AIBS Public Policy Report, Volume 22, Issue 17, August 16, 2021

  • AIBS Council Meeting to Tackle DEI in Biology
  • Senate Begins Work on FY 2022 Appropriations
  • Senate Clears Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, $3.5 Trillion Budget Plan
  • UN Report: Climate Change is Widespread, Intensifying
  • OSTP Director Outlines Plan to Address Research Security
  • Enter the 2021 Faces of Biology Photo Contest
  • Short Takes
    • EPA Announces Members of Science Advisory Board
    • NSF BIO Seeking Program Director
    • Biodiversity Digitization 2021: Celebrating a Decade of Digitization
    • Nominate an Expert: NASEM Gulf Environmental Protection and Stewardship Board
  • From the Federal Register

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AIBS Council Meeting to Tackle DEI in Biology

AIBS has decided to expand the 2021 meeting of its Council of Member Societies and Organizations to engage like-minded organizations committed to increasing diversity in the biological sciences in a two-day virtual conference on November 4-5, 2021.

Scientific institutions increasingly recognize the need to remove barriers for individuals historically underrepresented in science and to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).  A wider breadth of scientific competencies—achieved by expanding DEI—is needed to address critical concerns with worldwide impacts.  Improving DEI requires a significant cultural shift, and scientific societies provide a unique platform to lead these cultural changes in the biological sciences.  Scientific societies represent a wide variety of individuals and institutions; they have access to multiple fields of biology to impart resources and education; and they can enable networking and idea sharing across many disciplines and organizations to empower new approaches.

AIBS is committed to increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the biological sciences, as described in our 12-month Diversity Plan released earlier this year.  Our council meeting this year is an effort to rally the biological sciences community to join us in our long-term commitment to improving DEI.

This year’s council meeting, supported by the National Science Foundation’s LEAPS program, will focus on Enabling Scientific Societies to Support Inclusive, Diverse, Equitable, and Accepting (IDEA) Scientific Environments. Creating IDEA scientific environments is critical for ensuring that science is equipped to address 21st century grand challenges.  The IDEA conference will provide a forum for leaders of scientific societies to engage in shared learning, discussion, and reflection about multiple topics related to IDEA scientific environments.  The conference will also offer tools for participants to develop action plans based on their discussions and will prepare representatives to take the knowledge, resources, and tools they have gained back to their organizations for further work.

Learn more about the program and how attendees will be selected.

Senate Begins Work on FY 2022 Appropriations

Before heading into their summer recess, the Senate Appropriations Committee advanced three fiscal year (FY) 2022 spending legislation, namely the bills for Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies; Energy and Water Development; and Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies.  The bills will now be considered by the full Senate.

The Agriculture spending bill includes an overall discretionary funding of $25.9 billion, which is an increase of $2.5 billion over FY 2021 enacted levels and slightly below the House allocation of $26.5 billion.  Research funding at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) would be augmented by $292 million over FY 2021 for a total of $3.6 billion.  The Agricultural Research Service (ARS) would operate at $1.72 billion, which is $193 million above FY 2021, $175 million below the President’s request, and $44 million below the level approved by the House.  The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) would receive $1.66 billion (+$87 million), which is almost $300 million below the budget request and in line with the House proposal.  The Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI)—USDA’s competitive grants program—would be funded at $445 million (+$10 million) under the Senate bill and at $450 million under the House bill.  The President has requested $700 million for AFRI, an increase of 61 percent over FY 2021.

The Senate’s Energy-Water appropriations bill would increase the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science budget by 7 percent to $7.5 billion, exceeding the Administration’s request by $50 million and the House’s proposed level by $170 million.  Biological and Environmental Research would receive a boost of 10 percent to $828 million, which is equal to the President’s request and $23 million more than the House bill.  The Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) is slated to receive $500 million (+17 percent) under the Senate bill, which is equal to the level requested by the agency and $100 million below the House’s proposed level.

The House previously cleared 9 out of the 12 appropriations bills for FY 2022, but is yet to pass the Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) spending bill, which includes funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).  Debate over the CJS measure was put on hold as a result of disagreements over conditions for state and local law enforcement funding and will resume after lawmakers return from their recess in September.  Both chambers will need to pass and the President will need to sign all 12 appropriations bills before the fiscal year ends on September 30 to avert a government shutdown.  

Senate Clears Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, $3.5 Trillion Budget Plan

Last week, the U.S. Senate voted 69-30 to pass an historic bipartisan infrastructure legislation containing billions for climate resilience and public transit.  Nineteen Republican Senators, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), voted in favor of the measure, which includes $550 billion in new spending.

Overall, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (H.R. 3684), would provide about $1 trillion to programs across federal agencies.  In addition to major investments in roads, bridges, railways, and public transit, the bill includes funding for broadband internet access, water and wastewater infrastructure, electric vehicle charging stations, clean transportation, and carbon capture efforts.  More than $500 million would go to initiatives within the U.S. Geological Survey.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration would receive $2.6 billion under the bill, including $492 million for mapping and forecasting inland and coastal flooding; nearly $300 million for habitat restoration projects; $20 million for consultations and permitting related to the Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act; and $50 million to predict, model, and detect wildfires.  The infrastructure bill now needs to be passed by the House before President Biden can sign it into law.

After passing the bipartisan infrastructure legislation, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) moved to pass a second, larger 10-year budget resolution totaling about $3.5 trillion and focused on President Biden’s economic and climate agenda.  The budget blueprint provides instructions for various committees to draft a budget reconciliation package that could pass both chambers by a simple majority.  The reconciliation process allows legislation to bypass a Senate filibuster and circumvent the 60-vote threshold.  

The budget framework provides the outline for a spending package aimed at expanding certain domestic programs and combating climate change by significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  Although the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill does not include any research dollars, the reconciliation package is expected to include some funding for research-related programs.  The plan includes $44 billion for programs under the jurisdiction of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee.  A memorandum for Democratic senators indicates unspecified investments in the National Science Foundation’s new technology directorate, climate research, and research infrastructure at Department of Energy National Labs and minority-serving institutions.  Overall, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation would be allocated $83 billion for climate resiliency projects and environmental research.  

On August 11, the Senate voted 50-49 to pass the budget blueprint along party lines.  However, the reconciliation package is likely to face an uphill battle, with some Democrats expressing reservations about the topline spending level.   “I have also made clear that while I will support beginning this process, I do not support a bill that costs $3.5 trillion,” said Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ).

The House is expected to come back from recess the week of August 23 to pass the budget resolution.  Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has pledged not to hold a vote on the bipartisan bill until the reconciliation package clears the Senate.  In response, a group of nine moderate House Democrats have indicated in a letter to Speaker Pelosi that they would withhold support for the $3.5 trillion budget resolution until the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill is signed into law—a move that could complicate negotiations over the two measures going forward.

UN Report: Climate Change is Widespread, Intensifying

According to a new report on the state of global climate science from the United Nation’s (UN) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), human activity is unequivocally responsible for warming the climate at an unprecedented rate.

The IPCC is the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change.  It was established in 1988 to provide political leaders with periodic scientific assessments about climate change, its implications and risks, as well as to recommend climate adaptation and mitigation strategies.  The latest report, prepared by Working Group I of the IPCC, is the first of three installments of the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report, which is expected to be completed in 2022.  The report has 234 authors from 66 countries and cites more than 14,000 references.

The report provides new estimates of the chances of surpassing the global warming level of 1.5°C over the coming decades.  It finds that unless there are immediate and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, limiting warming to 1.5°C or even 2°C will be beyond reach.  It estimates that greenhouse gas emissions from human activities are responsible for approximately 1.1°C of warming since 1850-1900, and finds that averaged over the next 20 years, global temperature is expected to reach or exceed 1.5°C of warming.

“Climate change is already affecting every region on Earth, in multiple ways,” said IPCC Working Group I Co-Chair Panmao Zhai.  “The changes we experience will increase with additional warming.”  The report projects an increase in the intensity of climate change in all regions in the coming decades.  With 1.5°C of global warming, there will be increasing heat waves, longer warm seasons, and shorter cold seasons. With 2°C of global warming, heat extremes would more often reach critical tolerance thresholds for agriculture and health.

Furthermore, the report projects that climate change will bring more intense rainfall and associated flooding, as well as more intense drought in many regions; coastal areas will experience continued sea level rise throughout the 21st century, contributing to more frequent and severe coastal flooding in low-lying areas and coastal erosion; and warming will amplify permafrost thawing, the loss of seasonal snow cover, and melting of glaciers and ice sheets.

“It has been clear for decades that the Earth’s climate is changing, and the role of human influence on the climate system is undisputed,” said IPCC Working Group I Co-Chair Valérie Masson-Delmotte.  In its previous assessment, which came out in 2013, the IPCC described human influence on climate change as “clear,” while the new report describes the anthropogenic cause of climate change as “unequivocal.”  UN Secretary-General António Guterres called the report’s findings a “code red for humanity.”

OSTP Director Outlines Plan to Address Research Security

In an August 10 White House blog post, the President’s science advisor and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), Dr. Eric Lander, shared the Biden Administration’s upcoming plans to address research security.

The OSTP intends to develop implementation guidance for the National Security Presidential Memorandum (NSPM-33) issued by the previous Administration to “strengthen protections of United States Government-supported R&D against foreign government interference and exploitation” while “maintaining an open environment to foster research discoveries and innovation that benefit our nation and the world.”

The guidance will address three major areas: ensuring that researchers supported by federal dollars appropriately disclose information about their “external involvements” and potential conflicts of interest to funding organizations; ensuring that federal agencies have clear oversight and enforcement policies regarding violations of disclosure requirements; and ensuring that research organizations that receive greater than $50 million in annual federal R&D funding maintain appropriate research security programs.

Three main principles will guide the Administration’s efforts on developing federal research security guidelines: protecting America’s national security and open science, ensuring federal policies and processes are clear and uniform in detailing what information needs to be disclosed by researchers and how, and ensuring that policies do not fuel xenophobia or prejudice.  “[I]t should never be acceptable to target scientists for investigation based on their race or ethnicity,” noted Dr. Lander.

The OSTP will be working in partnership with the National Security Council, Cabinet agencies, and other federal agencies through the National Science and Technology Council over the next 90 days to develop this guidance.  They are also asking the research community for input, which can be submitted via email to researchsecurity@ostp.eop.gov.

Enter the 2021 Faces of Biology Photo Contest

Enter the Faces of Biology Photo Contest for your chance to win $250 and to have your photo appear on the cover of the journal BioScience.

The competition, sponsored by the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) and the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology (SICB), recognizes scientists who use imagery to communicate aspects of biological research to the public and policymakers.

The theme of the contest is “Faces of Biology.”  Photographs entered into the contest must depict a person, such as a scientist, researcher, collections curator, 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 COVID-19 pandemic has changed how science is being conducted. You are invited to share how you are conducting your research in these unusual times.

The First Place Winner will have his/her winning photo featured on the cover of BioScience, and will receive $250 and a one year subscription to BioScience.  The Second and Third Place Winners will have his/her winning photo printed inside BioScience, and will receive a one year subscription to BioScience.

The winning photo from the 2020 contest was featured on the cover of the April 2021 issue of BioScience.

Submissions must be received by 11:59:59 p.m. Eastern Time on September 30, 2021.  For more information or to enter the contest, visit https://www.aibs.org/faces-of-biology/.

Short Takes

  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael Regan has announced a new roster of members for the agency’s Science Advisory Board (SAB).  EPA disbanded the panel back in March, stating that a “reset” was needed as part of a plan to restore scientific integrity at the agency.  The new slate is mostly made up of academic researchers, in contrast to the previous panel, which included a large number of industry representatives.  Of the 47 members selected, 19 have previously served on the board, including six members from the prior board that was fired by Regan and 13 other former members of the SAB or its standing committees.  “This highly qualified, diverse group of experts will ensure that EPA is receiving sound science-based advice to inform our work to protect people and the environment from pollution,” said Regan.
  • The National Science Foundation (NSF) is seeking a qualified candidate for a permanent Program Director position in the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences (MCB) under the Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO).  Applications will close September 1, 2021.  Learn more.
  • Join the U.S. National Museum of Natural History – Smithsonian (NMNH), Integrated Digitized Biocollections (iDigBio), and Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) for a two-day virtual event, Biodiversity Digitization: Celebrating a Decade of Progress, to be held September 22-23, 2021.  The first two decades of the 21st century have seen huge gains in the digitization and mobilization of the world’s biodiversity data.  Natural history museums and biodiversity collections on virtually every continent have collaborated across the globe to develop and harness a suite of emerging technologies and efficiencies.  These tools have liberated data from millions of species occurrence and biodiversity specimen records and fueled an ever-expanding network of high-quality research.  This conference is dedicated to celebrating these successes and to inspiring development of an even greater palette of accomplishments in the decades to come.  Register at https://bit.ly/3zDMcQS.
  • The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) is seeking experts to serve on the Gulf Environmental Protection and Stewardship Board.  The Board will advise the Gulf Research Program on its programmatic focus areas related to the protection and stewardship of environmental resources in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico region related to the effects of climate change; offshore hydrocarbon production and transportation; and other human activities.  Nominations will be accepted until August 18, 2021.​  Learn more.

From the Federal Register

The following items appeared in the Federal Register from August 2 to 13, 2021.  

Agriculture

Commerce

Environmental Protection Agency

Health and Human Services

Interior

National Science Foundation


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 over 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.

Website: www.aibs.org.

 

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