AIBS Public Policy Report, Volume 23, Issue 22, October 24, 2022
- White House Releases National Biodefense Strategy
- Action Alert: Ask Your Members of Congress to Complete FY 2023 Appropriations with Robust Increases for Science
- EPA Seeks Input on Climate Law Fund Implementation
- Three Biologists Included in MacArthur Fellows Class of 2022
- New NSF Web Pages Connect Funding Opportunities to Societal Challenges
- AIBS Urges Congress to Provide Robust FY 2023 Funding for USDA Research
- BioScience Talks Podcast: Communicating Disease Spillover Risk During the COVID-19 Pandemic
- Short Takes
- Director Sought for KU Biodiversity Institute & Natural History Museum
- NSF BIO Welcomes New Director for Division of Environmental Biology
- NASEM Webinar: Harnessing Microbial Diversity for the Bioeconomy
- From the Federal Register
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White House Releases National Biodefense Strategy
A new strategy from the Biden Administration to enhance global health security aims to strengthen the nation’s biodefense by taking a whole-of-government approach to detect, prevent, prepare for, respond to, and recover from biological threats, regardless of origin.
The National Biodefense Strategy and Implementation Plan for Counteracting Biological Threats, Enhancing Pandemic Preparedness, and Achieving Global Health Security asserts that biological threats are among the “most serious threats facing the United States and the international community.” It defines biodefense as “actions to counter biological threats, reduce biological risks, and prepare for, respond to, and recover from biological incidents, whether naturally occurring, accidental, or deliberate in origin and whether impacting human, animal, plant, or environmental health.”
The plan notes that approximately 75 percent of new or emerging infectious disease threats to human health are of animal origin. It thus argues that it is crucial to address biological threats using a ‘holistic’ One Health approach that recognizes the interconnections among people, domestic and wild animals, plants, and the environment, and requires a “collaborative, multisectoral, and transdisciplinary approach working at the local, regional, national, and global levels, with the goal of achieving optimal health outcomes.”
To strengthen the national biodefense enterprise, the plan outlines 5 goals to establish a layered risk management approach:
- Enable risk awareness through One Health surveillance activities to detect and identify biological threats and anticipate biological incidents.
- Ensure biodefense capabilities by promoting measures to prevent or reduce the spread of infectious diseases and strengthening global health security capacities to prevent local incidents from becoming epidemics.
- Ensure preparedness to reduce impacts of incidents by maintaining a strong science and technology base and promoting a robust domestic and international health infrastructure.
- Rapidly respond to limit impacts of biological incidents, including by information sharing, networking, and effective public messaging.
- Facilitate recovery to restore the community, the economy, and the environment after a biological incident has occurred, including by restoring critical infrastructure capabilities and coordinating recovery activities across all levels of government and with nongovernmental, private sector, and international entities.
Notably, the White House says the US will work to strengthen laboratory biosafety and biosecurity to prevent laboratory accidents and deter the use and development of biological weapons. The strategy, however, does not include any recommendations for conserving biodiversity, reducing deforestation, or better managing wildlife trade, which biological and public health experts have called for to prevent future pandemics.
Action Alert: Ask Your Members of Congress to Complete FY 2023 Appropriations with Robust Increases for Science
Congress has yet to pass legislation providing fiscal year (FY) 2023 funding for science. Government agencies, including the National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Institutes of Health, have been operating under FY 2022 funding levels since FY 2023 began on October 1, 2022. This stopgap approach expires on December 16 and stifles the government’s ability to initiate new programs.
Last week, CEOs and leaders of more than 30 major tech companies, including IBM, Intel, and Amazon Web Services, sent a letter to Congress calling on lawmakers to fund NSF at the full amount authorized in the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022 (H.R. 4346). “Now, more than ever, our companies and our country require expanded investment in basic and applied research to fuel the United States’ economic competitiveness and to strengthen our national security,” the CEOs argued.
It is important that members of Congress hear from scientists. Please show your support for science by asking your members of Congress to complete work on FY 2023 appropriations bills and fund NSF as close as possible to the authorized level of $11.9 billion in FY 2023. Interested individuals can send a letter to their members of Congress from the AIBS Legislative Action Center.
EPA Seeks Input on Climate Law Fund Implementation
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced a stakeholder engagement strategy to help shape the implementation of the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund created by the Inflation Reduction Act (H.R. 5376). Expert and public input collected over the coming months will help guide EPA’s decisions about how to spend the grant funding received under the climate law that is intended to mobilize clean energy projects and reduce emissions.
The Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund will provide $27 billion in competitive grants to support zero-emission technologies and projects that reduce or avoid greenhouse gas emissions and criteria air pollution, including in low-income and disadvantaged communities. EPA seeks input on the types of entities, projects, and financial structures that will best achieve the program objectives. These funds are available to EPA to award grants until September 30, 2024.
The agency has issued a Request for Information (RFI) seeking public comments to assist them in developing the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund program design and implementation. Deadline to submit comments is December 5, 2022. EPA will also host a series of listening sessions with stakeholders in November.
Three Biologists Included in MacArthur Fellows Class of 2022
The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has announced 25 recipients of the prestigious MacArthur Fellowships this year, including three with biological or environmental expertise:
- Jenna Jambeck is an environmental engineer in the College of Engineering at the University of Georgia in Athens, GA. Jambeck investigates the scale and pathways of plastic pollution and efforts to address plastic waste.
- Robin Wall Kimmerer is a plant ecologist, educator, and writer with the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment at the State University of New York / College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, New York. Kimmerer, an expert in the restoration of ecological communities and moss ecology, has articulated an alternative vision of environmental stewardship informed by traditional ecological knowledge.
- Joseph Drew Lanham is an ornithologist, naturalist, and writer in the Forestry and Environmental Conservation Department at Clemson University in South Carolina. Lanham has created a new model of conservation that combines conservation science with personal, historical, and cultural narratives of nature.
The MacArthur Fellows Program rewards people of extraordinary talent and promise in their field with a five-year grant of $800,000 to help them continue their pursuits. More information on the MacArthur Fellows Program can be found here.
New NSF Webpages Connect Funding Opportunities to Societal Challenges
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has launched new pages on their website to help the research community connect the agency’s funding opportunities with the societal challenge the research they support can help address. NSF calls this “a translational lens through which to view solicitations and Dear Colleague Letters.”
The current focus is on three topics: Biotechnology to Advance the U.S. Bioeconomy, Emerging Infectious Diseases, and Life on a Warming Planet. These pages are also intended to help identify the links between programs in different directorates and cross-cutting efforts.
AIBS Urges Congress to Provide Robust FY 2023 Funding for USDA Research
AIBS has joined a group of 88 organizations in sending a letter to lawmakers asking them to come to an agreement on fiscal year (FY) 2023 funding as soon as possible and to support research programs at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the final appropriations bill.
“The uncertainty created by short and long-term continuing resolutions has significant negative impacts on the research enterprise,” the groups note. “The food and agriculture enterprise faces unprecedented challenges from extreme weather exacerbated by climate change, to supply chain disruptions and rising food costs resulting from natural and geopolitical events, to adverse health outcomes related to nutrition inequality. Fortunately, the key to addressing many of these challenges lies in strong federal investments in the broad suite of research, education, and extension programs within USDA.”
The letter requests $1.768 billion for the National Institute of Food and Agriculture Research (NIFA), with $500 million for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), and $1.922 billion for the Agricultural Research Service (ARS). The letter also requests at least $2 million in funding for the Agriculture Advanced Research and Development Authority (AgARDA).
BioScience Talks Podcast: Communicating Disease Spillover Risk During the COVID-19 Pandemic
COVID-19 has been the first pandemic that has taken place alongside the interconnectivity of the Internet. Consequently, the spread of ideas and information about the disease has been unprecedented—but not always accurate. One of the widely circulated headlines was that of the relationship between land change and the spillover of diseases from wildlife to humans. Writing in BioScience, Andre D. Mader of the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies and colleagues survey primary and secondary literature, as well as webpage content on the subject of land change and zoonotic disease risk. Based on the patterns picked up from this literature and media coverage, Mader and colleagues describe what amounts to a case study in improper science communication and its possible consequences.
Check out the BioScience Talks episode, where Dr. Mader discusses his article and the messaging around land change during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The University of Kansas is soliciting applications for the position of Director of its Biodiversity Institute & Natural History Museum. The Biodiversity Institute (BI), which includes the KU Natural History Museum, studies past and present life on Earth to educate, engage, and inspire. The Director reports to KU’s Vice Chancellor for Research, sets the strategic direction for the Institute, and oversees budgets totaling more than $15M, including $10M in grant funding, and manages a staff of 19 curators and scientists. Learn more about the position, and apply by December 16, here.
- Dr. Allen J. Moore has stepped in as the new Division Director for the Division of Environmental Biology (DEB) under the Biological Sciences Directorate (BIO) at the National Science Foundation. Dr. Moore comes to NSF from the University of Georgia where he serves as a Distinguished Research Professor in the Department of Entomology and was Associate Dean for Research in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. Dr. Moore replaces Dr. Leslie Rissler, who was serving as Acting Division Director for the past several months.
- The Board on Life Sciences at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) is hosting a webinar on November 2, 2022 at 11:30 AM EDT on microbial diversity and its contributions to and potential in building the bioeconomy. Register now.
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.