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AIBS Public Policy Report, Volume 22, Issue 19, September 13, 2021

  • Societies Urge Lawmakers to Create Additional Visas to Retain International STEM Talent
  • Research Funding in the House Reconciliation Package
  • Biden Administration Announces R&D Budget Priorities
  • Medical Journals Issue Warning on Public Health Impacts of Climate Change
  • NSF Announces New Centers to Address Complex Societal Problems
  • Webinar Announcement: Funding Opportunities for Scientific Collections at NSF
  • Enter the 2021 Faces of Biology Photo Contest
  • Short Takes
  • EPA Seeking Expert Nominations for CASAC Panels
    • 2021 Biodiversity Digitization: Celebrating a decade of progress
    • Nominations Sought for National Academies Climate Security Roundtable
    • NASEM Announces Panel on Biotechnology Capabilities, National Security Needs
  • From the Federal Register

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Societies Urge Lawmakers to Create Additional Visas to Retain International STEM Talent

AIBS has joined 30 other scientific organizations in urging the House Judiciary Committee to include provisions aimed at improving the retention of international STEM talent in legislation being crafted in response to the 2022 budget resolution and reconciliation instructions.

Specifically, the groups urge lawmakers to create additional Employment Based (EB) visas specifically for international students who earn, or have previously earned, advanced STEM degrees in the United States.  The letter also requests that these individuals be exempt from any per-country cap.

“Foreign-born STEM professionals are critical to the US R&D ecosystem, economy and society,” the groups note.  “They bring fresh perspectives, diverse experiences, expertise, new ideas, and creativity to our universities, laboratories and companies. For example, as of 2018, immigrants had founded more than half (50 of 91) of the privately held billion-dollar startup companies in the United States, with 21 having a founder who first came to the United States as an international student. These global experts have created thousands of jobs with higher-than-average salaries for US workers, while boosting our country’s competitiveness."


Research Funding in the House Reconciliation Package

On September 9, 2021, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology approved $45 billion in research funding as part of a larger $3.5 trillion budget plan that Democratic lawmakers are looking to pass through the budget reconciliation process.  The bill would make significant investments in climate research, national labs at the Department of Energy (DOE), and the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The science panel’s reconciliation bill would authorize multi-year spending for a number of research agencies, including NSF, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and DOE.  Highlights from the bill include:

  • NSF, which has a current budget of $8.5 billion, would receive an additional $11 billion over the next 10 years, with $7.6 billion directed to its research directorates and $3.4 billion going to research infrastructure projects.  Of the research infrastructure funds, $1 billion would be set aside for academic research facilities modernization, including $300 million for historically Black colleges and universities, Hispanic serving institutions, Tribal colleges and universities, and other minority serving institutions.
  • DOE will receive approximately $15.8 billion over the next 5 years, of which $12.8 billion would go to its Office of Science.  This includes $10.4 billion to support infrastructure improvements at the national labs managed by the Office of Science and $2 billion for research and development activities.  Overall, $3.3 billion would be set aside for clean energy research and development activities at DOE.
  • Over the next 5 years, NOAA would get $4.2 billion to fund several climate programs, including $1.2 billion for climate modeling and forecasting research, $765 million for climate resilience and adaption research, $1 billion for hurricane tracking aircraft, and $743 million to upgrade research infrastructure projects.
  • NIST would receive $4.2 billion over the next decade, with $1.2 billion directed to research in specified scientific and technical areas, including artificial intelligence, biotechnology, quantum information science, and advanced manufacturing.
  • NASA would get $4 billion over the next 5 years to upgrade its research facilities.  Additionally, $400 million would be directed to NASA’s climate research programs.
  • $264 million would be directed to climate research programs at the Environmental Protection Agency.
  • The Department of Commerce would get $5 billion over the next ten years to support regional innovation initiatives.

This bill is separate from the authorization measures passed by the House earlier this year to set future spending levels for programs within NSF (H.R. 2225) and DOE (H.R. 3593).  Other committees within the House are simultaneously working on separate pieces of legislation as part of the reconciliation package.  The House Natural Resources Committee has also advanced its $26.5 billion spending bill, which includes $3.5 billion to establish a Civilian Climate Corps – a climate jobs training and placement program – across several agencies; $150 million for the U.S. Geological Survey, with $100 million carved out for its climate adaptation science centers; $9.5 billion for coastal and Great Lakes restoration at NOAA; $500 million for NOAA to address coastal hazards, including sea-level rise; and $100 million for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to improve the resiliency and capacity of habitats to withstand extreme weather events.  The reconciliation process will allow such legislation to pass both chambers by a simple majority.


Biden Administration Announces R&D Budget Priorities

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued their annual science and technology (S&T) priorities memorandum on August 27.  The document guides federal agency priority-setting in the coming budget cycle.  The directive identifies pandemic readiness and prevention, climate change action, national security and economic resilience, improving diversity and equity, and innovation in new technologies as priorities for the fiscal year (FY) 2023 budget.

The Administration’s memo asserts that federal R&D funding “is essential to maximize the benefits of science and technology to tackle the climate crisis and advance health, prosperity, security, environmental quality, equity, and justice for all Americans.”  The guidance calls for continued investments in R&D, STEM education and workforce development, commercialization, and research infrastructure, “with emphasis on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, other Minority Serving Institutions, and disadvantaged communities.”  Furthermore, it directs agencies to ensure that R&D results are made available to other scientists, the public, as well as innovators and that R&D investments create products that are made in the U.S. by U.S. workers.

On public health, the memo stresses the need for the federal government to be prepared for the next pandemic and directs agencies to “build the data infrastructure, manufacturing and delivery capabilities, and workforce needed to support rapid and scalable public health response — both domestically and globally, and funding the fundamental science and critical technologies needed to fulfill the Administration’s goals in pandemic readiness.”

According to the memo, the climate crisis is “interconnected with the staggering levels of biodiversity loss occurring across the globe because climate change is exacerbating the impacts that other drivers are having on biodiversity.”  The Administration’s climate priorities include advancing the science that improves the understanding of Earth’s changing climate and its risk to society; spurring innovations in clean energy technologies and infrastructure; pursuing nature-based solutions for mitigation and adaptation; improving climate adaptation and resilience through integration of physical, natural, and social sciences; and increasing monitoring of greenhouse gas emissions.

Catalyzing research and innovation in ‘critical and emerging’ technologies, such as artificial intelligence, quantum information science, biotechnology, advanced communications technologies, and microelectronics, is an R&D priority that is in line with the Trump Administration’s emphasis on the ‘Industries of the Future.’  Another focus area for the Administration is “innovation for equity.”  The memo states that agencies should “prioritize R&D investments in programs with strong potential to advance equity for all, including people of color and others who have been historically disadvantaged, marginalized, and adversely affected by persistent poverty and inequality.”

To build public trust in the U.S. S&T enterprise, the White House directive calls on agencies to prioritize making federally funded R&D “open to the public in a findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable way; more rigorous, reproducible, and transparent; safe and secure; grounded in assessment of ethical, legal, and societal implications; and free from improper political interference—all while minimizing administrative burden.”


Medical Journals Issue Warning on Public Health Impacts of Climate Change

More than 200 medical journals, including The Lancet, The New England Journal of Medicine, and the British Medical Journal, have published a joint editorial warning that the rapidly changing climate is the “greatest threat” to global public health.

The editorial titled, “Call for Emergency Action to Limit Global Temperature Increases, Restore Biodiversity, and Protect Health,” urges world leaders to “keep average global temperature increases below 1.5° C, halt the destruction of nature, and protect health.”

“The science is unequivocal: a global increase of 1.5° C above the pre-industrial average and the continued loss of biodiversity risk catastrophic harm to health that will be impossible to reverse,” warns the editorial.  Although many governments, financial institutions, and businesses have been setting targets to achieve net-zero emissions, the authors assert that this is not enough. “Targets are easy to set and hard to achieve. They are yet to be matched with credible short- and longer-term plans to accelerate cleaner technologies and transform societies.”

The editorial stresses the critical role of equity in the global response to climate change, stating that wealthier countries will need to cut emissions faster than poorer countries.  “Contributing a fair share to the global effort means that reduction commitments must account for the cumulative, historical contribution each country has made to emissions, as well as its current emissions and capacity to respond.”

The medical journals call on governments to “make fundamental changes to how our societies and economies are organized” and urge global coordination. “Governments must intervene to support the redesign of transport systems, cities, production and distribution of food, markets for financial investments, health systems, and much more.”  Read the editorial.


NSF Announces New Centers to Address Complex Societal Problems

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has announced six new Science and Technologies Centers to advance complex research in fields ranging from mechanobiology to climate change.  The centers will focus on establishing new disciplines and developing “transformative technologies” that could have broad impacts on science and society.  Additionally, the centers will support efforts to educate the public about breakthrough science and work to develop a globally competitive STEM infrastructure.

According to NSF, the Science and Technology Centers Program, established in 1987, plays a central role in recruiting, retaining, and mentoring next generation scientists and engineers from groups underrepresented in STEM.  These centers also engage in partnerships with higher education institutions, national laboratories, industrial organizations, public and private entities, and international collaborations. 

Among the six new centers is the NSF Center for Chemical Currencies of a Microbial Planet, which will incorporate new ocean sampling technologies and an open-science framework to promote a deeper understanding of the chemicals and chemical processes that underpin ocean ecosystems and other microbiomes.  Another center aims to improve the current understanding of Earth’s climate system by discovering and recovering some of the oldest ice on the planet.  The NSF Center for Research on Programmable Plant Systems will focus on improving the sustainability, productivity, and profitability of crop-based agriculture.  Other new centers include the Center for Learning the Earth with Artificial Intelligence and Physics, the Center for Integration of Modern Optoelectronic Materials on Demand, and the Science and Technologies for Phosphorus Sustainability Center.


Webinar Announcement: Funding Opportunities for Scientific Collections at NSF

Join AIBS, the Natural Science Collections Alliance, the Biodiversity Collections Network (BCoN), the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections (SPNHC), and the US Cultural Collections Network for a webinar with program directors from the National Science Foundation (NSF) about recent structural changes to collections-related funding opportunities at the agency.

Date: October 4, 2021

Time: 2:00-3:00 PM EST (this program will be recorded)

Speakers from NSF:

  • Reed Beaman, Program Director, Division of Biological Infrastructure
  • Peter McCartney, Program Director, Division of Biological Infrastructure
  • Roland Roberts, Program Director, Division of Biological Infrastructure

The collections community and stakeholders, including collection and data managers, curators, Sponsored Research Officers (SROs), and other administrators are invited to join us for a virtual learning session that will explore recent structural changes to NSF programs that support collections and how these might impact the community.  There will also be a discussion of new opportunities that currently exist or may be available in the near future.  The program will start with a presentation from NSF program directors responsible for collections-related programs at the agency followed by an opportunity for the community to ask questions.  Register here.


Enter the 2021 Faces of Biology Photo Contest

Enter the Faces of Biology Photo Contest for your chance to win $250 and to have your photo appear on the cover of the journal BioScience.

The competition, sponsored by the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) and the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology (SICB), recognizes scientists who use imagery to communicate aspects of biological research to the public and policymakers.

The theme of the contest is “Faces of Biology.”  Photographs entered into the contest must depict a person, such as a scientist, researcher, collections curator, 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 COVID-19 pandemic has changed how science is being conducted. You are invited to share how you are conducting your research in these unusual times.

The First Place Winner will have his/her winning photo featured on the cover of BioScience, and will receive $250 and a one year subscription to BioScience.  The Second and Third Place Winners will have his/her winning photo printed inside BioScience, and will receive a one year subscription to BioScience.

The winning photo from the 2020 contest was featured on the cover of the April 2021 issue of BioScience.

Submissions must be received by 11:59:59 p.m. Eastern Time on September 30, 2021.  For more information or to enter the contest, visit https://www.aibs.org/faces-of-biology/.


Short Takes

  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is soliciting nominations of scientific experts for two ad hoc review panels of the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC).  The review panels will provide advice through the chartered CASAC on the scientific and technical aspects of air quality criteria and the primary and secondary National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for lead and the secondary NAAQS for oxides of nitrogen, oxides of sulfur, and particulate matter.  Nominations should be submitted by September 29, 2021.
  • iDigBio, the National Museum of Natural History, and the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) have announced a special poster session for the upcoming conference, ‘Biodiversity Digitization: Celebrating a decade of progress.’  The meeting will feature about 30 pre-recorded posters that will be available for viewing and digesting asynchronously prior to a live Q&A.  The free two-day virtual conference will highlight the collective successes of mobilization and digitization efforts in the US and abroad.  Register at: https://ufl.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_cP2xwJQRRUim4BbyIqk2DQ.  
  • The National Academies will establish a Climate Security Roundtable, to provide support to the Climate Security Advisory Council, which is a joint partnership between the U.S. Intelligence Community and the Federal Science community to better understand and anticipate the ways climate change affects U.S. national security interests.  Nominations are sought for 15-35 experts drawn from academia, the private sector, and civil society, as well as government, with expertise in Earth system science, social and behavioral sciences, global change research, data science and information science, or human dimensions of climate variability and change.  Nominations will be accepted until September 30, 2021. Learn more.
  • The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine's (NASEM) Board on Life Sciences has announced the roster for the provisional Standing Committee on Biotechnology Capabilities and National Security Needs.  The standing committee is tasked with identifying advanced biotechnologies that have promising capabilities to meet national security needs, and early-stage research that may lead to new or enhanced biotechnologies.  The committee will meet regularly to discuss new biotechnology developments and host two workshops on a selected set of these biotechnologies. 

From the Federal Register

The following items appeared in the Federal Register from August 30 to September 10, 2021.



Environmental Protection Agency

Health and Human 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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