Department of Energy science office leader who focused on DEI initiatives to step down at end of month

The U.S. Department of Energy Office (DOE) of Science head, Asmeret Asefaw Berhe, who implemented a policy requiring grant applications to provide plans on how their research projects advance diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is stepping down at the end of the month, according to reports.

The American Institute of Physics (AIP) reported that Berhe will step down from her position on March 28 after spending nearly two years in her role.

President Biden nominated Berhe, who, according to her profile on the DOE website, has a background in soil biogeochemistry, in April 2021. Nearly a year later, she was confirmed by the Senate in a 54-45 vote, with only four republicans approving her designation.

Within Berhe’s first year, she helped implement a requirement in October 2022, for grant applicants to provide plans with their applications, advising how their research projects will advance DEI.

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Asmeret Asefaw Berhe, who was appointed as the Department of Energy Office of Science head, is stepping down after nearly two years in the role. (Department of Energy Website)

The requirement was part of the Promoting Inclusive and Equitable Research (PIER) plan and was implemented in FY 2023.

The PIER Plan requirement was for applicants to “describe the activities and strategies applicants will incorporate to promote diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in their research projects,” the Office of Scientific and Technical Information website reads. Once submitted, the PIER Plans will then be evaluated.

“The Office of Science (SC) is deeply committed to supporting diverse, equitable, inclusive, and accessible work, research, and funding environments that value mutual respect and personal integrity, and SC is committed to promoting people of all backgrounds, including individuals from groups and communities historically underrepresented in STEM field and SC activities in recognition of our responsibility to serve the public,” the site reads.

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Berhe also oversaw two other workforce diversity programs rollout, including RENEW and FAIR.

RENEW – an acronym for Reaching a New Energy Sciences Workforce – was a $56 million initiative to provide research opportunities to historically underrepresented groups and institutions in STEM, which was announced in January 2023.

“Science needs to hear from all American voices and the RENEW initiative will provide more opportunities to bring diverse perspectives into our disciplines,” Berhe said when the program was announced. “These new and innovative ideas will help solve the big science challenges we are facing now and in the future.”

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Signage stands outside the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) headquarters in Washington, D.C., U.S, on Friday, Feb. 14, 2020. Industry leaders privately warned the Trump administration that the U.S. will struggle to deliver the oil, gas and other energy products that China has committed to buy in a new trade deal, raising additional questions about one of the president’s signature economic achievements. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images (Getty)

The FAIR program – an acronym for Funding for Accelerated Inclusive Research – provided up to $35 million in funding during FY 2023 to help develop a “diverse, vibrant, and excellent scientific workforce,” while also contributing to the science innovation ecosystem.

AIP reported that in a letter to staff, Berhe said, “We worked to expand the STEM tent – tearing down long-standing barriers and forging new patches for people of all walks of life to enter and succeed in scientific careers.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Energy told Fox News Digital that Berhe also led the Office of Science through the dawn of the exascale era of high-performance computing with the launch of the Frontier supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Lab. The computer is the fastest at both traditional and AI computation, and the second most efficient of its type.

“Under Dr. Berhe’s leadership, the Office saw historic increases in funding, particularly for critical new technologies like artificial intelligence and fusion energy,” DOE Chief of Staff Christopher Davis said. “Programs she oversaw have made critical contributions to climate science, energy breakthroughs, and the advancement of emerging technologies, all while infusing the principles of equity, inclusivity, and accessibility. The Secretary and I are grateful for Dr. Berhe’s willingness to serve the American people and wish her and her the very best as she returns to academia.”

When Berhe steps away, she will reportedly return to the University of California in Merced, where she is a professor in soil biogeochemistry.

Berhe’s role will be temporarily filled by Harriet Kung, who serves as a deputy director in Berhe’s office, the AIP reported.

Greg Wehner is a breaking news reporter for Fox News Digital.

Story tips and can be sent to [email protected] and on Twitter @GregWehner.

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