Washington Update

FASEB Leadership Has Productive Dialogue with White House Science Office

By: Jennifer Zeitzer
Thursday, December 19, 2019

Members of the FASEB Board of Directors had a unique opportunity to interact with the new Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Kelvin K. Droegemeier, PhD, at their early December meeting.

Unanimously confirmed by the Senate in January after receiving strong support from FASEB and many other scientific organizations, Dr. Droegemeier serves as President Trump’s science advisor and leads coordination of science and technology initiatives across the federal government. Prior to joining the administration, he was Vice President for Research and Regents’ Professor of Meteorology at the University of Oklahoma and completed two terms on the National Science Board under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, including the last four years as Vice-Chairman.

Droegemeier began his presentation by recognizing FASEB’s participation in the Joint Committee on the Research Environment (JCORE) Summit in November, and thanking the federation for its thoughtful response to OSTP’s recent Request for Information (RFI) on the bioeconomy. He indicated that biological science is a significant priority for the administration and noted interest in investing in more high-risk, high-reward research to explore big ideas and research questions.

The Director also provided additional context for a newly released RFI seeking stakeholder input on JCORE’s ongoing work to make research environments welcoming and safe, to harness the power of large data sets, and to reduce administrative burden in research.

Following Droegemeier’s remarks, FASEB Board members offered their perspectives on a variety of issues: using artificial intelligence in addressing and solving health problems, the importance of core facilities in biomedical research, the need to strike a reasonable balance between maintaining an inclusive research environment and protecting national security and U.S. investments, and providing safe environments for trainees and others who have been harassed. Another question posed: what can federal agencies do to foster more transformative research without creating additional administrative burden for investigators?

Board members asked if OSTP plans to continue communicating with stakeholders and the public about JCORE activities. Droegemeier indicated that OSTP staff has visited a half-dozen research institutions to meet with faculty, students, and university leadership, and will be doing additional outreach over the next few months at scientific society meetings. OSTP will work with professional societies and the media to distribute information about JCORE to multiple audiences within the scientific community.

Dr. Drogemeier concluded his remarks with mention of the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine’s major report coming in January 2020 that will align with recommendations from a bioeconomy summit coordinated by OSTP earlier this fall. He also indicated that OSTP may implement several recommendations from FASEB’s response to the bioeconomy RFI and urged Board members to continue providing input to him directly.