AIBS Public Policy Report, Volume 23, Issue 21, October 10, 2022
- Congress Passes Stopgap Funding, Defers FY 2023 Spending Decision to December
- Academies Report Offers Recommendations on Protecting U.S. S&T Leadership
- DOE Announces Plans to Promote Inclusive, Equitable Research
- USGS Retaliated Against Whistleblower Scientist, Judge Rules
- NSB Releases Statement on Sexual Harassment in U.S. Antarctic Program
- Short Takes
- Postdoctoral Research Fellowships in Biology Solicitation
- NSF BIO Assistant Director Retires
- Webinars on NSF’s Integrative Research in Biology (IntBIO) Program
- From the Federal Register
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Congress Passes Stopgap Funding, Defers FY 2023 Spending Decision to December
Congress has passed and President Biden has signed a short-term spending bill to keep the federal government operational at current spending levels through December 16, 2022. Congress is now officially in recess for the month of October, with lawmakers back in their home states to prepare for the upcoming midterm elections.
The continuing resolution gives lawmakers additional time to negotiate and finalize appropriations for fiscal year (FY) 2023. In addition to continued FY 2022 level funding for federal programs, the legislation includes billions in disaster aid as well as $12 billion in supplemental funding to support activities related to the war in Ukraine. It does not, however, include an energy permitting reform measure Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) was hoping to attach to the must-pass piece of legislation.
Although permitting reform did not make it into the final bill, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have indicated that they would be willing to find common ground to negotiate a separate reform package, that has the potential to cut down permitting times for both clean energy and fossil fuel infrastructure projects. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has vowed to find “the best way to ensure responsible permitting reform is passed before the end of the year.”
Academies Report Offers Recommendations on Protecting U.S. S&T Leadership
According to a report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM), maintaining U.S. global leadership in science and technology (S&T) requires greater emphasis on strengthening the nation’s capacity to innovate, rather than solely limiting access to specific critical technologies.
“Because the landscape of technology and competition is changing, protecting specific technologies themselves is certainly insufficient, often ineffective, and sometimes counterproductive,” said report co-author Susan Gordon, former Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. “Protecting and strengthening the nation’s ability to innovate in order to respond to military and commercial challenges is at least equally — and perhaps vitally more — important.”
The report, Protecting U.S. Technological Advantage, contends that the U.S. research community has seen an “extraordinary increase in the number and complexity of policies, processes, procedures, and requirements governing the conduct of science and technology R&D,” which has created an environment that “limits the exchange of ideas, participation by others, and international collaboration.”
Maximizing the amount of work that can be appropriately performed in an open research environment will enhance U.S. leadership in science and engineering, attract talented scientists from around the world, and spur discoveries that lead to new technologies, the report suggests. However, for research work that is not appropriate for an open environment, the report argues that an interagency process is needed to identify and assess threats of strategic significance, to develop strategies for managing those risks, and to oversee the execution of those strategies.
The plan presents a range of actions the federal government should take to maintain the United States’ global leadership in S&T. It recommends that:
- the President clearly reaffirm through an Executive Order that “fundamental research, to the maximum extent possible” remain unrestricted.
- the National Science Foundation (NSF) support an effort to “define the elements in the U.S. innovation system that are essential to developing, attracting, and retaining top scientific, research, engineering, and innovation talent.”
- the National Security Council, the National Science and Technology Council, and the National Economic Council: (1) lead an interagency process for identifying and assessing threats to U.S. technological leadership; (2) jointly develop a new policy framework for coordinating risk management strategies.
The study was conducted by the Committee on Protecting Critical Technologies for National Security in an Era of Openness and Competition and was sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and NSF.
DOE Announces Plans to Promote Inclusive, Equitable Research
The Department of Energy (DOE) has announced that starting in fiscal year 2023, all Office of Science funding opportunity announcements and DOE National Lab funding solicitations will require applicants to provide a Promoting Inclusive and Equitable Research (PIER) Plan as part of their grant applications to improve participation by researchers from underrepresented groups.
“It’s time that we do more to encourage our research communities to consider what contributions they can make to broadening participation in science and ensuring that their own scientific efforts and environments are equitable and inclusive,” said Asmeret Asefaw Berhe, Director of the DOE Office of Science.
According to DOE, PIER Plans “should describe the activities and strategies of the applicant to promote equity and inclusion as an intrinsic element to advancing scientific excellence in the research project.” These may include, but are not limited to:
- Institutional strategies for enhanced recruitment of undergraduate students, graduate students, postdocs, and other early-stage investigators, including individuals from underrepresented groups
- Strategies for creating and sustaining a positive, inclusive, safe, and professional research and training environment that fosters a sense of belonging among all research personnel
- and/or training, mentoring, and professional development opportunities
Although such plans may incorporate or build on existing diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion efforts of key project personnel, they should not merely restate standard institutional policies. Learn more.
USGS Retaliated Against Whistleblower Scientist, Judge Rules
A federal administrative judge has found that the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) unlawfully retaliated against a federal scientist by trying to fire her for reporting safety breaches at a wildlife lab facility.
U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board Administrative Judge Franklin Kang found that USGS officials violated the Whistleblower Protection Act in their actions relating to microbiologist Eveline Emmenegger, who managed a biosafety containment lab at the agency’s Western Fisheries Research Center in Seattle, Washington.
Emmenegger had been documenting wastewater releases, poor maintenance, and other alleged failures at the lab. She reported that in one six-month period, the lab had released large amounts of untreated wastewater, potentially containing pathogens, into the wetland next to Lake Washington. She recounted that lab managers tried to prevent her from filing further reports and even tried to fire her.
“The agency did not have strong evidence that it would have found [her] performance so deficient that it warranted removal as opposed to some other process,” argued Kang, concluding that Emmenegger had proved her whistleblower retaliation claim.
NSB Releases Statement on Sexual Harassment in U.S. Antarctic Program
The National Science Board (NSB)—the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) governing body—said in an official statement that they are “appalled” by the findings of a recent report that found that sexual assault and harassment are pervasive in U.S. Antarctic research facilities.
“Such actions devastate and often irreparably affect victims as well as bystanders, create hostile and unsafe environments, impede access to educational and professional opportunities, undermine efforts to recruit and retain diverse STEM talent, and corrode the research enterprise,” read the statement. “We stand with all victims and condemn these actions in the strongest possible terms.”
In their commitment to address this issue “immediately, forcefully, and transparently,” the NSB in partnership with the NSF Director have identified some immediate steps to ensure the safety of personnel involved. These include plans to host a series of listening sessions at Antarctic facilities to gather community feedback as well as expand their reporting, security, and victim-centered support services. The NSB also intends to help NSF and other federal agencies strengthen their policies, communication, training, and oversight to enhance current safety measures.
- The Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO) at the National Science Foundation (NSF) awards Postdoctoral Research Fellowships in Biology (PRFB) to support postdoctoral fellows in selected areas of the life sciences who focus on broadening participation of underrepresented groups in biology; studying the rules governing interactions between genomes, environments and phenotypes; or studying plant genomes. The full proposal deadline for this program is November 3, 2022. Read the solicitation.
- Dr. Joanne Tornow, Assistant Director for Biological Sciences (BIO AD) at NSF retired at the end of September. The search for the next BIO AD is still ongoing. In the interim, BIO’s Deputy Assistant Director, Dr. Simon Malcomber, will serve as Acting Assistant Director. A systematist by training, Dr. Malcomber started in BIO as a rotating program officer in the Systematics and Biodiversity cluster in the Division of Environmental Biology in 2012 and most recently served as that division’s Deputy Division Director.
- NSF’s Integrative Research in Biology (IntBIO) Program supports collaborative research, training, and education that spans subdisciplines to understand how biological systems function and interact across different scales of organization. The IntBio Program Team is hosting a series of Virtual Office Hours throughout October and November 2022 aimed at giving interested PIs an opportunity to ask questions about the program. Register to learn more about the solicitation. Full proposal deadline is January 24, 2023.
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