ACS joins Energy Sciences Coalition letter to Biden transition

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December 17, 2020

Dear Dr. Arun Majumdar and DOE Transition Team Members:

The Energy Sciences Coalition (ESC) thanks you for your public service. As you prepare policy and funding recommendations for the incoming Biden Administration, ESC urges you to prioritize investments in the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science. The DOE Office of Science is critical to  advancing the fundamental science and early-stage energy technologies necessary to achieve ambitious net-zero goals; developing Industries of the Future and emerging technologies; and maintaining the highly skilled science and technology workforce that is essential for the United States to compete globally.

Scientific breakthroughs and energy technology innovation are still necessary to decarbonize the U.S. economy and mitigate the worst effects of climate change.  Office of Science-supported fundamental research forms the foundation for future energy technologies. The current imperative—energy systems that meet our energy security, economic, and environmental challenges—requires continued, robust investments in all areas of fundamental research to advance all energy systems, including energy storage, negative emission technologies, advanced nuclear, hydrogen, fusion, renewables such as wind and solar, carbon capture, storage and utilization, and next-generation fuels.  We encourage you to bring the programs, capabilities, and expertise of the Office of Science to bear in all these areas and to better integrate its work with the applied energy offices to accelerate progress.

Bold new investments in fundamental research are needed to stay ahead of international competition, maintain U.S. competitiveness, and create American jobs of the future in key energy sectors as well as new technology areas such as high-performance computing, artificial intelligence, biotechnology, and quantum information science. Given the current competitive landscape, ESC recommends significant increases in funding for the DOE Office of Science in the fiscal year 2022 President’s budget request. Specifically, this funding is needed to:

  • grow core research at national laboratories and research universities in the physical sciences, biological sciences, advanced materials, geosciences, computing and engineering to help develop future energy technologies and fully utilize new and updated world-class facilities and cutting- edge instrumentation, especially with ambitious goals to achieve net-zero emissions economy- wide no later than 2050;
  • prepare the next generation of American scientific and engineering talent through competitively awarded grants and significantly expand existing education programs, such as the DOE Office of Science Graduate Fellowship and Computational Sciences Graduate Fellowship, while also creating new programs to address the nation’s growing workforce needs in STEM and energy industries as well as meaningfully tackle issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion;
  • accelerate the construction and upgrades of world-class scientific user facilities and maximize operations to support the more than 36,000 researchers from academia, industry and federal agencies that rely on these facilities for their science and engineering pursuits;
  • advance new, strategic investments in innovative high-risk, high-reward research areas, such as quantum science and technology, genomics and engineering biology, microelectronics, next- generation communications, accelerator and laser systems, and artificial intelligence and scientific machine learning, and
  • maintain and grow multi-disciplinary centers focused on addressing scientific grand challenges, such as Energy Frontier Research Centers, Bioenergy Research Centers, Energy Innovation Hubs, and national quantum information science research centers as well as artificial intelligence co- design and microelectronics research centers.

To help guide these investments, ESC strongly recommends following the advice on research priorities and infrastructure investments of the six DOE Office of Science federal advisory committees.  Since their inception, the Office of Science advisory committees have provided valuable, independent advice on complex scientific and technical issues and they have been essential for engaging the scientific community in open and transparent processes related to user facility planning, assessment, ranking and prioritization.  They also help establish consensus across the scientific community on research priorities and goals. Recent examples include the fusion energy and plasma science long-range plan and recommendations on a future U.S. domestic high-performance reactor-based research facility for materials research and other applications.

DOE Office of Science is unique among federal science agencies, supporting the network of 17 DOE national laboratories—the crown jewels of the nation's research and innovation ecosystem— and directly stewarding ten of them. The DOE Office of Science also builds and operates the most sophisticated, world-class scientific user facilities used by research universities, industry and most federal agencies.

Another unique feature is science at scale. The DOE Office of Science has a long history of combining the talent and capabilities of the national laboratories’ unique science facilities, the country’s leading research universities, and industry to bring together multi-disciplinary teams to tackle fundamental science, energy, and national security grand challenges. The most recent examples are the national quantum information science research centers and the nation’s response to COVID-19.

The DOE Office of Science will continue to play an important role in the COVID-19 response as well as future pandemics and should receive continued support.  The DOE Office of Science established multi- disciplinary teams from all 17 national labs to address critical needs, such as improving capabilities for and ensuring effective detection of infection; expediting discovery of therapeutic drugs, including antibodies and antivirals, to complement vaccine development; providing epidemiological and logistical support to Federal, state and local decision-makers to more accurately forecast disease transmission; addressing supply chain bottlenecks for PPE, test kits, and ventilators; and understanding the spread of the virus in buildings and public spaces to assist in reopening the economy. Having demonstrated significant impact, investments in the DOE Office of Science should be sustained for ongoing response to  COVID-19 and for improved preparedness and science-based understanding to address future biological events.

ESC again urges you to prioritize funding for early-stage research and demonstrate to our global counterparts that the United States has no intention of ceding its leadership in science and technology.  To maintain this leadership and support proposed energy and climate change Earthshots, better transfer of knowledge and early technology development from the Office of Science to the applied energy offices is also essential to take full advantage of demonstration and technology commercialization efforts.

The United States must maintain its leadership in science, technology and innovation, and the DOE  Office of Science plays a pivotal and leading role in addressing this country’s energy, national security, and environmental challenges. We look forward to working with you in advancing the critical missions of the DOE Office of Science.


Christopher Carter

Leland Cogliani