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AIBS Public Policy Report, Volume 23, Issue 7, March 28, 2022

  • New in BioScience: A Call for Community Self-Governance on Digital Sequence Information Sharing
  • Societies, Scientists Join AIBS in Calling for Open Access to Digital Sequence Information
  • NSF Launches New Directorate for Technology, Innovation, and Partnerships
  • Senate Panel Approves Pandemic Legislation with ARPA-H Authorization
  • NASEM Releases ‘Physics of Life’ Decadal Survey Report
  • AIBS Expresses Support for STEM Immigration Provision in America COMPETES Act
  • AIBS Endorses Letter in Support of Scientific Integrity Legislation
  • NIH Seeks Input on Draft Framework for DEI Strategic Plan
  • NSF Workshops: Using the Rules of Life to Address Societal Challenges
  • Develop the Skills to Become Effective Team Scientists  
  • Prepare Your Resume, Hone Your Interview Skills
  • Short Takes
    • NSF Informational Webinar on National Medal of Science
    • Senate Confirms OMB Director Nominee
    • Nominate Experts for NASEM Committee to Counter Misleading Information about Biological Threats
  • From the Federal Register
 

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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.

 

New in BioScience: A Call for Community Self-Governance on Digital Sequence Information Sharing

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Nagoya Protocol (NP) are multilateral agreements aimed at conserving biodiversity, promoting sustainable use of biological components, and facilitating the equitable sharing of the benefits arising from genetic resources. Although widely considered to be born of good intentions, the access and benefit sharing (ABS) framework introduced under these agreements have been criticized for introducing bureaucratic hurdles to effective biodiversity conservation and other scientific endeavors, such as responding to infectious disease outbreaks. A recent debate that has elevated concerns among the international scientific community focuses on whether ABS agreements should be expanded to explicitly incorporate digital sequence information (DSI)—a foundational component of many areas of biological research, including biodiversity conservation and biotech innovation.

In a recent BioScience Viewpoint, Rebecca A. Adler Miserendino, from Lewis Burke Associates, in Washington, DC, and a group of coauthors who organized a recent workshop series on this topic led by AIBS and funded by the National Science Foundation, discuss recent developments and provide community-generated recommendations for enabling effective ABS mechanisms related to DSI.

DSI, say the authors, is presently a contentious topic, with questions arising about what it includes and whether it should be covered under the CBD and NP—as well as concerns about the possible implications of its regulation under existing policy frameworks.

The authors call for policies that will preserve open access to DSI, enable international collaboration, be practical, efficient and cost effective to implement, ensure legal certainty, and account for both monetary and non-monetary benefits.  Failing to do so, they say, may hamper science’s ability to address grave threats to humanity, including biodiversity loss, food security, and global health.

Learn more.

 

Societies, Scientists Join AIBS in Calling for Open Access to Digital Sequence Information

An international coalition of 26 scientific societies and organizations and 122 scientific researchers and professionals from 34 countries, led by AIBS, is calling for continued open access to digital sequence information (DSI) on genetic resources.

In a letter to National Focal Points to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the coalition shared recommendations to inform ongoing policy negotiations about the treatment of DSI, such as genetic sequence data, under the CBD and the Nagoya Protocol (NP)—multilateral agreements aimed at conserving biodiversity, promoting sustainable use of biological components, and facilitating the equitable sharing of the benefits arising from genetic resources.

These recommendations emerged from an international workshop series organized by AIBS in partnership with 18 other scientific societies and are also captured in recent a Viewpoint article published in BioScience (see previous item).  The letter encourages negotiators to “mobilize the global scientific community to provide input to ensure that policies being considered will be implementable without restricting open DSI.”

“As policy options are considered, we also strongly encourage negotiators to make sure that the CBD Secretariat supports a detailed analysis of each policy option being considered for expanding ABS to address DSI, in consultation with broad stakeholders that include scientists, public databases, and professional societies,” urge the signatories.  “In particular, it is important to explore how each policy option would be implemented to avoid unanticipated impacts on scientific research and society.”

Read the letter.

 

NSF Launches New Directorate for Technology, Innovation, and Partnerships

On March 16, the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced the establishment of the Directorate for Technology, Innovation, and Partnerships or TIP—the agency’s first new directorate in more than 30 years.

According to NSF, the new directorate “creates breakthrough technologies; meets societal and economic needs; leads to new, high-wage jobs; and empowers all Americans to participate in the U.S. research and innovation enterprise.”  The directorate is charged with supporting and scaling use-inspired and translational research.  NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan says TIP will “accelerate discovery and innovation to rapidly bring new technologies to market and address the most pressing societal and economic challenges of our time.”

Through TIP, NSF plans to launch a set of integrated initiatives that will advance critical and emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, biotechnology, cybersecurity, microelectronics, and quantum computing; accelerate the translation of research results into real world applications; and support new education pathways to build a diverse and skilled technical workforce.  Notably, the new directorate will establish regional “innovation engines” throughout the nation, which will advance use-inspired research, entrepreneurship, and workforce development to empower regional industries and economies.

A large part of NSF’s existing innovation and translation portfolio, including the NSF Convergence Accelerator, Innovation Corps (I-Corps), Partnerships for Innovation, and America's Seed Fund programs, will be repositioned under the new TIP Directorate.

It was announced that the new directorate will be led by Dr. Erwin Gianchandani, who will serve as the inaugural NSF Assistant Director for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships.  Gianchandani previously served as the Senior Advisor for Translation, Innovation and Partnerships for over a year and as the Deputy Assistant Director for Computer and Information Science and Engineering for six years.  He has a background in computational systems biology and earned his bachelor's degree in computer science and his master's and doctoral degrees in biomedical engineering from the University of Virginia.

Congress approved the establishment of a new technology directorate at NSF when it passed FY 2022 appropriations legislation.  However, the new directorate’s name and scope are still being debated in Congress as part of competing authorization measures to advance U.S. innovation and competitiveness with China.  The U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (S. 1260), which was approved by the Senate last summer, proposes that the ‘Directorate for Technology and Innovation’ should advance research in 10 “key technology focus areas,” which should be periodically reviewed and revised.  The America COMPETES Act of 2022 (H.R. 4521), which was passed by the House last month, proposes that the ‘Directorate for Science and Engineering Solutions’ should broadly focus on applying research to address “societal challenges” such as climate change, STEM education, global competitiveness in critical technologies, national security, and social and economic inequality.  Lawmakers hope to negotiate a final bill by this spring.

 

Senate Panel Advances Pandemic Legislation with ARPA-H Authorization

The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee has advanced bipartisan legislation to strengthen the nation’s public health and medical preparedness and response systems.  The bill incorporates a number of provisions from previously introduced bills, including an authorization measure to launch a new Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H).

The Prepare for and Respond to Existing Viruses, Emerging New Threats, and Pandemics Act, or PREVENT Pandemics Act (S. 3799), sponsored by HELP Committee Chair Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Ranking Member Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), aims to improve coordination among public health preparedness agencies, enhance the nation’s capability to detect and monitor emerging infectious diseases, strengthen supply chain and government stockpiles of medical products, and accelerate biomedical research to develop countermeasures for pandemic threats, among other things.

The bill includes a provision to establish ARPA-H within the National Institutes of Health, while requiring that its headquarters not be located “inside of, or in close proximity to, the National Capital region,” including on any part of NIH campuses.  For FY 2022, Congress has appropriated $1 billion to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to establish ARPA–H.

Notably, the pandemic bill also incorporates the Tracking Pathogens Act (S. 3534), which builds on funding provided for COVID-19 genomic sequencing and surveillance and seeks to strengthen pathogen genomics to prepare for future outbreaks.  AIBS previously joined a group of scientific and public health stakeholder organizations in expressing support for S. 3534.

Furthermore, the HELP committee adopted an amendment from Senator Roger Marshall (R-KS) that prohibits federally funded research involving “pathogens of pandemic potential” from being conducted in a foreign institution located in a “country of concern,” as determined by the Director of National Intelligence.

The PREVENT Pandemics Act also includes several research security provisions, such as a measure that would prohibit intramural researchers at NIH from participating in foreign talent programs and require NIH-funded researchers conducting extramural research to disclose their participation in such programs and provide the agency with copies of all related documentation.

 

NASEM Releases ‘Physics of Life’ Decadal Survey Report

A new report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) provides a vision for the next decade of science in biological physics, or the physics of living systems.

The ‘Physics of Life’ report highlights the importance of biological physics research and provides guidance for federal agencies, policymakers, and academic leadership on strengthening the field and recommendations on funding, workforce, education, and future research directions.  This first decadal survey on biological physics was commissioned by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and carried out by a committee, chaired by Dr. William Bialek, Professor of Physics at Princeton University, and charged with producing a comprehensive report on the status and future directions of physics of the living world.

“The emergence of biological physics as a field of physics has been a decades-long process,” said Dr. Bialek.  “Biological physics will continue developing and influencing our understanding of the phenomena of life, and realizing the full potential of the field requires that we rethink how to teach physics, biology, and science in general, revise fragmented funding structures, and welcome and nurture diverse aspiring scientists.”

The report found that “while the field is supported by multiple agencies, federal support for research is fragmented into narrowly defined funding structures, which obscure the breadth and coherence of the field.”  As such, the committee offers a number of recommendations for the government to adequately support the field.  These include providing NSF with more resources to increase grant sizes while maintaining a range of research; expanding the U.S. Department of Energy’s mission to partner with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and NSF to construct and manage user facilities and infrastructure that advance the field of biological physics; enabling NIH to explore the formation of study sections devoted to biological physics; empowering the U.S. Department of Defense to support research in biological physics that aligns with its mission; and establishing grant programs through federal funding agencies to support graduate education in biological physics.

Importantly, the report notes that women receive fewer than 25 percent of physics undergraduate and doctorate degrees and 75 percent of female physics students have reported experiencing harassment.  Thus, it recommends that “special attention be paid to the experiences of female students,” and further suggests “recruiting, welcoming, and nurturing a continuous flow of new and diverse talent.”  The report also calls on federal agencies to invest in core undergraduate physics education and the integration of research into the educational experience for underrepresented groups.

 

AIBS Expresses Support for STEM Immigration Provision in America COMPETES Act

A group of scientific and academic organizations, including AIBS, has written to the leadership of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees expressing support for the immigration provision in the America COMPETES Act that exempts STEM graduates with advanced degrees from green card caps.

The letter expresses appreciation for Congress’ recent work on innovation legislation—the United States Innovation and Competition Act (S. 1260) and the America COMPETES Act of 2022 (H.R. 4521)—and calls for the inclusion of Section 80303 from H.R. 4521, or something similar such as Senator Durbin’s (D-IL) Keep STEM Talent Act of 2022 (S. 3638), in the final conferenced competitiveness bill currently being negotiated in Congress.

“Allowing doctoral, and in the case of critical industries, master’s students with STEM degrees to be exempt from caps on green cards and providing for dual intent to streamline the visa process will strengthen our global competitiveness by making it easier for the best and brightest scientists from around the world to conduct their careers in the United States,” the groups argue.

 

AIBS Endorses Letter in Support of Scientific Integrity Legislation

AIBS has signed on to a multi-stakeholder letter to the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology expressing support for the Scientific Integrity Act (H.R. 849) and urging its passage.

H.R. 849, which was introduced last year, would require federal agencies that fund, conduct, or oversee scientific research to adopt and enforce clear scientific integrity policies.  It would prohibit the government from suppressing agency scientific research and intimidating or coercing individuals to alter or censor scientific findings.  It would also ensure that federal agencies designate scientific integrity officers and provide federal employees with ethics training to help prevent misconduct.

“The Biden-Harris administration has committed to strengthening federal agency policies to support scientific integrity and protect against politically motivated manipulation of scientific evidence or attacks on science,” the groups wrote.  “However, internal agency policies can only go so far without statutory requirements.”  Thus, the groups argue, “it is vital that these safeguards are codified in statute this Congress to ensure their permanence and stability in the coming years.”

Read the letter.

 

NIH Seeks Input on Draft Framework for DEI Strategic Plan

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is inviting public input on the draft framework for the agency-wide Strategic Plan for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility (DEIA).

The goal of the Strategic Plan is to outline NIH’s vision “for embracing, integrating, and strengthening DEIA across all NIH activities.”  The framework incorporates three key areas of priority:

  • Implementing organizational practices to center and prioritize DEIA in the workforce
  • Growing and sustaining DEIA through structural and cultural change
  • Advancing DEIA through research

Comments are requested on these three objectives, including potential benefits, drawbacks or challenges, and any other priority areas for consideration.  Comments will be accepted until April 3, 2022.

To learn more about the background, planning process, and draft framework for the Strategic Plan, sign up to attend an NIH-hosted webinar on March 29, 2022, from 3:30 to 4:30 PM ET.  Registration is required and questions for consideration may be submitted to NIHQuestions@scgcorp.com prior to the webinar.

 

NSF Workshops: Using the Rules of Life to Address Societal Challenges

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is inviting scientists to participate in a series of virtual events centered on “Using the Rules of Life to Address Societal Challenges,” one of their 10 Big Ideas.  The goal is to bring together researchers with diverse perspectives – including those from all scientific disciplines, with various levels of experience (from senior scientists to postdocs), from different types of institutions or organizations, and from groups historically underrepresented in STEM – to share ideas about how Rules of Life approaches and data might be harnessed by multidisciplinary teams to tackle pressing societal challenges.

On March 15, 2022, the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) held a Town Hall bringing together a multidisciplinary group of researchers to discuss using the ‘rules of life’ to address societal challenges.  The ideas from that Town Hall have been distilled into the topics below which will serve as focal points for four workshops.  Each workshop will consider how all the STEM disciplines (including biology, chemistry, computer sciences, engineering, geosciences, mathematics, physics, social, behavioral, and economic sciences) could be used to tackle a specific problem.  All workshops will incorporate cross-cutting themes of diversity, equity, and inclusion and STEM education, training, and workforce development.

  • Workshop 1: Stewarding an Integrated Biodiversity-Climate System (April 14, 2022, 11:00 AM - 5:00 PM EDT)
  • Workshop 2: Achieving a Sustainable Future (April 19, 2022, 11:00 AM - 5:00 PM EDT)
  • Workshop 3: Harnessing Microbiomes for Societal Benefit (April 21, 2022, 11:00 AM - 5:00 PM EDT)
  • Workshop 4: Leveraging AI and Data for Predicting Mechanisms (April 26, 2022, 11:00 AM - 5:00 PM EDT)

Participation in the workshops is by application only.  Applications will remain open until March 29, 2022.

Additional ‘incubator’ events will provide further engagement for postdocs attending the workshops. The postdoc 'incubators' will take place on April 12, April 22, May 2, and May 17, 2022.  Please share this information with postdocs in your networks.

 

Develop the Skills to Become Effective Team Scientists

Team science is increasingly common in the 21st century to develop convergent solutions to complex problems. Collaboration is no longer limited to sharing ideas with the biologist in the lab next door. The questions confronting science often require teams that may include a mix of computer and information scientists, physical and social scientists, mathematicians, ethicists, policy and management experts, as well as community stakeholders and citizen scientists.

There is a real and present need to better prepare scientists for success in this new collaborative environment.

The American Institute of Biological Sciences has responded to this call with an intensive, two-day, interactive professional development course developed by scientists and other experts to provide participants with the knowledge and skills required to become productive and effective members of scientific teams.

Nothing teaches collaboration like practicing collaboration. This is not a course that asks you to learn in isolation. It is a microcosm of scientific collaboration, with extensive hands-on learning as part of a scientific team, with scientific case studies and examples.

The Enabling Interdisciplinary and Team Science course is designed for anyone involved in collaborative scientific endeavors.  Team leaders will find the course especially helpful. Because participants will work on “real-world” team science concerns, we encourage multiple members of a team to attend together.  We can also customize the course and bring it to your university, department, lab, or research team.  This course provides the right foundation from which your team can successfully accomplish your goals.

Registration is now open for our next virtual course scheduled for June 6-7, 2022.  Learn more and register.

 

Prepare Your Resume, Hone Your Interview Skills

Registration is open for the Employment Acquisition Skills Boot Camp for Scientists, an online professional development program from the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS).

Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) graduate programs in the United States do an excellent job of preparing students for careers in academia.  As early career professionals and a growing number of reports note, however, many recent STEM graduates (including those with advanced degrees) are interested in employment in sectors beyond the professoriate by the time they complete their degree.

Scientists continue to report that they feel ill-prepared and ill-equipped to pursue employment in these settings.

To help scientists identify and successfully transition into the careers they desire, the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) developed a program to help scientists hone and practice the skills needed to secure employment.  The AIBS Employment Acquisition Skills Boot Camp for Scientists is an intensive multi-day program that blends asynchronous modules, live lecture, and hands-on exercises.  Designed by scientists with years of work experience in diverse settings and a career coach, this program provides graduate students to senior scientists with the information, tools, and resources required to successfully identify and secure employment in a diversity of careers, including science policy, communications, researchers or program managers in the private sector, research funding organizations, non-profit management, international development, government agencies, and others.

Course participants will:

  • Identify and clarify career interests and opportunities by reviewing currently available jobs;
  • Learn to communicate their knowledge and skills to employers by providing tools and activities;
  • Develop strategies for finding employment;
  • Develop application materials with feedback from instructors;
  • Prepare for and practice different interview styles and scenarios.

Current graduate students and post-doctoral fellows, and scientists interested in transitioning to a new employment sector should consider signing up.

This course will be offered online in three live sessions, each three hours long, conducted on May 20, May 27, and June 3, 2022 from 1:00 - 4:00 PM Eastern Time.  In addition, participants will be asked to review short pre-recorded modules asynchronously.

For more information, including a general program agenda, and to register, please visit our website.

 

Short Takes

  • The National Medal of Science (NMS) is the highest recognition bestowed upon the nation’s scientists and engineers.  It was established in 1959 as a Presidential Award to recognize individuals “deserving of special recognition by reason of their outstanding contributions to knowledge in the physical, biological, mathematical, or engineering sciences.”  The National Science Foundation (NSF) is seeking nominations for the NMS until May 20, 2022.  An informational webinar about the award is scheduled for March 30, 2022 at 3:00 pm ET.  The webinar will highlight background information on the award and provide tips for submitting nominations.  Register for the webinar here. Nominations can be submitted through the NSF Fastlane system.
  • On March 15, the U.S. Senate voted 61-36 to confirm Shalanda Young to be the Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which oversees the performance of federal agencies, including science agencies like NSF and the National Institutes of Health, and sets and administers the federal budget, including federal science spending.  Young is a former House Appropriations Committee Staff Director, who has been serving as Deputy Director and acting head of the OMB.  Biden had previously nominated Neera Tanden to lead the OMB but withdrew her nomination after getting bipartisan pushback.
  • The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) is requesting nominations for experts to serve on the Committee for Engaging a Trusted Scientific Network in Southeast Asia to Counter Misleading Information about Biological Threats. The panel, composed of scientists from Southeast Asia and the United States, will work to operationalize outcomes of a 2021 study that evaluated options for long-term engagement of scientists to identify, analyze, and address inaccurate and misleading claims about biological threats. Nominations are solicited for scientists from Southeast Asia and the United States, with expertise in computational biology, data science, virology, microbiology, immunology, misinformation, and biosecurity, ethics and policy.  Deadline to submit nominations is April 11, 2022.
 

From the Federal Register

The following items appeared in the Federal Register from March 14 to 25, 2022. 

Commerce

Energy

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 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.

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