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By the FYI Team | December 7, 2023
In November, the House Science Committee unanimously advanced legislation that would update the National Quantum Initiative Act of 2018. The legislation calls for expanding the network of quantum research centers created by the NQI Act, directing NASA to establish a center focused on space-related applications of quantum science and directing the National Institute of Standards and Technology to establish up to three centers focused on quantum engineering, sensing, and measurement. It also proposes that the National Science Foundation fund a workforce and curriculum development hub, and that the Department of Energy establish “quantum foundries” to support supply chains used by quantum device manufacturers. The legislation itself doesn’t provide funds for these activities; instead, it recommends amounts to be pursued through the annual appropriations process. The original NQI Act spurred federal agencies to increase funding for quantum R&D programs, but Congress ultimately did not meet the totals envisioned by the act.
In October, President Biden issued an executive order on artificial intelligence that includes provisions aiming to ease visa requirements for students and workers in STEM fields. For instance, the order directs the State Department to consider permitting STEM students and scholars to renew visas in the U.S. rather than returning to their home countries. Other provisions focus on expanding visas for work or study related to what the White House deems critical and emerging technologies. Among them, the order instructs the Department of Homeland Security to consider making it easier for H-1B visa holders working in these areas to become lawful permanent residents, and to streamline visa programs that admit individuals of “extraordinary ability.” However, absent new direction from Congress, agencies will be limited in what they can change.
The White House published a report in November that explores the impact of different mechanisms for covering the cost of openly publishing federally funded research. Congress had asked the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to estimate the degree to which federal grantees bear the costs of article processing fees (APCs) and “transformative agreements,” in which research institutions and publishers strike deals to repurpose subscription fees to support open access publication. OSTP said it can’t accurately estimate the costs of transformative agreements, but estimated that the APC costs borne by federal grantees and intramural researchers in 2021 was roughly $378 million — and that the average APC was $2,937 for fully open journals and $3,999 for hybrid journals.
The Commerce Department published a document on Nov. 20 that offers its vision for the National Advanced Packaging Manufacturing Program, which will build U.S. capabilities for placing semiconductor chips in densely interconnected groupings. The office stated the program will support “an advanced packaging piloting facility for validating and transitioning new technologies to U.S. manufacturers [and] workforce training programs to ensure that new processes and tools are capably staffed,” and provide funding for related projects and materials. The program will receive roughly $3 billion over five years from the CHIPS and Science Act, as part of the $11 billion in R&D-focused semiconductor programs created by the law, with the first funding opportunity expected in early 2024.
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