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AIBS Public Policy Report, Volume 22, Issue 20, September 27, 2021

  • International Workshop Series on Nagoya Protocol: Register Now for Session on Infectious Disease
  • Societies, Higher Education Groups Urge Congress to Support Afghan Students and Scholars
  • Science Groups Urge Lawmakers to Pass Bioeconomy R&D Legislation
  • Congress Considers Stopgap Funding, Debt Limit Suspension
  • Interagency Report Outlines Best Practices for Diversity, Inclusion in STEM
  • NSB Report: Biomedical, Health Sciences Dominate in Federally-Funded Academic R&D
  • White House Expands Presidential Science Advisory Panel
  • Biden Nominates Head of EPA’s Science Office
  • Science Coalition Applauds NSF Allocation in House Reconciliation Bill
  • National Fossil Day is October 13
  • Register Now: Webinar on Funding Opportunities for Scientific Collections at NSF
  • Deadline Approaching: Enter the 2021 Faces of Biology Photo Contest
  • Short Takes
    • NSF Requests Input on the Future of EPSCoR 
    • IMLS Announces Museum Grant Opportunities 
    • IMLS Webinar on Museums for All Initiative
  • 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.


International Workshop Series on Nagoya Protocol: Register Now for Session on Infectious Disease

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 on “Applied Ecology and Infectious Disease” scheduled for October 27, 2021.  This session will be co-hosted by the American Society of Mammalogists, the Natural Science Collections Alliance, and the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections. 

Topic: Applied Ecology and Infectious Disease
Date: October 27, 2021
Time: 1:00 - 3:00 PM EST or 5:00 - 7:00 PM UTC (this program will be recorded)
Location: Online via Zoom

Digital Sequence Information (DSI), such as genetic sequence data, play a critical role in understanding and addressing infectious diseases.  DSI about pathogens provides key information, such as mutation rate, provenance, and migration trajectories, which can all enable disease management in a variety of systems.  Furthermore, exemplary research on zika, lyme disease, malaria, and SARS viruses have relied on international partnerships.  Join us for this workshop to recognize and document the value of DSI for infectious disease research, and learn together how to navigate the Nagoya Protocol and national policies to conduct upstanding biodiversity science to benefit the planet.  Additional information about this session, including the list of speakers, is available online.

Register now.


Societies, Higher Education Groups Urge Congress to Support Afghan Students and Scholars

AIBS has joined a group of 41 scientific societies and higher education associations in asking lawmakers to provide support and legislation to assist students and scholars who have been displaced by the current crisis in Afghanistan.

“While we and our institutions continue to support efforts to safely evacuate Afghan students and scholars who face danger under the Taliban, we are also starting to discuss how to offer longer-term assistance for those displaced by the crisis,” the groups note.  “Many of our institutions want to help and are offering support to those seeking to continue their education and begin their new lives. This includes raising scholarship funds for displaced students, placing scholars in U.S. graduate programs, and developing creative options for students seeking to transfer credits from Afghanistan institutions who may have destroyed their records.”

The letter encourages Congress to provide additional support for displaced students and scholars seeking to study and continue their academic careers in the United States and enumerates specific ways Congress could support this effort through future legislation.


Science Groups Urge Lawmakers to Pass Bioeconomy R&D Legislation

A group of scientific organizations and institutions, including AIBS, have called on congressional leadership to include the Bioeconomy Research and Development Act of 2021 (H.R. 4521/S. 1418) in a larger competitiveness package being advanced by lawmakers to bolster the U.S. research enterprise.

The letter reads, in part: “The rapid acceleration of discovery demonstrates a need for better cross-agency coordination, greater technology needs, and data sharing infrastructure.  The Bioeconomy Research and Development Act of 2021 will create a national initiative to advance engineering biology and strengthen the ability to translate scientific discoveries into tools, technologies, and therapies that will benefit Americans, our economy, and the world at large.  This bipartisan legislation will facilitate collaboration, cross-agency funding, database curation, and the development of novel tools to accelerate translational research.”

If enacted the bill would:

  • Establish an initiative through the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to advance research and development, advance biomanufacturing, develop the future bioeconomy workforce, and support research in ethical, legal, environmental, safety, security, and societal issues;
  • Direct the National Academies to review ethical, legal, environmental, safety, security, and societal issues related to engineering biology; and
  • Direct OSTP to lead an interagency coordination committee and define roles of participating agencies.

The bill was included in the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (S. 1260) passed by the Senate earlier this year.  The community letter urges its inclusion in the final research competitiveness package negotiated by the conference committee.


Congress Considers Stopgap Funding, Debt Ceiling Suspension

The House has passed a stopgap funding bill along party lines to keep the government operational at level-funding until December 3, 2021.  The bill also includes a measure to suspend the U.S. debt ceiling through December 2022 and provide more than $26 billion in emergency aid for natural disasters.

“We believe a suspension of the debt limit through December 2022 would provide an amount of time commensurate with the debt incurred as a result of passing last winter’s bipartisan $908 billion emergency COVID relief legislation,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY).

Partisan disagreements over the debt limit provision could endanger the prospects of passing the stopgap continuing resolution by the September 30 deadline, triggering a government shutdown.  The Senate will vote today on the continuing resolution, which requires 60 votes to advance.  Republican lawmakers, who are opposed to a debt hike or suspension, have indicated that they will block the measure in the Senate but would support a short-term spending and disaster aid bill without the debt provision.  Some Republicans have called on Democrats to use the budget reconciliation bill to raise the debt ceiling.  “The Democrats have a mechanism already in place to use reconciliation to pass it with a simple majority of the Senate, if they want to raise and spend another $5 trillion,” said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA).  It is estimated that the U.S. Treasury will run out of money to pay its obligations by sometime in late-October or early-November.  It is unclear if a reconciliation package could be finalized in time to avert a default. 

With Congress deadlocked over the stopgap measure, the White House has asked federal agencies to review their plans for a possible shutdown.  “Prudent management requires that the government plan for the possibility of a lapse in funding, said Abdullah Hasan, a spokesperson for the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).  “Consistent with long-standing practice across multiple administrations, OMB is preparing for any contingency, and determinations about specific programs are being actively reviewed by agencies.”

The House has passed 10 out of the 12 fiscal year (FY) 2022 appropriations bills, but progress has stalled in the Senate as a result of partisan disagreements over topline spending levels.  Passing the continuing resolution will allow additional time to finalize the spending bills. Additionally, a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill awaits consideration in the House today and a separate $3.5 trillion social policy and climate focused reconciliation bill, which is still being negotiated, is also expected to be voted on by the House this week.  Meanwhile, negotiations over a bipartisan innovation package that includes spending reauthorizations for the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy have slowed down as a result of the focus on the reconciliation bill.


Interagency Report Outlines Best Practices for Diversity, Inclusion in STEM

The National Science and Technology Council (NSTC), which coordinates science and technology policy across the federal research and development agencies, has released a new report describing best practices for strengthening diversity and inclusion in the federal STEM workforce.

The report, Best Practices for Diversity & Inclusion in STEM Education & Research: A guide by & for Federal Agencies, was developed by the NSTC’s Interagency Working Group on Inclusion in STEM, which is co-chaired by representatives from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the National Science Foundation, and the Departments of Health and Human Services and Interior.  According to the report, the federal STEM workforce is about 16 percent of the total federal workforce and “while women and individuals from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups comprise 43[percent] and 38[percent] of the total federal workforce, respectively; they only comprise 29[percent] and 10[percent] of the federal STEM workforce.”

The report offers several recommendations for federal agencies to implement, including developing a “pathways approach to STEM academic and career programs at each agency that allows for flexibility with multiple entry points and enables participants to build on academic achievement and research expertise at different levels and life stages.”  It calls for agencies to expand recruitment at minority-serving institutions; provide opportunities for leadership training and skills development that addresses barriers impacting groups underrepresented in STEM; provide unconscious bias training for existing managers; develop more flexible hiring and pay authorities particularly for entry-level positions; and expand work/life balance efforts.


NSB Report: Biomedical, Health Sciences Dominate in Federally-Funded Academic R&D

A report published by the National Science Board (NSB)—the governing body of the National Science Foundation (NSF)—suggests that the U.S. federal government remains the largest funder of academic research and development (R&D), providing more than 50 percent of the total funds in 2019.  The report also shows that health, biological, and biomedical research at academic institutions, supported primarily by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), continues to be the largest beneficiary of federal research funds compared to other fields.

The Academic Research and Development report is one of the 10 reports that make up the 2022 Science and Engineering Indicators, a congressionally mandated report on the state of the U.S. science and engineering enterprise.  According to the report:

  • Six federal agencies, namely NSF, HHS, the Department of Defense (DOD), the Department of Energy (DOE), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the Department of Agriculture (USDA), fund more than 90 percent of academic R&D.
  • In 2019, funding of academic R&D from HHS was greater than the total support for academic R&D from all other federal agencies combined.
  • Biological and biomedical sciences and engineering have seen the highest increases in the physical space devoted to academic science and engineering research, accounting for 60 percent of the total research space growth between 2007 to 2019. 
  • The federal government funded around half of science and engineering postdocs, with postdoctoral appointments being concentrated in the biological, biomedical, and health sciences.

The NSB has released two other reports from Indicators 2022, with the remaining reports coming out on a staggered schedule in the months leading up to the spring of 2022.  A report on the U.S. science and engineering labor force, which was published in August, highlights the contribution of STEM workers to the U.S. economy.  The report shows that the STEM workforce accounted for 23 percent of the total U.S. workforce in 2019.  Skilled technical workers, who work in STEM fields but do not have a bachelor’s degree, constitute a little over half of the STEM workforce.  The report also shows that STEM workers tend to have higher median earnings ($55,000) than non-STEM workers ($33,000).  Unemployment among STEM workers was lower than non-STEM workers in 2019, a pattern that persisted during the pandemic.  A third report, which was published in July 2021, found that the U.S. is lagging behind many countries in STEM education, particularly in mathematics literacy.


White House Expands Presidential Science Advisory Panel

President Biden issued an Executive Order on September 13 to expand the maximum size of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) from 26 to 32 members.  Last week, he announced the names of 30 panel members who would constitute the “most diverse PCAST in U.S. History.”

PCAST is a panel of external advisors charged with making science, technology, and innovation policy recommendations to the President and the White House.  Among the newly appointed members of Biden’s PCAST are 20 elected members of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, five MacArthur “Genius” Fellows, two former Cabinet secretaries, and two Nobel laureates.  The panel includes experts in agriculture, biochemistry, ecology, entrepreneurship, immunology, neuroscience, national security, astrophysics, social science, computer engineering, and cybersecurity.

PCAST is traditionally co-chaired by the President’s science advisor and one or two external co-chairs.  President Biden announced prior to his inauguration that his PCAST will be co-chaired by Dr. Frances H. Arnold, a Nobel Prize-winning chemist, and Dr. Maria Zuber, a geophysicist.  Biden’s science adviser Dr. Eric Lander also co-chaired the PCAST under President Obama.

“President Biden understands that addressing the opportunities and challenges we face – to our health, our planet, our economic prosperity, and our national security – will require harnessing the full power of science and technology,” said PCAST Co-Chair and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Dr. Lander.  “This PCAST is uniquely prepared because of its extraordinary scientific breadth, wide range of work experiences, and unprecedented diversity.”

Newly appointed PCAST members include Dr. Steve Pacala, an ecologist and environmental biologist; Dr. Vicki Sato, a biologist, immunologist, and biotechnology executive; Dr. Catherine Woteki, an agriculture and food scientist; Dr. William Press, a computer scientist, computational biologist, and astrophysicist; Dr. Frances Colón, a neuroscientist and science diplomat; and Dr. Lisa Cooper, an internal medicine physician, social epidemiologist, and health services researcher.  See the full roster.


Biden Nominates Head of EPA’s Science Office

President Biden has announced his intent to nominate Dr. Christopher Frey—an expert in environmental science and engineering—as Assistant Administrator for the Office and Research and Development (ORD) at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  If confirmed by the Senate, Dr. Frey would be the first person to hold this position in nearly a decade.

“Dr. Frey is a champion of scientific integrity and the role of science to inform decision-making,” notes the White House.  He currently serves as the Deputy Assistant Administrator for Science Policy in ORD.  Prior to his work with EPA, Dr. Frey served as a faculty member at North Carolina State University.  He has served in numerous roles at the EPA, including as an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)/EPA Environmental Science and Engineering Fellow in 1992.  He has served as exposure modeling advisor in ORD’s National Exposure Research Laboratory and on a number of science advisory panels, including the EPA Science Advisory Board, the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC), and the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Scientific Advisory Panel. 

Dr. Frey has a B.S. in mechanical engineering from the University of Virginia and a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Carnegie Mellon University.  He earned his Ph.D. in engineering and public policy from Carnegie Mellon University. 


Science Coalition Applauds NSF Allocation in House Reconciliation Bill

The Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF)—an alliance of more than 130 professional organizations, universities and businesses, that advocates for robust federal investment in the National Science Foundation's (NSF) research and education program—has issued the following statement on the allocation for NSF in the House reconciliation package:

“The Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF) applauds the strong allocation for the National Science Foundation (NSF) provided by the House Science, Space and Technology Committee in the budget reconciliation bill, and urges Members to at least meet or ideally increase the level of funding for NSF in the final bill.

As the foundation of the nation’s scientific enterprise, NSF-funded research leads to the cutting-edge technologies and innovations that drive our economy, protect our national security, improve societal health and well-being, and vital education and training of the next-generation scientific workforce. Providing additional funds for NSF in the reconciliation bill would allow the agency to fund the numerous highly meritorious research proposals that currently cannot be awarded due to insufficient funds, invest in the growing backlog of research infrastructure maintenance, and ensure that researchers impacted by COVID-related delays are made whole.”

AIBS is a member of CNSF.


National Fossil Day is October 13

National Fossil Day, an annual celebration organized by the National Park Service (NPS), will take place on October 13, 2021.  AIBS has once again partnered with NPS to promote the event.

The event highlights the scientific and educational value of paleontology and the importance of preserving fossils for future generations.  The annual celebration will include paleontology activities planned by partner organizations across the United States.  

NPS and National Fossil Day partners are sponsoring an art contest as a part of the celebration. The contest theme is “Prehistoric Life from our National Parks and Monuments!”  Entries can be submitted until October 1, 2021.  For details about participating, click here.

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 https://www.nps.gov/subjects/fossilday/index.htm.


Register Now: Webinar on 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
  • Matthew Herron, 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.


Deadline Approaching: Enter the 2021 Faces of Biology Photo Contes

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 National Science Foundation (NSF) has launched a year-long visioning activity to guide the future of NSF's Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), led by an external committee of national experts.  As part of the visioning process, the NSF is soliciting stakeholder input on the program’s investment strategies and opportunities for increased success.  Comments can be submitted online until October 11, 2021.
  • 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.

From the Federal Register

The following items appeared in the Federal Register from September 13 to 24, 2021. 

Agency for International Development




Environmental Protection Agency

Executive Office of the President

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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