A Periodic Federal Science Update

House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Announces Its Top Priorities for This Congress — In a press release, dated February 1, 2017, Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) announced the following issues as the Committee’s top priorities for the 115th Congress.  These issues include:  

Cutting Government Red Tape, Emphasizing Sound Science at EPA: The Science Advisory Board Reform Act and the Secret Science Reform Act, both passed by the House of Representatives last Congress, will be revisited to further highlight the Environmental Protection Agency’s need to use sound science and transparent data to justify its rules and regulations. Additionally, the committee intends to examine the Social Cost of Carbon.

Reforms to Department of Energy Programs: The committee will continue to prioritize basic research at the Department of Energy, and will work to limit spending on late-stage commercialization programs that distort the energy market. Critical reforms are needed to ensure the Department of Energy spends limited federal research dollars on discovery science that the private sector cannot conduct, not loan guarantees and subsidies. DOE is the largest sponsor of federal research in the physical sciences, and provides over 30,000 researchers access to scientific facilities here in the U.S. each year. The committee will also prioritize investments in user facilities and research infrastructure, and will work to enact key reforms for the DOE national labs. These bipartisan efforts may help ensure that labs can effectively partner with privately funded, innovative entrepreneurs to discover the next technology breakthrough.

STEM Education and Reauthorization of NSF and NIST Programs: Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education initiatives are a priority for the committee along with initiatives including computer science. The READ Act, STEM, and major facilities reforms will be addressed under the paradigm of the National Science Foundation. Cybersecurity will continue to be of critical importance as our nation moves forward, and reauthorizing the National Institute of Standards and Technology programs is needed to prioritize the labs and protect our country from vulnerable technologies that lead to cyberattacks.

Oversight of FDIC Cybersecurity Failures, FISMA, and Ongoing Investigations: The technology used at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation has been subject to cybersecurity breaches and has subsequently prompted questions on the FDIC’s mismanaged response to China hacking into their systems. The issue has caused a lengthy investigation which will likely conclude in early 2017. The committee will continue to conduct government-wide cybersecurity oversight under its FISMA jurisdiction.

Constancy of Purpose within NASA: The Committee will continue to ensure that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration pursues a balanced portfolio of programs reinvigorated with bold exploration objectives. Building upon the progress made towards development of the Space Launch System, Orion, and the commercial crew and cargo programs, the committee will ensure NASA stays the course and leads the world in not only space exploration, but also space science.

House Science, Space and Technology Committee to Hold EPA Sound Science Hearing — On Tuesday, February 7, 2017, the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee will hold a hearing on EPA.  The purpose of this hearing is to examine the EPA’s process for evaluating and using science during its regulatory decision making activities. Witnesses will discuss how EPA can pursue environmental protection and protect public health by relying on sound science. The witnesses include:  Jeffrey R. Holmstead, Partner, Bracewell LLP; Dr. Kimberly White, Senior Director, Chemical Products and Technology, American Chemistry Council; The Honorable Rush Holt, CEO, American Association for the Advancement of Science; and Mr. Jason Johnston, Henry L. and Grace Doherty Charitable Foundation Professor of Law; Director, John M. Olin Program in Law and Economics, University of Virginia School of Law.

NSF Solicits Entity to Manage and Operate Geospace Facilities in Alaska and Canada — NSF is soliciting proposals to manage and operate each of the two Advanced Modular Incoherent Scatter Radar (AMISR) observatories located at Poker Flat, AK, and at Resolute Bay, Canada. The two AMISR facilities will serve national goals in Geospace science research and education.  The successful applicant would work closely with NSF and the Geospace scientific community to ensure that each AMISR facility supports, sustains, and advances frontier Geospace science. In cooperation with NSF and within available resources.  More information on this funding opportunity can be found here.

NSF to Support New Entity called Tomorrow’s Internet Project Office — To support the ongoing activities and expanding capabilities of CISE mid-scale computing research infrastructure, NSF will support the work of Tomorrow's Internet Project Office (TIPOFF or "Project Office"). Working closely with the U.S. academic and industry research communities in distributed computing and networking, TIPOFF will assume responsibility for the operation and administration of the GENI infrastructure, as well as its future design and development. A key role for TIPOFF is to lead the community in adapting and recasting current platform resources in light of new research community needs and emerging national priorities. Many of these needs and priorities have been discussed among the research community at events such as the "Beyond Today's Internet" series of workshops held in early 2016.

As part of the establishment of IPOFF, NSF anticipates the formation of an independent, community-led advisory entity (the "Steering Group") to represent the views of stakeholders -- including users, experimenters, developers, hosting institutions, industry, and educators -- in future mid-scale networking and distributed computing research infrastructure. TIPOFF and the Steering Group will together develop and participate in a new governance structure guiding the future evolution of the Platform. TIPOFF and the Steering Group will establish research priorities for the Platform jointly with NSF, with the goal of supporting new research directions. It is anticipated that TIPOFF will have considerable flexibility in leveraging the current platform. Depending on the stakeholders' degree of technical ambition, TIPOFF can reshape the existing platform resources into an entirely new and reimagined infrastructure to meet research community needs and national priorities.  Consult the solicitation for additional information here.