AIBS Public Policy Report, Volume 22, Issue 21, October 11, 2021
- International Workshop Series: How does sharing genetic sequence data impact biodiversity science and conservation?
- Congress Approves Stopgap Funding, Disaster Legislation
- OSTP Shares Summary of Stakeholder Listening Sessions on ARPA-H
- Biden Administration Restores Migratory Bird Protections
- NIH Director Francis Collins to Step Down
- Senate Confirms Nominees to Lead BLM, State Department Science Office
- Recording Available: Funding Opportunities for Scientific Collections at NSF
- Short Takes
- USFWS Declares 23 Species Extinct
- NSF BIO Virtual Office Hours on Changes to Proposal Guidance
- IMLS Museum Grant Opportunities Deadline is November 15
- IMLS Webinar on Museums for All Initiative
- From the Federal Register
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International Workshop Series: How does sharing genetic sequence data impact biodiversity science and conservation?
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.
Registration is now open for the session, “The Role of International Collaborations in Resolving Viral Diseases of Cassava in Africa,” scheduled on October 29, 2021. This session will be co-hosted by the American Society of Plant Biologists.
Date: October 29, 2021
Time: 9:00 - 11:00 AM EST or 1:00 - 3:00 PM UTC (this program will be recorded)
Location: Online via Zoom
Deadline to register: October 25, 2021
Despite decades of work around the world to address cassava viral diseases, which are among the most devastating crop diseases in Africa, we are only just beginning to understand the complexity of the system. Continued international collaboration – and particularly robust inclusion of researchers on the continent, as well as sharing of data among labs around the world – will be critical to advance the research toward disease mitigation or prevention.
Learn more and register.
Congress Approves Stopgap Funding, Disaster Legislation
Just prior to the start of fiscal year (FY) 2022 on October 1, Congress passed and President Biden signed a stopgap funding bill to keep the federal government operational at current funding levels until December 3, 2021. The bill also contains $28.6 billion in emergency aid for states recovering from natural disasters as well as $6.3 billion to resettle refugees from the U.S. war in Afghanistan.
The legislation (H.R. 5305) provides supplemental disaster recovery funding to a number of science agencies, including:
- $345 million for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, of which $200 million is allocated for fisheries disaster assistance, $35 million is for improving hurricane and flood forecasting, and $20 million is for wildfire research and prediction activities.
- $321 million for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to repair facilities damaged by Hurricanes Zeta and Ida.
- $229 million for the National Park Service, $26 million for the U.S. Geological Survey, and $58 million for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to address impacts of recent wildfires, hurricanes and other natural disasters.
- $25 million for the National Science Foundation to address the impacts of Hurricane Ida on construction of research vessels.
- $22 million for the National Institute of Standards and Technology to conduct investigations of building failures.
The House has passed 10 out of the 12 FY 2022 appropriations bills, but progress has stalled in the Senate as a result of partisan disagreements over topline spending levels. Congress now has until the end of the year to finalize the spending bills.
OSTP Shares Summary of Stakeholder Listening Sessions on ARPA-H
The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have released a summary report from fifteen stakeholder listening sessions held this summer on the proposed Advanced Research Projects Agency - Health (ARPA-H).
The meetings were held to understand the opportunities and barriers to accelerating biomedical and health research breakthroughs from a broad range of perspectives, including patient advocates, nonprofit organizations, professional societies, the academic research community, industry, and others. The summary outlines the key themes discussed at the listening sessions, which included more than 5,100 stakeholders and nearly 250 organizations, including AIBS. It presents a synthesis of stakeholder recommendations regarding the future of ARPA-H, including the suggestion that the agency should “center around technologies, rather than specific diseases.” Participants advised ARPA-H to “avoid areas that are already well-resourced by NIH or the private sector” and suggested that the agency should focus on “ambitious, large-scale research topics that are complementary to and do not overlap” with current NIH programs.
The OSTP has also shared a set of frequently asked questions informed by these discussions and is organizing a listening session on October 20, 2021, from 2:30 – 4:00 pm ET to provide the community a forum for responding to the summary, including what might be missing or can be modified. Furthermore, OSTP and NIH will continue to accept stakeholder comments at ARPAHcomments@nih.gov.
Biden Administration Restores Migratory Bird Protections
The Department of the Interior has launched a new course of action to restore protections under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) and is inviting ideas to develop a new permit system that aims to protect migratory birds while authorizing some accidental bird deaths.
On October 4, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) finalized a rulemaking that would revoke a Trump Administration regulation that restricted the MBTA to cover only intentional killings or injuring of birds. The Trump Administration’s rule, finalized in January 2021, determined that the “incidental” or accidental killing of birds resulting from an otherwise lawful activity is not prohibited under the MBTA. With the final revocation rule, which will go into effect on December 3, 2021, MBTA will once again apply to the accidental killing of birds.
Simultaneously, USFWS has issued an ‘advanced notice of proposed rulemaking’ announcing the agency’s intent to solicit public comments and information to help develop regulations to authorize the incidental take of migratory birds. “Our next step will be to create a commonsense approach to regulating the incidental take of migratory birds that works to both conserve birds and provide regulatory certainty to industry and stakeholders,” said Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Shannon Estenoz. USFWS is accepting public input until December 3, 2021.
Conservation groups have welcomed the idea of developing such a permitting system. “We are glad to see the administration [start] a rulemaking process that can advance bird protections and increase certainty,” said Eric Schneider, policy manager at the National Audubon Society. “We hope to see a collaborative process that leads to the development of a common-sense permitting program for businesses to manage their obligations under the MBTA. A straightforward and well-funded permitting program will spur innovation and best practices for how industry can protect birds in their day-to-day operations.”
USFWS also plans to issue a Director’s Order providing instructions to agency employees regarding expectations for establishing criteria for the types of conduct that will be a priority for enforcement activities with respect to incidental take of migratory birds.
NIH Director Francis Collins to Step Down
Dr. Francis S. Collins has announced that he will step down as the Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) by the end of the year. Dr. Collins is the longest serving head of the U.S. biomedical research agency and has served under three presidential administrations over more than 12 years.
Dr. Collins was appointed by President Obama and confirmed by the Senate in 2009. Prior to that, Dr. Collins served as the Director of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) from 1993-2008, where he led the international Human Genome Project. Dr. Collins will continue to lead his research laboratory at the NHGRI, which is currently trying to understand the causes and means of prevention for type 2 diabetes.
“Dr. Francis Collins is one of the most important scientists of our time,” stated President Biden. “Dr. Collins was one of the first people I asked to stay in his role with the nation facing one of the worst public health crises in our history,” he added. “Another critical reason I asked him to stay was to help lay the groundwork for the first-of-its-kind Advanced Research Project Agency for Health, ARPA-H, to harness all of our knowledge and resources to better detect, treat, and cure diseases like Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and cancer…I was grateful he answered the call to serve even though it was asking him to stay on the job longer than anyone in NIH history.” The President has not yet nominated a successor.
Senate Confirms Nominees to Lead BLM, State Department Science Office
The U.S. Senate voted along party lines to confirm President Biden’s nominee, Tracy Stone-Manning, to be the next Director of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), a federal agency that manages and conserves public lands. Republican senators opposed Stone-Manning's nomination due to her involvement in a tree-spiking case more than three decades ago. Stone-Manning will take over a leadership role that has remained vacant since 2017.
Stone-Manning previously served as Director of the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, and also served as Chief of Staff to former Governor of Montana Steve Bullock (D) and adviser to Senator Jon Tester (D-MT). More recently, she served as a senior adviser for conservation policy at the National Wildlife Federation. She earned her M.S. in environmental studies from the University of Montana and her B.A. from the University of Maryland.
The Senate also confirmed Monica Medina to serve as Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Science Affairs at the Department of State. Previously, Medina was an Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, and a Senior Associate on the Stephenson Ocean Security Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Medina has also served as Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere, General Counsel for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Special Assistant to the Secretary of Defense. Medina received her Bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University and her J.D. from Columbia Law School. At her confirmation hearing, Medina indicated that her top priorities for the bureau include biodiversity loss, ocean regulation, and space exploration.
Recording Available: Funding Opportunities for Scientific Collections at NSF
On October 4, 2021, AIBS, Natural Science Collections Alliance, Biodiversity Collections Network (BCoN), Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections (SPNHC), and the U.S. Cultural Collections Network held a webinar with program directors from the National Science Foundation (NSF) about recent structural changes to collections-related funding opportunities at the agency.
Panelists from NSF included Drs. Reed Beaman, Peter McCartney, Roland Roberts, and Matthew Herron—all Program Directors within the Division of Biological Infrastructure. The virtual learning session explored recent structural changes to NSF programs that support collections and how these might impact the community. A recording of the session is now available online.
- The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has proposed removing 23 species—the ivory-billed woodpecker, the Bachman’s warbler, 11 fish species from Hawaii and the Pacific Islands, 2 species of freshwater fish, and 8 freshwater mussel species from the Southeast— from the Endangered Species Act (ESA) list due to extinction. The agency is soliciting public comments until November 29, 2021 on its proposal to declare these 23 species extinct. Eleven other species have previously been delisted as a result of extinction. According to USFWS, “while protections were provided too late for these 23 species, the ESA has been successful at preventing the extinction of more than 99[percent] of species listed. In total, 54 species have been delisted from the ESA due to recovery, and another 56 species have been downlisted from endangered to threatened.” The agency’s current workplan includes planned actions to potentially downlist or delist 60 species due to successful recovery efforts.
- The National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Biological Sciences Directorate (BIO) will hold a Virtual Office Hour on October 26, 2021 at 3:00 PM Eastern Time on the changes in the new NSF Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide (PAPPG, 22-1), which became effective on October 4, 2021. Representatives from NSF's Policy Office will present on the changes and be available for questions. Register now.
- Museums and related organizations across the United States have six opportunities in the coming months to apply for grants from the nation’s primary source of federal funding for museum services. The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) has announced six FY 2022 museum funding opportunities: Museums for America; Inspire! Grants for Small Museums; Museums Empowered; National Leadership Grants for Museums; Museum Grants for African American History and Culture; and Native American/Native Hawaiian Museum Services. Applications for all six programs are due on November 15, 2021.
- If you’re interested in learning more about Museums for All, an initiative dedicated to expanding community access, please join staff from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and the Association of Children’s Museums on October 28 at 2:00 PM Eastern. Find more information and register to attend the informational webinar on the IMLS website. For specific questions regarding Museums for All, please contact Brendan Cartwright at Brendan.Cartwright@childrensmuseums.org.
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.