AIBS Public Policy Report, Volume 22, Issue 18, August 30, 2021

  • Science Groups Underscore the Value of Collections, Peer Review in Comments Regarding ARPA-H
  • Coalition Urges Administration to Provide Visa Assistance to Afghan Scientists, Engineers
  • USDA Report Highlights Economic Impacts of the Biobased Products Industry
  • OSTP Holds Roundtable on Advancing Equity in Science and Technology
  • Biden Nominates NPS Director
  • BioScience Talks Podcast: The Climate Emergency in a COVID Year
  • Webinar Announcement: Funding Opportunities for Scientific Collections at NSF
  • Enter the 2021 Faces of Biology Photo Contest
  • Short Takes
    • NASEM Webinar: Assessing and Synthesizing Environmental Health Evidence
    • Decadal Survey on Biological and Physical Sciences Research
    • DOE Requests Input on Enhancing Biological, Environmental Research Portfolio
  • From the Federal Register
 

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Science Groups Underscore the Value of Collections, Peer Review in Comments Regarding ARPA-H

The American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) has joined the Natural Science Collections Alliance (NSC Alliance) and the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections (SPNHC) in submitting comments to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) on the new Advanced Research Project Agency – Health (ARPA-H).  OSTP and NIH are currently developing a scientific framework to outline the new agency’s potential research priorities and scientific portfolio.

The groups stressed the importance of biodiversity collections in improving the understanding of the linkage between biodiversity and human health.  “An important contribution to human health lies in preserving and documenting biological diversity,” wrote the groups.  “The development of break-through technologies and broadly applicable platforms, capabilities, resources, and solutions with respect to biodiversity will yield substantial benefits to human health if appropriate investments are made.”

The comments also stressed the importance of peer review.  “The OSTP and NIH must ensure that the research supported through ARPA-H undergoes independent peer review in order to ensure that its work is of the highest quality and to sustain public trust in its scientific work.  It is important to establish mechanisms to prevent the politicization of research funding by ensuring that grant review processes are independent and based on scientific merit.”

Coalition Urges Administration to Provide Visa Assistance to Afghan Scientists, Engineers

A group of 30 professional societies and academic organizations, including AIBS, have written to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) asking the Administration to provide visa assistance to Afghan scientists, engineers, and technical professionals seeking to leave Afghanistan.

“As the United States continues to evacuate vulnerable populations from Afghanistan, we ask that you extend assistance to engineers, scientists, and other educated professionals in the country, especially those who, despite all odds, have joined global technical communities,” the groups wrote.  “We specifically ask that you assist women in STEM in their exodus of Afghanistan.  Women and girls, along with their STEM mentors, are currently being targeted by the Taliban.”

Specifically, the letter requests P-2 Priority designation visas for volunteers and members of global professional societies to facilitate their evacuation from Afghanistan.  Read the letter.

USDA Report Highlights Economic Impacts of the Biobased Products Industry

A recent report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) highlights the economic contributions of the biobased products industry in the United States.

According to USDA, a biobased product is “a commercial or industrial product (other than food or feed) that is- (A) composed, in whole or in significant part, of biological products, including renewable domestic agricultural materials, renewable chemicals, and forestry materials; or (B) an intermediate ingredient or feedstock.”

The Economic Impact Analysis of the U.S. Biobased Products Industry, commissioned by the USDA Rural Development BioPreferred program, suggests that the biobased products industry is a “substantial generator of economic activity and jobs” and has a “significant positive impact on the environment.”  The analysis found that in 2017, the biobased products industry supported 4.6 million American jobs, contributed $470 billion to the U.S. economy, and generated 2.79 jobs in other sectors of the economy for every biobased job.  Furthermore, biobased products displace approximately 9.4 million barrels of oil annually, and have the potential to shrink greenhouse gas emissions by 12.7 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents per year.

The report takes into account seven sectors that represent the biobased products industry, including agriculture and forestry, biorefining, biobased chemicals, enzymes, bioplastics, forest products, and textiles.

OSTP Holds Roundtable on Advancing Equity in Science and Technology

On August 20, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) hosted the second roundtable on “The Time is Now: Advancing Equity in Science & Technology” series that explored “evidence-based, action-oriented” methods to address structural barriers to inclusive participation in science and technology.

“These barriers adversely affect the entire science, technology, engineering, medicine and mathematics (STEMM) ecosystem, stifling creativity, innovation, and growth, and stunting the trajectories of individuals from groups that have been historically underrepresented in these fields,” states a readout from the session.  Discussions delved into the reasons why recruitment and retention programs at some minority serving institutions and two-year colleges have consistently outperformed other institutions in terms of success for students from underrepresented groups.  Participants highlighted a number of key strategies that led to these successes, including “the cultivation of an institutional context in which discrimination was acknowledged, diversity was appreciated as a vital resource, and inclusion and excellence were understood to be inextricably linked aims” and “active and sustained recruitment and mentoring of students.”

This was the second session of “The Time is Now” five-part OSTP series designed to garner community feedback and stimulate candid conversations with researchers, thought leaders, and advocates on improving STEMM equity.  The OSTP is also accepting written input via email at equity@ostp.eop.gov.

Biden Nominates NPS Director

President Biden has nominated Mr. Charles F. “Chuck” Sams III to serve as the next Director of the National Park Service (NPS), a position that requires confirmation from the U.S. Senate.

Mr. Sams currently serves as a Council Member to the Northwest Power and Conservation Council and has worked in state and tribal governments and the nonprofit natural resource and conservation management fields for more than 25 years.  He has previously held a number of positions with the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, most recently serving as their Executive Director.  He is a veteran of the U.S. Navy and is also a former adjunct professor at Georgetown University and Whitman College.

Sams earned his bachelors in business administration from Concordia University-Portland and holds a master of legal studies in Indigenous Peoples Law from the University of Oklahoma.  If confirmed, Sams would become the first Native American to lead NPS.

BioScience Talks Podcast: The Climate Emergency in a COVID Year

The latest episode of BioScience Talks features Jillian Gregg, who is a coauthor of the 2021 update of the World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency.  She is affiliated with the Sustainability Double Degree program and the Department of Crop and Soil Science at Oregon State University.  Gregg discusses the latest climate update and the urgent actions needed ensure the long-term sustainability of human civilization.

Webinar Announcement: Funding Opportunities for Scientific Collections at NSF

Join AIBS, the Natural Science Collections Alliance, the Biodiversity Collections Network (BCoN), the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections (SPNHC), and the US Cultural Collections Network for a webinar with program directors from the National Science Foundation (NSF) about recent structural changes to collections-related funding opportunities at the agency.

Date: October 4, 2021

Time: 2:00-3:00 PM EST (this program will be recorded)

Speakers from NSF:

  • Reed Beaman, Program Director, Division of Biological Infrastructure
  • Peter McCartney, Program Director, Division of Biological Infrastructure
  • Roland Roberts, Program Director, Division of Biological Infrastructure

The collections community and stakeholders, including collection and data managers, curators, Sponsored Research Officers (SROs), and other administrators are invited to join us for a virtual learning session that will explore recent structural changes to NSF programs that support collections and how these might impact the community.  There will also be a discussion of new opportunities that currently exist or may be available in the near future.  The program will start with a presentation from NSF program directors responsible for collections-related programs at the agency followed by an opportunity for the community to ask questions.  Register here.

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

  • The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) study, Assessing Causality from a Multidisciplinary Evidence Base for National Ambient Air Quality, will review how effectively the Environmental Protection Agency’s Integrated Science Assessments (ISAs) determine causality of health and welfare effects of air pollutants.  Join the study committee for a webinar on September 2, 2021 at 4:00 PM EST, where Dan Greenbaum, President of the Health Effects Institute, will provide an international perspective, reviewing frameworks other countries use to assess causality of health and welfare effects of air pollutants.  Register here.
  • The Decadal Survey on Biological and Physical Sciences Research in Space (2023-2032) will develop a comprehensive strategy for the next decade of research in space, identify compelling science challenges, and guide funding priorities for federal agencies.  Join the National Academies for a two-part webinar series designed for early-career researchers to learn how they can get involved in the decadal survey process on September 2 and 14 from 2-4pm ET.  In addition, the National Academies are soliciting input through white papers on key science priorities and mission ideas for the coming decade of research in space.  Topical White Papers focused on single research topics are due by October 31, 2021.  Research Campaign White Papers that address broad goals and spanning multiple topics are due by December 23, 2021.  Learn more.
  • The Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science’s Biological and Environmental Research (BER) program, as DOE's coordinating office for research on biological systems, bioenergy, environmental science, and Earth system science, is seeking input on technical and logistical pathways that would enhance the BER research portfolio in comparison to similar international research efforts.  Written comments will be accepted until October 31, 2021

From the Federal Register

The following items appeared in the Federal Register from August 16 to 27, 2021.

Commerce

Energy

Health and Human Services

Interior

National Science Foundation

Office of Science and Technology Policy

 

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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