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AIBS Public Policy Report

AIBS Public Policy Report, Volume 23, Issue 11, May 23, 2022

  • Conference Negotiations Begin on Bipartisan Innovation Bill
  • Energy Science Nominee Confirmed
  • PFAS Research Bill Moving in the House
  • AIBS Endorses Joint Letter in Support of a Robust Allocation for Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations
  • AIBS Joins Letter Highlighting the Climate Benefits of Agricultural Research
  • Enhance Your Interdisciplinary and Team Science Skills
  • Registration Open: Writing for Impact and Influence Online Course
  • Enter the Faces of Biology Photo Contest
  • Short Takes
    • New Leadership Announced for National Science Board
    • Bipartisan Legislation Introduced to Reauthorize National Park Foundation
    • NSF, Paul G. Allen Family Foundation Announce Partnership on Conservation
  • 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.

 

Conference Negotiations Begin on Bipartisan Innovation Bill

Lawmakers kicked off bicameral negotiations to reconcile the House’s America COMPETES Act (H.R. 4521) and the Senate’s U.S. Innovation and Competition Act or USICA (S. 1260) with a conference committee meeting held on May 12, 2022. 

The bills would make significant investments in science and innovation with the goal of increasing U.S. competitiveness with China.  The House bill incorporates several major science legislation that came out of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, including the NSF for the Future Act (H.R. 2225), a reauthorization measure that would more than double NSF’s current budget to $18 billion over the next five years. 

Several differences exist between the two chambers’ proposals that will need to be resolved.  For instance, the House bill would authorize a total of $78 billion for NSF over 5 years, while USICA would approve $81 billion.  The funding split between core NSF research directorates and the new technology directorate also differs between the two bills. Under USICA, core research directorates would receive $52 billion and the new technology directorate would get $29 billion, while the COMPETES bill would allocate $65 billion to existing research and $13 billion to the new directorate.  

In total, 107 lawmakers—63 Democrats and 44 Republicans—make up the committee that will work to resolve the differences between the two proposals before sending the compromise package back to the House and Senate for approval.

At their inaugural meeting, 90 of the 107 conference committee members outlined their priorities for the negotiations.  Republicans argued for stricter research security policies to address the theft of federally funded R&D by China.  Both bills include several measures to address this issue, however they differ in the details.  Some GOP members expressed interest in expanding them in the final bill. 

Several Democrats voiced support for the House’s proposal to increase visa availability for advanced STEM degree graduates.  However, Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-IA) stressed that such provisions would be better handled separately through immigration policy legislation.

Despite the differences in party priorities, a vast majority of members expressed support for a finalized package to come together.  Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle generally agree on $52 billion in spending to bolster domestic semiconductor manufacturing. 

Negotiations will now move behind closed doors and are expected to last for months.

 

Energy Science Nominee Confirmed

The Senate has confirmed Dr. Asmeret Berhe to lead the Department of Energy Office of Science.  Her confirmation received bipartisan support, although some Republicans questioned Dr. Berhe’s qualifications.

Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) argued that Dr. Berhe’s background isn’t closely related to the Department’s mission.  “Her research expertise isn't in any of the Office of Science's major programs.  And she has no experience as a scientific administrator and minimal experience with the Energy Department itself.  So not that there's anything wrong with her underlying experience to do other things, but for this specific position, the qualifications just aren't there.”

Dr. Berhe is a professor of soil biogeochemistry and Interim Associate Dean for Graduate Education at the University of California, Merced.  Her research aims to understand the effects of climate change and land use on soils.  She received her B.S. from the University of Asmara, her M.S. in political ecology from Michigan State University, and her Ph.D. in biogeochemistry from the University of California, Berkeley.  She is the first Black women to lead the Office of Science.

“I hold the Office of Science and DOE National labs with highest regard as since the time I was a graduate student and until now, DOE funding and national labs have played important role in my own scientific training and research, and the training of my mentees,” Dr. Berhe said.

 

PFAS Research Bill Moving in the House

The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee approved a bill to study PFAS chemicals.  The Federal PFAS Research Evaluation Act passed with bipartisan support.

PFAS chemicals are found in firefighting foam, carpets, and packaging and have been dubbed ‘forever chemicals’ since they don’t easily break down.

H.R. 7289 is sponsored by Representatives Lizzie Fletcher (D-TX) and Peter Meijer (R-MI).  “Even though PFAS has been used for more than 80 years, our understanding of how these chemicals impact our bodies and our environment is still very limited.”

The bill directs the Environmental Protection Agency to enter an agreement with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NAS) 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 the these studies, for federal research, development and demonstration activities related to PFAS

The committee adopted an amendment to include combinations of chemicals in the NAS studies.

Chair Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) noted that the bill has bipartisan support.  Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK) acknowledged the potential impacts from PFAS to human health and that the bill will “help us better address PFAS using the best available science.”

 

AIBS Endorses Joint Letter in Support of a Robust Allocation for Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations

AIBS has joined a broad group of 104 organizations, including research advocacy coalitions, professional societies, private companies, and universities, in urging House and Senate appropriators to provide the highest possible fiscal year (FY) 2023 allocation for the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) Appropriations Subcommittees to robustly fund the basic and applied research and education programs that fall under the subcommittee’s portfolio.

“Significant resources are urgently needed for CJS agencies, which are vital for addressing the great challenges facing our nation, including the threat of climate change; enhancing innovation, economic growth, and prosperity; and promoting equity and justice,” the groups argue.  “This important work involves many agencies and programs, including the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), the Census Bureau, the Department of Commerce statistical agencies, and the Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of Justice Programs.”

Read the full letter.

 

AIBS Joins Letter Highlighting the Climate Benefits of Agricultural Research

A diverse group of agricultural research stakeholders, including AIBS, have written to lawmakers urging them to prioritize funding for federal programs that invest in agricultural research and innovation.  Importantly, the letter describes how agricultural research could help improve climate outcomes.

The letter reads, in part: “Research is essential to addressing climate change for several reasons. First, public research helps identify ways of enhancing agricultural productivity, which is key to cultivating more food with less land, fewer inputs, and, ultimately, lower greenhouse gas emissions.  Since the 1960s, innovation-driven productivity advances have enabled farmers to cut the carbon footprint per pound of milk and chicken by more than 50 percent. Building on this progress, doubling U.S. investments in public agricultural research over the next decade would increase crop production while reducing global greenhouse gas emissions by at least 109 million tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent per year by 2050, relative to a business-as-usual scenario.”  Read more.

 

Enhance Your Interdisciplinary and Team Science Skills

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. 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.

Details about the next course:

  • Dates: June 6-7, 2022
  • Time: 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM Eastern Time
  • Location: Online

Learn more and register here.  We can also customize the course and bring it to your university, department, lab, or research team.  If you are interested in organizing a workshop for your institution, please contact Scott Glisson at sglisson@aibs.org for more information.

 

Registration Open: Writing for Impact and Influence Online Course

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.

 

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.

 

Short Takes

  • The National Science Board (NSB)—the policymaking body of the National Science Foundation (NSF) and an independent advisor to Congress and the President on science and engineering policy—has elected new leadership for the next two years.  Dan Reed, Presidential Professor of Computational Science at the University of Utah, will serve as Chair.  Victor McCrary, Vice President for Research and Professor of Chemistry at the University of the District of Columbia, will serve as Vice-Chair.  Reed is a member of the NSB class of 2018-2024.  McCrary was recently re-appointed by Biden to serve a second six-year term on the board.
  • Bipartisan bills have been introduced in both chambers of Congress to reauthorize the National Park Foundation through 2030.  The foundation, created by Congress in the 1960s, is the official charitable partner of the National Park Service (NPS) and raises more than $100 million in private money annually to help pay for park improvements.  The House bill is sponsored by Natural Resources Committee Chair Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) and Ranking Member Bruce Westerman (R-AR), while the Senate bill is sponsored by Senator Angus King (I-ME), Chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, and Senator Rob Portman (R-OH).  Grijalva said the foundation was “an essential partner” for the National Park Service in achieving its mission “to protect our public lands and waters for present and future generations.”
  • The National Science Foundation's Directorate for Biological Sciences and the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation have signed a memorandum of understanding to establish a partnership to accelerate biological research and data collection in support of conservation efforts and actions to address global biodiversity loss.  The new agreement will complement NSF’s Organismal Response to Climate Change and Biodiversity on a Changing Planet programs.
 

From the Federal Register

The following items appeared in the Federal Register from May 9 to 20, 2022. 

Commerce

Environmental Protection Agency

Health and Human Services

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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