The Week of November 29, 2021

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FYI This Week highlights upcoming science policy events and summarizes news from the past week.

The Week of November 29, 2021

The Week Ahead

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Vice President Harris views some of the first images returned from Landsat 9 during a visit to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center on Nov. 5.

Vice President Harris views some of the first images returned from Landsat 9 during a visit to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center on Nov. 5. During her visit, Harris announced that the Biden administration would hold its first meeting of the National Space Council on Dec. 1.

(Image credit – Taylor Mickal / NASA)

National Space Council Holding First Meeting Under Biden

Vice President Kamala Harris will convene the Biden administration’s first meeting of the National Space Council on Wednesday. The council comprises the heads of a number of federal departments and agencies that are concerned with issues such as space commerce, military uses of space, space-based science, and crewed spaceflight. The Trump administration revived the council in 2017 after a quarter-century hiatus, and the Biden administration indicated in March that it would be retained, observing that it is a “time of unprecedented activity and opportunity” for U.S. space activities. Harris, who chairs the council by statute, personally announced the meeting earlier this month during a visit to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, where she discussed opportunities to use space to help address problems such as climate change. She also said that at its first meeting the council will “outline a comprehensive framework for our nation’s space priorities.” 

Science Committee to Examine Strategy for Astrophysics

At a hearing on Wednesday, the House Science Committee will discuss the recently released National Academies decadal survey for astronomy and astrophysics, which recommends priorities for NASA, the National Science Foundation, and the Department of Energy. The survey co-chairs, Caltech professor Fiona Harrison and Texas A&M University professor Robert Kennicutt, will appear on the witness panel alongside Bill Russell of the Government Accountability Office. GAO has kept watch over cost overruns and schedule delays affecting science missions such as the James Webb Space Telescope, and it produces an annual report that reviews the agency’s entire portfolio of major projects. In view of past difficulties with large space telescopes, the decadal survey recommends NASA establish a “Great Observatories Mission and Technology Maturation Program” that would reduce technical risks and solidify cost estimates for large missions before they are formally approved for development. A recent internal NASA study of large science missions also recommended devoting more resources to maturing mission technology and concepts early in the design process.

Hearing to Air Case for Semiconductor Subsidies

As Congress considers funding the national microelectronics R&D and manufacturing initiative recently authorized by the CHIPS for America Act, the House Science Committee is holding a hearing on Thursday on “ensuring American leadership in microelectronics.” Several committee members have indicated they support funding the CHIPS Act, including Committee Chair Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Research and Technology Subcommittee Chair Haley Stevens (D-MI), the latter of whom recently led a bipartisan statement calling on Congress to fully fund the initiative. While the Senate has proposed to allocate $52 billion to the initiative over five years via the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, the House has yet to follow suit. The witness panel for this week’s hearing will be semiconductor company executives Ann Kelleher and Manish Bhatia, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab Director Michael Witherell, and Purdue University engineering dean Mung Chiang, who in 2020 served as science and technology adviser to the secretary of state.

Space Weather Advisory Group Kicks Off

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Advisory Group is meeting for the first time on Wednesday. The 16-member group was created pursuant to the PROSWIFT Act of 2020 and will advise interagency efforts to research, forecast, and mitigate the effects of major solar events that can induce damaging currents in electrical equipment and disrupt telecommunications systems, among other hazards. NOAA announced the group’s initial roster in September and as chair selected Tamara Dickinson, who oversaw space weather preparedness initiatives for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy during the Obama administration. At the meeting, the group will discuss its statutory charge to survey user needs for space weather information.

PCAST to Discuss Bio and Nanotech, Federal Workforce 

The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology is meeting on Monday to continue its series of listening sessions. The meeting will begin with a session on biomanufacturing that will include remarks from the chairs of recent National Academies reports on innovations in pharmaceutical manufacturing and preparing for future biotechnologies. The following session will discuss ways of “ensuring a vibrant federal S&T workforce,” with presentations by Marie Bernard, the National Institutes of Health’s chief officer for scientific workforce diversity; Bruce Rodan, associate director for science at the Environmental Protection Agency; and Candice Wright, director of the Government Accountability Office’s Science, Technology Assessment, and Analytics team. Wright recently testified to the House Science Committee on factors affecting agencies' ability to attract and retain S&T talent, such as federal pay and hiring practices. A final session at the meeting will provide an overview of the National Nanotechnology Initiative, which PCAST periodically reviews per statute.

In Case You Missed It

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Sally Benson

Sally Benson

(Image credit – Stanford University)

Stanford Professor Sally Benson Leading New OSTP Energy Division

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy announced on Nov. 24 that it has hired Stanford University decarbonization expert Sally Benson to lead a newly formed Energy Division. Holding the title of deputy director, she will be OSTP’s fifth division leader and will also serve as “chief strategist for the energy transition.” Benson holds a doctorate in material science and mineral engineering and spent the first part of her career at Berkeley Lab, where she served as assistant director for energy sciences and then deputy director for operations. Since moving to Stanford in 2007, she has led the university’s Global Climate and Energy Project and co-directed its Precourt Institute for Energy. OSTP also appointed Carnegie Mellon University professor Costa Samaras as principal assistant director for energy and “chief adviser for energy policy.” Samaras holds a joint doctoral degree in civil and environmental engineering and in engineering and policy, and he is director of CMU’s Center for Engineering and Resilience for Climate Adaptation and the university’s Power Sector Carbon Index project.

Acting Budget Director Nominated to Lead Office

President Biden announced on Nov. 24 that he is nominating Shalanda Young to lead the White House Office of Management and Budget, the only Cabinet-level position still vacant. The Senate confirmed Young as OMB’s deputy director in March on a 63-to-37 vote, and she has led the office on an acting basis since then. Biden’s first pick for budget director, Neera Tanden, withdrew from consideration earlier that month after failing to secure unanimous support from Senate Democrats. Young was a longtime staff member for the House Appropriations Committee and various lawmakers from both parties have expressed support for her to be appointed OMB director. OMB is responsible for assembling the president’s annual budget request and it exercises authority over federal agencies as they prepare their proposals for it.

US Blacklists Chinese and Russian Research Institutes

On Nov. 26, the Commerce Department implemented strict limits on U.S. exports to a dozen institutions based in China, including several microelectronics and quantum technology companies as well as the Hefei National Laboratory for Physical Sciences at Microscale, a leading quantum research institute. The institutions are now on the department’s “Entities List,” which means it believes, “based on specific and articulable facts, that the entities have been involved, are involved, or pose a significant risk of being or becoming involved in activities that are contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States.” In a press release, the department stated that eight of the institutions were targeted in order to “prevent U.S. emerging technologies from being used for [China’s] quantum computing efforts that support military applications, such as counter-stealth and counter-submarine applications, and the ability to break encryption or develop unbreakable encryption.” The department also added to the Entities List several institutions deemed to be contributing to nuclear or ballistic missile programs in Pakistan, and it added the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology to its list of institutions that support military end-users, a designation that likewise restricts exports. Earlier this year, the department added seven Chinese supercomputing institutions and 10 Russian institutions to the Entity List for their support of military activities.

Have a Listen: FYI Speaks With Issues in Science and Technology

Last week, FYI’s Mitch Ambrose and Will Thomas appeared on the inaugural episode of The Ongoing Transformation, a podcast produced by the publication Issues in Science and Technology. The episode takes listeners behind the scenes of FYI, looking at how the team keeps up with, and makes sense of, science policy. It also examines the challenges involved in understanding science policy as it becomes intertwined with matters as varied as foreign policy, telecommunications policy, and the workings of the federal criminal justice system.

Events this week
All times are Eastern Daylight Time, unless otherwise noted. Listings do not imply endorsement.

Monday, November 29

 
Acoustical Society of America: 181st meeting (continues through Friday)
 
 
12:15 pm - 1:30 pm 
 
12:15 - 4:30 pm
 
1:30 - 3:00 pm CST
 
2:00 - 3:30 pm

Tuesday, November 30

 
National Academies: Committee on Planetary Protection fall meeting (continues through Dec. 2)
 
American Nuclear Society: Winter meeting and technology expo (continues through Friday)
 
9:00 - 10:00 am
 
12:00 - 12:30 pm
 
12:00 - 1:00 pm
 
2:00 - 3:30 pm 
 
3:00 - 5:00 pm
 
3:00 - 5:00 pm 
 
5:00 - 6:00 pm

Wednesday, December 1

 
White House: National Space Council meeting
 
Defense Strategies Institute: Space Resilience Summit (continues Thursday)
 
9:45 am, Environment and Public Works Committee
 
9:45 am, Environment and Public Works Committee
 
10:00 am, Judiciary Committee
 
10:00 am - 2:00 pm
 
10:15 am, Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee
 
10:15 am, Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee
 
10:15 am, Oversight and Reform Committee
 
11:00 am, Science Committee
 
11:00 - 11:45 am
 
12:00 - 2:00 pm
 
12:00 pm
 
12:30 - 2:00 pm PST
 
2:00 - 5:15 pm

Thursday, December 2

 
 
 
8:15 am - 5:00 pm
 
9:30 am, Intelligence Committee
Closed to the public
 
10:00 am, Science Committee
 
10:00 am, Ways and Means Committee
 
10:00 - 11:00 am
 
10:00 - 11:00 am
 
10:00 am - 1:30 pm
 
11:00 am - 12:00 pm
 
12:00 pm
 
12:30 pm
 
1:00 - 2:00 pm 
 

Friday, December 3

 
Reagan Foundation: Reagan National Defense Forum (continues Saturday)
 
11:00 am - 12:00 pm
 
12:00 - 4:30 pm
 
Physicists Coalition for Nuclear Threat Reduction: “Briefing on President Biden's Nuclear Posture Review” 
12:30 pm
 
1:00 - 2:00 pm
 
8:00 pm

Know of an upcoming science policy event either inside or outside the Beltway? Email us at fyi [at] aip.org.

Opportunities

Science Policy Accelerator Seeking Participants

The Day One Project is accepting applications for its newly launched “science policy accelerator” for early-career researchers. The nine-week program will help participants develop policy proposals on a topic of their interest with the guidance of policy experts. Applications are due Dec. 15. 

Science Policy Journal Seeking Associate Editors 

The Journal of Science Policy and Governance is accepting applications for volunteer associate editors, who are responsible for reviewing submissions and providing feedback to authors. Applications for the first cohort will open Jan. 17, 2022, and will continue to be accepted until all positions are filled. The journal is hosting an open house on Dec. 6 for all interested applicants.

ClearPath Accepting Applications for a Policy Fellow

The energy policy think tank ClearPath is accepting applications for a 2022-2023 policy fellow. The fellow will analyze legislative and regulatory developments related to clean energy innovation and deployment. Applicants should have a bachelor’s degree in a STEM field or public policy.

 

For additional opportunities, please visit www.aip.org/fyi/opportunities. Know of an opportunity for scientists to engage in science policy? Email us at fyi [at] aip.org.

Around the web

News and views currently in circulation. Links do not imply endorsement.

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