Issue 2 (January 24)
The Biden Administration has announced the appointment of the new class of members to the National Science Board (NSB). NSB is the policy-making body of the National Science Foundation (NSF) that also advises the President and Congress on federal science policy. The new members will each serve a six-year term.
The new members include:
- Deborah Loewenberg Ball, education researcher from the University of Michigan
- Vicki L. Chandler, Provost at Minerva University and a biological researcher
- Dorota A. Grejner-Brzezinska, professor and artificial intelligence researcher from Ohio State University
- Marvi Ann Matos Rodriguez, Director of Engineering at Boeing Company
- Keivan G. Stassun, chair in Physics and Astronomy from Vanderbilt University
- Merlin Theodore, a researcher from the Manufacturing Science Division at Oak Ridge National Laboratory
- Wanda Elaine Ward, Executive Associate Chancellor for Administration and University Relations at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
- Bevlee A. Watford, Associate Dean for Equity and Engagement and Professor of Engineering Education in the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech
With terms ending for departed NSB members Emilio Moran and Bob Groves, Deborah Ball and Wanda Ward will be the only two social and behavioral scientists serving on the 30-person Board. Ball previously served on the NSB during the Obama Administration and Ward was previously a staff member at NSF.
Now that the fight over who will serve as Speaker of the House has been settled, Congressional committees are starting to take shape, albeit later than originally planned.
Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK) has been chosen to serve as chair of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee; Lucas served as Ranking Member in the last Congress. In a press release, Lucas stated his hope to continue working in a bipartisanship manner with Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), the ranking Democrat. Lofgren replaces Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) who retired at the end of the last Congress.
However, not all of Lucas’ stated priorities for the Committee will gel with those of the Democrats. Among his priorities for this year are: “securing our supply chain for advanced technologies, renewing our leadership in space and aeronautics, researching ways to make American energy cleaner and more affordable, and combating the threats we face from the Chinese Communist Party.” We also expect to see several hearings this year seeking to conduct oversight of science and technology investments made in recent years, such as implementation of the CHIPS and Science Act and the new Technology, Innovation and Partnerships Directorate at the National Science Foundation. According to the Lucas press release: “We will also conduct critical oversight on the billions and billions of dollars the Democratic-led Congress and Administration have poured into our agencies over the last two years, to hold them accountable and ensure taxpayer dollars are protected from waste, fraud, and abuse.”
With the appointment of Chairman Lucas and Ranking Member Lofgren, other Members of Congress are being assigned to the committee. Some Republican members have been named, although there are still vacant seats to be filles. Democrats have not yet released their roster. Once the Committee is populated, hearings are expected to begin.
On January 10, the House of Representatives established a new Select Committee on the Strategic Competition Between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party. The Committee, which will have bipartisan membership and will be chaired by Mike Gallagher (R-WI), is authorized to hold public hearings and “to investigate and submit policy recommendations on the status of the Chinese Communist Party’s economic, technological, and security progress and its competition with the United States.” However, the Committee will not have legislative authority, meaning it will not have the authority to develop or consider legislation.
The establishment of the Committee is another indication of the growing sentiment among Members of Congress prioritizing strategic competition with the Chinese government as an extension of national security policy. This sentiment has welled over into the scientific community over the past few years – most notably, with the emphasis on research security and targeting conflicts of interest of scientists with ties to the Chinese government (see previous COSSA coverage), which is likely to continue as a priority for the Committee. It is also expected that the Republican members may use the Committee’s jurisdiction to hold hearings to raise concerns about China’s role in the COVID-19 pandemic in a public setting.
COSSA will continue to provide updates on the Committee actions impacting the scientific community as necessary.
In December, Politico reported on what some view as a growing influence of Eric Schmidt, former Google CEO, in the Biden Administration. The article cited financial support provided by the Federation of American Scientists (FAS), which receives funding from Schmidt, for salaries of fellows serving in the Administration under the Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA) Mobility Program. The IPA program is widely used across the federal government to allow for the temporary placement of non-governmental employees to federal agency posts for a short period of time “when this movement serves a sound public purpose.” The employees’ salaries are paid by their sponsoring organization, not the federal government; however, there are limits on the types of organizations that can participate (i.e., for-profit organizations are prohibited).
In letters to 10 federal departments, agencies and offices, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) has requested additional information on the IPA appointments made specifically through FAS’s Day One Project. Given its ties to Schmidt, Grassley alleges that conflicts of interest may exist with the placement of the FAS fellows, specifically related to Administration actions on technology investments in areas like AI and quantum. Grassley has requested that each agency provide information on the assignees and their salary sources, employment agreements, and all other records referencing FAS, the Day One Project, and Schmidt’s various activities, by January 24. Given that the Democrats still hold the majority in the Senate, it is unclear whether this probe will gain traction in Congress. However, COSSA will continue to closely monitor this and other oversight activities pertaining to science policy in the federal government.
On January 11, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) released a fact sheet detailing several actions aiming to advance open science and research while dubbing this year the “Year of Open Science.” The announcement comes in the wake of the recent guidance aiming to increase public access to federally funded research (see previous COSSA coverage). Some of the notable actions include developing an official definition of “open science,” requiring federal agencies to update their public access plans, and publishing a new online resource for the public to learn about engaging in open science programs. A few key research agencies also developed agency-specific actions, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH) updating its Final Policy on Data Management and Sharing and the federal statistical system releasing a new Standard Application Process portal for researchers to access restricted data from federal datasets.
On January 12, OSTP also released the Framework for Federal Scientific Integrity Policy and Practice. The framework aims to build off of the findings of a 2022 report on scientific integrity (see previous COSSA coverage). According to the OSTP announcement, the framework is intended to set a consistent definition of scientific integrity for all federal agencies, develop a model scientific integrity policy to guide agencies as they develop their own policies, and share tools to help agencies assess their policies and practices. In addition, it also requires federal agencies to designate a scientific integrity official and directs the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) to establish a Subcommittee on Scientific Integrity.
National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics to Release Biennial Diversity and STEM Report
The National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES), within the National Science Foundation (NSF), will release its biennial report, Diversity and STEM: Women, Minorities and Persons with Disabilities, on January 30. The report was last released in 2021 under the title, Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering (WMPD), and provides statistical information on women, minorities, and persons with disabilities in science and engineering education and employment. NCSES will host an informational webinar on the results of the Diversity and STEM report on January 31. Register for the event here.
The William T. Grant Foundation has opened their online application for the 2023 Scholars Program. The William T. Grant Foundation supports social, behavioral, and health science researchers through encouraging researchers to expand their focus areas. The program provides $350,000 over a five-year period to develop a research plan to provide solutions for inequity and/or build strategies for improving the use of research evidence. Applicants require a nomination from their university to be eligible for the grant. The 2023 Scholars Program Application Guide has been released to aid potential applicants. The deadline to apply is July 5, 2023.