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White House to host closed-door summit on U.S. research enterprise

You’ll need an invitation to attend, but on 5 November the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) will host a 1-day meeting in Washington, D.C., to discuss a host of hot-button issues affecting the U.S. research community.

Several dozen university and industry leaders from across the country have been summoned by OSTP Director Kelvin Droegemeier to advise an internal committee he leads that is trying to harmonize research policies across all federal agencies. The impact of foreign collaborations on national security will probably be uppermost on the minds of attendees, some of them still reeling from aggressive efforts by the National Institutes of Health to enforce existing rules that require NIH-funded scientists to disclose all foreign sources of support. But the Joint Committee on the Research Environment (JCORE) is also tackling three other long-running challenges: how to combat sexual harassment in the workplace, how to reduce the administrative burden on grantees, and how to strengthen scientific integrity.

Droegemeier won Senate confirmation in January, filling a post vacant for the first 2 years of the Trump administration. In May, he appended JCORE to the government’s long-running in-house coordinating body, the National Science and Technology Council, and gave it the mandate to oversee policy deliberations on all four topics. Its four subcommittees have been meeting regularly, and the summit will be the first chance for outsiders to add their 2 cents.

Community leaders declined to speak on the record about the event, deferring to OSTP. The office’s communications director, Kristina Baum, told Science to “stay tuned” for more information and declined to say whether any part of the event would be open to the media or webcast. Previous events on specific topics—from the bioeconomy and the scientific workforce to quantum science and artificial intelligence—have been closed-door and invitation-only gatherings. On 14 November, OSTP and the White House Council on Environmental Quality will host a similar “summit” on the blue economy featuring academic and industry leaders in ocean science and marine technology.

Nine months into his job, Droegemeier has begun to make the rounds at regional town halls that allow for greater community participation. Earlier this month he visited the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, and yesterday he met with university and industry leaders from throughout South Carolina after keynoting the annual meeting of a federal program to promote geographic excellence in research hosted by the University of South Carolina in Columbia.

His message—praise for past achievements and a plea for greater vigilance—rarely varies. In a 16 September letter to the nation’s research community, for example, Droegemeier thanked them for “making America the world leader in science and technology” but warned them not to take that status for granted. “Breaches of research security and integrity position others to reap the benefits of your hard work without bearing the associated risks or making the investments borne by American taxpayers,” he wrote.

Participants at next week’s summit should expect to hear a similar exhortation. Those not invited to the event will likely have to wait for a White House press release to find out what took place.