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Latest Public Policy News

Public Policy Spotlight

Executive Order Suspends Work and Student Visas in the United States
23 June 2020

On 22 June, the United States Administration issued an executive order that immediately suspends the H-1B visa program and certain categories of the J visa program. The order, effective through the end of 2020, will not affect current visa holders or renewal of those visas but will prevent new applications from being processed. Notably, this suspension includes cap-exempt applications.

"This order is in complete disregard to the long history of US leadership in science and technology that relied on the brightest from around the world to come to learn, contribute, and innovate. The economy of today and the comforts we enjoy are living examples of the impact of international innovation and collaboration. Today's order questions the United States' desire to continue its role as the leader in science, technology, engineering, and medicine," said SPIE CEO Kent Rochford. "SPIE strongly disagrees with this executive order and its implications and will continue to support the international exchange of science, technology, and engineering."

Read the full statement from SPIE.


Other Policy News

Prioritizing the Immigration of Science and Technology Talent to Aid Rapid Recovery from COVID-19
20 May 2020

On 20 May 2020, SPIE joined several societies signing a letter to the U.S. President highlighting the importance of immigration to the U.S. scientific enterprise. The societies urge prioritization of science and technology immigration both of researchers and students to spur the scientific breakthroughs and economic growth of the United States that is needed for rapid recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read the letter.

U.S. Releases Narrow Export Control on Artificial Intelligence Software
7 January 2020

On 6 January 2020, the U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Industry and Security released an interim final rule to control software specially designed to automate the analysis of geospatial imagery. Though this export control goes into effect immediately through 0Y521 series procedure, which establishes a temporary control on the item to all destinations except Canada, in order for the control to stay in place beyond one year the U.S. must reclassify and establish the control on the Commerce Control List (CCL) under a specific classification entry.

The new export control narrowly applies to a graphical user interface that enables the user to identify objects. Artificial intelligence software that is capable of identifying “positive and negative samples of an object of interest” from geospatial imagery is a particularly useful tool for gathering military intelligence. Companies eyeing commercial markets utilizing similar AI technology should review this new control carefully to ensure that it will not impact current or future product lines. Comment period for this interim final rule was open until 6 March 2020.

SPIE is gathering feedback from its community on the impact of this addition to the controls. If you would like to share comments with SPIE on this matter, please contact SPIE Government Affairs Director, Jennifer O’Bryan, at JenniferO@spie.org.

On Behalf of the NSTC, the OSTP Posts Request for Information on the American Research Environment
26 November 2019

On behalf of the National Science and Technology Council's (NSTC's) Joint Committee on the Research Environment (JCORE), the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) requested input on actions that Federal agencies can take, working in partnership with private industry, academic institutions, and non-profit/philanthropic organizations, to maximize the quality and effectiveness of the American research environment. Specific emphasis was placed on ensuring that the research environment is welcoming to all individuals and enables them to work safely, efficiently, ethically, and with mutual respect, consistent with the values of free inquiry, competition, openness, and fairness.

The main purpose of the RFI was to get the communities' response to how the federal government can best handle science and security matters. The comment period closed 23 December 2019. Read More.

Panel Urges NSF to Elevate Status of Materials Research
31 October 2019

An expert review panel has proposed that the National Science Foundation create a directorate dedicated to materials research as part of a broader effort to focus national attention on the field.  Read More

USTR to Consider Extending Certain Tariff Exclusions on $34 Billion of Chinese Imports
28 October 2019

The US Trade Representative (USTR) announced that they will consider an extension of tariff exclusions that have been previously granted and are set to expire on 28 December 2019. Extensions granted will be for a twelve-month period. Information on how to apply for an extension is provided in the Federal Register notice. The deadline for extension requests is 30 November 2019.

Read the USTR press release and access the forms here.

This announcement from USTR comes on the heels of another announcement from USTR on 25 October that the US and China are close to finalizing the first phase of a trade deal. Secretary of Commerce, Wilbur Ross, has gone as far as to say phase one of a trade deal will be reached within the month of November. Though phase one of a deal is looking positive, China is less certain they will reach a deal on the remaining issues to be negotiated in phase two of the talks, which would require significant structural reforms in China and for the US to roll back the existing tariffs.  Read More

Stakeholders Chart Next Steps in National Quantum Initiative
6 June 2019

The White House convened a roundtable of federal agency and university leaders to discuss how best to structure new research centers and workforce development efforts created through the National Quantum Initiative.  Read More

Supporting the prioritization of photonics for Horizon Europe
15 February 2019

SPIE delivered the following letter to Carlos Moedas, the European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, and Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society advocating for the inclusion of photonics on the technology priority list for Horizon Europe, an ambitious €100 billion research and innovation program that will succeed Horizon 2020:

Dear Commissioner Moedas and Commissioner Gabriel,

On behalf of our nearly 4,000 individual members and 115 corporate members and the 5,000 photonics companies in Europe, SPIE the international society for optics and photonics, would like to encourage you to include Photonics on the technology priority list for Horizon Europe. The focus on Photonics as a Key Enabling Technology has been a critical driver in recent advancements in emerging and innovative fields like AR/VR, Autonomous Vehicles, Communications, Microelectronics, Space Technology and Industry 4.0, as well as vital foundational areas like security, data storage, health monitoring and agriculture, Photonics also underpins large-scale research efforts like the European Quantum Flagship, Extreme Light Infrastructure, the Human Brain Project, and international astronomy projects like ALMA and LISA.

The Horizon 2020 programme established Europe as a global leader in photonics research, technology and education. Continued prioritization and funding of this enabling technology by the European Commission is necessary to maintain a competitive global position in this innovative field that is at the heart of many critical and emerging technologies. Photonics fuels much of the world’s economic growth and impacts almost every facet of our lives from climate monitoring and communication to fabrication and noninvasive health care that reduces recovery time and cost. Photonics21 recently reported that the photonics sector is growing twice as fast as the global GDP and is expected to reach a production volume of €615 billion in 2020. The European Commission cannot afford to limit its leadership in Photonics at a time when innovation is determining the winners and loser of the new technology-driven economy. We encourage you to enhance the role of key technologies for European Union competitiveness and to include Photonics as an area of intervention in the new Horizon Europe Cluster on Digital and Industry.

About SPIE:
SPIE is the international society for optics and photonics, an educational not-for-profit organization founded in 1955 to advance light-based science, engineering, and technology. The Society serves 257,000 constituents from 173 countries, offering conferences and their published proceedings, continuing education, books, journals, and the SPIE Digital Library. In 2018, SPIE provided more than $4 million in community support including scholarships and awards, outreach and advocacy programs, travel grants, public policy, and educational resources. spie.org.

Kent Rochford

Download a copy of the letter here.

Congress Reshuffles Chairs of Science Panels
14 February 2019

The 116th Congress has ushered in new leaders for several committees with jurisdiction over science agencies.

The House and Senate committees with jurisdiction over science agencies have now finished filling out their leadership positions. These “authorization” committees conduct oversight of federal R&D programs and are gatekeepers for science policy legislation. Funding is handled through separate appropriations committees, which have also finished organizing for the current Congress.  Read More

Senate Confirms OSTP Director, Several Other Science Nominations Expire
4 January 2019

Just before the end of the 115th Congress, the Senate confirmed Kelvin Droegemeier as director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Nominees to lead the DOE Office of Science, DOE Office of Nuclear Energy, ARPA-E, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration were not considered.  Read More

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