The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) will hold a series of public virtual listening sessions to inform its assessment of federal scientific integrity policies pursuant to President Biden’s January memorandum on science integrity and evidence-based policymaking. These sessions will complement an open request for information on science integrity and evidence-based policymaking (see previous coverage). Each of the three listening sessions will focus on a different theme:
- July 28: Communication
- July 29: Science and Education
- July 30: Use of Scientific and Technical Information
More details and information on how to register for the listening sessions is available on the OSTP website.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) have announced the dates for a series of virtual listening sessions to receive feedback from scientific societies, patient advocacy groups, industry, and other stakeholders about potential projects and priorities for Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H), the proposed new agency to be housed within NIH dedicated to high-risk, high-reward research applied to solve broad societal problems (see previous COSSA coverage for more details). The listening sessions, which will be broken up by topical focus, may include a variety of formats including large, public discussions and small, invitation-only meetings. The following sessions and dates have been announced so far:
- July 22: Advocates for Research on Cancer, Disorders of the Heart, Lungs, Blood, and Environmental Health
- July 23: Advocates for Research on Aging, Arthritis, and Musculoskeletal and Skin Disorders
- July 26: Advocates for Research on Eye Disease and Visual Impairment, Deafness and Communication Disorders, and Dental and Craniofacial Disorders
- July 30: Advocates for Research on Minority Health and Health Disparities, and Nursing
- August 2: Advocates for Research on Addiction and Alcoholism
- August 3: Advocates for Research on Diabetes, Digestive Disorders and Kidney Disease, Child and Maternal Health, and Complementary and Integrative Medicine
- August 4: Advocates for Biomedical and Translational Research and General Medicine
- August 5: Advocates for Research on Allergies and Infectious Diseases, and Global Health
- August 11: Advocates for Research on Genomics, Biomedical Engineering and Imaging, and Health Informatics, and Medical Libraries
- August 16: Advocates for Research on Neurology and Mental Health
A list of the listening sessions and registration information is available on the NIH website.
The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) has issued a request for information (RFI) on ways to improve the effectiveness of federal scientific integrity policies, in support of President Biden’s January 27 Memorandum on Restoring Trust in Government Through Scientific Integrity and Evidence-Based Policymaking (see previous coverage). OSTP has convened an interagency task force of the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) that will conduct a review of the government’s science integrity policies. To inform this effort, OSTP seeks information about: “(1) The effectiveness of federal scientific integrity policies and needed areas of improvement; (2) good practices federal agencies could adopt to improve scientific integrity, including in the communication of scientific information, addressing emerging technologies and evolving scientific practices, supporting professional development of Federal scientists, and promoting transparency in the implementation of agency scientific integrity policies; and (3) other topics or concerns that Federal scientific integrity policies should address.” More details and information on how to respond to the RFI is available in the Federal Register notice. Comments should be submitted by July 28, 2021.
In the first few weeks since his confirmation on May 28, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Eric Lander has been active in advocating for President Biden’s ambitious science policy agenda, most notably the proposal for the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H), the DARPA-like research agency proposed to be housed within the National Institutes of Health (NIH). During the June 10-11 meeting of the Advisory Committee to the Director of NIH, Lander presented a more thorough vision of ARPA-H’s role as a high risk, high reward vehicle to address specific societal questions. A recording of the presentation is available on the NIH website.
With Lander’s confirmation behind the Administration, the scientific community now awaits announcement of appointments to the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). PCAST, which Lander will co-chair, is the nation’s highest-level advisory body related to science policy issues, advising the President and his Administration on all aspects of the STEM enterprise and ways to apply it to Administration priorities. The last Administration did not reconstitute and appointment members to PCAST until almost three years into its term. With President Biden’s laser focus on science and technology, it is expected that PCAST will be populated sometime this year. We will continue to report on new developments.
On April 29, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee held a hearing to discuss the nomination of Dr. Eric Lander as President Biden’s pick to lead the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), a role that the President has elevated to Cabinet-level. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) chaired the hearing and in her opening remarks, she acknowledged Lander’s scientific accomplishments, but also noted concerns about past actions related to women and minorities in STEM fields. The hearing provided an opportunity to clear the record on these and other issues and to explore Dr. Lander’s positions and goals if confirmed as OSTP director.
In his prepared remarks, Dr. Lander discussed the importance of inclusion in science and technology, highlighting the uneven opportunity provided across gender, race, and geography and the often unwelcoming nature of careers in science to women and people of color. In his role at OSTP, if confirmed, Dr. Lander promised that OSTP’s work will be rooted in equity, that he will hire an OSTP staff that “resembles the American population,” and that the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) will be “the most diverse in history.”
Questions from the Committee tackled a variety of topics, including OSTP’s role and plans related to climate change, scientific integrity, and pandemic recovery, as well as technologies of the future, cybersecurity, scientific workforce needs, disparity of NSF support to smaller institutions and smaller states, and enhancing partnerships with industry.
A committee vote on Dr. Lander’s nomination has not yet been scheduled.
On January 27, President Biden issued a Memorandum on Restoring Trust in Government Through Scientific Integrity and Evidence-Based Policymaking that states the Administration’s policy to “make evidence-based decisions guided by the best available science and data” and affirms that “scientific findings should never be distorted or influenced by political considerations.” The memorandum builds on and updates an Obama Administration Executive Order requiring federal agencies develop scientific integrity policies. President Biden’s memorandum establishes a Task Force on Scientific Integrity that will review existing scientific integrity policies and recommend improvements. It also sets more detailed requirements for what should be included in agency scientific integrity policies and outlines how these policies should complement agencies’ evidence-building plans required by the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act (see COSSA’s previous coverage). It also requires agencies that fund, conduct, or oversee scientific research designate individuals to act as Chief Science Officers and as Scientific Integrity Officials. See our previous coverage for more on the Biden Administration’s science team.
President Biden also signed an executive order to maintain the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), a senior independent advisory body that consists of scientific experts from within and outside the federal government. As previously reported, PCAST’s external co-chairs will be Dr. Frances H. Arnold and Dr. Maria Zuber. The early action to preserve PCAST is a departure from President Trump, who waited nearly three years into his administration before reestablishing the council.
On August 14, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) issued a memorandum laying out the Trump Administration’s research and development budget (R&D) priorities for fiscal year (FY) 2022. The memo cites five key White House priorities and four “high-priority crosscutting actions” for U.S. federal agencies to consider as they develop their FY 2022 budget submissions.
While the FY 2022 memo shares similar priorities to R&D memos from previous fiscal years, a notable difference is the inclusion of public health security and innovation as a priority in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The five budgetary priorities listed in the memo are:
- Public Health Security and Innovation
- Leadership in the Industries of the Future and Related Technologies
- Energy and Environmental Leadership
- Space Leadership
The memo also includes four “high-priority crosscutting actions” for federal agencies to better meet the budgetary priorities listed above. These four actions are:
- Build the S&T Workforce of the Future
- Optimize Research Environments and Results
- Facilitate Multisector Partnerships and Technology Transfer
- Leverage the Power of Data
Additional details can be found in the memorandum.
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On June 30, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) held a virtual meeting during which two new members of PCAST were sworn in. Abraham “Avi” Loeb, Professor and Chair of the Department of Astronomy at Harvard University, and Daniela Rus, Director of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, were sworn in after being nominated in April amid discussions that new PCAST nominees would represent academia given that representatives from industry have already been appointed (see previous COSSA coverage for more details).
Much of the meeting was dedicated to discussing recommendations for the Administration’s Industries of the Future (IotF) initiative, which include strategically important tech industries such as quantum and artificial intelligence. The meeting focused on four main discussions:
- Enhancing multi-sector engagement in IotF research and innovation;
- Meeting national needs for a diverse, multi-sector IotF workforce;
- New models of engagement for national laboratories; and
- Students, post-doctoral scholars, and early career professionals in IotF.
More information about PCAST, presentation slides, and the meeting agenda can be found on the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Science website.
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On April 20, the White House announced the appointment of several individuals for key positions in the Administration including two seats on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) and four seats on the National Science Board (NSB), the advisory body to the National Science Foundation (NSF). This wave of nominations for PCAST follows an announcement from White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Director and PCAST Chair Kelvin Droegemeier that several future PCAST nominees would come from academia rather than industry (read previous COSSA coverage for more details). The two nominees for PCAST are:
- Abraham “Avi” Loeb, Professor and Chair of the Department of Astronomy at Harvard University
- Daniela Rus, Director of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
The four nominees for the NSB are:
- Aaron Dominguez, Provost and Professor of Physics at the Catholic University of America
- Dario Gil, Chief of Research at IBM
- Sudarsanam Babu, Professor and Chair of Advanced Manufacturing at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville
- Roger Beachy, President of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center
Roger Beachy currently serves on the NSB and has been reappointed for a second term while the three other appointees would be new members of the advisory body. Since there are eight members with expiring terms on the NSB this year, four more appointments have yet to be announced.
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Kelvin Droegemeier, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), has been named the acting director of the National Science Foundation (NSF) until the Senate confirms a permanent successor to the previous NSF Director, France Córdova. Córdova finished her six-year term heading the agency in March 2020 (see previous COSSA coverage for more details). The White House announced the nomination of Sethuraman Panchanathan as NSF Director in January 2020, however the timeline for the Senate to consider Panchanathan’s nomination has been made unclear by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Prior to his tenure as OSTP Director, Droegemeier served two terms on the National Science Board, the governing body for NSF, and nearly a decade as vice president for research for the University of Oklahoma. The news release can be found on the NSF website.
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