Having trouble viewing this email? View it in your web browser

AIBS Public Policy Report

AIBS Public Policy Report, Volume 23, Issue 14, July 5, 2022

  • AIBS, NSC Alliance, SPNHC Urge Support for Collections in Conferenced Competitiveness Legislation
  • Scientific Societies File Legal Brief in Supreme Court WOTUS Case
  • Science Agencies Slated for Boosts in House Spending Bills
  • Supreme Court Limits EPA’s Ability to Reduce Carbon Emissions
  • Recision of Habitat Rule Opens More Areas to Protection
  • House Passes Legislation on New Medical Innovation Agency
  • NOAA Nominations Progressing
  • NSF Begins Search for Next BIO Assistant Director
  • You’re Invited to Take a Survey on Nagoya Protocol and Genetic Data
  • Help Inform Science Policy This Summer
  • Last Chance to Register: Writing for Impact and Influence Course Starts July 13
  • From the Federal Register

The AIBS Public Policy Report is distributed broadly by email every two weeks. Any interested party may self-subscribe to receive these free reports by email.

With proper attribution to AIBS, all material from these reports may be reproduced or forwarded. AIBS staff appreciates receiving copies of materials used. If you have questions, comments, or suggestions, please contact the AIBS Director of Public Policy, Jyotsna Pandey, at 202-628-1500 x 225.


AIBS, NSC Alliance, SPNHC Urge Support for Collections in Conferenced Competitiveness Legislation

AIBS, Natural Science Collections Alliance (NSC Alliance), and the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections (SPNHC) — the founding members of the Biodiversity Collections Network (BCoN) — have sent a letter in support of collections to congressional leadership and members of the conference committee working to reconcile the United States Innovation and Competition Act (S. 1260) and the America COMPETES Act of 2022 (H.R. 4521).

“We are writing today to respectfully urge you to ensure that the final conferenced bill includes robust sustainable growth in authorized funding for both existing programs as well as the new technology directorate at the National Science Foundation (NSF),” wrote the societies.  The groups also requested the inclusion of collections-related provisions in Division B, Title III of the America COMPETES Act—first introduced as the National Science Foundation for the Future Act (H.R. 2225)—in the final conferenced legislation.

The letter applauded the emphasis placed on the importance of sustained support for biological research collections in H.R. 2225.  Key collections-related provisions in the bill include 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.  These provisions are supported by the 2020 report on biological collections from the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine as well as the Extended Specimen Report from BCoN.

Read the letter.


Scientific Societies File Legal Brief in Supreme Court WOTUS Case

AIBS has joined the nine members of the Consortium of Aquatic Science Societies (CASS), the Ecological Society of America, and the Society for Ecological Restoration in filing an amici curiae or “friends of the court” brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in the Sackett vs. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) case.

The Supreme Court is set to make a decision this October on the appropriate definition of “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) to determine the scope of waters federally regulated under the Clean Water Act.  In particular, the court will rule on the proper test for determining federal jurisdiction over U.S. waters. 

The twelve scientific societies, which collectively represent more than 125,000 members, filed the brief because of the case’s potential impact on the integrity of aquatic ecosystems and resources in the U.S.  “The Clean Water Act’s singular objective ‘to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters’— can only be achieved by considering the science that demonstrates the critical role wetlands and streams play in supporting the health of downstream and downslope waters, including traditional navigable waters such as lakes and rivers,” the groups contend.

The Sacketts argue for a narrow test when determining EPA jurisdiction, favoring the test described by Justice Antonin Scalia in the 2006 Supreme Court case Rapanos vs. United States that says a covered wetland must have a “continuous surface connection” to a navigable water.  Federal courts, however, have favored the broader “significant nexus” test written by Justice Anthony Kennedy in his opinion in the 2006 case.

According to the brief filed by the scientific societies, “the significant nexus test is consistent with the science discussed in [the societies’] brief as it recognizes the contribution of wetlands and streams to the overall quality of traditional navigable waters.  In contrast, Petitioners’ proposed framework rejects hydrological reality, ignoring the science behind the ways in which wetlands and streams affect traditional navigable waters.  If Petitioners’ proposed ‘continuous surface-water connection’ to a traditional navigable water were required for wetlands, more than 50% percent of wetlands in some watersheds would no longer be protected by the Clean Water Act. Were such a standard applied to streams, ephemeral and intermittent streams would not be jurisdictional waters, and thus more than 90% percent of stream length in some watersheds would no longer be protected by the Clean Water Act.”

Read the amicus brief.


Science Agencies Slated for Boosts in House Spending Bills

Last week, the House Appropriations Committee advanced all twelve spending bills that would collectively fund the federal government in fiscal year (FY) 2023, approving healthy funding increases for several federal science agencies.

For some research agencies, including the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the budget increases proposed in the House bills fall short of the levels requested by President Biden.  Other agencies, like the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science, would receive larger boosts under the House proposal.

Science highlights from the bills include:

  • NSF would receive $9.6 billion, an increase of 9 percent over FY 2022.  Of this total, $7.7 billion would be directed to research and $1.25 billion would go towards STEM education.  President Biden requested a 19 percent boost for the science agency.
  • NOAA would be funded at $6.8 billion, an increase of 15 percent over FY 2022 and nearly $100 million below the level requested by the Administration.
  • NASA would get $25.45 billion (+6 percent) overall, with its science account slated for a 4 percent increase to $7.9 billion.
  • The National Institute of Standards and Technology is slated to receive a 20 percent increase in budget to $1.47 billion.
  • Within the Department of the Interior, the USGS would receive $1.6 billion (+18 percent); the National Parks Service would get $ 3.6 billion (+12 percent); the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would be funded at $1.9 billion (+ 14 percent); and the Bureau of Land Management would get a 10 percent boost to $1.5 billion.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency’s budget would be boosted by 20 percent to $11.5 billion.  Of this total, $873 million (+16 percent) would go to its science account.
  • The Smithsonian Institution’s budget would be augmented by 11 percent to $1.2 billion.
  • NIH would receive a 6 percent increase in budget to $47.5 billion.  In addition, $2.75 billion would be allocated to the new Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H), which received an inaugural budget of $1 billion in FY 2022.
  • Overall, $3.6 billion would be targeted to agricultural research programs.  The Agricultural Research Service would receive $1.8 billion (+3 percent), the National Institute of Food and Agriculture would get $1.8 billion (+9 percent), and the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative would be funded at $500 million, an increase of $55 million over FY 2022.
  • The DOE Office of Science would receive $8 billion, an increase of $525 million above the FY 2022 enacted level and $201 million above the President’s request. The Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) would see its funding grow by $100 million to $550 million.

The spending bills will now move to the House floor for consideration by the full chamber.  The Senate has yet to begin marking up any of its FY 2023 appropriations legislation.  Both chambers will need to pass all 12 appropriations bills or a stopgap measure before the end of the fiscal year on September 30 to avoid a government shutdown. 


Supreme Court Limits EPA’s Ability to Reduce Carbon Emissions

The Supreme Court ruled last week that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not have the authority to broadly regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.  The decision was 6 to 3.

Writing for the majority was Chief Justice John Roberts Jr.: “Capping carbon dioxide emissions at a level that will force a nationwide transition away from the use of coal to generate electricity may be a sensible ‘solution to the crisis of the day,’ but it is not plausible that Congress gave EPA the authority to adopt on its own such a regulatory scheme.”

Challengers argued that the EPA did not have authority from Congress to create broad regulations to cut greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants.  The case was unusual because the regulations in question haven’t been written yet.  EPA is expected to release the draft regulations next year.

This court decision will make it more challenging for the Biden Administration to achieve the President’s goal of carbon-free electricity generation by 2035 and carbon neutrality for the nation overall by 2050.  The Administration, however, will still have the ability to require power plants to become more efficient, even if they can’t force power plants to shut down.


Recision of Habitat Rule Opens More Areas to Protection

The federal government has canceled a Trump Administration rule that limited what could be considered ‘critical habitat’ for an endangered or threatened species.  This action expands the potential areas that are considered suitable for a protected species and therefore subject to protection under the Endangered Species Act.

The regulation that was rescinded went into effect January 15, 2021 and had limited habitat designation to areas occupied by a protected species at the time of the species listing.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which jointly implement the Endangered Species Act, found that the prior Administration’s rule “...was unclear and confusing and inconsistent with the conservation purposes of the [Endangered Species] Act…”

Under the new regulations, federal agencies will be able to make decisions about critical habitat “on a case-by-case basis using the best scientific data available for the particular species.”  The new rule also acknowledges the important role that habitat loss plays in species extinction and justifies the regulatory change by avoiding limitations on the federal government’s ability to designate critical habitat to areas currently occupied by the species.  For example, restoration activities could make an area suitable in the future or ecological shifts due to climate change could mean that new areas support a listed species.

Shannon Estenoz, the Interior Department's Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks, said in a statement that the change “will bring implementation of the Act back into alignment with its original purpose and intent and ensures that species recovery is guided by transparent science-based policies and conservation actions that preserve America’s biological heritage for future generations.”


House Passes Legislation on New Medical Innovation Agency

The House of Representatives passed a bill on June 23 regarding the administration of the newly formed Advanced Research Projects Agency-Health (ARPA-H).  The independent agency would be tasked with “foster[ing] the development of new, breakthrough capabilities, technologies, systems, and platforms to accelerate innovations in health and medicine that are not being met by Federal programs or private entities,” according to the text of H.R. 5585.

The bill is sponsored by Representative Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and passed the House 336 to 85.

ARPA-H was first proposed by President Joe Biden and was created by Congress in the consolidated appropriations package enacted in March 2022.  The legislation pending before Congress outlines more specifics about the organization and administration of the agency.

What’s notable about this bill is that ARPA-H would be housed in the Department of Health and Human Services—not in the National Institutes of Health, where the program is currently located.  Legislation being considered in the Senate (S. 3819) would keep the program at NIH.

The House and Senate bills differ in a number of other ways, including who the Director of ARPA-H would report to, caps on administrative costs, research funding eligibility, and more.

Both bills are currently pending in the Senate.


NOAA Nominations Progressing

The Senate is poised to move ahead with the confirmation of two top officials nominated to lead the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The nomination of Jainey Bavishi to serve as second in command at the agency has been on hold since last month due to an objection by Senator Susan Collins (R-ME).  The Senator’s concerns were not with the nominee, but rather with NOAA’s new rules for the lobster fishery put in place to protect endangered right whales.

The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee approved Bavishi’s nomination by voice vote in March.  Bavishi previously led climate resilience efforts for New York City, was Associate Director for Climate Preparedness at the White House Council on Environmental Quality, and Director of External Affairs and Senior Policy Adviser at NOAA.

Another NOAA nominee, Michael Morgan, was approved by the Senate committee last week.  Morgan is nominated to be Assistant Secretary for Environmental Observation and Prediction.  He is a professor in the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Both nominations are still awaiting final confirmation by the full Senate.


NSF Begins Search for Next BIO Assistant Director

National Science Foundation (NSF) Director Sethuraman Panchanathan issued a Dear Colleague Letter on June 21, 2022 announcing that the agency is launching a national search for the next Assistant Director (AD) for the Biological Sciences (BIO) Directorate.  Dr. Joanne Tornow, who has been serving as the BIO AD since February 2019, will be retiring at the end of September.

The letter solicits recommendations for the search committee to consider. Specifically, they are looking for candidates who are “outstanding leaders, have a deep record of scholarship, and understand the issues facing the biological sciences, particularly in terms of support for fundamental research, innovation, broadening participation, and workforce development.”

Recommendations, including any supporting information, can be submitted to the AD/BIO Search Advisory Committee via e-mail to biosrch@nsf.gov by Friday, August 12, 2022.


You’re Invited to Take a 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 July 22, 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. 


Help Inform Science Policy This Summer

Registration is currently open for the 2022 Biological Sciences Congressional District Visits event organized by the American Institute of Biological Sciences.

Now in its 13th year, this national initiative is an opportunity for biologists across the country to meet with their federal or state elected officials to showcase the people, facilities, and equipment that are required to support and conduct scientific research.  This initiative helps to put a face on science and to remind lawmakers that science is happening in their district and state.

The Biological Sciences Congressional District Visits event enables scientists, graduate students, representatives of research facilities, and people affiliated with scientific collections to meet with their federal or state elected officials without traveling to Washington, DC.  Participating scientists can meet with their elected officials at the local district office, virtually, or may invite them to visit their research facility.

“We were able to share with Representative Veronica Escobar’s (D-TX) District Director what natural history collections were and how important federal funding was to museums like us. This program was a great first step to building a relationship with our local elected officials and to let them know what resources there are in the area.”

- Dr. Vicky Zhuang, Biodiversity Collections Manager, University of Texas, El Paso

AIBS will once again organize the event this summer and fall in a hybrid format, with options for both virtual as well as in-person meetings and tours where feasible.  AIBS will schedule participants’ meetings with lawmakers and will prepare participants through online training and one-on-one support.  Meetings will take place mid-July through October, depending on the participant’s schedule and their lawmaker’s availability.

This event is made possible by the American Institute of Biological Sciences, with the support of event sponsors American Society of Primatologists, American Society of Plant Taxonomists, Botanical Society of America, Helminthological Society of Washington, Natural Science Collections Alliance, Organization of Biological Field Stations, Paleontological Society, Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections, and Society for the Study of Evolution.

Registration for participation is free, but required and closes on July 15, 2022.  To learn more and register, visit io.aibs.org/cdv.  


Last Chance to Register: Writing for Impact and Influence Course Starts July 13

The American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) is once again offering its popular professional development program to help scientists and students hone their written communication skills to increase the power of their message.

Writing for Impact and Influence provides practical instruction and hands-on exercises that will improve the participant’s general writing proficiency. The program will provide participants with the skills and tools needed to compose scientific press releases, blog posts, memoranda, and more, with a focus on the reader experience. Each product-oriented session will have an assignment (deadlines are flexible), with feedback from the instructor. The course is interactive, and participants are encouraged to ask questions and exchange ideas with the instructor and other participants.

Learn to write for stakeholders, decision-makers, and the general public, with a focus on perfecting the reader experience.

Who Should Take the Course?

  • Individuals interested in furthering their professional development by augmenting their writing skills.
  • Graduate students and early-career professionals interested in increasing their marketability to employers.
  • Individuals interested in more effectively informing and influencing segments of the public, supervisors, policymakers, reporters, organizational leaders, and others.

The course consists of six 90-minute online modules conducted live and will begin on Wednesday, July 13, 2022, with subsequent course sessions held weekly on Wednesdays, through August 17.  Individuals who actively participate in and complete the full course will receive a certificate recognizing that they have completed a nine-hour professional development course on business writing for scientists.

Register now.


From the Federal Register

The following items appeared in the Federal Register from June 21 to July 1, 2022. 




Environmental Protection Agency

Health and Human Services


National Aeronautics and Space Administration

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 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.

Website: www.aibs.org.

Unsubscribe or Manage Your Preferences