WASHINGTON, D.C. — URA hosted its Council of Presidents Annual Meeting and Policy Forum at Convene Conference Center in downtown Washington, D.C. on January 30, 2024.
Universities Research Association (URA) hosted its Council of Presidents (COP) Annual Meeting & Policy Forum on January 30, 2024, reporting on URA’s business activities programs and providing a forum for an exchange of ideas on advancing research programs across national laboratories and URA’s academic consortium. COP Chair, Dr. Garnett S. Stokes, President of the University of New Mexico, presided over the event which was attended by Presidents, Vice Presidents for Research, and other academic leaders in research from URA’s U.S. and international member universities.
The forum opened with a networking breakfast and policy discussion led by Justina W. Gallegos, Deputy Director for Industrial Innovation, White House Office of Science & Technology Policy, and Dr. Erwin Gianchandani, Assistant Director for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships (TIP) Directorate, National Science Foundation. The topic, “Universities as Engines of Applied Innovation to Achieve Our Nation’s Greatest Aspirations in Climate, Health, and Beyond,”, focused on avenues for universities to contribute to national science and technology priorities. Dr. Gianchandani discussed the recently announced inaugural NSF Regional Engines that will power transdisciplinary technology development over the next decades. There was an engaging conversation on the continued need to balance funding of foundational science with translational and applied research.
The Honorable Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL), U.S. House of Representatives, known for being the only Ph.D. physicist in Congress and for his championing of scientific research, emphasized the significance of generating a mobile and agile scientific workforce. He also offered a balanced perspective on the future of the U.S. economy in the context of competing interests in China and the importance of continued United States’ global leadership and sustained investment in future scientific endeavors.
Aligned with the future of physics in the U.S., Dr. Lia Merminga provided a brief report on Fermilab, sharing the lab’s vision to be the world leader in particle and accelerator physics. The report included updates on current and upcoming projects such as the Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility, the Proton Improvement Plan II, and the note that excavation was at 99% completion at the far site in Lead, South Dakota. From a STEM workforce development perspective, Dr. Merminga reported that Fermilab hosted 316 interns last year and encouraged further participation by member universities.
Dr. Eric Lin, CHIPS Research and Development Program Interim Director, National Institute of Standards and Technology, U.S. Department of Commerce provided insight on the agency’s R&D strategy via several programs including the National Semiconductor Technology Center (NSTC), the Manufacturing, Metrology, and Advanced Packaging Program and the newly launched non-profit, the National Center for the Advancement of Semiconductor Technology, or Natcast, which will serve as the focal point for research and engineering across the national semiconductor ecosystem.
The afternoon session opened with a research policy briefing on “Pathways to Innovation and Discovery in Particle Physics” provided by a panel comprised of Prof. Sally Seidel, University of New Mexico, High Energy Physics Advisory Panel (HEPAP) Chair; Prof. Hitoshi Murayama, University of California, Berkeley, Particle Physics Project Prioritization Panel (P5) Chair; and Prof. Karsten Heeger, Yale University, P5 Deputy Chair. These P5 leaders provided an overview of the collaboration process, priorities, recommendations, and level of needed R&D investment and innovation for the U.S. to implement the science-justified projects and programs agenda contained in the recently issued P5 Report.
The event concluded with presentations from the Chair of the URA Board of Trustees, Timothy Sands, President of Virginia Tech; URA President and CEO, John Mester; and URA Sandia Site Office Director, David Schultz. Collectively, these culminating reports highlighted URA’s consistent support in advancing the mission and goals of Fermilab & Sandia National Laboratories. URA continues to integrate research, science policy, STEM workforce development, to augment the management and operation of our national laboratories.
URA’s convening of leaders in research communities across academia, national laboratories, the executive branch, and Congress underscores the critical role of a diverse consortium of stakeholders in shaping the future of the national science and research enterprise. By providing this forum for open dialogue, collaboration, and knowledge exchange, URA is playing a role in ensuring that current government policies and the needs of our member universities are heard and that the pursuit of scientific discovery continues to flourish.