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AIBS Public Policy Report, Volume 22, Issue 24, November 22, 2021

  • Call for Applications: 2022 Emerging Public Policy Leadership Award
  • Science Provisions in the Infrastructure Law
  • NSF Innovation Legislation Sees Action
  • House Passes Build Back Better Legislation
  • USDA, FWS Nominees Considered by Senate Panels
  • House Advances Wildfire Science Bill
  • International Workshop Series on Digital Sequence Information: Recordings Now Available
  • Societies Urge Appropriators to Fund HHS Office of Climate Change and Health Equity
  • NSF Coalition Urges Appropriators to Provide Robust Funding for Science Agency
  • Science Coalition Provides Input on OSTP's R&D Priorities for FY 2023
  • Prepare Your Resume, Hone Your Interview Skills
  • Short Takes
    • NPS Director Nominee Confirmed
    • Senate Confirms Biden’s DOE Science Nominee
    • NSF Issues Challenge to Identify Strategies to Address COVID-19 Impacts on DEI in STEM
    • NASEM Seeks Experts For Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology
  • 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.

 

Call for Applications: 2022 Emerging Public Policy Leadership Award

Are you a science graduate student looking to make a difference in science policy and funding? The American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) is now accepting applications for the 2022 Emerging Public Policy Leadership Award. This award recognizes graduate students in the biological sciences who are demonstrating an interest and aptitude for working at the intersection of science and policy.

Recipients of the AIBS Emerging Public Policy Leadership Award receive:

  • A trip to Washington, DC, to participate in the AIBS Congressional Visits Day, an annual event where scientists meet with lawmakers to advocate for federal investment in the biological sciences, with a primary focus on the National Science Foundation. The event will be held over three days in the spring of 2022 (likely in March or April). Domestic travel and hotel expenses are paid for the winners.
  • Online policy and communications training, including information on the legislative process and trends in federal science funding, and how to engage with policymakers and the news media.
  • Meetings with congressional policymakers to discuss the importance of federal investment in the biological sciences.
  • A one-year subscription to the journal BioScience.

The 2022 award is open to U.S. citizens and U.S. permanent residents enrolled in a graduate degree program in the biological sciences, science education, or a closely allied field. Applicants should have a demonstrated interest in and commitment to science policy and/or science education policy. Prior recipients, including Honorable Mentions, are not eligible for the award.

Applications are due by 05:00 PM Eastern Time on January 19, 2022. Learn more about how to apply.

 

Science Provisions in the Infrastructure Law

Last week, President Joe Biden signed into law a $1.2 trillion infrastructure package.  Although the massive law is focused on transportation, utilities, and other infrastructure, there were several research provisions included.

The U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) Water Resources Research Institutes were reauthorized through FY 2025 at the current authorization level of $12 million per year.  However, the authorization for research on regional or interstate water issues was halved to $3 million per year.  The centers’ funding was also clarified to ensure that federal matching grants compromise 50 percent of each match.  Finally, the timeframe for the program’s evaluation will be changed from every three years to every five years.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s research mission was expanded to include “safety measures to reduce the number of wildlife-vehicle collisions.”  Additionally, a federal transportation advisory board will gain three representatives with ecological perspectives.  The Intelligent Transportation Systems Program Advisory Committee will now have among its members representatives from a state or local wildlife agency, a biologist or ecologist with expertise in transportation issues, and an environmental public interest group.

Moreover, the Department is authorized to create an open challenge and research proposal pilot program, “under which eligible entities may propose open highway challenges and research proposals that are linked to identified or potential research needs.”  This will be a chance for states, local governments, universities, and nonprofits to pitch transportation research needs and to receive a federal grant for up to 80 percent of the project’s cost.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was authorized to receive $150 million to improve ocean and Great Lakes observation systems, $100 million for wildfire prediction and monitoring efforts, and $80 million for supercomputing infrastructure.

Other research provisions in the law include an authorization for $167 million for the USGS to create a facility to support energy and minerals research; research on critical minerals mining and recycling; and “clean hydrogen” research.

 

NSF Innovation Legislation Sees Action

A move to include a high profile innovation initiative in the annual defense authorization bill created high stakes tensions on Capitol Hill earlier this week.  Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) moved to include the “U.S. Innovation and Competition Act,” formerly referred to as the “Endless Frontier Act,” as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act.  Other Senators objected to including an outside subject as part of the defense authorization.

The bill (S. 1260) would establish a Directorate for Technology and Innovation in the National Science Foundation and would create a federal initiative on the bioeconomy to advance research, workforce, and biomanufacturing issues.

S. 1260 previously passed the Senate in June, but the House has not acted on it.  That chamber had been backing alternative legislation (H.R. 2225 and H.R. 3593).

Under a new deal, the House and Senate have agreed to proceed with conference talks on S. 1260 and the House measures separate from the defense bill.

 

House Passes Build Back Better Legislation

After prolonged negotiations, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a $1.75 trillion reconciliation bill based on President Biden’s “Build Back Better” agenda on Friday.  The spending plan is primarily focused on social welfare and climate change programs and also includes some funds for research. 

The framework passed by the House is a trimmed down version of the $3.5 trillion partisan spending package the chamber had developed back in September.  Research provisions were significantly scaled down or removed in the most recent version of the bill, which still includes $550 billion to promote renewable energy and address climate change. 

A group of moderate House Democrats had held up the bill’s passage until the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) completed its economic analysis of the plan’s long term impacts on the budget deficit.  The CBO delivered its estimate last Thursday, finding that the bill would increase the deficit by $367 billion over a decade.  This proved acceptable to enough Democrats who were holding out for the bill to pass with a 220-213 vote. 

The measure is likely to undergo additional changes as it moves through the Senate.  Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has indicated that he aims to pass the bill before Christmas. 

 

USDA, FWS Nominees Considered by Senate Panels

The Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry recently held a hearing on Dr. Chavonda Jacobs-Young to be Under Secretary of Agriculture for Research, Education, and Economics at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).  The position oversees USDA’s research and statistics programs.

Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) pointed out in her opening remarks that for every dollar invested in agricultural research, $17 are returned to the U.S. economy.  However, USDA has struggled with high vacancy rates and to find researchers with expertise in agricultural sciences.  “If confirmed, Dr. Jacobs-Young will need to rebuild a diverse workforce and talent pool,” noted the Senator.

Dr. Jacobs-Young would become the first woman and person of color to serve in this position and is the first African-American in the country to get a Ph.D. in wood and paper science.  She told the committee: “I hope I have expanded the perception of what an agricultural scientist looks like.”  Dr. Jacobs-Young also spoke to her personal commitment to “inspire, mentor, and develop the next generation” of researchers in the agricultural sciences as well as to look at USDA’s scientific programs “through a more inclusive lens.”

When asked about her vision for USDA’s research division and future actions on climate change, she emphasized the ability of the Long-Term Agroecosystem Research Network and land-grant universities to address the nation’s research needs.

Other issues brought up by Senators include funding for land-grant universities, gaps in existing research programs, biotechnology, access to USDA programs for farmers of color, and remote working by agency employees.  From Senators’ remarks, there appears to be bipartisan support for Dr. Jacobs-Young’s nomination.

Dr. Jacobs-Young is currently the Administrator of the Agricultural Research Service and has twice served in an acting capacity for the position for which she is nominated.

AIBS was among nearly 100 agricultural research stakeholder organizations that wrote to the Senate Committee in advance of the hearing to support Dr. Jacobs-Young’s confirmation.

The same day, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee considered the nomination of Martha Williams to serve as the next Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).  Williams has led the agency since January as Principal Deputy Director.  During and after the hearing, several Republican Senators expressed their support for Williams, which bodes well for her confirmation.

 

House Advances Wildfire Science Bill

The House Science, Space and Technology Committee has voted favorably on H.R. 5781, the “National Wildland Fire Risk Reduction Program Act,” introduced by Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA).  The legislation would boost research on wildfire prediction, firefighting, and impacts to human health, including the impacts of climate change on wildfires.

The initiatives envisioned in the bill would be accomplished across a number of federal agencies: the National Science Foundation, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Institute of Standards and Technology, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Energy.

Several amendments were adopted by the committee, including to research active management of forests and prescribed burns, and to create a National Advisory Committee on Wildland Fire Risk Reduction.

In spite of some contentious debate, the bill was reported out of the committee on a voice vote.  The bill is also assigned to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which has not yet acted on the bill.

 

International Workshop Series on Digital Sequence Information: Recordings Now Available

With support from the National Science Foundation, the American Institute of Biological Sciences and the USA Nagoya Protocol Action Group are organizing an online workshop series to explore how the international scientific community can study biodiversity in the changing landscape of international policy. 

Recordings from the first five sessions in this series are now available online. The sessions were focused on five broad themes, including applied ecology and infectious disease; crop research and improvement; macrosystems and international long term ecological research; phylogenetics, genome evolution, and taxonomy; and vertebrate genetics. 

The AIBS community is encouraged to remain engaged in this workshop series and following online forum discussions on LearnNagoya.com to recognize and document the value of digital sequence information for global scientific communities and to learn together how to work with the Nagoya Protocol and national policies to conduct upstanding biodiversity science to benefit the planet.  The next workshop on “anthropology, ethnobiology and paleobiology” is tentatively scheduled for December 13, 2021.  Stay tuned for details and sign up to receive updates.

 

Societies Urge Appropriators to Fund HHS Office of Climate Change and Health Equity

Thirty-two public and environmental health stakeholder groups, including AIBS, have urged Senate Appropriators to take prompt action to complete the fiscal year (FY) 2022 appropriations process and provide $6 million to the new Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Climate Change and Health Equity (OCCHE).

HHS established OCCHE a few months ago to address the effects of climate change on the health of the American people. This new office is charged with improving the Department’s preparedness and response to the climate emergency by working with other divisions within HHS to ensure climate change health issues are incorporated into their missions and programs.

“If current trends in climate change impacts continue and the opportunity to meet the current investment needs of OCCHE is passed by, we run the risk that many of the public health gains of the past century may be reversed,” warned the groups. “Without a final appropriations package for Fiscal Year 2022, including adequate funding for OCCHE, we will continue to be underprepared for the human health impacts of climate change.”

Read the letter.

 

NSF Coalition Urges Appropriators to Provide Robust Funding for Science Agency

The Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF)—an alliance of more than 130 professional organizations, universities and businesses that advocates for the National Science Foundation (NSF)—has urged House and Senate appropriators to provide robust funding for NSF in fiscal year (FY) 2022. Appropriators are currently in conference to reconcile differences between the two chambers’ spending bills.

“In April we asked Congress to provide at least $10 billion for NSF to set the agency on a course to advance domestic innovation and to keep pace with investments other countries are making in research and development,” the coalition noted. “We are in a critical time, with myriad challenges that include the ongoing pandemic, climate change, supply chain disruptions, and an increased focus by competing nations on emerging technologies. NSF is a central part of the solution. Given the need to sustain and increase funding for agency programs, we urge appropriators to approve at least $9.634 billion, as would be provided to NSF in the House FY 2022 Commerce, Justice, Science bill.”

AIBS is a member of CNSF.

 

Science Coalition Provides Input on OSTP's R&D Priorities for FY 2023

The Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF)—an alliance of more than 130 professional organizations, scientific societies, including AIBS, universities, and businesses—has submitted policy recommendations in response to the Biden Administration’s FY 2023 multi-agency R&D priorities to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).

In particular, the coalition provided recommendations on the Administration’s priorities related to pandemic preparedness, climate change, critical and emerging technologies, STEM education and equity, and national security and economic resilience.

Read the submission.

 

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. AIBS’s 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 February 11, February 18, and February 25, 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

  • Mr. Charles F. “Chuck” Sams III has been confirmed by the Senate to serve as the next Director of the National Park Service (NPS), a position that has been vacant since January 2017.  Mr. Sams serves as a Council Member to the Northwest Power and Conservation Council.  He 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 and is a veteran of the U.S. Navy.  Mr. Sams will become the first Native American to lead NPS.
  • The U.S. Senate has confirmed Dr. Geri Richmond as the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Undersecretary for Science and Energy.  Dr. Richmond is the Presidential Chair in Science and Professor of Chemistry at the University of Oregon.  Her research focuses on understanding the molecular characteristics of water surfaces, environmental issues such as oil remediation, atmospheric chemistry, and alternative energy sources.  Dr. Richmond has received numerous awards and honors, including the National Medal of Science, the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring, and the American Chemical Society’s Priestley Medal.  She previously served as the Chair of DOE’s  Basic Energy Sciences Advisory Committee, as U.S. Science Envoy to the Lower Mekong River Countries of Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Burma and Thailand, and on the National Science Board at NSF.  Richmond received her B.S. in chemistry from Kansas State University and her Ph.D. in physical chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley.
  • The National Science Foundation (NSF) has announced the “Taking Action: COVID-19 Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Challenge,” an ideas challenge for Institutions of Higher Education.  The challenge is designed to highlight the need for institutional solutions to mitigate the long-term, negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) of undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, and faculty in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).   Winners will be announced in March 2022 and will be invited to present their ideas with the community at a future NSF event.  Learn more.
  • The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) is soliciting nominations of experts with relevant expertise in science policy, environmental justice, or science communication to serve on the Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology (BEST).  NASEM is strongly encouraging nominations of individuals from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, women, and early- and mid-career professionals.  They anticipate selecting 2-3 nominees to serve on BEST for a three-year term, beginning by the end of 2021.  Deadline to submit nominations has been extended to Friday, December 3, 2021.
 

From the Federal Register

The following items appeared in the Federal Register from November 8 to 19, 2021. 

Commerce

Energy

Environmental Protection Agency

Executive Office of the President

Health and Human Services

Interior

Institute of Museum and Library 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 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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