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Public Policy Report for 26 September 2011

Action Alert: Contact Senators Today - Urge Them to Restore Funding for NSF

The United States Senate Appropriations Committee has approved legislation that would slash funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF). Under the Committee’s proposal, the Research and Related Activities account at NSF would be cut by $120.9 million in the coming fiscal year. This is the account that provides funding for NSF’s various research directorates, such as the Biological Sciences Directorate, Geosciences Directorate, and so forth.

Importantly, the Senate spending plan provides significantly less funding to NSF than the appropriations bill approved by the House Committee on Appropriations. Under the House plan, Research and Related Activities would receive roughly $5.6 billion in the next fiscal year, about $43 million above the current funding level.

Additionally, both the House and the Senate have developed appropriations legislation that would cut funding for Education and Human Resources programs at NSF, but the House would cut roughly $6 million less than the Senate.

As proposed, the Senate plan would cut more than $160 million from NSF in fiscal year 2012. If enacted, these cuts would be damaging to NSF programs and counter to bipartisan pledges of support for scientific research and education.

If the Senate fails to increase funding for NSF, it is almost guaranteed that the agency will receive a significant budget cut in the coming fiscal year. It is important that Senators hear from their constituents today. Please contact your Senators today to urge them to oppose the Senate Appropriation Committee’s proposed cuts to NSF.

If you will be in Washington, DC, in the coming days, please make time to stop by your Senators’ offices to express your concerns. You may also schedule an appointment to meet with your Senators at one of their offices in your state (visit http://capwiz.com/aibs/dbq/officials/ to locate Senate offices in your state).

Please contact both of your Senators today! A prepared letter is available at http://capwiz.com/aibs/issues/alert/?alertid=53834971 and a targeted letter for Maryland residents is available at http://capwiz.com/aibs/issues/alert/?alertid=53867986.

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Appropriations Deal Eludes Congress

Five days before the start of the new fiscal year, Congress has yet to reach an agreement on fiscal year (FY) 2012 spending. Democrats and Republicans are struggling to reach a deal to keep the federal government open for the next few weeks until Congress completes its work on FY 2012 appropriations.

Enactment of a Continuing Resolution to temporarily fund the government has been held up by disagreement between the chambers over disaster relief funding. At issue is how much to spend on recovery aid to states hit hard by natural disasters and whether or not that expense should be offset by spending reductions elsewhere.

House Republicans are pushing for $3.65 billion in disaster funding and $1.5 billion in offsets by cutting a Department of Energy loan program that helps automakers develop more fuel efficient vehicles. Senate Democrats are proposing $7 billion for disaster funding without any offsets, since Congress has not offset these expenditures in the past.

The House of Representatives narrowly passed a Continuing Resolution last week to keep the government open through 18 November 2011. The legislation would reduce spending for most agencies by 1.4 percent from current levels. The Senate rejected the bill on 23 September and is expected to vote on an amended version of the bill Monday evening, which would remove the Energy program offsets, but accept the House’s figure for disaster funding.

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Senate Panel Votes to Slash Funding for NSF

On 15 September, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a spending plan for the National Science Foundation for fiscal year (FY) 2012 that would cut $161.8 million from the agency’s budget. The recommended level, $6.698 billion, is a 2.4 percent reduction from FY 2011 and is less than NSF received in FY 2010.

Under the Committee’s proposal, the Research and Related Activities account at NSF would be slashed by $120.9 million in the next fiscal year. This is the account that provides funding for NSF’s various research directorates, such as the Biological Sciences Directorate.

Funding for NSF research could be reduced further under the Senate plan. The legislation allows the agency to transfer up to $100 million from the Research and Related Activities account to the Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction account in order to fully fund the Ocean Observatories Initiative and to start construction of the National Ecological Observatory Network. Funding for Education and Human Resources programs at NSF would be cut by $32.0 million, a 3.7 percent reduction.

Notably, the Senate spending plan provides significantly less funding to NSF than the appropriations bill approved by the House Committee on Appropriations. Under the House plan, Research and Related Activities would receive roughly $5.6 billion in the next fiscal year, about $43 million above the current funding level.

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NSF BIO to Host Webinar on New Procedures for Submission, Review of Research Grants

The National Science Foundation (NSF) Division of Integrative Organismal Systems (IOS) will hold a webinar on 30 September 2011 about recent changes to its research proposal submission and peer review process.

Effective immediately, IOS and the Division of Environmental Biology (DEB) will implement an annual cycle for proposals (see http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2011/nsf11078/nsf11078.jsp?org=NSF). The first round of preliminary proposals will be accepted in January 2012. The Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences also changed its funding cycle (see http://www.nsf.gov/publications/pubsumm.jsp?odskey=nsf11056).

The IOS webinar will be held from 2:00-3:30 pm on 30 September. For more information and to register for the webinar, visit http://www.nsf.gov/events/eventsumm.jsp?cntnid=121737&WT.mcid=USNSF13.

To view a recording of DEB’s recent webinar on the new funding cycle, visit http://www.nsf.gov/events/eventsumm.jsp?cntnid=121479&org=BIO.

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Senate Bill Would Cut NOAA Research, Conservation Programs

At first glance, the spending plan recently approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee seems to provide a good deal for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The legislation would provide the agency with $5.0 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2012, $434.2 million more than FY 2011. Given that many federal programs are facing the prospect of two consecutive years of budget cuts, NOAA appears to be among a lucky few agencies.

Nearly all of the proposed increase, however, would be directed towards the acquisition of the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS). At $920 million in FY 2012, the satellite would be the single most expensive program at NOAA. In total, NOAA’s multiple satellite programs will consume about a third of the agency’s budget next year.

The decision by Senate appropriators to boost funding for the JPSS could put the agency’s overall mission at risk, according to the committee report released with the appropriations bill. “For fiscal year 2012, the committee has made great sacrifices throughout this bill to support increased funding needed for JPSS,” states the report.

Indeed, NOAA’s Operations, Research, and Facilities budget account would be cut by $48.2 million to help accommodate the proposed spending increase for the satellite programs. This means that the agency’s efforts to study, manage, and protect our nation’s living resources in marine environments and to understand and predict weather and climate would be funded at the same level as in FY 2009.

Notably, the Senate panel includes funding for NOAA’s proposed Climate Service. The agency hopes to realign many of its existing climate activities into one central program that will provide enhanced climate prediction and data services. The Senate bill would provide $182 million for the new climate service, well short of the $346 million requested by President Obama. Like lawmakers in the House of Representatives, Senators were concerned about the realignment’s impacts on the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research.

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USGS Coalition Honors Senator Bingaman

On Wednesday, September 21, 2011, the USGS Coalition recognized United States Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) with the Coalition’s Congressional Leadership Award. The Award was presented during the USGS Coalition’s annual reception on Capitol Hill.

AIBS is a founding member of the USGS Coalition and AIBS director of public policy Robert Gropp is a co-chair of the group. In addition to remarks by Senator Bingaman, Suzette Kimball, deputy director of the USGS, thanked the Senator and the USGS Coalition for the years of effort both have given to elevating the profile of the USGS among policymakers.

Well over 200 individuals attended the event. Several lawmakers other than Senator Bingaman attended the reception, including one of last year’s award recipients, Representative James Moran (D-VA), as well as Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) and Rep. Madeleine Z. Bordallo (D-GU).

For more information about the USGS Coalition, please visit www.usgscoalition.org.

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Enter the Faces of Biology Photo Contest

Here’s your chance to win cash and prizes for photos of your research. Enter the Faces of Biology Photo Contest, sponsored by the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS).

Biological research takes diverse forms — from field research to computer modeling to lab work. Help the public and policymakers better understand the breadth of biology by entering the Faces of Biology Photo Contest.

The initiative is an opportunity to showcase the varied forms that biological research can take. Photographs entered into the contest must depict a person, such as a scientist, researcher, 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 Grand Prize Winner will have his/her winning photo featured on the cover of BioScience, and will receive $250 and a one-year membership in AIBS, including a print subscription to BioScience.

The contest ends on 30 September 2011. For more information and to enter the contest, visit http://www.aibs.org/public-programs/photocontest.html.

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Sign-up for Policy News from AIBS and Become Eligible for the Chance to Win Prizes

The American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) helps scientists stay informed about rapidly changing developments in Washington, DC, that can have a direct and long-lasting impact on science and science education in the United States.

To stay appraised of these developments, sign up for a free subscription to the AIBS Public Policy Report and/or AIBS Legislative Action Center, and enter for a chance to win a special gift.

The AIBS Public Policy Report provides the latest news and analysis of issues concerning the science community, including funding for scientific research, changes to federal research programs, support for science education programs and fellowships, threats to evolution and climate change education, and much more.

The AIBS Legislative Action Center is an online tool that facilitates quick and effective communication between scientists and their elected officials. Subscribers receive action alerts about specific opportunities to influence science policy.

For a limited time, AIBS will provide five lucky new subscribers with a special gift. From Monday, August 22, 2011 through Friday, October 7, 2011, new subscribers to the AIBS Public Policy Report and/or AIBS Legislative Action Center will automatically be entered into a drawing to receive one of the following prize packages.

Prize packages:

  • Three randomly selected winners will each receive a $20 Amazon Gift Card + a copy of AIBS Congressional Directory + a copy of Communicating Science: A Primer for Working with the Media (Value: $52.90)
  • Two randomly selected winners will each receive a copy of AIBS Congressional Directory + a copy of Communicating Science: A Primer for Working with the Media (Value: $32.90)

There is no cost to subscribe to the AIBS Public Policy Report or AIBS Legislative Action Center. Subscribe to both lists to maximize your chances of winning.

Enter the contest at http://www.aibs.org/public-policy/news/subscribe.html#031366.

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Short Takes

  • The Senate Appropriations Committee has approved a spending bill that would provide the National Institutes of Health (NIH) with $31.5 billion in fiscal year 2012. The proposed budget is $190 million less than this year. The bill would also create a new National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences to translate basic discoveries into health therapies, while abolishing the National Center for Research Resources. The reorganization is a top priority for NIH director Francis Collins.

  • On 16 September, President Obama signed into law a bill that will reform America's patent system. HR 1249 will bring the U.S. patent system more into line with the rest of the world by changing the ability of an inventor to patent a discovery. Under the new law, the first person to file for a patent will receive a patent. Currently, the first person to come up with an idea has priority for receiving a patent, even if they don't apply right away.

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2011 AIBS Congressional Directory: Available in AIBS Webstore

The American Institute of Biological Sciences is pleased to announce that copies of the AIBS guide to the 112th Congress are now available in the AIBS Webstore for only $19.95 per copy. There is a limited supply of this handy resource, so please order your copy today. To learn more about this or other publications available through AIBS, please visit http://webstore.aibs.org/category/35373945661/1/Books.htm.

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Become an Advocate for Science: Join the AIBS Legislative Action Center

Quick, free, easy, effective, impactful! Join the AIBS Legislative Action Center today!

The AIBS Legislative Action Center is an online resource that allows biologists and science educators to quickly and effectively influence policy and public opinion. Each day lawmakers must make tough decisions about science policy. For example, what investments to make in federal research programs, how to conserve biodiversity, how to mitigate climate change, or under what circumstances to permit stem cell research. Scientists now have the opportunity to help elected officials understand these issues. This exciting new advocacy tool allows individuals to quickly and easily communicate with members of Congress, executive branch officials, and selected media outlets.

This new tool is made possible through contributions from the Society for the Study of Evolution, American Society for Limnology and Oceanography, Association of Ecosystem Research Centers, and the Botanical Society of America.

AIBS and our partner organizations invite scientists and science educators to become a policy advocate today. Simply go to http://capwiz.com/aibs/home/ to send a prepared letter or to sign up to receive periodic Action Alerts.

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