 2:30 pm
National Air and Space Museum: “NASA's Earth Information System: Open and Accessible Science to Improve Life on Earth”
8:00 - 9:00 pm
White House: Environmental Justice Advisory Council meeting
9:30 - 10:45 am
George Washington University: “Celebrating 50 Years of GWU’s International S&T Policy Program”
10:00 am - 7:00 pm
10:00 am, Natural Resources Committee
10:00 am, Oversight Committee
10:30 - 11:15 am
11:00 am, Budget Committee
11:00 am, Rules Committee
Hudson Institute: “New Copyright Challenges in the Publishing Industry”
National Academies: “NASA Harvest Earth Observation to Advance Food Security”
1:00 - 2:00 pm
1:00 - 2:30 pm
3:00 - 4:00 pm
(continues through Saturday)
Commerce Department: Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Advisory Committee meeting
1:00 - 4:00 pm
10:00 am, Energy and Natural Resources Committee
10:00 am, Science Committee
10:00 am, Small Business Committee
10:00 am, Appropriations Committee
10:30 am, Energy and Commerce Committee
12:00 - 1:30 pm
National Academies: Roman Space Telescope study, meeting five
12:30 - 2:00 pm
2:00 - 3:00 pm
9:30 am, Climate Crisis Committee
10:00 am, Armed Services Committee
5:00 - 7:00 pm
NSPN: Spirit Week
(continues through Sunday)
Space Foundation: 37th Space Symposium
(continues through Thursday)
International Academy of Astronautics: 3rd IAA Conference on Space Situational Awareness (continues through Wednesday)
9:00 - 10:30 am
Harvard Belfer Center: “Space-Based Solar Geoengineering and Astropolitics”
12:00 - 1:00 pm
Resources for the Future: “Greening the Grid through Demand-Side Automation”
3:00 - 4:15 pm
Know of an upcoming science policy event either inside or outside the Beltway? Email us at [email protected].
The Department of Energy is hiring a director for its Office of High Energy Physics to replace Jim Siegrist, who is stepping down at the end of this month after more than a decade in the role. Responsibilities for the position include formulating budget requests, coordinating DOE activities with other science agencies, and liaising with stakeholders in Congress and representatives of foreign research institutions. Applications are due April 25.
The Quad Fellowship, an educational exchange program supported by the governments of Australia, India, Japan, and the United States, is accepting applications for its inaugural cohort. The fellowship was announced in September 2021 as part of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue and is managed by Schmidt Futures. It will sponsor 100 people from the four countries to study in STEM fields in the United States beginning in August 2023. Applicants must have earned a bachelor’s degree in a STEM field by that date, and applications are due June 1.
The National Science Foundation is hiring a director for its Materials Research Division, responsible for overseeing a more than $300 million portfolio of investments in materials research and education. The director manages the evaluation of grant proposals and allocation of budget resources. Applications are due June 3.
Science|Business: European Commission launches support platform for Ukrainian scientists
Science|Business: Germany sets out new details of scientific sanctions against Russia
Research Professional: German universities appeal for federal funding to help Ukraine refugees
Science: Let’s not abandon Russian scientists (perspective by John Holdren, et al.)
NSTC: Bringing quantum sensors to fruition (report)
OSTP: Let’s clear the air on COVID (perspective by Alondra Nelson)
Association of American Universities: Side-by-side comparison of research security provisions in the America COMPETES Act and USICA
American Council on Education: University associations send letter to Congress on priorities for conference negotiations on USICA/COMPETES Act
Washington Post: Sen. Manchin launches new push for ‘all of the above’ energy bill
New York Times: How Manchin aided coal, and earned millions
Senate Energy Committee: Manchin and Sen. Barrasso (R-WY) introduce Mining Schools Act
House Minority Leader: Priorities of the China Task Force (video)
Toronto Globe and Mail: What the life of Soviet nuclear physicist Andrei Sakharov taught us about freedom and science (perspective by John Polanyi)
DOE: Get to work — for real — on communicating basic science (perspective by Rick Borchelt and Keegan Sawyer)
Issues in Science and Technology: ‘High-minded enterprise’: Vannevar Bush and postwar science policy (audio interview with G. Pascal Zachary)
Association of American Universities: Serving the needs of rural America (perspective by Barbara Snyder)
United for Medical Research: NIH’s role in sustaining the economy (report)
Roots of Progress: Flywheels of progress (perspective by Jason Crawford)
Inside Higher Ed: Yale professors question suspension of biology professor Haifan Lin
Just Security: Amid new trial, end of Chinese espionage ‘initiative’ brings little relief to US academics caught in net of fear (perspective by Michael German and Alex Liang)
Lawfare: After the China Initiative (perspective by Margaret Lewis)
Financial Times: US–China tech race: Spies and lies (audio)
Science: Redo college intro science (perspective by David Asai, et al.)
Experimental History: Grant funding is broken. Here's how to fix it (perspective by Adam Mastroianni)
Issues in Science and Technology: Nonprofit research institutions must find new ways to wield their historic strengths (perspective by Fred Gage and Eric Issacs)
What’s New Under the Sun: Steering science with prizes
Japan S&T Agency: Japan’s first full-fledged preprint server Jxiv to be operational
London School of Economics: There are four schools of thought on reforming peer review — can they co-exist? (perspective by Ludo Waltman, et al.)
Scholarly Kitchen: Fraud and peer review (interview with Melinda Baldwin)
Chemical and Engineering News: The helium shortage that wasn’t supposed to be (audio)
NSF IG: NSF vetting of US Antarctic Program contractors (report)
Pew Research Center: AI and human enhancement: Americans’ openness is tempered by a range of concerns (report)
Times of Israel: Israeli researchers build country’s first quantum computer
Wilson Center: Is the US serious about Open RAN? (perspective by Melissa Griffith and Don McLellan)
SpacePolicyOnline: NASA lays out revised approach for future human lunar landing systems
IEEE: Engineering Lunar Network 2.0: Artemis and other Moon missions will need high-speed communications (perspective by Glenn Zoapette)
Financial Times: A ‘$200 million gamble’: UAE Space Agency chair on its mission to Mars (interview with Sarah Al Amiri)
BAMS: The Integrated Carbon Observation System in Europe (paper by Jouni Heiskanen, et al.)
Wall Street Journal: Russia’s war on Ukraine upends Arctic climate-change research
Securities and Exchange Commission: SEC proposes rules to enhance and standardize climate-related disclosures for investors
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV): West Virginia Hydrogen Hub Coalition takes next step to secure hub In West Virginia
DOE Electricity Advisory Committee: Strengthening the resilience of defense
World Nuclear News: US test reactor prepares for restart
Physics World: Could commercial fusion power plants get us to net zero?
ScienceInsider: Dirty bomb ingredients go missing from Chernobyl monitoring lab
MIT Technology Review: What is the risk of a nuclear accident in Ukraine? A radiation expert speaks from Kyiv (interview with Vadim Chumak)
Searchlight New Mexico: The war in Ukraine has put Los Alamos' nuclear-weapons mission in the spotlight
Exchange Monitor: NNSA's new high-explosive fabrication facility to open in 2024
Breaking Defense: Iron Dome laser-based option, Iron Beam, takes major step forward
National Academies: Designing COVID-19 vaccine requirements and incentive programs (report)
The Times of Northwest Indiana: Indiana senator Todd Young (R-IN) will help set national policy on biotechnology
Chemical and Engineering News: War in Ukraine has knock-ons for drug discovery
Foreign Affairs: America and Europe must be ready for Russian biological or chemical attacks (perspective by Micahel Olsterholm and Mark Olshaker)
War on the Rocks: Lessons from the first time Russia accused the US of biowarfare (perspective by Conrad Crane)
The Lancet: Financing the future of WHO (perspective by Lawrence Gostin, et al.)
China File: Will China set global tech standards? (invited perspectives)
Georgetown University: Chinese technology and the US–China relationship with Douglas Fuller (audio)
Wall Street Journal: Chip sanctions challenge Russia’s tech ambitions
Times Higher Education: Concern as Brussels ‘borrows’ €400 million from Horizon Europe to fund Chips Act
Science|Business: European Commission to review research agenda due to Ukraine invasion