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Science and technology policy in the Trump era

January 22, 2018 1:19:57
Kaltura Video

Chris Avery (PhD '10), Michelle Hindman (MPP '16), and Esha Mathew (PhD '15) talk science and technology policy in the Trump era. January, 2018.


0:00:00: Arden? My name is Nick Wigginton. I'm an Assistant Vice President for research here at University of Michigan. And I'm very excited today to introduce this panel on science and technology policy in the Trump era. Before I do, I just wanna get a quick plug-in for an upcoming speaker, hosted by STPP later this year, Dr. Warigia Bowman from the University of Arkansas will be here on March 19th to discuss Digital Development: Governance, the State, and Information Technology in East Africa. Professor Kentaro Toyama from The School of Information will be the discussant. So, please do join us for that. Now for today's panel, which is sponsored by STPP, the Rackham Graduate School, and U of M Office of Research, which we were happy to support today seeing as how... Based on the headlines that keep cycling through my phone today, federal policy around research and science is very important for helping U of M maintain our status as the number one public research university in the country. We have a wonderful group of alumni here with us who can help us understand science and technology policy in today's rapidly evolving political environment.

0:01:16: First, we have Dr. Christopher Avery, who is Senior Global Client Assessments Manager at ICF International. Currently, he serves as the Deputy Director of the National Climate Assessment at the US Global Change Research Program. In this role, he has managed the development, writing, and publication process of the NCA and other ongoing science assessments. Before this position, he held a number of senior positions, both at the National Council for Science and the Environment, and the Department of Energy's Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Office. Previously, he was a AAAS Congressional Fellow, Mirzayan Science and Technology Policy Fellow at the National Academies. And before that, he earned his Master's and PhD in Analytical Chemistry here at U of M, with an STP graduate certificate. Our next panelist is Dr. Esha Mathew. Esha is currently a AAAS Fellow in the Department of Defense, and previously served on the California Council on Science and Technology Policy in the office of assembly member Jose Medina, who then retained her as a legislative aide and communications director.

0:02:26: In that capacity, she briefed the assembly member on a range of policy issues, including health, transportation and education. In addition to staffing bills, she also handled communications, including press releases, op-eds, interviews, and outreach. Esha obtained a PhD in cell and molecular biology here at U of M, with a STPP graduate certificate. And our final panelist today is Michelle Heinemann. Michelle is a researcher at the Science and Technology Policy Institute, a federally funded research and development center in DC, that provides rigorous and objective analysis for the formulation of national science and technology policy, supporting the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and other federal science agencies. Prior to joining STPI, she served as a summer associate at OSTP, addressing policy issues in the environment and energy domain under the Obama administration. Michelle holds a master's of public policy from the University of Michigan, with an STPP certificate and a bachelor's in chemical engineering from the University of Alabama.

0:03:31: The way this will work is each of the panelists will give some brief remarks, which will be followed by a panel discussion, moderated by Dr. Shobita Parthasarathy. She is an Associate Professor of Public Policy and Women's Studies, and also Director of STPP. Following the panel discussion, we'll take questions from the audience. Beginning around 4:40, staff, which includes Nikita, which is back there, and Katie, right there, they'll start collecting cards. And then two students, Pete and Lindsey, in the front row here, along with Professor Joy Rohde, will facilitate the Q&A session. Make sure to find Katie or Nikita during the talk to get your questions in. And if you're following along online, please post your questions to Twitter using the hashtag "policy talks". Okay. Without further ado, I'd like to invite our first panelist, Dr. Chris Avery, to the podium.

0:04:31: Oh! Podium?

0:04:32: Are you going to the podium or are you hanging out?

0:04:34: I was just gonna talk.


0:04:37: Just make sure you're talking close to the microphone.

0:04:40: Oh, here. This microphone. Sorry. Hi everyone. It's very cool to be back in a room that I spent many hours as a student, and get a chance to talk to you a little bit. Before I begin, I've a couple of things I wanna say. One, I wanna say thank you to the Ford School, STPP, the Office of Research, and Rackham, for bringing us back here. There are a lot of really cool alumni from Michigan doing really cool things and I don't often think of myself as one of them, but I'm grateful to be back and get a chance to do that. I also wanna say right up front, just very clearly to set the stage, I am not here representing or on behalf of the US Federal Government. I'm not representing my company, ICF. I'm here as an alumni. I'm here to say what I think personally, me as a human, and I'm not representing any government or a company. I wanna make that clear and I'm sure my colleagues will echo something similar.


0:05:36: We talked a little bit before this panel just to get a sense of what each of us were thinking on this particular topic, we each have our own little thought process I think. But the thing that I figured I would spend my limited time on is just an interesting change that I've seen in DC and the science policy community in the last two years, actually. I think this started before the current president was elected. I think I've seen a bit of a change in how science policy is treated, and thought, of broadly speaking in the DC world, the policy world.

0:06:17: And I guess, what I'm really getting toward is many of you who've gone through that STPP coursework have heard the phrase "honest broker". "Scientists as an honest broker". The teachers here, the professors here do a really great job of showing how problematic that particular description is. And all of that is still true, but what I've actually started to see more recently, and some of this is colored by my own work in the climate science space, is a rise in an actual real version of an honest broker as a scientist in a policy space. I don't think anyone here would claim that we are in a politically neutral and happy time. We are in a politically contentious time and that's been going on for long enough that a lot of citizens and a lot of politicians are looking for places to, whatever version they think it is, accomplish something. To compromise in some way, shape or form to do whatever it is that motivated them to be where they are and do what they're doing.

0:07:25: One of the things that has come out of that, from what I've seen, that I find unexpected is that science, broadly speaking, and not universally applied, seems to have found a space in this political conflict to be a safe space for both sides. And I've seen a lot of opportunities where scientists, in small ways, have been able to come in as an honest mediator of fact in between. And I think one of the secrets of success of that particular perspective has actually been around the rise of scientists as a political actor, which is a bizarre flip of where you probably thought I was going with this. But, what I think finally happened is a recognition that scientists are human and therefore we have human natures and personal political beliefs, and acknowledging that and being up front and honest about that and trying to articulate, "Yes I believe this, however, separate from that, the facts as a scientific community, broadly speaking, understand the world to be, is this. And it may or may not align with what I believe, and that's okay either way.

0:08:41: But, I as a scientist am giving you these facts. Now, I as a human and a citizen and a person with values want you to do this." And what I found is that it hasn't necessarily changed outcomes, but what it has done is provide some type of a mental framework for policy makers to understand how scientists can simultaneously be a trusted neutral source and a partisan political actor. And I don't mean partisan in a pejorative sense, I just mean partisan in we all have sides in whatever issue we're talking about that we all come down on. So, I think what I've seen so far, and it hasn't been universal, and it hasn't been one direction and people have screwed it up, but I've seen a broader understanding of we need to stop pretending that we aren't human and that by acknowledging our own humanity and some of our own biases, we've actually been able to find some areas where we can remove ourselves from the politics. Which I think has surprised a lot of scientific actors in the DC area. There are probably a ton of examples where someone could show that I'm wrong, but I would say, the climate space especially, I've seen a really significant value of scientists engaging in the policy space with honesty.

0:10:07: I think most climate scientists in the world are pretty strong viewed on what they think should happen as a result of the science knowledge. And what I've seen scientists who are successfully engaging in this space, with people who disagree on the facts of reality of climate change, what I've seen them effectively engage in that space by doing is saying, "The science I've done tells me this. The values I that hold as a citizen of this country tell me that I want you to do this." And that seems like a really narrow separation, but what it really ends up doing is making it very clear that the scientific space around facts and understanding of the world, while imperfect and not complete, is a separate space from the actions that our values dictate those facts make us do. They inform each other, they're connecting each other, but being very explicit about this bifurcation of us as scientists versus us as scientific political actors. I've seen signs that that's actually really helpful. And that could actually, in some ways, be a path forward out of some of this political anger that we seem to see in the country right now. That was sort of unformed, but I hope I got to where I was trying to go at the end. So, I'll shut up at that point and hand it off. [chuckle]

0:11:24: Alright. Hi everyone, I'm Esha. Just as Chris just said, I am here as myself. I do not represent the Federal Government or anything like that, and I also wanna say thank you to everyone involved in bringing us here. I wanna talk about something a lot drier, but very important to this enterprise, which is research funding. Most of the R&D that this country invests in flows through the agencies, and there's two things that Congress needs to do for an agency to function. The first is appropriations process where they allocate money to go to different agencies and programs.

0:12:01: And the second is the authorization, which gives an agency the legal authority to use those funds. Now, the President himself doesn't exactly set the appropriations. He can, however, influence its size and composition. But really what he does is, he sends a request to Congress who can accept some of it, all of it, none of it. I'm just gonna quickly go through that process just to make sure everyone's on the same page of how that works. So, the President submits his request to Congress, Congress has these resolutions that sets... The key point of those resolutions is to set the total discretionary spending amount. Then, each house goes through the appropriations process where they mark up these bills, and then they come together and kinda hash it all out. And when they hash it all out, that goes to the president and he signs it, and there you go.

0:12:58: Now, as you are all probably aware, when that doesn't happen there's two things that can follow. One is a government shutdown, and then the other thing that's also not ideal is the continuing resolution, where funding is capped at a fixed formula. Usually, this is at the previous year's funding amounts. It's not great because it introduces uncertainty to the research enterprise. People don't know when the budget is gonna come through and they don't know how much that will be, and so it's tough to plan for new programs and things like that. When you look at the administration's budget request, it is lean around R&D funding, except for, there's a couple cases where that's not true. One is the Smithsonian Institute, which got a bump, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and then a program under HHS which is like a patient-centered outcomes research fund trust. However, Congress has a different view on funding levels for places like the NSF, the NIH. As this is being worked out in February, the agencies will submit their plans to the office of management and budget for the next fiscal year's plans. So it's kind of two things happening concurrently, but how that's all gonna fall out remains to be seen.

0:14:27: Great. Hi, I'm Michelle, same disclaimers. I do not represent my organization, the Institute for Defense Analyses, or the Federal government, my sponsors at OSTP. But also, thank you all for inviting me and the other great panelists to speak with you today. I was thinking I would focus my introductory remarks on how science policy is coordinated at the federal level, and how changing priorities at that level can impact how science policy is coordinated and gets done. My perspective is mainly focusing at the Office of Science and Technology Policy, which is a office within the Executive Office of the President, that serves to inform the President on science and technology policy issues that are relevant to the President's agenda and policy areas of interest. One way that OSTP works to advance science policy and coordinate science policy among the federal agencies, is through the National Science and Technology Council, the NSTC.

0:15:46: This is a body that helps to coordinate a science technology policy process, they help to ensure that there is consistency with the president's goals on science and technology policy decisions at the agencies and at different departments, and they also try to help integrate the president's agenda across agencies. They also help to ensure that science and technology is considered in the development and implementation of federal priorities, so it's kind of a two-way street. And then finally, they also have an international coordination a piece. And so, through the NSTC, OSTP is able to form essentially interagency bodies. Chris actually kind of works with one and which he will likely speak about later that an example, the US group on earth or... The USGCRP is the global change research program. And that example is... There's 13 different federal agencies that... 13 correct?

0:16:56: Mm-hmm.

0:16:57: Yeah. [chuckle] That NSTC is able to coordinate to form policies around global change, climate change mainly. One of the major types of change that we see. And so, you see these different interagency groups formed around many different science areas that are of interest to either the president, or things of relevance in the current environment, or by Congress as well. For example, there's always some lasting ones, works with the little water availability and quality. You also might have some fast track action committees are set up to maybe deal with Zika or Ebola or things like that. And so through that mechanism, OSTP is able to essentially integrate all of the advice that our thousands of federal agents [chuckle] are providing all of that expertise and really provide the president with sound counsel and objective advice in that area.

0:18:03: I will address the elephant in the room, OSTP currently does not have a director. It's definitely something we can talk about later. But I would say the main changes that we've seen or I've witnessed, and how OSTP and the NSTC process has been coordinated and function during this new administration, is that right now there seems to be kind of a lack of uncertainty. And this comes from the budget process, but also from a lack of leadership. And due to that uncertainty, we're seeing a lot of priorities not able to fully function in the way that OSTP and the NSTC process might optimally function. And so, it's creating even more areas of uncertainty in those ways as well.

0:19:05: Great. Thanks to all of you for getting the conversation going. Before we open it up to questions from the audience, I had a few. And I wanted to start with... Right, so you've all talked a little bit about what sort of small changes that you've seen. And of course, we are... Many of us have a lot of connections to DC and move in and out, and some of don't, but I presume many of us at least read the papers occasionally. And so I think it would be helpful for us to get a sense of how to understand what we read in the papers in the context of science and technology policy.

0:19:50: One of the things that I think a lot of us have read, I'm not gonna ask you about Russia, don't worry. One of the things that I am interested in thinking about is, I think a lot of us have read, especially when it comes to science and technology policy, but generally in policy, perhaps the place where we've heard about it the most is in the context of the state department, is this notion that the administrative state is being dismantled. Or in Steve Bannon's terms, the deconstruction, I think is the term he used that what he was going for was deconstructing the administrative state. And so we've read about that, as I said most famously in the context of the state department, that the state department is getting rid of, in various ways, thousands of employees, certainly hundreds at this stage. And with the designs for more, we know a little bit that there's talk about similar things. There's been news about that at the EPA.

0:20:52: And I guess I have a few questions related to that. The first is, is that a real phenomenon? Again, we hear about it in the papers, but to what extent is your sense that that's a real phenomenon? And the second question related to that is, if it's a real phenomenon, what does that actually mean? What are the impacts on policy, on regulation, on the role of government in our lives? And sort of related to that, how does that affect the lives of scientists?

0:21:27: Does that affect the lives of citizens? In a real way that those... Because I think, this administrative state that is now discussed more than ever, are often technical workers of some kind. They're scientists and engineers often, or they may be social scientists, but they're scientists and engineers of some kind. We're working in the bowels of government that are now being sort of cast into this new light, into this new administration, and I'm curious what your sense of politics are. Is that a phenomenon that's occurring? And if it is, what are the implications of that? And it may be different in different places, which I think is also something that again we read in the papers, but we don't... You guys are on the ground and I think it would be useful for us to get a sense of the specificity and sensitivity of that.

0:22:25: She keeps looking at me.

0:22:27: I'll go next.

0:22:28: Go ahead.

0:22:28: No, no, go please. Please start.

0:22:30: No please. Please, go ahead.

0:22:31: Oh okay, sure. I would definitely say that... So I also read the papers. I'm also reading the same information that you are. And so of course, that is also tainting whether or not I believe it's happening. But I will say from my personal experience, yes, I have seen impacts from that. I'll give an example. Like I mentioned, NSTC, I work often with these NSTC interagency groups. And the state department, the example you raised, often works or serves on these interagency bodies. And when you don't have the right expert in the room, that can be problematic. You're trying to form a policy or to come up with a research plan around a very specific issue and you need that international perspective in the case of the state department. And there's maybe nobody to call and that can be hard.

0:23:29: I would say, the other major impact that I've definitely seen personally, is the impact to federal agent's morale, to my friends, my coworkers. And it's disheartening to see people feel like they're not valued, that their careers in science policies are being under an agency, trying to be a good civil servant and work on issues that they are really passionate about. For that to not be recognized, or to be cut in a way, or talked about in a way in the news, it affects them personally too. It's definitely impacting more than just the physical person being in the office, I think. And I personally worry about how that's going to impact the next generation of people who go into civil service. I really hope that a lot of you in this room are considering going into civil service and that you aren't too discouraged by what you're currently might be seeing if you're talking to people who work in science agencies right now.

0:24:48: I agree. I don't wanna draw attention away from the very human impacts that we see. Of course, it's real. It's clearly happening. That's quite obvious. I do think... I do just a argument is more interesting. Just one thing to challenge slightly on, that the things a staff or broadly speaking a staff of employees works on is reflective of an administration's policies. It is completely appropriate that an administration use staffing as a way to indicate what they do and do not think that is appropriate for their staff to work on. I'm not defending the choices that are being made, I'm just saying generally speaking, in a very kind of menno way, it's appropriate for a president to come in and say, "This stuff isn't the priority, and therefore I, in my capacity as president, am not going to spend the taxpayer money on it."

0:25:45: Every president does that. It's part of their explicit job. That's not immoral or anything that they're doing wrong. We may have complaints about how they're doing it, or choices that they're making, but the action in and of itself, I don't think is wrong. What it means I think is broadly speaking, a far more complicated question. And I think Michelle hit the nail on the head of like, yeah, there are all of these kinds of questions about what it means for the future and what it means for the future of the scientific enterprise and science policy enterprise, but are that the pipeline of people who wanna come in are gonna be willing to even work in this kind of a space that the fundamental contract of working in that place has changed? Those are very real questions that I don't think anybody really has an answer to.

0:26:31: And I do think that it's also really important to reiterate what you just said of like, this is gonna be different in different places. I think that the impact we see on the state department is likely to be a lot more significant and long lasting than something like the Department of Energy, where it's really just about research funding. It'll probably slow down the pace of research, but it won't necessarily change the direction of the content of the research. It's hard. It's complicated. I'm certainly not complimenting the process by which it's happening but I do think that at least on some fundamental level, the actions are well within his right.

0:27:11: Yup. Echoing everything you said. My sense and I don't have a chart with me to draw this conclusion from, but my sense of it is that it's not a broad general loss of staff. It's particular offices and functions where these changes are happening and as Chris said, whatever your thoughts on it may be, it is indicative of where priorities may or may not be. But the other question is, those people who are doing that work, they don't just disappear. They may go somewhere else to try to do the same functions.

0:27:44: And just to draw onto that as well, it's not just the people that go on and do other things. The work doesn't disappear either. We may choose either not to do it, or we may choose to delegate that work to somebody else.

0:27:55: It shifts to another agency.

0:27:55: But it shifts to another agency or another place. It may shift out of government into another space. But it's not like the state department decided to not work on gummy bear, so gummy bear no longer exists. It's a ridiculous example, but I have to point that out.


0:28:11: Just because an agency changes their priority does not mean this work disappears into the ether. It means that other pathways have to be found. And for people who are passionate about that particular issue, with that particular work, the way you do that work will change. And sometimes that's scary, but that also is an opportunity. It means that it's a chance to try a new path and do a new thing and go a new way. And there are benefits to flipping the script and changing the system and trying something new. There are also risks and you can cause a lot of damage, but it's not a universal evil.

0:28:43: Just as a small anecdote. I know of more than four people who have faced a situation like that who are now gearing up to run for office. You just never know how that balance is gonna be struck.

0:28:55: Mm-hmm.

0:28:56: So, you all are starting to get at some of the complexity that I think is really important and hopefully that we can get at today. We are in an academic setting after all. I'm not trying to sell newspapers. I'm curious, again, what we hear in the papers and what we know about is all of these scary things that are happening in policy and more specifically, science policy. And I'm wondering whether there are places that this administration... When you think about the administration's priorities, are there places within science policy or within research funding, but broadly science and technology policy that the administration is interested in or is investing in? And I think broadly, for example, that obviously this is an administration that has been trying very hard to increase military funding, right?

0:30:00: Mm-hmm.

0:30:00: Presumably DOD funding is expanding. What opportunities does that create in terms of science and technology policy, in terms of research funding? Do we see other places like that within the administration's priorities where we can say, "Okay, that embodies this complexity that you guys are getting at." That are actually potentially beneficial, for certain parts of the world of science and technology, and science and technology policy?

0:30:30: Yeah, I can... If you don't mind me starting with that.

0:30:32: No, no, please go ahead.

0:30:33: Okay. [chuckle]

0:30:35: Well... [chuckle]

0:30:39: There's funding, and then there's programming. And this example falls more along the latter. I mentioned at the beginning in my opening remarks that there's appropriations, and then there's authorization, the legal authority to do things. But sometimes that authorization bill can also signal how Congress would like to see an agency lay itself out, programmatically. One example of that is the 2007 National Defense Authorization Act. Okay, I'm gonna try to explain this and I'm gonna try to read the room to see how good a job I'm doing with this. [chuckle] You have the Secretary of Defense and you have the Deputy Secretary of Defense and underneath them are a variety of different offices. Do I need to speak louder? I am so sorry. Okay. How much... Did you hear any of that?

[background conversation]

0:31:25: Okay, much better. You have the Secretary of Defense and you have the Undersecretary of Defense. And then underneath them are a variety of Undersecretaries of Defense. And there are Undersecretaries for Policy. There's Undersecretaries for the Comptroller's Office, the financial office. And right now, there is an Undersecretary for Acquisition Technology and Logistics, and Research and Engineering falls under that Undersecretary office. Now according to this new authorization act, that Research and Engineering is gonna move up to it's own Undersecretary level. Which means that everything underneath it, from basic research, applied, all of that is gonna have a greater access to leadership and be a little bit more in the spotlight. That could mean... It's a big endeavor. It's gonna take a little bit of time, but it could mean some interesting things as far as research and engineering go.

0:32:20: Yeah, to piggybacking off that, that was where I would go with this question too. This administration has, and all administrations have, but this one has really looked at efficiency. And that is in a way, it's a good thing. The reorg of the Department of Defense is a great example of how an agency might use these priorities to streamline and make their processes more efficient. Within that, we were talking earlier for example, there's all the services. Each service branch has it's own business functional lines, and part of the reorg is to also separate those out. That also helps streamline processes and can really help to alleviate some of the issues that large departments that are maybe more bureaucratic might be having. That also applies to the other science agencies, not just the Department of Defense and these can have good impacts. There's also been some emphasis on, or a lot of emphasis on collaboration in this administration. Be that international, or be that with academia, or the private sector. I personally think that's a good thing for there to be more collaboration of academia especially in research. And so those types of priorities really can create more efficiency, and I think that's a good thing as well.

0:33:56: Yeah, to jump off that, I think an interesting place to go is to look at confirmation hearings for various types of agencies. Or a lot of them release statements on where their priority issues are. Interviews, they give interviews, and you can get a sense of what they're looking at that could be interesting for us into policy. One example is the new head of... I'm forgetting his name. This is so bad. But the new head of NIST who said some interesting things on looking at tech transfer.

0:34:19: What's NIST?

0:34:20: Oh, I'm so sorry.

0:34:21: You guys are not in Washington, DC.


0:34:22: I know. I...


0:34:24: Sorry you'll get used to it in a while.


0:34:25: Yeah, so that's the National Institute for Standard and Technologies. That's right. I always forget the T. He said some interesting things on tech transfer and the new... The person who's been tapped for NCI had said some interesting things about...

0:34:40: NCI is?

0:34:41: National Cancer Institute. Oh, sorry.


0:34:43: But now I...

0:34:43: I know. I know, this is so good. [laughter] It was the thing that frustrated me when I started government work, but here I am doing it. [chuckle] Had said some interesting things about the role of basic research in science and technology, so I would look there too, to see where priorities lie.

0:35:00: I agree, obviously, with everything that they just said. The only other thing that I would add is... I don't know that this is entirely intentional, but I do see one ramification of the removal, again, of the federal action from certain science and technology spaces is, again, that work is just going somewhere else. I'm personally seeing a rise of a lot of science and technology policy work at the state level, because the federal government is no longer doing it. This may be a dangerous example, but the Department of Education, I think is an interesting example of that. I'm certainly no fan of our home state secretary, but functionally what's happening is that the Department of Education is just refusing to do stuff, which is their right. That's a policy choice, too, but those decisions are just being made elsewhere. They're being made at the state level, they're being made in the hands of other people, so what that's doing is increasing the number of venues in which scientists can be useful partners. So it's not... Yeah, it's complicated. I guess I don't know where I was going with that.


0:36:12: But hopefully you specified that a little bit, but... [chuckle] I think it would be useful actually to get from you a sense of... I think we've been talking a little bit, or I've been trying to have you guys talk about what's changing, and what's not changing, and what has changed. But I realized in our conversation, what we haven't explicitly talked about is the relative roles of political staff and civil servants or career staff and political staff. And I think there may be people in the room who don't have an understanding of when a new administration comes in there are two dynamics. One is, how much of a staff in an agency like the Department of Energy or the State Department or the Department of Defense or the EPA, how much of it changes, how much of it stays the same in terms of personnel? That's one question. And then how much of it change... So there's the personnel question, and then there's the priority question. How much of what people do on a day-to-day basis changes as a result of those priorities, and how much is just actually the same between administrations?

0:37:26: Sure. So I'll start and she'll jump in when I go wrong. Obviously, this will be a common refrain: It changes by agency. But the bulk of the leadership layer, either at the agency itself or in most of the sub-offices are political appointees, and they have a shelf life of the administration. So it's very normal that some fairly significant percentage of agencies change when an administration changes. Civil servants are permanent employees, but they're not in the leadership, by and large. They may be program directors or program managers and things like that, but most civil servants don't actually have funding authorities or budget authorities. They may be managing projects, but they're not the ones who sign the contracts. Those are largely people who occupy a higher space of either high level civil servants or political appointees. And that's the way it's designed, that's appropriate for it to work that way.

0:38:26: And I think that the second half of your question of, "How much does that actually impact the work of the agency?" is that... Of course it has a real impact, but the timescale of that impact I think is also quite important. Many of these agencies are working on timescales that are the length of a whole administration or longer, depending on some of the investments from DOD. And that changes. That limits the amount of impact that change overall can have. Things happen in a direction, and turning that boat entirely can be quite challenging. But I guess the biggest takeaway that I would say that it changes is actually the process by which things change. And I'm a little bit biased on this, 'cause I saw this happen several times at DOE, so I'm actually really interested to know if you guys agree with me if this is how it works in other agencies.

0:39:19: DOE is?

0:39:20: Sorry, the Department of Energy.

0:39:22: Okay, it wasn't just me.

0:39:25: [chuckle] Every time a new secretary came in, the methods by which things were approved, and vetted, and considered, and chosen, and selected at the Department of Energy dramatically changed, and it was reflective of how secretaries interpret the priorities that their boss, the president, is giving to them. They're coming along with their own expertise and their own interests and things like that, but they're there to execute the president's will. And that changes when the secretary changes. We talk a lot about politics, we talk a lot about policy, and I don't wanna lose that third thread of the process. The process by which things happen is equally as important as the other two, and those are things that are actually completely within the control of the administration that are really, really, really impactful.

0:40:16: Yeah...

0:40:17: Go ahead.

0:40:18: So I totally agree with you on process that is, at least from my perspective, it's not from the Executive Office of the President, that also happens there, too, of course that it would happen there, and how those processes change can really impact how a lot of policy is made. But I would also say that it's not just the administration that's changing, Congress is also always changing, and these political appointees have to be confirmed by Congress and...

0:40:45: Many of them, not all of them.

0:40:46: Yes. Many of them, not all of 'em, yes. And as well, Congress can also direct federal agencies to do things. And so federal agencies are not just given things to work on from the administration, but Congress can also dictate those things as well, so just to add that in the mix.

0:41:08: That's actually a really important point, that the agencies and all of the administration have a whole lot of strings attached to their budgets. Have any of you guys have ever actually... Show of hands, have any of you guys ever actually looked at the budget bill passed by Congress? That's more than I actually expected.


0:41:28: It's huge. It's a massive document, and it's because it's not like Congress just says, "Okay, Department of Energy, you get 55 bucks. And the State Department, you get 100 bucks and a pile of string." There's a massive amount of detail underneath. There's an overall appropriation of the agency, and they explicitly say, "This thrust in the agency gets this amount of money, and these sub-offices each get this amount of money." And then they say, "This amount of this money will be spent on this project or this program or this and that." So, it's written into law explicitly what all of these funds are for. And there's obviously space in there for policy choices, and process choices, and all that kind of stuff, but where you spend your money is policy. And a large, significant amount of strings attached to the money that comes in are coming from Congress.

0:42:20: Nick, you wanted to ask a question?

0:42:26: I'll try to refrain from using acronyms in the question.


0:42:29: You live in Ann Arbor. That lowers the likelihood of acronyms.

0:42:32: There you go. But I'm in academia where everything's an acronym.

0:42:35: That's true, and you are based in UMOR.

0:42:39: So, I wanted to ask a question on the politics side of things, maybe in hopes of extracting some juicy insider information from you all. A year ago, when the new administration was coming into office, one of the predictions maybe that I heard was that things were gonna go more from a two-party negotiation process between Republicans and Democrats, to something that's more... Congress may be working together in a Congress versus Executive Office, or administrative negotiation style. And part of that, I guess, was predicting that we have an unpredictable, and maybe... Administration whose views sometimes change quite rapidly. So I didn't know if that's actually coming true, or if that's been affecting what you've seen on the ground in terms of how the Congress works with the administration.

0:43:38: I don't know that I can...

0:43:39: I think... Do you get a sense that...

0:43:42: One thing I saw when I was in California is that...


0:43:51: I'll be designated... I feel you don't even need it.

0:43:53: I'm just loud.

0:43:54: That's a good skill. I was just gonna say... When any party controls a space, there begin to be subgroups within that party. You saw it in California with the Democratic Party achieving a super majority. There are groups within that, like the moderate Dems, the other Dems and...


0:44:21: And they still don't agree on everything, and that back-and-forth needs to happen. I think that there's an element of that going on in Congress as well. So, it's not just Congress versus the executive branch, it's Congress, Congress, Congress, and then the executive branch.

0:44:39: I think we have to remember that Congress is not this plant that grew in a forest that we all work around now We sent those people there. There was an election, you may remember it, and these people were chosen. And they are, whether we like it or not, they are by and large, reflecting the views of the people they're representing. I pushed back a little bit on the idea that Congress is not doing their job. Their job is explicitly to represent the people who sent them there. And fundamentally, there are a lot of policy and political spaces in which there isn't a consensus in our society yet. There are some very hard questions that we as a society are grappling with. Science policy aside, broadly in the more social setting, there are some really complicated questions that we as a society have not resolved. And I think that's also true in the science policy space.

0:45:36: Part of the reason I opened my comments with the honest broker discussion was that. In spite of that lack of consensus on what the right path forward is or if we even need a path forward, I think that I'm seeing signs of an interest in talking, and an interest in basing that conversation on knowledge and facts. And that doesn't premeditate a particular outcome, but I think that there's at least an interest in talking again. And some of that is going to be frustrating because it doesn't mean that everyone is going to agree at the end of talking. I don't know if that's a juicy tidbit for you.

0:46:23: Okay, I can't resist anymore. Who's interested in talking?


0:46:28: I'll give you a great example. There's a new caucus that has popped up in Congress, the Chemistry Caucus. It's a bipartisan caucus, and it's actually talking about increasing some regulations at the EPA about disclosure of chemicals and chemical safety for citizens. It doesn't mean they're going to do anything, I really don't think they will. But the fact that they're having a conversation in a safe space is meaningful. So, that's one example. And I'm seeing other places where I'm seeing green non-profits partnering with an oil company to have a conversation about how that oil company can use less fossil fuels to make as much money. And oil companies were not open to these conversations 20 years ago. And it's not that they're changing their business, it's not that we're changing any actions, but a predicate to any kind of change or advancement is discussion.

0:47:21: I personally think, personally, not representing the federal government, I personally think that part of the reason that there's so much angst and anger right now, is that we have shut ourselves off from having the real conversations to actually get to the next step of solving a problem. We aren't even in agreement on what the problem is yet. So, until we can get to some kind of a space where we can at least agree what the problem is, [chuckle] or at least agree on pieces of the problem, we're never gonna get to any kind of actual change. And I don't think anyone, regardless of their political stripes, is happy with the way the world is as it is now.

0:48:01: At least having some amount of discussion of ways they want to do something different, or change the world in whatever way you think is best, that starts with some safe space for conversation. And I've at least seen an interest in having the safe space. So, that caucus is just one example that, coming from the top of my head, but I'm seeing others, too.

0:48:23: Yeah, that... And that right there, what Chris just said, is sometimes the hardest part of getting to any solution. Getting people in a room to have a discussion is such a, I think, undervalued part of the process.

0:48:33: Absolutely. I think most politicians are very afraid of the idea of going in and having a conversation and saying, "I don't know. 'Cause I'm gonna be held to these statements and I can't learn. I can't just have a conversation and figure out what it is that I don't know." And the thing that actually gives me a lot of hope in that space was the 2016... Well, I don't know what year it was... 2017 election in the state level in Virginia... Is a lot of the people, and I saw this on the Republican side, too, and some of the Republican delegates who won were saying, "I don't actually know what I think on every single issue. Tell me what you, citizen, tell me what you, person I'm asking to represent, think. Help educate me so that I represent you well." I challenge you to go try and find that being said in an election 10 years ago. So, there is change, but it's happening at a conversational level that doesn't rise to the political coverage that we tend to see.

0:49:33: Okay, questions. Who has questions?

0:49:41: The first question is, how does public opinion influence the science policy process, and how do policy makers balance expert opinions with public priorities which may be skewed by so-called fake news?

0:49:55: Can you repeat the question one more time?

0:49:56: Yeah, I need to write down pieces of this.


0:50:00: How does public opinion influence the science policy process and how do policy makers balance expert opinions with public priorities that might be skewed by fake news?


0:50:25: Well, that's not a one word answer.

0:50:26: Yeah. Anybody wanna try first? [chuckle]

0:50:32: So, as you might imagine, I'm not short on opinions. [chuckle] I really hate the term "fake news". I really do, and probably not for the reason that you think. I think fake news has become an excuse to dismiss things with which you disagree. And I think that that's something that we in the scientific space need to really fight against. I see this a lot in the climate change space, where people who are labeled as climate change deniers are dismissed as not welcome to be a part of the conversation, and I think that's really sad. I think that's really a shame. Just starting out in that space, I hate that term, so I'm gonna ignore it. But to actually get to your question, I think that question was phrased in a way that I just wanna disagree with. That I think it's not... I think we need to stop yelling at politicians for listening to public opinion. That is quite explicitly their job. Their job is there to represent us as the citizens of this country, and there are limited ways in which... In California in which 700,000 people can talk to one person. [chuckle]

0:51:47: There are limited ways in doing that. And surveys, while imperfect and criticizable all across the board, are one way in which an elected official is trying to understand what the person, the people that they represent, think. I think it's really, really unfair of us to criticize politicians for listening to their constituents. That said, I think it is a fundamental challenge that people in political offices have to grapple with of, when they wanna consider technical knowledge when it stands in opposition to what their constituents think. That grappling is a large part of why I probably don't really wanna run for office. Because that's a really hard question. It's a really hard question, and it changes from minute to minute. It changes... The way that you weigh those things changes based on your own personal values and your own lived experience. And I don't really... I don't have a great answer for how they do it, because I don't know how I would do if I was in their job. I honestly think that piece is the hardest part about running for office.

0:52:57: Do you have an example that you might be able to share, that brings that grappling into... 'Cause I think for, again, in an academic space...

0:53:07: Sure.

0:53:08: For us, often it's hard for us to imagine, if you have technical knowledge that provides you with insights, we often are in a position where we say, "That should be the overriding basis for a decision."

0:53:21: Sure. When I was working in Congress for Senator Coons, there was a debate I watched on the Senate floor, and I thought it was really, really interesting. And it stuck with me because Senator Whitehouse was making a speech in favor of doing something on climate change, as he does quite regularly, which is great, I'm happy for it. And another senator stood up and said, "You know, I'm not dismissing the science behind what you're saying, but you're asking me to take money out of our current budget and invest it in a future 100 years from now, that we don't know what it's gonna look like. And there are children who are homeless in my district, in my state who are starving. And quite frankly, I would rather spend this money on that."

0:54:02: Now, you can... I have a lot of responses to that particular comment. But I thought it was actually pretty insightful because what it shows was a different prioritization of now versus later. And there are all sorts of criticisms that you can make of that, but I think it's a coherent policy position to say, "The federal government should focus on feeding and clothing its citizens." So, to me, that's one example.

0:54:30: Can I try that... So, maybe we can... In case the question was supposed to be asked, or could be... There's another way we could address this question, it's just not the congressional side.

0:54:39: It's true, I went to a different place. [chuckle]

0:54:40: But in case that was what the person was [0:54:42] ____, maybe we could also talk about that, that side?

0:54:44: Please, yeah, please.

0:54:45: So... Citizens can also, I guess, have a say in science policy, not through their elected representative, while however, that is a great way to influence science policy. But there's also things like, request for information, RFIs, on policy documents that are currently being developed. For example, the organization that I work for works on a lot of these policy documents, and we put out RFIs all the time. And we ask for public input or expert input on what we're working on, that science policy process. And there's also, of course, public comment periods and tons of other examples of public comments. So my answer is it doesn't just have to be through an elected representative. You as a citizen with an opinion, or with some really relevant bit of scientific information that you feel needs to be included in some sort of process, you can submit that information. There are forms and processes to collect that, and every comment is read. It is the job... So, for example, we had did an RFI a couple of months ago...

0:55:55: Read and responded to.

0:55:57: I was the one who received all those comments, sorted them and wrote a summary of them, on a very specific, very small document. It wasn't too may, it was only like 60. So, there's other ways. It doesn't just have to be through your elected representative. I don't know if you guys wanna comment on that as well from the agencies you work with.

0:56:13: Yeah, agencies, whenever they're doing regulations, have a public comment period...

0:56:16: Not just regulations, reports and stuff...

0:56:18: Reports...

[overlapping conversation]

0:56:19: The National Climate Assessment is out for public comment right now, everybody. Go tell us what you think, we wanna hear it.

0:56:27: And I just wanted to make one small, quick comment about public opinion influencing science and science policy. This has not gone unnoticed, obviously, by the agencies too. I forget the name of the report, but in the National Science Foundation's, I think it was their indicator's report, not only they collect all these different metrics, but now I believe that they have a new line on what makes a metric a good metric. And I think that's because they understand that, forget fake news, there's just so much information out there and how do you add value to what you're putting out that people grab on to it. This is a very big question.

0:57:08: I would also just add, if you're reading the news fairly regularly, that's great. You're a fairly informed person. How many of you have ever checked the Federal Register? How many of you have ever heard of the Federal Register? Okay. The Federal Register is a publication that the government puts out every single day, that summarizes every action that is in the public space. Every single day, almost every single week, I would imagine, there's something released where the government is explicitly asking for your input, with directions on how to give it. And it is like pulling teeth to get people in the public to actually comment and participate. We are desperately wanting it. Do it. We mean it when we ask for it. So, You should have that on your list of things you read on a periodic basis.

0:57:57: Alright, next question. So you guys have spoken on this a little bit, but I think we wanna dive a little bit deeper. So, considering the present political climate where partisan divide on issues keeps growing, and there seems to be even more animosity than ever between the right and the left, how do we and people in DC escape the danger of being in an echo chamber? Where we're only talking to one side and we only choose to have the conversations with the people who share our beliefs, how can we break that down? And how have you seen that happen within your own experience?

0:58:32: I don't wanna keep talking first. [chuckle]

0:58:36: I was just thinking about local politics.

0:58:37: Yeah, that's where I was gonna go too.

0:58:38: Yeah. And my sense was pay a lot of attention to local politics. It's smaller. People there tend to draw from a broader base of what they have in common. I think there's... Yeah, I'm just gonna stop there.

0:58:53: I guess I would add onto that, and say that, honestly, the only person who's ever changed my mind is someone that I knew. And that's not entirely true, I'm being a little facetious. But there's a lot of power in, "Hey, you, person that I trust, think differently than I do. Let's talk." So, I would say that I don't see any way out of a deeply separated political divide, other than people at the local level talking to people with whom they disagree. And having conversations that may or may not change people's minds. I think that there are a lot of examples in the political zeitgeist where we've seen significant movement in public opinion, that only came up from the citizen level. I just think it's delusional. Not, delusional's an unfair word, that's a little aggressive. I think it's unreasonable to expect Congress to fix a deeply felt partisan political divide in the citizenry of the United States. We have to save ourselves.

1:00:01: So, if you're a liberal and you're only reading Huffington Post, shame on you. If you're a conservative and you're only reading Fox News, shame on you. I don't think anyone would be surprised for me to say out loud, I am a liberal. I'm a subscriber to three Libertarian magazines. I don't always agree with what's in them, but I find their thinking fascinating and I learn from them. So, it's... You have to seek out thinkers and human beings with whom you disagree and talk to them. We can't expect everyone to come to us. We have to choose to fix it ourselves.

1:00:41: I'll echo that just a little bit. I really think... These conversations that Esha and Chris mentioned, they're hard to have. And starting with family is always a good place. But also reading is a really, really great way, and educating yourself on the other side's opinions or the way that they might approach something. What are their values? And really trying to do that research and confront with that and think about that. Even if you don't put yourself out there and have those conversations, I think at a minimum, being aware. Whether that's listening to a podcast that's maybe a little Libertarian leaning for 10 minutes a day, just to get that perspective. Just not always siloing yourself is just so important. And also not doubling down on your opinions. That's something I've definitely learned, in DC. Really being open to hearing other people's opinions. And when they might have an opinion that goes against a fact that you believe in, just recognizing that and leaving it there.

1:01:46: So, I'm gonna take the moderator's privilege to chime in on this question. Having had all three of these illustrious alumni in my class, and in a class that really attempts to force people to do this. So I think it's... I think that their responses are correct and wonderful, but I think the thing that I would add to it, is that you have to really understand the logics in the positions that you violently disagree with. If those are positions that have legs, then there's a logic to them. And there are facts that are associated with that position. And there's a style of reasoning. And there's a set of values. And in the class where I had all three of them, I force students to role-play stakeholders and I encourage then to role-play stakeholders that they vigorously disagree with, because that's another place where you can begin to understand that logic as a means of trying to start to bridge these divides.

1:03:08: I think we are now at a moment where we caricature other people from different political perspectives so much, that we reject the idea that they're people at all. And we certainly reject the idea that their positions might be evidence-based. So we will say, "Well, their facts are wrong, they're monsters." Well, I think in real political debate, that's rarely actually the case. And I think you are a better political actor and you're more likely to get what you want, if you really embody and try to understand the logics.

1:03:51: One small thing, a little... Kind of a flip to that. Where I work, I meet a lot of people who think a little bit differently than me. And one thing I found very interesting is finding an issue that we both actually agree on, and understanding what led them to reach the same decision that I did, is often not the same. And having insight into that is also really, really helpful for these discussions as well on issues where you differ.

[background conversation]

1:04:25: Alright, we have a question, both from Twitter and the audience. They're both kind of together. As people with scientific expertise, how do you handle or have you handled in the past, situations where your superiors might make statements or have positions that diverge from a scientific consensus? Regarding, for instance, climate change or vaccinations or things like that. And would an honest broker of science simply say that these are divergent views on these topics, or would they advocate for a particular position?


1:05:01: No, please. [chuckle] Okay. I think virtually every... I told you guys I did a congressional fellowship from the American Chemical Society in 2011 and 2012, and there's a group of about 40 scientists who compete and get placed in Congress to do this every year. And in every single one of those interview processes, this exact question is part of the interview panel. Because it's a fact of life. It's, unless you're the President of the United States, there's somebody that is above you. And even then, the citizens are above him. So it's like, no one doesn't have a boss, and no one doesn't have somebody else who has some other value system or perspective or structure that they're using. And the reality is, is that science alone is not the only answer to every question. Science is, I say this as a scientist, a scientist is the mechanism that we as a society use to mediate factual disputes. It tells you what is... Joy is smiling 'cause she's the one who actually gave me this line.


1:06:13: It's how we know that the sky is blue, or that eating carrots is good for your eyesight, or that climate change is occurring. But politics is how we mediate values disputes. Politics is how we decide that we're going to incentivize eating carrots in elementary schools because they're good for you. Or when we decide whether or not we want to do something about climate change. That's a political and values choice, it's not a scientific question. So one of the hardest things, I think personally, about being a scientist working in the science policy space, is knowing my place and knowing my limit. And there are decisions that get made that are informed by the science, but are not only informed by the science. And sometimes values outweigh it. A lot of times values can outweigh facts. That's the nature of us as human beings. It doesn't make it evil, it doesn't make it wrong, it just is. So knowing your place, I think, is one of the hardest parts of being humble and being part of this community, is that you can't fix everything, you can't change everything. And just because somebody did something that is in opposition to a fact or scientific knowledge, doesn't mean they're wrong. That's hard to swallow.

1:07:27: That's the thing about being an advisor though, right?

1:07:29: Absolutely.

1:07:29: It doesn't obligate the person listening to you to take your advice.

1:07:32: There you go.

1:07:32: It's just there to inform all the other streams of evidence that go into their decision-making.

1:07:37: Our jobs as advisors is to make sure that the person making the decision is as well armed and as well informed as possible.

1:07:41: Yes. Yep.

1:07:43: The decision is theirs to make.

1:07:44: It's theirs.

1:07:45: Absolutely.

1:07:45: If you want to be the person making that decision, you need to run for their office.

1:07:51: Where I work, the way that we always like to talk about it is, we do objective policy analysis for either the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, I'm not gonna use an acronym, or other federal agencies. And not just in the Trump era, but forever. If we do a research study and we hand it to our sponsor, and they say, "Well, that's not the answer I was looking for, that's not what I wanted to hear." We say, "Well, that's what our analysis gave us. And you're welcome to throw that in the trash. But this is the answer that we have." And they don't have to take it, do anything with it. They can put it away in a filing cabinet and never look at it again. And we'll be sad 'cause we worked really hard on it, and we really believe in it, and we feel like it's objective and it's our best attempt at providing them with a rigorous analysis. But they don't have to do anything with it, at the end of the day, if they don't want to. And that's, I think a good thing. That's how the process is set up to run. So that they can take in all of these different pieces of advice that they're receiving and make the decision that is best for their agency, or their constituents, or whoever they might be.

1:09:00: For those of you who attended a lecture, I think it was last semester, Shobita, when she released her most recent book. One of the themes and takeaways, that I hope all of you who attended that took away from it, was that there's more types of experts than just scientific experts. There's a vast array of expertise that's beyond just technical science. And we expect the people who we have chosen to lead our society, to take all kinds of expertise into account, and not just our own.

1:09:27: And that's really hard to do.

1:09:28: It's really hard to do.

1:09:29: That's a really hard thing to do.

1:09:36: Okay. So, in the wake of the uncertainties on the federal level with the way things are structured right now, do you guys expect to see a greater participation from state government, local government, nonprofits, citizen science movements and things like that? Have you already seen that, and do you expect it to continue?

1:09:52: Yeah, from a research funding level, there's been some... There's been big increases at the state level. I think most of it driven by like five states, but still... But the only issue only regarding funding, my comment is limited to funding only, is that even with different sectors stepping up, especially with high risk long-term projects, that needs not just a budget but a consistent budget. And I think the last time, the last numbers I looked at were that the state contribution combined was like 1% of the federal investment in that sector. So, it's a tough thing to do, but I still think it's interesting to see where compensation happens.

1:10:34: Yeah. And I would say, you'll see it happen in different sectors first. There are some state level agencies that function much better as a state type of agency. For example, the Department of Transportation is probably more effective at a state and local level than it is at the federal level. And there's many examples like that.

1:10:57: I think there's a lot of opportunity for state and local jurisdictions to really fill the space that is perceived to being left right now. It goes back to what we said at the beginning, of decisions are made somewhere. So, yeah, I do think that there's a rise of opportunity. I think, this is pretty gross, but I think for a number of decades even, there was a perception that there's a lower quality of worker at the state level, and I think that that's totally false. It's completely false. I think that there's a lot of really, really gratifying work at the state or local level. And quite frankly, the federal government is really largely about funding and rules around funding. There's other things too, but the bulk of policy at the federal level is pretty intimately connected to those two things. And the state and local level is about putting steel in the ground.

1:11:50: One of the coolest projects that I ever got the chance to work on at the Department of Energy, was actually... It wasn't at the Department of Energy, it was at the City of Detroit. I got to come home to my home city and work with Mayor Duggan in Detroit, to retrofit all of the streetlights to LEDs. I don't know if you guys have followed that news at all, I was part of that. I got to be a part of that. And it wasn't because the federal government solved the problem, it was that the federal government came in as a productive partner and said, "You, state locality, state or location, city, city government. What do you want? We have expertise that we can help you figure out what you want if you don't know, and we can help you lead it." I think, to me, that's the future of effective state and national and local interactions, of trying to give localities the space and breathing room to decide what's best for them. And then, using federal resources, whatever they may be, to solve the problems as they've framed them.

1:12:48: Yeah.

1:12:48: And I think that for... I have seen... That does give me a lot of hope that I've seen some productive movement into that space of stopping this "We at the national government must know what's right," and instead of saying, "You, this person who lives in this town, tell me what you need."

1:13:05: Yeah. And that's definitely something that is just always... I'm constantly being reminded of, no matter what the science policy topic of the day I'm looking at, is that the federal government can only do so much in a certain science space. It's, a lot of the times, it really comes down to municipalities or local governing bodies or authorities, and those types of things that are really actually doing the work, and creating the incentives, building the plants, or whatever. And the federal government can really just set up that framework, and that's really useful, it enables a lot of states and localities to do things that maybe they wouldn't have been able to do, but still, that... A lot of stuff. It blows my mind whenever we're working on things, like, "Oh, this is technically out of scope because the federal government just doesn't have a space here." And so I'm constantly being reminded of that as well.

1:14:01: And that's how it should be too, right? If you're trying to reduce this... Let's just say that the US government put out some goal on, I don't know, greenhouse gases. And then the State of California interprets that a certain way, and one of the programs in that is mass transit. The way that's gonna look in Fresno is gonna be very different than the way it'll look in San Diego, very different than the way it'll look in Humboldt County. So, it's really important to have that level of local interpretation and implementation on those activities.

1:14:27: Can I... This... At the risk of you all acting like, or assuming that a decentralization of science and technology policy is the way to go, which maybe it is, but I think... I guess I would be interested in your reflecting on, if science and technology policy retreats from the federal level and goes either to the state and local level to private actors, what do we lose? What are the kinds of things that either... What are the kinds of priorities that get lost? What are the kinds of projects that get lost? If this is a trend, which is everything should be local, what are the drawbacks of that?

1:15:14: So, I'm gonna complain just for one second about a word you used, that it's retreating from the federal level. I don't believe that that's accurate.

1:15:21: No, I'm not...

1:15:23: I think that the science and technology policy operations at the federal level are well staffed...

1:15:28: Yeah.

1:15:29: And are going to survive regardless of who is in office, or when, or what party, or whatever you think. And I'd actually be really interested to know if you guys agree with me, but to me, it comes off much more as a democratization of science and technology policy, of that not only have we built infrastructure and interest and expectation of science policy at the federal level, we now have an opportunity to show its value to the state and local level. So...

1:15:54: Yeah.

1:15:57: Yeah.

1:15:57: I think the normal Indiana citizen would assume that everyone at the federal level understands why science is important, but I think if you asked them why science policy or science itself is important to their small town, they would be hard-pressed to answer that question. And I think the moval of science and technical knowledge and science policy, writ large, into the state and local space, is an opportunity to more deeply connect the scientific enterprise to the actual lived lives of the citizens.

1:16:28: Yeah. I hope my... My example was just an example. I hope I wasn't making an argument for retreat and decentralization. But linking to what Chris said, just a way to engage as many communities as possible into an overall goal setting process for this work.

1:16:47: You have another question from Twitter that's sort of a follow-up to a variety of the comments that have been made so far. So far this panel has taken the position, it seems, that doing science policy really hasn't fundamentally changed under the Trump administration. Is that a correct understanding?


1:17:09: We all talked about that. That under any administration, things change. Under any different Congress, things change. And of course there are different priorities. You can compare the OSTP priorities memo that came out in 2017 to the last one that came out from the Obama administration, and you'll see they're actually really similar, and certain sentences might actually be the same. And so while there might be large areas of shifting focus, it's not as dramatic, I think, as the news would like to make it seem like it is. I remember we got calls... There was all these stories about the Office of Science within OSTP is empty, and that means OSTP is no longer in existence. That's not true, that... There are still people there. So it has definitely changed but it should have changed, and it did. Yeah, I'll leave it at that and then maybe we'll pick back up [1:18:20] ____.

1:18:20: Well, I'll just say that... I seem to be challenging the premise of questions a lot today. [chuckle] Fundamental to that question is an assumption that the science and technology policy enterprise is static, and that's just not true. I hope that that's at least something...

1:18:37: We didn't have AI projects five years ago, and now we do.

1:18:39: Yeah, I hope that that's at least something that we've communicated here is just like...

1:18:41: Sorry, artificial intelligence.


1:18:45: LED is light-emitting diodes. I got yelled at for that.


1:18:49: The problem is, you're gonna go back to DC and start spelling out all that...


1:18:53: They're gonna be like, "Why are you talking so much?"

1:18:53: [1:18:53] ____ unlearn...


1:18:55: I didn't know what LEDs are.

1:18:57: So a situation normal of science policy is evolution. It is change. I don't care who won the White House this time around, science policy should have changed from one administration to the next. Science policy changed from the first Obama term to the second Obama term. That's how it's supposed to work. We change as a society, and especially in our understanding of how science and technology impacts our daily lives. That's changing at a much more rapid rate, I think, than it was for my parents and certainly more than it was for their parents. Change is our new normal, and we have to stop being afraid of that.

1:19:31: Yep, I'm just literally gonna echo what you said. Right, science changes, tech changes, societies change, and priorities of leadership change. And all these comments from today are focused on science and technology policy under the current... Yeah.

1:19:45: Okay. Well, we're at 5:30, so we'll go ahead and wrap up. Please join me in thanking our speakers.