AIBS Public Policy Report, Volume 23, Issue 16, August 1, 2022
- Congress Passes Bipartisan Legislation to Bolster U.S. Innovation
- Senate Proposes Boosts for Research Funding
- Reconciliation Bill Revived as Manchin, Schumer Reach Agreement on Climate Spending
- House Passes PFAS Research Legislation
- White House Releases R&D Priorities for FY 2024
- AIBS Joins Letter in Support of Dr. Arati Prabhakar as OSTP Director
- Deadline Extended: Survey on Nagoya Protocol and Genetic Data
- Enter the Faces of Biology Photo Contest
- Short Takes
- Call for Nominations: NSF’s Alan T. Waterman Award
- Trump-era Habitat Rule Rescinded
- Nominations Sought: Review of the 5th National Climate Assessment
- Webinar Series on the NIH Data Management and Sharing Policy
- NASEM Seeks Nominations for Understanding the Rules of Life Program
- From the Federal Register
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Congress Passes Bipartisan Legislation to Bolster U.S. Innovation
After prolonged negotiations, Congress has passed a landmark bill to significantly boost semiconductor manufacturing and scientific research in the United States. Notably, the bill contains billions in research spending authorizations at the National Science Foundation (NSF) and Department of Energy (DOE).
The version ultimately passed by Congress is a slimmed-down version of the sprawling innovation and economic competitiveness legislation that was being developed through bipartisan conference negotiations to reconcile the United States Innovation and Competition Act (S. 1260) and the America COMPETES Act of 2022 (H.R. 4521). Negotiations had fallen apart in July, after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) threatened to derail any potential bipartisan agreement if Democrats continued to pursue a separate partisan reconciliation package focused on climate and social spending.
With increasing pressure from the Biden Administration to finalize the package prior to the August recess, momentum was starting to build to pass a standalone “CHIPS” measure to provide $52 billion in funding for grants to spur domestic semiconductor manufacturing. However, a bipartisan group of Senators moved quickly to negotiate and push for the research provisions to be included in the final bill. As a result, the research provisions were eventually added back into consideration, not long before the Senate voted 64-33 to pass the measure (H.R. 4346), now dubbed the “CHIPS-plus” package. The U.S. House voted 243-187 to pass the measure on July 28, sending it off to President Biden for his signature.
The $280 billion package includes $81 billion in authorized spending for NSF over 5 years, of which $20 billion would go to its new technology directorate and $61 billion would be directed to the agency’s core research directorates. NSF’s annual budget would more than double from $8.8 billion in FY 2022 to $18.9 billion in FY 2027. The bill would increase funding for NSF research activities for minority serving institutions and emerging research institutions across the country, by augmenting the allocation of research dollars to institutions in EPSCoR jurisdictions from the current level of 13 percent to 20 percent by 2029. EPSCoR, or the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, provides grants to help states strengthen their STEM research capacity. The bill also includes $13 billion in authorized funding for STEM education at NSF.
Notably, the “CHIPS” part of the package provides NSF with an appropriation of $200 million over 5 years to create a CHIPS for America Workforce and Education Fund to “kick start development of the domestic semiconductor workforce, which faces near-term labor shortages.”
Included in the research portion of the package, is a $50 billion five-year authorization for DOE’s Office of Science. This translates to an authorized budget of $10.8 billion for the office in FY 2027. The bill also includes a $10 billion authorization for the National Institute of Standards and Technology over 5 years. An additional $11 billion over 5 years is authorized for a network of regional technology hubs, funded by the Department of Commerce and focused on technology development, job creation, and expanding U.S. innovation capacity.
The bill retains key text supporting biological field stations and collections that were first introduced in H.R. 2225, a bill that came out of the House Science Committee last year and was endorsed by AIBS. Specifically, the legislation includes language reinforcing the need to sustain support for collection and digitization efforts, the need for specimen management plans, and the need to establish an Action Center for Biological Collections to facilitate coordination and data sharing among communities of practice for research, education, workforce training, evaluation, and business model development. The bill calls on NSF to support “enhancing, repairing and maintaining research instrumentation, laboratories, telecommunications and housing at biological field stations and marine laboratories.”
The CHIPS-plus bill also retains several other science provisions from H.R. 2225, including a measure to create a federal initiative on the bioeconomy to advance engineering biology research and a measure to expand research on the causes and consequences of sexual harassment impacting the STEM workforce.
In June, AIBS had sent a letter to Congress urging the inclusion of collections support in the finalized legislation. AIBS had also joined 34 other science, engineering, and higher education organizations in sending a joint letter to congressional leaders asking them to finalize and pass a bipartisan agreement by the end of July.
Senate Proposes Boosts for Research Funding
On July 28, 2022, the Senate Appropriations Committee released drafts of all twelve appropriations bills for fiscal year (FY) 2023, proposing significant funding increases for many science agencies.
The overall $1.7 trillion appropriations package includes $653 billion in non-defense discretionary spending (+10 percent) and $850 billion in defense discretionary spending (+8.7 percent).
The Senate spending bills call for robust federal support for research in general, with several agencies looking at a more than 10 percent increase in budget compared to FY 2022, including the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Science highlights from the Senate’s spending plan include:
- NSF is slated to receive $10.3 billion in FY 2023, an increase of 17 percent compared to FY 2022. In comparison, the President requested $10.5 billion for the science agency, while the House has called for a much smaller increase of 9 percent to $9.6 billion. The research account at NSF would be augmented by 16 percent under the Senate plan, which supports the agency’s proposal to launch a $200 million network of regional innovation engines or ‘NSF Engines’ and directs NSF to award at least 20 percent of those funds to institutions in states that participate in the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR).
- NOAA would receive an 11 percent increase to $6.5 billion under the Senate plan, compared to a 16 percent increase under the House bill.
- The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is looking at an 8 percent increase under the Senate plan and a 6 percent increase under the House plan. The Senate bill calls for a 6 percent increase for NASA’s science account, with a 14 percent boost for earth science.
- NIST is slated for a whopping 38 percent increase under the Senate bill, while the House has called for a smaller, but still significant 20 percent increase.
- The National Institutes of Health (NIH) would be funded at nearly 48 billion (+4 percent) under the Senate plan. This includes a flat budget of $1 billion for the new Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H). The House, on the other hand, would provide NIH with $50.25 billion, of which $2.75 billion would go to ARPA-H.
- The Senate plan calls for a 9 percent budget increase for the U.S. Geological Survey, roughly half the level of increase proposed by the House. Funding for the Ecosystems Mission Area would grow by 13 percent to $315 million under the Senate plan, while the House bill has proposed a 29 percent boost for the biological research arm of the U.S. Department of Interior.
- The National Park Service would receive a 10 percent funding increase, with its resource stewardship account slated for 36 percent boost; the Bureau of Land Management would get a 9 percent increase in budget; and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would get a 12 percent boost. The House has proposed slightly higher, but comparable increases for these Interior agencies.
- EPA is looking at an 11 percent increase to $10.6 billion under the Senate plan, and a 20 percent bump under the House plan. The President has requested a budget of $11.9 billion (+24 percent) for the regulatory agency. The Senate proposal would boost science at EPA by 12 percent to $853 million, which is $11 million below the President’s proposed level and $19 million less than the House bill.
- Within the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) would receive $1.9 billion (+9 percent), the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) would get $1.7 billion (+3 percent) and the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) would receive $455 million (+2 percent). The House plan would provide increases of 2, 9, and 12 percent for ARS, NIFA, and AFRI, respectively.
- Under the Senate plan, the Department of Energy Office of Science would see its budget grow by 8 percent to $8.1 billion, of which $914 million (+12 percent) would be directed to biological and environmental research (BER). The House plan includes $8 billion for the office and $840 million for BER. Both chambers’ proposed levels for the Office of Science are higher than the President’s requested budget of $7.8 billion (+4 percent).
- The House, Senate, and President have all called for a budget of $1.2 billion (+ 11 percent) for the Smithsonian Institution.
The Senate Appropriations Committee decided to skip the markup process this year after failing to reach an agreement on overall spending levels. Instead, the release of the Senate bills will jumpstart negotiations between the two chambers, with the goal of passing an omnibus spending package by the end of the year. The House approved 6 of their 12 spending bills on July 20, but it is currently unclear if the chamber will vote on the remaining bills prior to an agreement with the Senate on final numbers (see here for details about the House appropriations bills). It is unlikely that the bills will be finalized before the midterm elections in November, which means that Congress will need to pass a stopgap measure by September 30 to avoid a government shutdown.
Reconciliation Bill Revived as Manchin, Schumer Reach Agreement on Climate Spending
In a surprising turn of events, Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) announced last week that he had reached an agreement on climate spending with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), after more than 18 months of negotiations. Only a few weeks ago, climate negotiations seemed to have fallen apart after Machin declared that he “unequivocally” wouldn’t support a reconciliation package that included climate and clean energy provisions.
The new deal would make a historic investment of roughly $369 billion in efforts to address climate change. According to an estimate by Senate Democrats, the legislation—named the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022—would allow the U.S. to reduce emissions by 40 percent compared to 2005 levels by 2030. It would also shrink the federal deficit by approximately $300 billion. “That’s the biggest deficit reduction in the 15 years that I have been here,” said Senator Jon Tester (D-MT).
In addition to injecting billions of dollars in climate and energy programs, the proposal would allow Medicare to negotiate for lower prescription drug prices, extend the expanded Affordable Care Act subsidies through 2025, and impose a 15 percent minimum tax on corporations.
The climate portion of the package includes $60 billion for environmental justice programs; billions for conservation, reforestation, and wildfire programs at the U.S. Department of Agriculture; clean energy tax credits; $1.5 billion for a methane emissions reduction program; and millions to address a historic drought in the US. “This legislation will be the greatest pro-climate legislation that Congress has ever passed,” said Majority Leader Schumer.
The deal also includes $121 million for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to address the threat of invasive species, increase the resiliency and capacity of habitats and infrastructure to withstand climate change, and reduce the damage caused by climate-induced weather events. USFWS would get an additional $125 million to develop and implement species recovery plans under the Endangered Species Act. The package also contains $250 million for conservation, ecosystem, and habitat restoration projects on lands administered by the National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) would receive $2.6 billion for the conservation, restoration, and protection of coastal and marine habitats and to support coastal resilience programs. In addition, NOAA would get $200 million for climate research and forecasting and $200 million to support facilities construction and infrastructure improvements.
The agreement also calls for a separate permitting reform legislation to be passed before the end of the fiscal year—an essential component of the deal, according to Manchin. It is unclear what these reforms would look like, but they’re expected to cut down permitting times for both clean energy and fossil fuel infrastructure projects. Such a measure could draw bipartisan support in Congress.
Democrats plan to pass the climate agreement through the budget reconciliation process, which will allow such legislation to pass both chambers by a simple majority.
House Passes PFAS Research Legislation
The House has approved bipartisan legislation to advance the understanding of hazardous per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). PFAS are man-made chemicals found in firefighting foam, carpets, and packaging and have been dubbed ‘forever chemicals’ since they don’t easily break down.
The Federal PFAS Research Evaluation Act (H.R. 7289), sponsored by Representatives Lizzie Fletcher (D-TX) and Peter Meijer (R-MI), would direct the Environmental Protection Agency to partner with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to conduct a study to identify knowledge gaps on PFAS, estimate human exposure to PFAS, and assess strategies for treating PFAS contamination. Additionally, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy is charged with creating an implementation plan, based on these studies, for federal research, development, and demonstration activities related to PFAS.
“Despite the shocking findings on the prevalence of PFAS in the human body, there’s little data that examines the long-term health and environmental implications of these artificial chemicals,” said Representative Don Beyer (D-VA), referring to a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that found PFAS in the blood of 97 percent of Americans.
“Research done to date shows that PFAS chemicals accumulate in our bodies for long periods of time,” stated Representative Fletcher. “We need to know the health risks they pose and how we can reduce those risks.”
The bill passed the House with a vote of 359-62.
White House Releases R&D Priorities for FY 2024
On July 22, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released their annual research and development (R&D) priorities memorandum that provides guidance to federal agencies as they develop their budget requests for fiscal year (FY) 2024.
The memo primarily builds on the White House’s research priorities from last year. Among the issues highlighted are:
- Preparing for and preventing pandemics
- Reducing the death rate from cancer by half
- Tackling climate change
- Advancing national security and technological competitiveness, with continued priority to critical and emerging technologies, such as AI, quantum information science, biotechnology, and biomanufacturing.
- Innovating for equity
- Cultivating an equitable STEM education, engagement, and workforce ecosystem
- Promoting open science and community-engaged R&D
The memo includes a new section on international cooperation that asks agencies to “leverage international datasets and expertise, participate in multinational standards-setting bodies and scientific and technical organizations, and enhance international cooperation, including through joint projects, people exchanges, and co-development and co-production initiatives.”
The directive once again highlights nature-based solutions for climate change mitigation and adaptation, including protecting and restoring terrestrial, freshwater, coastal, and ocean ecosystems. It calls on agencies to promote R&D efforts to synthesize knowledge of the connections between nature, climate, economy, and society through the Biden Administration’s National Nature Assessment initiative.
Regarding open science, the memo expounds: “To build a trustworthy, responsive, ethical, and engaged U.S. scientific and technological enterprise, agencies should invest in making Federally funded R&D accessible to the public in accessible, interoperable, reusable, equitable, secure, and trustworthy way.”
With respect to STEM education, the memo asks agencies to consider several priorities when formulating their budgets, including “engaging and motivating our Nation’s students in STEM pursuits; preparing and supporting our Nation’s STEM educators and institutions; increasing opportunity and reducing bias in our learning and working environments; training, reskilling, and upskilling of our STEM workforce; spurring innovation and entrepreneurship in our research communities; fostering international STEM collaborations that significantly increase domestic and global STEM talent; and attracting STEM talent from abroad.”
Further details can be found here.
AIBS Joins Letter in Support of Dr. Arati Prabhakar as OSTP Director
AIBS has joined a science community letter in support of Dr. Arati Prabhakar as Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). The letter was sent to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation on July 18, ahead of Dr. Prabhakar’s confirmation hearing.
“Dr. Prabhakar is a proven leader who brings the right mix of multisector experience in government, industry, and academia, making her an outstanding choice to join the Cabinet as the OSTP Director,” reads the letter. “Dr. Prabhakar is the ideal scientist and leader for this crucial role, and we urge Congress to approve her nomination as swiftly as possible.”
Deadline Extended: Survey on Nagoya Protocol and Genetic Data
With support from the National Science Foundation and in partnership with 18 scientific societies, the American Institute of Biological Sciences and the USA Nagoya Protocol Action Group organized six virtual workshops between October and December of 2021. The series engaged the global scientific community in discussions about the value of digital sequence information (DSI) across numerous scientific disciplines, how DSI is currently shared and used, and challenges that may emerge from explicitly including or excluding DSI under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and/or the Nagoya Protocol.
The workshop organizers want to hear from the international research community. Please take the survey linked below to help us develop informative resources about international science policy related to the sharing of DSI for scientists, educators, and biodiversity collection managers. The survey will remain open through August 4, 2022 and will take about 20-25 minutes to complete. Aggregated survey information will be used to develop strategies and solutions to challenges posed by potential changes in international policy that would impact the sharing of DSI.
Enter the Faces of Biology Photo Contest
Enter the Faces of Biology Photo Contest for a chance to win $250 and to have your photo appear on the cover of the journal BioScience.
The competition recognizes scientists who use imagery to communicate aspects of biological research to the public and policymakers. Once again, this year's competition is sponsored by the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology in addition to the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS).
“Art and science are inextricably linked to effective communication,” said Scott Glisson, Chief Executive Officer of AIBS. “This contest provides a forum for expression, inspiration, and technical skill. The creativity involved is magnificent.”
The theme of the contest is “Faces of Biology.” Photographs entered into the competition must depict a person, such as a scientist, technician, or student, engaging in biological research. The depicted research may occur outside, in a lab, with a natural history collection, on a computer, in a classroom, or elsewhere.
The winning photo from the 2021 contest was featured on the cover of the April 2022 issue of BioScience.
Submissions must be received by 11:59:59 p.m. Eastern Time on September 30, 2022. For more information or to enter the contest, visit our website.
- The National Science Foundation (NSF) is seeking nominations for the 2023 Alan T. Waterman Award from July 18 to September 16, 2022. The Alan T. Waterman award is NSF’s Highest Honor. It recognizes an outstanding early career researcher in any field of science or engineering supported by the NSF. In addition to a medal, the awardee receives a grant of $1,000,000 to use over a five-year period for scientific research or advanced study in the mathematical, physical, biological, engineering, social, or other sciences at the institution of the recipient's choice. An informational webinar is scheduled for August 5 from 11:00 AM to 12:00 PM (ET). Register here.
- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has rescinded a key Endangered Species Act (ESA) regulation, finalized under the Trump Administration, that made it easier to shrink critical habitats—areas considered essential for species recovery. “This rule will allow our biologists to ensure critical habitat designations contribute to the conservation of ESA-listed species,” said USFWS Director Martha Williams. “Today’s action helps the [USFWS] implement the ESA in ways that support sound science and citizen participation.”
- The National Academies’ Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate and Board on Environmental Change and Society are soliciting nominations for a new ad hoc committee to conduct an independent technical review of the 5th National Climate Assessment draft report, which is expected to be made available for review in late fall 2022. The report is intended to provide an up-to-date evaluation and summary of the current and projected impacts of climate change on the United States, with detailed discussion of regional effects. Nominations of experts can be submitted by August 1, 2022.
- The National Institutes of Health Health (NIH) is hosting a two-part webinar on Implementing the NIH Data Management and Sharing Policy. In this series, NIH policy experts will break down what the policy means for stakeholders and help the community get ready to successfully implement the policy when it takes effect on January 25, 2023. Registration is required for the webinars, which will take place on August 11 and September 22, 2022.
- The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) is requesting nominations for an ad hoc planning committee to review multi-disciplinary collaboration and scientific advances in the National Science Foundation’s Understanding the Rules of Life Big Idea program (URoL). Nominations are sought by August 16, 2022 for experts in fields including various life science disciplines and policy, STEM education, research administration, and team science.
The American Institute of Biological Sciences is a non-profit 501(c)3 public charity organization that advances the biological sciences for the benefit of science and society. AIBS works with like-minded organizations, funding agencies, and political entities to promote the use of science to inform decision-making. The organization does this by providing peer-reviewed or vetted information about the biology field and profession and by catalyzing action through building the capacity and the leadership of the community to address matters of common concern.
Founded in 1947 as a part of the National Academy of Sciences, AIBS became an independent, member-governed organization in the 1950s. Today, AIBS has more than 100 member organizations and has a Public Policy Office in Washington, DC. Its staff members work to achieve its mission by publishing the peer-reviewed journal BioScience, by providing scientific peer-review and advisory services to government agencies and other clients, and by collaborating with scientific organizations to advance public policy, education, and the public understanding of science.