AIBS Public Policy Report, Volume 23, Issue 20, September 26, 2022
- Arati Prabhakar Confirmed as OSTP Director
- AIBS Joins Letter Urging Congress to Complete FY 2023 Appropriations
- Biden Names First ARPA-H Director
- White House Launches National Biotechnology, Biomanufacturing Initiative
- AIBS Helps AERC Brief Lawmakers on Horizon Scanning
- NIFA Seeks Input on Science Priorities
- Current and Future Funding Opportunities at NSF: Recording Available
- National Fossil Day is October 12
- Last Chance to Enter the Faces of Biology Photo Contest
- Short Takes
- NSF Announces Entrepreneurial Fellowships for Scientists, Engineers
- Call for Nominations: A Vision for Continental Scale Biology
- NSF Invests $30 Million to Address Challenges to Blue Economy
- Experts Sought: Use of Emerging Science for Environmental Health Decisions
- 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.
Arati Prabhakar Confirmed as OSTP Director
On September 22, 2022 the Senate confirmed Dr. Arati Prabhakar as the Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and presidential science adviser with a vote of 56-40.
AIBS had expressed support for Dr. Prabhakar’s confirmation in a science community letter sent to Congress in July.
Prabhakar, an applied physicist, previously served as Director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) from 2012 to 2017, where she launched the biotechnology office that led the early work on RNA vaccines. After her stint at DARPA, she founded Acuate, a nonprofit, philanthropic organization focused on “solutions R&D” in areas such as climate change and public health. Prabhakar was the first woman to head the National Institutes of Standards and Technology from 1993 to 1997. She also spent 15 years in Silicon Valley, including as a venture capitalist. Dr. Prabhakar has a Ph.D. in applied physics and a masters in electrical engineering from the California Institute of Technology.
Once sworn in, Dr. Prabhakar will join President Biden’s Cabinet, making it majority female. She will take over the OSTP after a turbulent year for the office. Biden’s previous science adviser, Dr. Eric Lander, resigned in February after a White House investigation concluded that he had bullied his subordinates.
Prabhakar will play a key role in a number of science policy priorities for the Biden Administration, including sustaining U.S. global competitiveness, ensuring academic research security, and improving equity in science.
AIBS Joins Letter Urging Congress to Complete FY 2023 Appropriations
Earlier this month, the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) joined 115 other scientific organizations in sending a letter to Congress urging them to complete work on fiscal year (FY) 2023 appropriations bills before the end of the fiscal year rather than months into it.
“We understand that finalizing FY23 appropriations legislation can be particularly challenging in an election year,” the letter reads. “That said, Americans need champions who will assure that, despite challenges, Congress and the Administration commit to concluding the FY23 appropriations process on schedule. Achieving this goal will enable a smooth transition between fiscal years and avoid the costly inefficiency and wasted time that results from stop-gap funding measures. It will also avoid locking in federal agency spending from the previous fiscal year, which postpones our nation’s ability to address evolving needs and priorities. Our nation needs this flexibility to respond to pressing new challenges rather than being forced to plan for future threats and opportunities using last year’s funding landscape.”
However, it is anticipated that Congress will pass a continuing resolution this week to keep the government operational at FY 2022 funding levels until December. The details of the bill are yet to be released. President Biden has requested that the short-term funding bill include $47 billion in supplemental funding to assist Ukraine, support COVID-19 related efforts, combat the spread of monkeypox, and help states recover from natural disasters. It is currently unclear if this funding will be attached to the continuing resolution.
Additionally, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) had agreed to include energy permitting reform legislation as part of the stopgap funding in exchange for Senator Joe Manchin’s (D-WV) support of the Inflation Reduction Act (H.R. 5376). But the fate of the permitting bill, which Senator Manchin released last week, is currently uncertain with many lawmakers calling for the plan to be considered as stand-alone legislation.
Biden Names First ARPA-H Director
President Biden has announced that he will appoint biologist and biotech executive Dr. Renee Wegrzyn as the first Director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H), an agency that was launched earlier this year to drive transformative biomedical innovation.
Dr. Wegrzyn is currently the Vice President of Business Development at Ginkgo Bioworks—a biotech company in Boston, Massachusetts—and Head of Innovation at Concentric by Ginkgo, where she applies synthetic biology to tackle infectious diseases. Prior to that, she was a program manager in the Biological Technologies Office (BTO) of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The Biden Administration intends to model ARPA-H on the high-risk high-reward framework of DARPA.
Wegrzyn has served on the scientific advisory boards for Revive & Restore, Air Force Research Labs, Nuclear Threat Initiative, and the Innovative Genomics Institute and is currently a member of the National Academies’ Standing Committee on Biotechnology Capabilities and National Security Needs. She holds doctorate and bachelor’s degrees in applied biology from the Georgia Institute of Technology and was a fellow in the Center for Health Security Emerging Leaders in Biosecurity Initiative (ELBI).
She is expected to begin her appointment on October 1.
White House Launches National Biotechnology, Biomanufacturing Initiative
President Biden signed an Executive Order earlier this month to launch a new National Biotechnology and Biomanufacturing Initiative that was recently authorized by Congress as part of the CHIPS and Science Act (H.R. 4346).
The Executive Order on Advancing Biotechnology and Biomanufacturing Innovation for a Sustainable, Safe, and Secure American Bioeconomy aims to accelerate biotechnology R&D, strengthen biosecurity, bolster workforce development activities across federal agencies to train the next-generation of biotechnologists, and grow the U.S. bioeconomy across multiple sectors.
According to the Administration, the initiative will drive advances in biotechnology biomanufacturing, improve food and energy security, drive agricultural innovation while mitigating the impacts of climate change, and improve human health through advances in medicine.
The White House held a summit on September 14 with federal officials and department heads to discuss plans on how to administer the initiative and invest more than $2 billion in the U.S. biotechnology sector. Here are some highlights from the spending plan:
- The Department of Defense (DOD) is slated to invest $1 billion over 5 years to support domestic bioindustrial manufacturing infrastructure.
- DOD will invest an addition $200 million in efforts to enhance biosecurity and cybersecurity.
- The U.S. Department of Agriculture will provide $500 to support sustainable American fertilizer production.
- The Department of Health and Human Services will invest $40 million to expand biomanufacturing of active pharmaceutical ingredients, antibiotics, and starting materials needed to produce essential medications and respond to pandemics.
- The Department of Energy will invest $100 million in research and development to bring bio-based predicts to market, including converting biomass to fuels and chemicals and improving production and recycling of biobased plastics.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) will support this initiative through its Regional Innovation Engines program, which aims to catalyze innovation in key areas such as manufacturing life-saving medicines, reducing waste, and mitigating climate change.
AIBS Helps AERC Brief Lawmakers on Horizon Scanning
On September 15, 2022, AIBS helped the Association of Ecosystem Research Centers (AERC) brief lawmakers about the role of horizon scanning in ecosystem research.
Horizon scanning is a tool for assessing potential threats and opportunities and is used extensively in many sectors including energy, defense, and medicine. The process of horizon scanning involves cataloguing potential threats, filtering information and prioritizing based on level of risk, and disseminating information to appropriate authorities. Early warning systems are threat-specific tools for collecting data, assessing trends and evaluating risk, and initiating communication to appropriate authorities. The speakers discussed the application of horizon scanning for ecosystem management and provided an overview of the process followed by two case studies highlighting forest ecosystems and the Laurentian Great Lakes.
The briefing was held on Capitol Hill and was attended both in-person and virtually by congressional aides, Federal agency staff, Congressional Research Service staff, and representatives of scientific and non-governmental organizations. The briefing program and recording are available at io.aibs.org/aerc.
NIFA Seeks Input on Science Priorities
The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has launched a stakeholder listening initiative, “NIFA Listening Session for Stakeholder Input to Science Priorities,” to inform its research, extension, and education priorities.
NIFA seeks to obtain input regarding challenges, needed breakthroughs, and priorities for the agency through online written submissions as well as virtual stakeholder listening sessions. Stakeholder input received from the two mechanisms will be treated equally. Written input can be submitted online through 5:00 PM Eastern Time on November 30, 2022. A full-day listening session will take place on November 2, 2022. Learn more.
Current and Future Funding Opportunities at NSF: Recording Available
The Association of Ecosystem Research Centers (AERC) and the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) held a webinar on September 12 with program officers from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to discuss current and future funding opportunities at the science agency for early career researcher. The program included remarks from the following NSF panelists:
- Matthew Kane – Ecosystems, ESIIL (Center for Advancement and Synthesis of Open Environmental Data and Sciences), Macrosystems
- Elizabeth Blood – Ecosystems, National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON)
- Douglas Levey – Community Ecology, Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER)
- Peter McCartney – Division of Biological Infrastructure (DBI)
- Bob O’Conner – Social, Behavior and Economic Sciences Directorate
- Olivia Lee – Polar Programs
- Barbara Ransom – NSF Innovation Programs
- Thyaga Nandagopal – Technology, Innovation and Partnerships Directorate
- Rita Teutonico – Coastal Ecosystems and People (CoPe)
View a recording of the webinar.
National Fossil Day is October 12
National Fossil Day, an annual celebration organized by the National Park Service (NPS), will take place on October 12, 2022. The event highlights the scientific and educational value of paleontology and the importance of preserving fossils for future generations.
The 13th annual celebration will include paleontology activities planned by partner organizations across the United States. AIBS has once again partnered with the National Park Service to promote the event.
NPS and National Fossil Day partners are sponsoring an art contest as a part of the celebration. The contest theme is “The Age of Mammals in our National Parks and Monuments.” Entries can be submitted until October 1, 2022. See details about participating.
The participation of local museums, universities, and other scientific organizations is central to National Fossil Day. Help your local community learn about local paleontological and natural resources by participating in the event. To join NPS as a partner, visit their website.
Last Chance to 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.
- The National Science Foundation (NSF), through its new Technology, Innovation and Partnerships Directorate, has announced a new $20 million investment in Entrepreneurial Fellowships through a multi-year cooperative agreement with Activate.org. The Activate Fellows supported by NSF will be scientists and engineers from diverse backgrounds and regions across the U.S. who will translate research breakthroughs to new products and services with broad societal benefits. Over a two-year period, the Fellows will receive training and at least $350,000 in direct support, plus access to specialized research facilities and equipment. Learn more and apply.
- The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) are soliciting nominations until October 7, 2022 for an ad hoc committee to identify important themes and evolving or missing theory for biological research connecting micro to macro spatial scales and to describe how to structure such research most effectively. This NSF-sponsored study, Research at Multiple Scales: A Vision for Continental Scale Biology, will explore potential pathways to realizing the promise of continental-scale biology. Experts are sought in areas such as ecology and macrosystems biology.
- NSF has announced a $30 million investment in convergent research to tackle challenges related to climate, sustainability, food, energy, pollution, and the economy. The investment is aimed at advancing six multidisciplinary research teams from Phase 1 to Phase 2 of NSF's Convergence Accelerator track on the Networked Blue Economy. The focus of the track includes interconnecting the blue economy and accelerating convergence research across ocean sectors — including creating a smart, integrated, connected and open ecosystem for ocean innovation, exploration, and sustainable use. Phase 2 teams are tasked with developing prototypes for practical application to improve the ocean ecosystem.
- NASEM is seeking interdisciplinary experts to serve on its Standing Committee on the Use of Emerging Science for Environmental Health Decisions. Nominations are requested for individuals with experience in disciplines and areas such as environmental health, ecology, risk assessment, interdisciplinary research, and team science. The deadline to submit nominations is September 29, 2022.
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.