Policy News: September 12, 2022

In this issue:

Lawmakers are working to pass a short-term spending package to keep the government open in October.

Executive Branch
Domestic Climate Czar Gina McCarthy to leave the White House this week, Biden hires new climate advisors.

California passes climate legislation.

Australia passes first climate legislation since 2011.

Scientific Community
NAS reviews the U.S. Global Change Research Program’s Draft Decadal Strategic Plan.

Federal Register opportunities


Appropriations: The Senate returned from its summer recess Sept. 6 and the House is due to return tomorrow, Sept. 13. Congress appears likely to pass a short-term spending measure keeping the government funded through Dec. 16, although disagreements remain over COVID-19 funding, aid for Ukraine and energy permitting reforms proposed by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV). Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and House progressives, led by House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) are opposing the permitting deal, citing concerns that the reforms would help fossil fuel projects and undermine the National Environmental Policy Act and the Clean Water Act. Passing a short-term spending deal will likely be Congress’ main focus during the month of September. The current government fiscal year ends Sept. 30.

GAO: A study of the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration finds that these funding agencies could do more to increase the rigor and transparency of the research they fund, by changing incentive structures. Suggested actions include encouraging researchers to preregister studies and publish null results and support training in statistical analysis and study design. Read the full report here.

The Government Accountability Office issued five new priority recommendations to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. The recommendations include strengthening interagency coordination and managing climate change risks. Read the full report here.

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Executive Branch

White House: Domestic Climate Czar Gina McCarthy will leave the Biden administration Sept. 16 and her deputy, Ali Zaidi, will lead the White House Climate Policy Office. Zaidi has worked in the Biden White House since the beginning of the administration and led climate and energy policy for Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign. He also worked in the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) during the Obama administration.

John Podesta, a former climate adviser in the Obama White House and a White House chief of staff during the Clinton administration, will join the Biden administration as the senior adviser for clean energy innovation and implementation. This new role will include overseeing the implementation of the Inflation Reduction Act.

President Joe Biden also announced that he has nominated Richard Revesz to lead the OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. This office reviews all “economically significant” regulations proposed by federal agencies and can significantly modify – or stop – regulations. This position has been vacant since the beginning of the Biden administration and requires Senate confirmation. Revesz is a former dean and current professor at New York University’s School of Law and the founder of the Institute for Policy Integrity, an environmental think tank.

White House: The Office of Science and Technology Policy released draft templates for disclosing current and pending sources of support in federal grant applications. This form is intended to conform with a White House memorandum requiring researchers to disclose contracts associated with participation in programs sponsored by foreign governments, such as foreign government-sponsored talent recruitment. In recent years, the US government has prosecuted scientists who failed to disclose their affiliation with China’s Thousands Talents programs, which federal law enforcement officials say have been used to steal confidential research information. The National Science Foundation, on behalf of the National Science and Technology Council’s Research Security Subcommittee, is accepting public comments on these draft template forms though Oct. 31, 2022.

White House: President Joe Biden is expected to issue an executive order today, Monday, Sept. 12, aimed at boosting the U.S. biotechnology industry during a trip to Boston, MA. The executive order will include training programs for biotechnology workers and is expected to cover sectors from pharmaceuticals to biofuels and agricultural food supplies.

White House: The National Science and Technology Council re-established the Subcommittee on Open Science in August 2022. The purpose of this committee is to advance efforts related to open science across federal agencies and the committee is co-chaired by representatives from the Department of Health and Human Services, NASA and the National Science Foundation. This committee is tasked with implementing the Biden administration’s recent memorandum directing federal agencies to make publications from federally funded research freely available upon publication.

Energy Department: The Office of Science announced that it has launched three new Urban Integrated Field Laboratories based in Chicago, Baltimore and the Texas Gulf Coasts. The goal of these field laboratories is to expand scientific knowledge of urban climate systems and develop effective and equitable ways to adapt to climate change.

NOAA: The National Marine Fisheries Service is proposing listing the queen conch as a threatened species. The agency finds that the species is likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout its range. The primary threat to the species is overutilization in commercial fisheries. The species is an important fishery resource in the Caribbean and Central America and queen conch are sold for their meat. The proposed rule is open for public comment through Nov. 7, 2022.

NOAA: Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo named Steve Thur as the next director of NOAA Research. Thur will start his new duties in early October. He is a career NOAA employee who most recently worked as the director of NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science.

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Scientific Community

Harassment: The National Science Foundation’s Office of Polar Programs issued a report detailing harassment among the research community in Antarctica. A survey of researchers and support staff finds that harassment is widespread at research facilities across the continent and that NSF lacks adequate reporting and response systems. Response and enforcement is spread across institutions and contractors, leaving gaps. The report also includes recommendations for improving workplace safety and stopping harassment, including improving response mechanisms.

NASEM: The Board on Earth Sciences and Resources, in collaboration with the Polar Research Board and Ocean Studies Board, is soliciting nominations for a new ad hoc committee that will provide guidance to the National Science Foundation’s Office of Polar Programs on future directions for Southern Ocean and Antarctic nearshore and coastal research. The study will provide guidance on key science drivers and consider the portfolio of tools, technologies, and ship capabilities needed to address these drivers. For more information and to view the statement of task, visit the project webpage.

The National Academies is seeking individuals to serve on the committee with expertise in physical, chemical, and biological oceanography and Antarctic marine life and ecosystems. Nominations are due September 15 and self-nominations are welcome.

NASEM: The Board on Atmospheric Science and Climate released a review of the U.S. Global Change Research Program’s Draft Decadal Strategic Plan for 2022-20223. The review committee found that advances in the draft plan include an increased emphasis on social sciences, community engagement with marginalized groups, and promotion of diversity, equity, inclusion and justice in the production of science. Strengthening the interconnections between the plan’s core pillars and expanding opportunities for coordination among federal agencies tasked with responding to global climate change would improve the plan. The draft plan could more strongly convey a sense of urgency throughout the plan and would benefit from additional examples of key research outputs that could advance policy and decision making on global change challenge.

USDA: The National Coalition for Food and Agricultural Research (NCFAR) will hold a Latte N Learn webinar on September 15 at 10 a.m. eastern featuring USDA Under Secretary Chavonda Jacobs-Young. The webinar will cover how USDA’s research community is working to advance climate-smart agriculture and nutrition security as well as an update on the latest priorities from the leadership at the Agricultural Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Click here to register.

DoD: The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is holding a series of conferences this fall focused on connecting the agency with new research communities and partnerships. The DARPA Forward conference at Washington State University started September 13 and runs through September 14. The next conference after that is at meeting at Ohio State University October 4-5. There are both in-person and virtual meeting attendance options.

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Register to Vote and Request an Absentee Ballot

The midterm elections are happening this November. On a national level, all seats in the House of Representatives and a third of the seats in the Senate will be contested. Several state governorships and many other state and local elections will also be contested. Be sure you are registered to vote in time to participate! Learn more about voting policies and rights in your state and register to vote at Rock the Vote, a nonprofit dedicated to engaging young people in politics.

Voting procedures and requirements for requesting an absentee ballot during the coronavirus pandemic vary by state. Visit your state board of elections website or Vote.org for deadlines and to request a ballot.

ESA Correspondence to Policymakers

View more letters and testimony from ESA here.

Federal Register Opportunities

Upcoming Public Meetings:

Opportunities for Public Comment and Nominations:

ESA’s policy activities work to infuse ecological knowledge into national policy decisions through activities such as policy statements, Capitol Hill briefings, Congressional Visits Days, and coalition involvement. Policy News Updates are bi-monthly summaries of major environmental and science policy news. They are produced by the Public Affairs Office of the Ecological Society of America.

Send questions or comments to Alison Mize, director of public affairs, Alison@nullesa.org or Nicole Zimmerman, public affairs manager, Nicole@nullesa.org

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