The Biden Administration released a set of principles aimed at creating a Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights to, “help guide the design, development, and deployment of artificial intelligence (AI) and other automated systems so that they protect the rights of the American public.”
Computing Research News
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On September 13th, 25 computing researchers from across the country took part in a virtual training session to prepare them to make the case to Congress for federally funded computing research. Holding the training virtually is a change from past Congressional Visit Days that CRA Government Affairs staff have run. Due to ongoing restrictions stemming from the COVID-19 Pandemic and post-January 6th security, the Congressional office buildings located in Washington D.C. are not open to the general public. Despite these obstacles, CRA organized a virtual event for computing researchers to meet with their Congressional representatives in web meetings in order to keep making the case for Federal support for computing research.
Recently, the National Science Board (NSB) elected former CRA Board Chair Daniel Reed, from the University of Utah, as its next chair. Dr. Reed was appointed to the NSB in 2018. He served on the CRA Board of Directors from 1999 to 2009 and was chair from 2005 to 2009; he currently serves on the CRA Government Affairs Committee. At this critical juncture for NSF — with the focus on emerging technologies, the creation of the new Directorate for Technology, Innovation, and Partnerships (TIP), and the pending NSF legislation in Congress which will likely reshape the mission of the agency — it’s crucial to have someone from the computing and IT research community helping to steer the NSB in its oversight of the agency and in crafting Federal science policy. We wish to congratulate Dr. Reed on this great honor, and we look forward to working with him as he continues to serve the Nation in this new role!
On February 4th, the House of Representatives passed the America COMPETES Act of 2022, a legislative package containing a bold reauthorization of the National Science Foundation and calling for significant new investments in the country’s research enterprise, among other provisions. While the bill passed the House on a partisan vote, it does set up a better legislative counterpart to the Senate’s NSF reauthorization bill, the US Innovation and Competitiveness Act (USICA), which passed last summer. The hope within the S&T policy community is that a final piece of legislation can be agreed to quickly by both chambers of Congress and then be sent to the President’s desk for signing into law. However, final passage is not guaranteed at the moment.
Over the last two months, competing visions of the future of the National Science Foundation have been making their way through the House and Senate. And much like the famous opening line of Tale of Two Cities, their paths could not be more dissimilar. On the House side, the National Science Foundation for the Future Act has made deliberative and bipartisan progress through the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee. Meanwhile, on the Senate side, the Endless Frontier Act has been introduced; pulled, reworked, and reintroduced; heavily amended during a marathon Senate Commerce Committee hearing; and is now before the full Senate undergoing another round of amendments. Very different paths.
On Monday, June 22nd, President Trump issued the latest in a series of immigration and visa related orders designed to limit the involvement of foreign students and researchers, in particular those from mainland China, in U.S. research efforts. The order follows a series of other proposals and orders emanating from the White House and Capitol Hill that have raised the ire of higher-education, U.S. industry, and the computing research community over recent weeks. The proposals — two proclamations, Senate legislation and bicameral legislation — all have the stated goals of protecting U.S. jobs from foreign competition or protecting U.S. research from foreign exploitation, but in CRA’s analysis would likely do more damage to the U.S. research ecosystem than the threats they are trying to address.
It should come as no surprise that the normal operations of official Washington have been heavily disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Current events have derailed almost every aspect of the usual budget process. In terms of emergency funding, the CARES Act, passed at the end of March, has about $180 million dollars in emergency research funding for NIH, NSF, DOE Office of Science, and NIST. As well, there was about another $86 million for three agencies (NASA, NOAA, and NIST) to support “continuity of operations;” i.e., any operations that were disrupted by the pandemic, such as rescheduling a space science mission at NASA. Additionally, there was support for higher education, in the form of about $14 billion; however, that isn’t set aside for research and by all reports is being used by colleges and universities for administrative purposes (meaning, keeping the lights on). All that funding was directly related to responding to the pandemic.
On September 11, 21 computing researchers from across the country visited Washington, D.C. to make the case for federally funded computing research. The volunteers, traveling from as near as Virginia and Maryland, and as far away as Wyoming and Montana, participated in over 50 House and Senate meetings. Their message to Congress was very simple: Federally supported computing research is vital to the nation’s future. Using their own research and individual stories as support, and reinforced with additional information from CRA, they made the “Federal case” for computing to Members of Congress and their staff. Those Members of Congress now know more about the expertise and interesting (and important) computing work that occurs in their districts and states, and our participants have a sense of just who represents them in Congress. And they’ve hopefully started a lasting dialogue on both sides.
On Tuesday June 25th, the CRA Government Affairs Office welcomed the 2019 class of Eben Tisdale Science Policy Fellows to the CRA office. These fellows, undergraduates at universities and colleges from across the United States, spent the summer at high-tech companies, firms, or trade associations in Washington, learning the intricacies of technology policy. At the CRA office, the fellows attended a presentation by Brian Mosley, policy analyst in CRA’s Office of Government Affairs, covering the policy concerns and issues that the association works on and attempts to influence at the federal level.
On Tuesday May 14th, the Task Force on American Innovation (TFAI), an alliance of leading American companies and business associations, research university associations, and scientific societies, released a major report assessing the United States’ investment in science and engineering research. The report, titled “Benchmarks 2019: Second Place America? Increasing Challenges to U.S. Scientific Leadership,” is the fourth such “benchmarking” report that TFAI has released since it’s founding in 2004. The report found that the trends found in the original Benchmarks report in 2005, and the two subsequent follow-up reports, persist and the U.S. continues to lose ground to other nations in investments in science, technology, and talent.
As part of its mission to develop the next generation of leaders in the computing research community, the Computing Research Association’s Computing Community Consortium (CCC) announces the fifth offering of the CCC Leadership in Science Policy Institute (LiSPI). The workshop is intended to educate computing researchers on how science policy in the U.S. is formulated and how our government works. We seek nominations for participants. LiSPI will be centered around a two day workshop to be held November 21 – 22, 2019, in Washington, DC. Full details of LiSPI are available here. The nomination deadline is June 14.