Computing Research Policy Blog

FY24 Budget Update: Congress Races to Avoid Government Shutdown with New Batch of CRs; Glimmer of Hope Budget Finish Line is Near

Congress is once again rushing to avoid a potential lapse in budgetary funding authority, which would lead to a partial shut of the Federal Government this weekend. Readers will recall that in January Congress continued using a “laddered,” or “two-step,” process of having two deadlines for parts of the Federal budget. About 20 percent of the government’s funding authority was set to lapse tomorrow, March 1st, while the other 80 percent was set to lapse a week later on March 8th. With the first deadline approaching, Congress still doesn’t have an agreement finalizing the Fiscal Year 2024 budget. But there is a glimmer of hope.

Congressional leaders have agreed to extend the deadline for the first tranche of budget bills by a week, to March 8th. In addition to the original group of Federal departments (Energy, Veterans, Transportation, HUD, and Agriculture, as well as military construction programs), this will include the budgets for the Justice, Commerce, and Interior Departments, which were in the second group of accounts. The working theory is these are the budgets that are least controversial and most likely to pass through Congress. The other budgets, that are in the original March 8th grouping, would have their budget authority extended by a second continuing resolution until March 22nd.

Should these new continuing resolutions (CRs) be passed, and if it leads to FY24 budgets being finalized, it will be welcome news to researchers. NSF, NIST, and NASA are included in the budget bills that contain the Justice and Commerce Departments. Having those budgets done would finally give budget certainty to those research agencies for FY24. In addition, the Department of Energy has been included in this group since November; that would mean the majority of research agencies’ budgets could be completed in a week.

There are a lot of “ifs” in the calculus, however. The rest of the budget would still need to be completed, and that includes the Department of Defense and its research accounts. As well, this new batch of CRs are that: continuing resolutions, not passed into law budgets. And all the politics and dysfunction in Congress are hanging over the process. So, a glimmer of hope that this budgetary year could be finished before the end of the month, but it is only a glimmer at the moment. Please keep checking back for more updates and the latest news.

Research Agencies Tell Congress of the Challenges with Implementing Research Security Policies

On February 15th, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology held a hearing, titled “Examining Federal Science Agency Actions to Secure the U.S. Science and Technology Enterprise”, to look at how federal science agencies are implementing, “recent guidance and laws to protect proprietary technology and scientific discoveries.” The committee heard from witnesses from the Biden White House and multiple federal research agencies about the status of implementing those policies across the federal government and what challenges there are to preserve the country’s open scientific environment.

The Chairman of the Science Committee, Frank Lucas (R-OK), in his opening statement wasted no time getting to the crux of the hearing: “Research theft is one of the single greatest threats to our competitiveness as a nation.” He went further, pointing out that “our hard-won innovations…(are) put to work for our adversaries” and specifically called out China for their actions to illicitly extract the findings of federally supported research. Chairman Lucas, after providing an overview of the bipartisan actions the committee has taken over the last several years to improve the government’s approach to research security, pointed out that there is still no, “timely, clear, and uniform guidance on this issue for our agencies and for our researchers.” The chairman was also clear to say that the committee is, “not here to target researchers based on their race but based on the actions they have taken, and that their objective is, “to ensure that all federally funded scientists follow the U.S. principles of scientific fairness and integrity.”

The chairman also entered into the record a letter to the Director of the Office of Science & Technology Policy Director (OSTP), Arati Prabhakar, one of witnesses, from the Association of American Universities. In that letter, the President of AAU pointed out the concerns that universities have with no clear guidance from the federal government on implementation of research security programs, and further emphasized that those eventual requirements need to be harmonized across the federal government to not adversely impact research institutions.

In her opening statement, Science Committee Ranking Member Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) did not stray far from Chairman Lucas’ comments, saying, “as the landscape continues to evolve, what’s most important is that we continue to approach this challenge thoughtfully and clear-eyed about the tradeoffs we are willing and not willing to make.” After highlighting several statistics on the contribution foreign born researchers make to the country’s scientific efforts, Representative Lofgren said that we need to, “choose to preserve the global vision of the United States being the best country in the world to be a researcher.” In closing, Lofgren pointed out that, “the rhetoric around research security itself has been enough to send a chill across our colleges, universities, and start-ups.” She specifically noted the impact on the country’s Asian American communities and said, “we must make every effort possible to avoid profiling based on race, ethnicity, or nationality.”

The witnesses for the hearing represented perspectives from the White House and a number of key federal research agencies. The first witness was Presidential Science Advisor and Director of OSTP, Arati Prabhakar, who represented the perspective of the Biden Administration and the lead office in charge of harmonizing research security policies across the Federal Government. In her remarks, Dr. Prabhakar highlighted several steps OSTP has taken with regard to research security, such as releasing a memo on the purpose and use of common forms for researchers and guidelines covering foreign talent recruitment programs (both will be the subject of a future Policy Blog article). Joining Dr. Prabhakar were Dr. Rebecca Keiser, Chief of Research Security Strategy and Policy at the National Science Foundation; Dr. Geri Richmond, Under Secretary for Science and Innovation at the Department of Energy; and Dr. Michael Lauer, Deputy Director for Extramural Research at the National Institutes of Health. Collectively they provide perspectives of how their research agencies are implementing their own research security programs and the response from their communities.

During the question period, it was clear that the committee members wanted to hear how the federal research agencies were guarding against the theft of taxpayer funded research, particularly from the Chinese government. However, the witnesses tried to articulate that there remain considerable challenges to implementing these policies. In response to a question from Chairman Lucas, Dr. Pradhakar said that initial comments that OSTP received from the community gave them “considerable pause” in moving forward, with concerns about the administrative burden on universities and researchers being specifically mentioned, as well as not wanting to turn these requirements into a “checklist.” All the witnesses conveyed that they were impressing on their individual research communities that these requirements are a serious matter and should not be dismissed out of hand. But they also conveyed, to the members of the committee, the trepidation that their communities felt about these policies and programs.

There was a particularly telling anecdote that Dr. Richmond voiced about a researcher who is originally from China but had established his career and life in the United States and planned to remain here. According to Dr. Richmond, he was terrified of being punished for a simple mistake and being sent back to China. In an exchange with Rep. Brandon Williams (R-NY), quoted by Science Magazine in their own coverage of the hearing, Dr. Richmond told the researcher to take these policies seriously and:

“the next time you submit a [grant] proposal, you need to be honest and transparent with your university about your current and pending research support…because we don’t know whether to trust you or not.”

This hearing underlines the fact that research security is a matter of great importance to lawmakers in Washington, and it will continue to be a matter of great importance for the foreseeable future as research agencies continue to rollout their policies. American researchers, should they wish to continue to receive taxpayer funded research grants, need to take this matter seriously too and follow closely any new policies that the research agencies release. At the same time, the community needs to be sure that the government’s concerns about research security don’t turn into government overreach. It was clear at the hearing that both the research agencies, and the leaders of the House Science Committee, are grappling with that concern while attempting to secure the nation’s research enterprise. CRA will continue to monitor this matter, representing the concerns and positions of the community with policymakers, and will report out any new developments.

House Leadership Launches Bipartisan Task Force on Artificial Intelligence

Today, Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-LA) and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries announced the establishment of a bipartisan Task Force on Artificial Intelligence. The task force will be co-chairs by Jay Obernolte (R-CA) and Ted Lieu (D-CA) and will have 24 members drawn equally from both sides of the aisle. The group will explore how to, “ensure America continues to lead the world in AI innovation while considering guardrails that may be appropriate to safeguard the nation against current and emerging threats,” and, “will seek to produce a comprehensive report that will include guiding principles, forward-looking recommendations and bipartisan policy proposals.”

This is a welcome development. While the Senate has a long-established effort looking at AI, the House has been less organized, with seemingly every committee looking at the subject in their jurisdiction. This unified effort will allow the House to approach the legislative topic of AI in a more comprehensive way and will help Representatives become better acquainted with the subject. In a positive sign, several members of the Task Force, including Co-Chair Obernolte, are members of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, which has been examining the development of AI within the nation’s research ecosystem for several years now (and just had a hearing on the subject). This should mean that the research community will be well listened to as the group develops their report and recommendations. CRA looks forward to working with the Task Force and will emphasis the importance of research in any national strategy around AI.

House Science Committee Examines How Federal Science Agencies Can Harness Artificial Intelligence to Drive Scientific Discoveries

On February 6th the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology held a hearing, titled Federal Science Agencies and the Promise of AI in Driving Scientific Discoveries, to look at, “how federal science agencies can further harness artificial intelligence (AI) to drive discoveries in new scientific domains and pursue leading-edge AI research.” The committee heard from several witnesses from government, academia, and industry about the state of access to AI research resources for researchers in the US and how industry can partner in this effort. It was a chance for the committee to look at the newly launched National AI Research Resource (NAIRR) pilot program at NSF, as well as what the Department of Energy’s National Labs are doing with regard to AI.

This hearing was jointly held by the House Science Committee’s subcommittees on Research & Technology and Energy. The Research & Technology Subcommittee Chairman, Rep. Collins (R-GA), called the hearing to order and pointed out the widening, “gap between Big Tech, academic AI researchers, and entrepreneurs.” He further made the point that, “facilitating public-private partnerships can help narrow this gap and efficiently maximize the development and use of responsible AI systems.” Energy Subcommittee Chairman Brandon Williams (R-NY) spoke about the untapped potential of AI and the important role that federal government and the research agencies play in helping to develop the field. Chairman Williams said, “these AI-enabled discovery could be transformational to Energy, Medicine, and Materials. Similarly, the federal government has tools, like high performance computing resources, that are unique and powerful for creating AI generated algorithms from this remarkable data.” Finally, the full Science Committee Chairman, Frank Lucas (R-OK), spoke about the, “three critical components in the formula for successful AI innovation: access to a skilled workforce, access to computing power, and access to data,” and how the federal science agencies play an important role in all three areas.

Following the opening statements from the majority party, the Ranking Members of the minority side delivered their remarks. Research & Technology Ranking Member Rep. Haley Stevens (D-MI) focused on the workforce development side of the question, saying the country needs, “a skilled workforce that can apply AI technologies responsibly to our national and community needs,” which will require, “hands-on learning opportunities to all types of students and workers across sectors, including those who want to upskill and apply new uses of AI in their current jobs.” Energy Subcommittee Ranking Member Jamaal Bowman’s (D-NY) opening statement also focused on workforce needs, saying the country needs, “a skilled and diverse workforce to maintain the vitality of DOE’s scientific computing ecosystem long into the future.” Rep. Bowman also made the point about the needs to develop AI capabilities, “responsibly and ethically,” making the further point that, “(as AI) becomes more commonplace…we must ensure that its fundamental algorithms are designed to protect people’s privacy and eradicate bias.” Finally, Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Ranking Member of the full committee, used her opening remarks to point out the need of the Federal investment in this space. She said to, “achieve the promise of AI for societal benefit – and develop effective guardrails against harm – talented and passionate researchers, startups, and students from across the nation will need access to the kind of computational and data resources that are currently available to only a few.”

The witnesses represented views from government, industry, and the academic research communities, and demonstrated what their respective areas brought to the table. Tess DeBlanc Knowles, Special Assistant to the Director for Artificial Intelligence at NSF, spoke about what the Foundation is doing to provide resources for the AI researcher community and focused heavily on the NSF’s pilot of the NAIRR program. Dr. Georgia Tourassi, Associate Laboratory Director for Computing and Computational Sciences at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, spoke about what DOE is doing and the hardware resources it is providing in the AI research space. Dr. Chaouki Abdallah, Executive Vice President for Research at Georgia Institute of Technology, and Dr. Louay Chamra, Dean of the School of Engineering and Computer Science at Oakland University, provided a research institution perspective but from different sides of the issue; Dr. Abdallah from a R1 school, while Dr. Chamra is from a smaller research institution. Finally, Jack Clark, co-founder and Head of Policy at Anthropic, provided a viewpoint from industry and why they are interested in the Federal Government’s investment in AI infrastructure.

The hearing was well attended by committee members with engaging questions for the witnesses. Generally speaking, the Republican members of the committee focused on understanding why the Federal Government’s investment is needed, particularly by industry. They also were concerned about the security of the nation’s AI resources and that they do not become compromised by bad actors, such as hackers or foreign agents. On the Democrat side of the committee, many of the questions focused on ensuring the democratization of the nation’s AI resources, wanting to ensure that a select few companies will not be the only ones who benefit. However, on both side of the aisle, the committee’s membership expressed support for NSF’s NAIRR program, viewing it as a vital tool to ensure the nation’s competitive position with AI globally.

This was the first hearing in 2024 on the topic of AI by the House Science Committee; it is likely not the last. Artificial intelligence is still a hot topic within Congress, with many efforts underway in both chambers. CRA will continue to monitor this subject for developments and will report them out to the research community; please be sure to check back for the latest updates.

NSF Launches Four New Research Security Training Modules

At the end of last month, the National Science Foundation launched four new interactive online research security training modules. Stipulated in the Chips and Science Act of 2022, the purpose of these training modules is to, “facilitate principled international collaboration in an open, transparent and secure environment that safeguards the nation’s research ecosystem.” The training modules are now available for researchers and institutions across the country and will help the research community understand and get a better handle on this issue.

The four modules cover a range of topics:

  • Module 1, “Introduction to Research Security,” covers key concepts and how to recognize situation that may indicate undue foreign influence.
  • Module 2, “The Importance of Disclosure,” explains federal funding agency disclosure requirements, including the type of information that must be disclosed, how that information is used, and why disclosing that information is important.
  • Module 3, “Manage and Mitigate Risk,” identifies types of international collaborative research and professional activities, associated potential risks, and strategies and best practices for managing and mitigating such risk.
  • Module 4, “The Importance of International Collaboration,” covers the role of principled international collaboration and provides strategies on how to balance international collaboration with research security concerns, while fostering an open, welcoming research environment.

Research security – the safeguarding of the US’s research enterprise against the misappropriation of research, related violations of research integrity, and foreign government interference – has been a topic of concern to lawmakers in Washington for the past several years. Long time readers of the Policy Blog will recall National Security Presidential Memorandum – 33 (NSPM-33), which was released in the final days of the Trump Administration, and the subsequent guidance from OSTP on implementation of that memorandum. The topic also featured prominently in the House China Committee’s recent report on resetting the US-China relationship. To put it simply, research security is an important matter, and the research community needs to take this seriously, be aware of its new duties, and integrate the practices into its professional processes.

This is likely not the last step that NSF, or other federal research agencies, will take on this topic. CRA will continue to monitor for new developments and announcements from throughout the Federal government and will report them to the community. We will also continue to make sure the needs of the researcher community for a fair, open, and transparent research system are balanced against any research security action by the Federal government.

NSF Launches Pilot of NAIRR Program to “Democratize the Future of AI”

The National Science Foundation, in collaboration with several other federal agencies, announced the launch of the National Artificial Intelligence Research Resource (NAIRR) pilot program yesterday. The program, which partners with 10 federal agencies and 25 private sector, nonprofit, and philanthropic organizations, will, “provide access to advanced computing, datasets, models, software, training and user support to U.S.-based researchers and educators.” The aim of the NAIRR program is to connect, “researchers and educators with the resources needed to support their work,” in order to, “power innovative AI research.”

The NAIRR program has a long, bipartisan history of support across the government. Originating in the National AI Initiative Act of 2020, which established a task force co-chaired by OSTP and NSF, to create a roadmap for establishing, “a shared research infrastructure that would provide AI researchers and students with significantly expanded access to computational resources, high-quality data, educational tools, and user support.” The task force’s final report, released a year ago, recommended the establishing of the NAIRR program and has enjoyed support in both chambers of Congress. Launching a pilot of NAIRR is also a major research goal laid out in President Biden’s recent executive order on artificial intelligence.

The House version of the National AI Initiative Act of 2020, the majority of which made up the final legislative language, was heavily influenced and informed by the Computing Community Consortium’s (CCC) work and their AI roadmap report. CRA endorsed that legislation when it was introduced. The long effort to stand up NAIRR is a major win for the computing research community. CRA will continue to follow events and actions, particularly in Congress, where there are efforts to formally establish NAIRR and provide consistent funding for the program.

House Committee Releases Report to “Reset” Relationship with China; Recommendations on Research Funding, Research Security, and High Skilled Immigration Featured Prominently

Last month, the House Select Committee on the Strategic Competition between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party, commonly referred to as the China Committee, released a bipartisan report aimed at resetting the, “economic and technological competition,” between the two countries. The report, titled “Reset, Prevent, Build: A Strategy to Win America’s Economic Competition with the Chinese Communist Party,” makes nearly 150 recommendations in a wide range of areas, including research funding, research security, and high skilled immigration.

The recommendations are organized into three pillars:

  • Pillar I: Reset the Terms of Our Economic Relationship with the PRC (People’s Republic of China)
  • Pillar II: Stem the Flow of U.S. Capital and Technology Fueling the PRC’s Military Modernization and Human Rights Abuses
  • Pillar III: Invest in Technological Leadership and Build Collective Economic Resilience in Concert with Allies

The third pillar is likely of most interest to the US research community; it is covered in pages 34 to 39 of the report. In fact, the first recommendation in that section is:

Fund the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institute of Standards of Technology (NIST), and the Department of Energy’s Office of Science…with a focus on peer-reviewed research.

Also contained in that set of the report’s recommendations are calls to ensure that the country remains the world leader in such fields as artificial intelligence, quantum sciences, and biotechnology, as well as several smaller issues for specific technologies (like small modular reactors and electric vehicles). As a specific example, another recommendation is to, “ensure the (US) is the first country to develop a quantum computer capable of breaking modern-day encryption tools and be a global leader in quantum research and technologies,” and would task the Departments of Defense and Energy, “to consider all the methods and means necessary to ensure the (US) wins the quantum race.”

The report also gets into the topic of research security (pages 33 and 34) and makes several recommendations to, “strengthen US research security and defend against malign talent recruitment.” The first recommendation in this section is to build on National Security Presidential Memorandum 33 (NSPM-33) by, “requiring all federal research funding applicants to disclose details about past, present, and pending relations and interest with foreign governments, foreign government controlled entities, or entities located in foreign adversary countries, in the past five years for themselves and any key member of their team.” Regular readers of the Policy Blog will recall that NSPM-33 is a presidential order released in the last days of the Trump Administration and directed federal research agencies to develop processes to assess and clear up potential conflict of interests/commitments of researchers who receive federal funds. That memorandum, and the guidance that federal agencies have released to implement it, have made clear that it is not meant to criminalize past, legal conduct by researchers. This recommendation by the China Committee to expand the requirements to cover the previous five years of a researcher’s work is concerning; however, if implemented, it could also handle a timeframe already covered by research agency rules and regulations.

The report makes further recommendations in this space, such as requiring US research institutions to, “obtain an export control license if they intend to use any export-controlled item that has a clear and distinct national security nexus,” when collaborating with any foreign adversary entity; and strengthen and enforce current rules for US universities to disclose and track gifts from foreign donors. Much of this has been covered in recent legislation, such as the Chips and Science Act.

The report also makes several recommendations in the area of high skilled immigration (pages 39 to 41), much with a focus of working with key allies for talent recruitment. For example, the report recommends establishing, “a work authorization program for foreign nationals,” from countries in key alliances (such as NATO and the Five Eyes (FVEY)), who have a background in, “critical and emerging technology.” In a different area, the report also recommends expanding visa security screening procedures to prevent foreign adversaries from exploiting the country’s open research system to, “illicitly acquire U.S. technology and technical knowledge.” And it is further recommended that, “the Office of the Director of National Intelligence should be required to participate in visa screening of high-risk researchers.”

While the China Committee does not have the power to introduce legislation, this report likely acts as a barometer of the temperature in Congress with how the United States should interact with China. We have been expecting the committee to get into the areas of research, research security, and related matters, and this report could be a sign that they plan to shift into these areas in the near future. It is also worth keeping in mind that this report will influence, to some extent, how federal agencies, particularly the research agencies, handle interactions with the Chinese state going forward. CRA will continue to monitor this ever-evolving situation, and the actions of this House Select Committee, to represent the computing research community in any policy discussions that could impact the computing research community.

FY24 Budget Update: Deal on Topline Numbers is Good News but the Devil will be in the Details

Update 1/18: The Senate and the House of Representatives passed another two-step continuing resolution today, buying lawmakers more time to come up with a final compromise on specific spending levels. The new CR deadlines are March 1st and March 8th.

Original Post: When we last left the Fiscal Year 2024 (FY24) budget process in November, Congress passed an unusual “laddered” (or “two-step”) stop-gap measure which put the Federal budget on two deadlines, with parts of the government funded until January 19th and the rest funded until February 2nd. News from this weekend is that Congressional leaders have agreed on topline funding numbers for the entire budget, paving the way for work to begin on the details of the individual funding legislation. But questions remain about those details, and any possibly contentious policy riders, both of which could create a legislative logjam and shut down all, or parts, of the government.

So, what is this deal that was just announced? It covers the topline numbers for defense and non-defense spending. Regular readers will recall that the May agreement between President Biden and then Speaker McCarthy, divided up the federal budget in two large pots corresponding to defense accounts and non-defense ones. This follows the pattern of previous budget deals agreed to over the last decade. The May agreement set defense spending to increase by 3.3 percent in FY24, while non-defense spending would be kept “mostly flat.” The weekend agreement on topline numbers keeps those general numbers, with some additional claw backs of COVID-era funding authority and accelerating cuts at the IRS. Essentially, this confirms the May agreement.

Why did the agreement need to be confirmed? Because the House of Representatives is under new leadership, i.e. Speaker Johnson (R-LA), and has been mired in disfunction for the past year. The most conservative parts of the House Republican majority are still balking at compromising on funding. In fact, the Freedom Caucus, which contains some of the most conservative members of the House Republican Caucus and has been at the center of the funding dispute within the party, said in a statement that the weekend deal is a “total failure” and “totally unacceptable.” But because of that disfunction, the House is in a weak negotiating position versus the Senate, which is working in a more bipartisan manner.

Adding to the uncertainty are the lack of specific funding details in this weekend agreement, as well as no firm agreement between Democrats and Republicans on possibly contentious policy riders covering such topics as abortion or immigration issues, to name just a few. Such policy riders would be a means for Speaker Johnson to make any funding deal more acceptable to his caucus. But it runs the risk of making any deal impossible to pass the Democrat controlled Senate. Hanging over all these discussions is emergency appropriations being sought by President Biden for the border, disaster responses, and the Ukraine and Israel-Gaza wars. Those debates will unfold over the next two weeks, as the nation approaches the first funding deadline.

Once again, uncertainty reigns. One possible means of buying more time for negotiations is to pass another CR, moving the January 19th deadline to Feb 2nd. But we’ll have to let things play out more before we have any certainty of what will happen. Please keep checking back for the latest news.

In Memoriam: Honoring the Legacy of Former House Science Committee Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson

The Computing Research Association is saddened to hear of the passing of former House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson. As a long time member of the committee, Chairwoman Johnson was a champion of scientific research, STEM education, and diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts in the nation’s scientific fields. Her time as the highest-ranking Democrat on the Science Committee, which began in 2011, was marked by efforts to bolster the nation’s research efforts, and Chairwoman Johnson’s sponsorship of the House contributions to the Chips and Science Act is just one example of a long career supporting the nation’s scientists and researchers. She will also be remembered for her bipartisan leadership on the committee, which is best exemplified by current House Science Committee Chairman Frank Lucas’ statement marking her passing.

CRA is honored to have worked with Chairwoman Johnson, and her staff, for many years, and she will be remembered for her efforts to make the United States’ scientific enterprise the best in the world.

Guest Post: A PhD Student’s Experience at the LiSPI Workshop

This article was written by Kaushal Kafle, a PhD student in the Department of Computer Science at the College of William & Mary, and a participant at the 2023 LiSPI workshop.

I participated in the recent CRA Leadership in Science Policy Institute (LiSPI) workshop as a student volunteer from William & Mary. The workshop is a day and half crash course in how science policy is made at the federal level in Washington and is geared to researchers who are interested in being more engaged in policy discussions that touch on computing science related matters. While the workshop is set up to encourage mid and senior career researchers, I came away with a reinvigorated sense of the role PhD students can play in communicating the importance of computing in government and policy discussions.

A large group photo of the participants of the 2023 Leadership in Science Policy Institute workshop.

2023 LiSPI Participants

There are a few reasons why I found the workshop particularly useful for me as a PhD student. The workshop focused not just on how the government works, and how public policies are created, but also on the role the federal budget plays on these processes. As well, many of the invited speakers were faculty members from CRA member institutions who had previously served in various parts of the US government; not just at federal research agencies (like NSF or the Department of Energy), or on science advisory committees, but also at such non-research agencies like the State Department or even the White House. Their stories and pathways of going from academia to government and back were very insightful in thinking about the ecosystem in which both public policy and research exists. It also provided me with possible future opportunities in my own career. Furthermore, the participants of the workshop were researchers working in different areas and applications of computing (e.g., impact of social media on kids, use of AI in the criminal justice system). This networking opportunity provided me exposure to many interdisciplinary research, and helped me make several meaningful research connections.

Perhaps the most interactive session of the workshop was “Having the Conversation,” in which participants could volunteer to perform an “elevator pitch” of their research to a panel of former policy staffers and get feedback on their pitch and what they need to work on. As I worked on my own pitch and thought of my research in this new light, it helped me characterize the motivations and findings of my work in different ways, and helped crystallize their impact without falling back on technical jargon. This experience will make me a better communicator going forward. I also was able to learn from other participants and their pitches. Having all of these components at the same venue made me reflect on the unique relationship of my own research with policy; specifically how it can impact public policy and the public at large, and how public policy in turn shapes my research.

The workshop also had a positive impact on me as an aspiring academic. As a PhD student in computer science, I often thought of the world of public policy, including those related to computer science, as a “black box” and not fully knowing what impact I,or my community, could have on the process. Learning from this workshop, and the conversations with the speakers, have helped me deconstruct its elements and made me aware of the government and the public as other stakeholders in my research projects. It also makes me aware of how my work is intended not just for pushing the boundaries of knowledge but also to further the public well-being. I came away from the workshop with an expanded worldview, an extended network, and with a renewed interest in pursuing grounded and impactful research.

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