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Biden Administration Executive Actions: Scientific Integrity

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.

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Posted in Issue 3 (February 2), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

PCAST Holds Virtual Meeting, Swears in New Members from Academia

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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Posted in Issue 14 (July 7), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

White House Announces Appointments for PCAST and NSB

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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Posted in Issue 9 (April 22), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

White House Reconstitutes President’s Council of Advisory on Science and Technology

On October 22, the Trump Administration issued an executive order reconstituting the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). PCAST is comprised of experts from science and technology from outside the government who volunteer to advise the White House; it has not met since the Obama Administration. In addition to reconstituting the council, the President also appointed seven members to PCAST. The members primarily have backgrounds in the private sector: Dario Gill of IBM research, A.N. Sreeram of Dow Chemical, Sharon Hrynkow of Cyclo Therapeutics, H. Fisk Johnson of S.C. Johnson Inc., Catherine Bessant of Bank of America, and Shane Wall of HP. The lone appointee from a university is K. Birgitta Whaley, a chemistry professor of the University of California, Berkeley, and a scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. A press release from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), reported on by Science Magazine, noted that the “next wave of nominees, which includes several additional scholars from academia, is proceeding through the clearance process.” The executive order and list of appointees can be found on the White House website.

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Posted in Issue 21 (October 29), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

PCAST Hears Interim Report on Precision Medicine Initiative

On May 15, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) received an interim report on the President’s proposed Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI). Opening the meeting, PCAST co-chair and director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) John Holdren discussed the ongoing budget process and the challenges associated with the FY 2016 budget. Despite these challenges, Holdren noted, there are a number of exciting initiatives in progress, including the Precision Medicine Initiative. (more…)

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Posted in Issue 9 (May 19), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

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