By Connor Dacey, GSA Science Policy Fellow
On June 28th, the Department of Energy (DOE) Science for the Future Act (H.R. 3593) was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives with a 351-68 bipartisan vote. It now heads to the Senate to be further assessed and debated. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson [D-TX-30], chairwoman of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, Ranking Member Frank Lucas [R-OK-03], Rep. Jamal Bowman [D-NY-16], and Rep. Randy Weber [R-TX-14]. Its primary purpose is “to provide comprehensive policy guidance and funding authorization for major research programs” that are conducted under the DOE’s Office of Science. The bill increases annual authorization levels for the Office of Science from $7 billion to over $11 billion over the next five years. In addition to steady growth for each core research program, the bill authorizes new programs and facilities.
Representatives from both sides of the political aisle praised the bill, describing it as a comprehensive strategy that lays out how the U.S. can move forward in critical areas of science and research. There are a number of different topics the bill addresses, including (1) basic energy sciences, (2) biological and environmental research, (3) scientific computing, (4) quantum science, (5) energy fusion, and (6) nuclear physics. The bill also discusses the need for increased collaboration between teachers and scientists, as well as for enhanced participation of underrepresented groups in STEM.
First, the DOE Science for the Future Act focuses on basic energy sciences. More specifically, it establishes a new research and development program within basic energy sciences “to provide the foundations for new energy technologies, address scientific grand challenges, and support the energy, environment, and national security missions of the Department.” Included in the bill are upgrades to centers such as the Nanoscale Science Research Center and the establishment of a research initiative for energy storage. It also establishes up to six computational materials and chemistry science centers to “develop open-source, robust, and validated computational codes and user-friendly software, coupled with innovative use of experimental and theoretical data, to enable the design, discovery, and development of new materials and chemical systems, including chemical catalysis research and development.”
Second, the bill develops a research program for the biological and environmental sciences as the DOE works to reduce the impacts of climate change. In total, it creates six Bioenergy Research Centers “to accelerate advanced research and development of biomass-based liquid transportation fuels, bioenergy, or biobased materials, chemicals, and products that are produced from a variety of regionally diverse feedstocks, and to facilitate the translation of research results to industry.” It promotes a Coastal Zone Research Initiative to focus on environmental activities that may provide potential climate mitigation and adaptation strategies in coastal locations.
Third, the bill authorizes an advanced scientific computing research program. Included in this program is the Energy Sciences Network, which provides high bandwidth scientific networking across the entire U.S. and Atlantic Ocean which will maximize network reliability and better protect the nation from cyberattacks. This program will cost over $1 billion by fiscal year 2026.
Fourth, the bill creates a DOE Quantum Network Infrastructure Research and Development Program that accelerates the innovation in quantum network infrastructure in order to develop secure national quantum communication technologies and strategies. This would be in coordination with the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), among others, with $100 million provided for these initiatives for each fiscal year 2022-2026. A DOE Quantum User Expansion for Science and Technology Program would also be developed in order to encourage and facilitate access to U.S. quantum computing hardware to enhance the quantum research enterprise and educate the future quantum computing workforce. This program will be developed in coordination with NSF, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Labs, and institutes of higher education.
Fifth, the bill discusses the need for enhanced fusion energy research, as well as for a High Energy Physics Program that supports theoretical and experimental research in elementary particle physics, and explores the nature of dark energy and matter in collaboration with NSF and NASA. There would also be the development of a Nuclear Physics Program to understand various forms of nuclear matter and $2 million authorized within fiscal year 2022 to build a facility for rare isotope beams to advance the understanding of the cosmos.
Finally, the bill requires increased collaboration with teachers and scientists. To expand, it requires the DOE to submit a plan within one year after enactment to congressional committees that explains how teachers and scientists will collaborate to broaden participation of underrepresented individuals in STEM. It promotes diversity, equity, and inclusion of STEM professionals, and requires the submission of a 10-year educational plan and outreach strategy that describes how to build research capacities and expand opportunities such as traineeships to such groups.
Overall, this piece of legislation lays out multiple science and research initiatives. Before being passed in the full House of Representatives, a markup was held on June 15th to discuss and vote on 10 amendments to the original bill. These amendments focused on topics ranging from requiring the DOE to report information relating to water and watershed research to establishing a research initiative focused on engineered ecosystems. All amendments were agreed to via voice votes, and the committee voted to move the bill forward to the full House of Representatives. GSA will continue to monitor the progression of the bill as it moves on to the Senate.
Editor’s Note: All quotes are from the text of the bill itself, found at: https://www.congress.gov/117/bills/hr3593/BILLS-117hr3593ih.pdf