National Science Board Seeking Nominees

Every two years eight members of the 24-member National Science Board (NSB) step down, and the President appoints their replacements.

The nomination process is starting now for the cohort that would serve from 2016-2022.  The NSB is the advisory board for the National Science Foundation, though its most public presence is probably in the release of the Science and Engineering Indicators publication in even-numbered years.

The NSB released a call for nominations earlier this week. Basically nominees should have the depth and breadth of experience in science and/or engineering research and research administration you would expect for the board of directors of a top private company.  The Board has listed a number of field-specific and cross-cutting issues it expects to address, so candidates with a background in one or more of those should give thought to a nomination. The nomination package (letter of recommendation, biography and CV without publications) must be submitted by October 30.

The European Academies Advisory Council Forms An Advisory Group

In what might prompt some readers to think of nesting dolls, the European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC) recently announced the formation of a Senior Advisory Group.  While this might understandably be seen as redundant, the intention if to provide an outside perspective on what EASAC is doing and how that work is being received and used, particularly by the European Commission.  EASAC is focused on coordinating the activities of the member academies in order to provide science advice to European policy makers.

There are four members of the SAG: Anne Glover, former Chief Science Adviser to the Commission (and for Scotland before that); Jules Hoffman, a Nobel laureate and biologist; Joaquin Almunia, former European commissioner for competition; and Wilhelm Krull, director general of the Volkswagen Foundation (he has previously worked in senior positions at the German Science Council and the Max Planck Society).

Next PCAST Meeting Needs You To Lend An Ear

The next meeting of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) will hold its public session next Friday, September 18, in Washington.  The meeting will run from 10 a.m. to noon Eastern time.  As is customary, there will be a live webcast that you will be able to watch if you can’t catch it live.

Per the current agenda, the public session will focus on at least one study in progress and hear from the new(ish) Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Willie May.

Before hearing from the NIST Director, there are two panels scheduled where PCAST members will discuss ongoing work.  One panel is on technology and the future of cities and the other focuses on hearing technologies.  The second panel is not explicitly connected to a report on the agenda, but appears to be part of a larger discussion or project on technology to help people as they age.

Latest PCAST Report Encourages New Categories For IT Investments

Earlier this month the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology (PCAST) released its latest report, focused on the Network and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) program.  PCAST is required by law to evaluate the program, which coordinates federal investment across the government in information technology research.

As is regrettably the case with many government programs in technology, the organization of NITRD reflects what was close to cutting edge thinking of the time it was created.  A major recommendation of this report is to reorganize the NITRD program to better reflect the state of research in information technology and the current priorities for the government.

The report focuses on the following areas of information technology: cybersecurity, health, Big Data and data-intensive computing, IT and the physical world (any IT connected to something that isn’t a computer or a phone), privacy protection, cyber-human systems, high-capability computing, and foundational computing research.  The authors consider each of these areas as critical to success in any national priority related to information technology research.  However, there remain gaps in access to large-scale infrastructure and other resources that make it harder to effectively support federal research in these areas.

In order to establish a more nimble NITRD program, the authors recommend establishing new program component areas (PCAs) that are used to organize NITRD funding.  Most of these categories have remained unchanged for twenty years.  What the report recommends is establishing eight new PCAs for the 2017 budget cycle, and that these PCAs should be updated every five or six years.  The PCAs recommended in the report are:

  • Large-scale data management and analysis;
  • Robotics and intelligent systems;
  • Computing-enabled networked physical systems (such as distributed sensor networks);
  • Cybersecurity and information assurance;
  • Computing-enabled human interaction, communication, and augmentation;
  • IT foundational research and innovation;
  • Enabling-IT for high-capability IT systems; and
  • Large-scale research infrastructure.

The recommendations would need to be implemented by the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Office of Management and Budget.  Both agencies have expressed support for such changes.  They would also need to develop, with other NITRD stakeholders, the process for judging when and how to modify these PCAs based on changes in the field.

Committee Offers Guidelines For Promoting Transparency and Openness

Also in the Policy Forum section of this week’s edition of Science is a longer paper on how journals and scientific organizations might promote transparency and openness in their research.  The Transparency and Openness Promotion Committee developed the guidelines, which are also available on the website of the Center for Open Science, one of the parties involved in the project.  The committee met in November of 2014, and was organized by representatives from the Center for Open Science, Science magazine and the Berkeley Initiative for Transparency in the Social Sciences.

Signing on to these guidelines means the organizations and journals are expressing support for the guidelines.  It also represents a commitment to review those guidelines for possible adoption.

The guidelines have eight kinds of standards: citations, data, analytic methods, research materials, reporting research design and analysis, preregistration of studies and preregistration of analysis.  For each of these standards categories, there are three levels of disclosure.  Per the guidelines, “Level 1 recommends citation standards, Level 2 requires adherence to citation standards, and Level 3 requires and enforces adherence to citation standards.”

The appropriate level for each type is something that each journal and/or organization can decide for itself.  There are variations in scientific norms by field where citations are concerned, and there are also matters of infrastructure and expense to consider.

So this project has come to the beginning of the middle.  Over the next several months the many signatories should be reviewing their practices and determining which standards they will adopt and at what level.  If your field has signed on, see what you can do to ensure that a commitment is made to follow these guidelines.


Next PCAST Meeting Returns To NITRD And Ponders Getting Older

The next meeting of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) takes place on July 14 at the National Academies in Washington, D.C.  While this is not on a Friday (as has been the custom) the public portion of the meeting will still be from 9 a.m. to noon Eastern time.  No agenda is available at this time at the PCAST website, but the Federal Register notice provides some indication of what will be discussed.

The PCAST will discuss its review of the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) program.  PCAST is obligated to do this review periodically, and the next report would be its third during the Obama Administration.  Also scheduled for the meeting are presentations on aging and for human spaceflight.  My past experience suggests that comments on space exploration will dominate the public comment session scheduled for the meeting.

You will be able to view the meeting live on the 14th, through the usual webcast provider.  A more detailed agenda should be available by the beginning of July.

Agencies Want Help With Dengue Forecasting

Today the U.S. government announced the beginning of a forecasting project on Dengue Fever.  The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the Armed Forces Medical Surveillance Center (AFMSC) have made available datasets on Dengue fever from Puerto Rico and Peru.

This data, when coupled with environmental and climate data from the area and associated climate models, should allow scientists the ability to forecast the emergence of Dengue outbreaks.  Interested parties will have four months (until September 2) to use this data to develop their forecasting models.  An evaluation team will decide on the finalists (up to six teams), who will be invited (on their own dime, regrettably) to appear before the Interagency Pandemic Prediction and Forecasting Science and Technology Working Group of the National Science and Technology Council.

This is not a competition in the now-traditional sense of a short term contest with a cash prize.  Project organizers, according to this description, are looking to publish the evaluations, and all those who submit will have their predictions included.  Team leaders will be invited to receive author credit.

For more detailed information on submission procedures and project rules, consult the Dengue Forecasting Project portion of the Epidemic Prediction Initiative (EPI) website.  The EPI is a product of the Department of Health and Human Services Idea Lab, and is currently in beta.