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Public Policy Report for 27 February 2012

AIBS Report Analyzes President's FY 2013 Budget for Biological Research, Education

President Obama released a $3.8 trillion budget plan for fiscal year (FY) 2013 on 13 February 2012. According to the White House, the budget proposal would cut deficits by $4 trillion over the next decade and would avoid the $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts mandated by the Budget Control Act signed into law in August 2011. The deficit reduction would be achieved by increased revenues, including higher taxes on families earning more than $250,000, and spending cuts.

Science is once again a priority in the President’s budget request. Despite a freeze on discretionary spending at the 2011 level for the second year in a row, the Administration has proposed $140.8 billion for federal research and development (R&D), an increase of $2.0 billion. Non-defense R&D would increase by five percent above the FY 2012 level.

Nearly all science agencies would see increased funding in FY 2013. Notably, the National Science Foundation would receive a 4.8 percent increase. Other science programs slated for an increase include the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, Department of Agriculture research, and various Department of the Interior bureaus. Although the overall budgets for the Environmental Protection Agency and National Aeronautics and Space Administration would be cut, the agencies’ research programs would receive slight budget increases.

Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education programs would collectively receive $3.0 billion, a 2.6 percent increase.

The multi-agency U.S. Global Change Research Program would receive $2.6 billion, an increase of 5.6 percent.

Download the full analysis of the FY 2013 budget at

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President's Budget Would Boost NSF by Nearly Five Percent

  • 2013 NSF Budget Request: $7.4 billion (+$340.0 million)
  • 2013 Research and Related Activities Request: $6.0 billion (+$294.3 million)
  • 2013 Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction Request: $196.2 million (-$0.9 million)
  • 2013 Education and Human Resources Request: $875.6 million (+$46.6 million)
  • 2013 Biological Sciences Directorate Request: $733.9 million (+$21.5 million)

The President’s budget request for NSF would provide a 4.8 percent increase over the FY 2012 appropriation.

Research and education initiatives are prioritized over other programmatic areas. The Research and Related Activities account, which includes funding for the various disciplinary directorates, would receive an increase of 5.2 percent. This would fund an additional 500 competitive awards during the fiscal year, although the agency’s funding rate is expected to remain at 22 percent. Education and Human Resources, which funds education research and various fellowships, would grow by 5.6 percent. Conversely, Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction would stay nearly flat (-0.4 percent). The budget for administrative efforts would remain at the FY 2012 funding level.

The budget request includes increases for several Presidential priorities, including clean energy, manufacturing, and education. Toward these goals, the President proposed $355.4 million (+$14 million) for research related to clean energy technology, $148.9 million (+$39 million) for basic research that could develop new manufacturing technologies, and $30 million for a new joint program with the Department of Education to improve math education.

Interdisciplinary programs would also grow in FY 2013. The Science, Engineering, and Education for Sustainability initiative would be funded at $202.5 million, $45.5 million more than last year. In 2013, the initiative would include five interdisciplinary programs that will take an integrated approach to addressing clean energy and sustainability; included are emphases on coasts and the Arctic. Additionally, a new interdisciplinary research program launched in 2012, Integrated NSF Support Promoting Interdisciplinary Research and Education (INSPIRE), would triple in size to $63.0 million.

For research infrastructure, the FY 2013 budget requests funding from the Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction account to continue building the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) and the Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI). NEON would receive $91.0 million (+$30.7 million) for continued construction; NEON will break ground on three sites in the summer of 2012. Once completed, NEON will collect data across the United States on the impacts of climate change, land use change, and invasive species on natural resources and biodiversity. The Administration also proposed $65.0 million (-$37.8 million) for the fourth year of construction of OOI, which will consist of an integrated network of deep-sea buoys, regional cabled nodes on the seafloor, and coastal observatories that will provide continuous, interactive access to the ocean.

NSF initiatives in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education would receive new funding. Expeditions in Education is a new program that would establish a partnership between the Directorate for Education and Human Resources and the research directorates to integrate and leverage STEM education research. The program would receive $49.0 million in FY 2013. The Transforming Undergraduate Education in STEM program would increase by 55.8 percent to $61.5 million. The Research Experiences for Undergraduates program would be boosted by 3.7 percent.

NSF would expand its support for graduate students and early career scientists. The Faculty Early Career Development program (CAREER) would support approximately 40 additional young faculty members, for a total of 440 new awards in FY 2013. The Graduate Research Fellowship program would maintain the doubling of new awards achieved in FY 2010; the fellowship’s stipend would also increase by $1,500.

Several programs are recommended for cuts and consolidations totaling $67.0 million. Four programs within the Mathematical and Physical Sciences Directorate are identified for elimination (-$10.0 million), as well as four computer science and engineering programs (-$17.0 million). Two public outreach programs that focus on communicating science, Communicating Science Broadly (-$2.0 million) and Connecting Researchers with Public Audiences (-$4.0 million), would also be eliminated. Climate change education would be cut by about a third to $6.3 million.

NSF’s Biological Sciences Directorate (BIO)

The budget for BIO would increase by 3.0 percent to $733.9 million. The number of research grants awarded, average award size, and average award duration are expected to be comparable to FY 2012 levels. The funding rate across the directorate would remain at 15 percent. BIO provides about 62 percent of federal funding for non-medical, basic research, including environmental biology, at academic institutions in the life sciences.

Within the request for BIO, funding would be allocated among five divisions accordingly:

  • Molecular and Cellular Biosciences: $132.7 million (+$6.9 million, +5.5 percent)
  • Integrative Organismal Systems: $220.5 million (+$8.2 million, +3.9 percent)
  • Environmental Biology: $143.7 million (+$1.2 million, +0.8 percent)
  • Biological Infrastructure: $129.7 million (+$3.5 million, +2.8 percent)
  • Emerging Frontiers: $107.3 million (+$1.7 million, +1.6 percent)

Several NSF-wide initiatives would receive new funding within BIO. In addition to $7.5 million in additional funding for the Science, Engineering and Education for Sustainability initiative, BIO would receive $4.6 in additional funding for the Research at the Interface of the Biological, Mathematical, and Physical Sciences (BioMaPS) program. BIO’s support of clean energy technology would be increased by $6.0 million. As part of INSPIRE, BIO would receive an additional $2.0 million to co-fund high-risk/high-reward, cross-disciplinary grants.

NSF is also embracing the concept of “grand challenges” in the biological sciences, themes highlighted in a 2010 report from the National Research Council. The 2013 budget request calls for $20.0 million in new funding across all BIO divisions for research relevant to the following grand challenges: synthesizing life-like systems; understanding the brain; predicting organisms’ characteristics from their DNA; interactions of the Earth, its climate, and its biosphere; and understanding biological diversity.

The Long-Term Ecological Research sites would receive $28.0 million, an increase of about 2.1 percent.

Digitization of scientific information associated with biological specimens held in U.S. research collections would continue to be supported at $10.0 million a year. Collections in Support of Biological Research would not be funded in FY 2013 (-$4.0 million). Instead, the program would change from an annual to biennial competition. The Assembling the Tree of Life (AToL) program, which aims to resolve evolutionary relationships for the major lineages of organisms, would be moved towards a biennial competition that combines two years of funding into each set of awards.

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Science, Museum Organizations Oppose Changes to NSF Collections Support Program

On 24 February 2012 the Natural Science Collections Alliance, Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections, Association of Science Museum Directors, American Institute of Biological Sciences, and the American Association of Museums wrote to the National Science Foundation (NSF) regarding the agency’s proposed budget for support of scientific collections.

Although the President’s recently released fiscal year 2013 budget request is generally supportive of science, NSF proposes to change the Collections in Support of Biological Research program from an annual to biennial competition. The change would effectively cut the program’s funding in half.

The CSBR program provides vitally important support to our nation’s biological sciences research collections. The program is considered by some to be besieged by more grant proposals than it can support. A biennial funding system would likely exacerbate the situation.

Read the letter at

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Action Alert: Thank President Obama for Prioritizing Science, Education in Budget Request

Thank President Obama for supporting investments in research and science education in his budget plan for fiscal year (FY) 2013.

If the President’s budget is enacted into law, nearly all science agencies would see increased funding in FY 2013. Notably, the National Science Foundation would receive a 4.8 percent increase. Other science programs that would see new funding include the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, Department of Agriculture, and various Department of the Interior bureaus. Although the overall budgets for the Environmental Protection Agency and National Aeronautics and Space Administration would be cut, the agencies’ research programs would grow slightly.

Please take a few minutes now to write to the President to thank him for investing in science. Take action at

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USDA Budget Would Increase Investments in Environmental Research

  • 2013 Department of Agriculture Budget Request: $24.1 billion (+$335.0 million)
  • 2013 Research, Education, and Economics Request: $2.6 billion (+$68.0 million)

The proposed budget for research, education, and economics is 2.7 percent more than the FY 2012 level. Although discretionary research programs faired comparatively well, several mandatory research programs authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill were not funded; USDA did not include these programs in the FY 2013 budget since these programs expire in FY 2012.

The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), formerly the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service, partners with extramural academic institutions to conduct research, education, and extension activities. NIFA would receive $1.2 billion in funding (+3.1 percent).

Within NIFA, the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) would receive $325 million for competitive extramural research grants. At this level, AFRI would receive a 22.9 percent budget increase, a record high funding level if enacted. The new resources would be directed to biofuel production and associated land-use changes (+$30 million), climate change adaptation for agricultural production systems (+$3.7 million), international food security (+$7.2 million), food safety ($2.2 million), and nutrition and obesity prevention (+$7.2 million). The NIFA Fellows program, which supports graduate student research, would receive $5.2 million in additional funding. The AFRI Foundational Research programs, which support fundamental and applied research in priority areas, would be increased by $3.2 million.

The Agricultural Research Service (ARS) conducts intramural research in the areas of natural and biological science. It would receive $1.1 billion in FY 2013, $7.9 million less than FY 2012. Several programmatic areas would receive new funding in FY 2013. The largest proposed increase would address environmental challenges facing agricultural production. The budget includes an increase of $25 million to conduct research that will help account for value of ecosystem services. ARS will organize a “sustainable, continent-wide infrastructure to assess the condition and trends of the Nation’s agroecosystems,” according to USDA’s budget documents. ARS will also partner with NOAA to establish a Regional Integrated Science and Assessments program in the Midwest, and will enhance ongoing international agricultural modeling. A $3 million funding increase is also proposed for repair of ARS laboratories. Six research facilities would be closed; 12 were closed under the FY 2012 enacted budget.

The National Agricultural Library would be flat funded at $21 million. One and half million dollars would be reallocated for the development of scientific databases on carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas emissions, tillage and management studies, and conservation program benefits.

The increases within ARS would be offset by the elimination of $20 million in lower priority extramural projects. Additionally, ARS proposes program reallocations totaling $50.4 million to address the nation’s most critical research needs. One example of a proposed reallocation is $600,000 within crop production research to expand activities to identify, acquire, and secure unprotected plant genetic resources. Additionally, $7.6 million would be reallocated for research on management tools for soil-borne plant pathogens and parasites, and $3 million would be reprogrammed for research on invasive pests.

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Proposed Budget Increases Funding for Department of Energy's Office of Science

  • 2013 Department of Energy Budget Request: $27.2 billion (+$855.5 million)
  • 2013 Office of Science Request: $5.0 billion (+$118.4 million)
  • 2013 Biological and Environmental Research Request: $625.3 million (+$15.8 million)

The Department of Energy Office of Science is slated to receive a 2.4 percent increase. Funding for Biological and Environmental Research would increase at a similar rate (+2.6 percent), with proposed funding of $625.3 million.

The Biological and Environmental Research program supports research to explore the frontiers of genome-enabled biology; discover the physical, chemical, and biological drivers of climate change; and seek the molecular determinants of environmental sustainability and stewardship.

Several biological research areas are targeted for increases in FY 2013. Terrestrial ecosystem science would receive the largest increase (+$11.7 million, +29.0 percent); these funds would continue an experiment begun in 2012 on the relationship between climate change and Arctic permafrost ecosystems, as well as start new research on climate change in tropical ecosystems. Additional funding would also support climate modeling (+$4.3 million, +15.0 percent). Genomics science would receive $4.2 million in new funding for the development of synthetic biology tools and biodesign technologies for living systems relevant to bioenergy production, carbon cycling, and environmental change.

Although many programmatic areas would be flat funded, a few programs would receive budget cuts. For example, the radiological sciences program would be cut by $6.8 million (-19.4 percent).

Although the average research grant size would not change, the Biological and Environmental Research program expects to award 10 more grants than in FY 2012.

The President’s budget request would terminate the Science Graduate Fellowship Program. The fellowship was started in 2009 to support graduate students pursuing fundamental research relevant to the Office of Science. The program received $5.0 million last year.

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USGS Proposes Increases for Ecosystems, Climate Change

  • 2013 USGS Budget Request: $1.1 billion (+$34.5 million)
  • 2013 USGS Ecosystems Activity Request: $177.9 million (+$16.6 million)

The budget for the United State Geological Survey (USGS) would increase by 3.2 percent in FY 2013. According to USGS budget documents: “The budget prioritizes programs that are unique to USGS, have national impact, and reduces or redirects funding to support these activities.” The requested funding provides $73.2 million in targeted increases for ecosystems, climate variability, natural hazards, core science systems, and other programs. These increases would be partially offset by program reductions to several water programs, mineral resources, agency administration, and facilities.

The Ecosystems activity within USGS would receive an increase of $16.6 million (+10.3 percent). The new funding would be spread across all six programmatic areas: Status and Trends (+$0.2 million); Fisheries (+$4.5 million); Wildlife (+$1.2 million); Terrestrial, Freshwater and Marine Environments (+$5.8 million); Invasive Species (+$4.6 million); and the Cooperative Research Units (+$0.2 million). Included in the proposed funding are additional funds for ecosystem restoration science in the Chesapeake Bay and California Bay-Delta, research to control and manage invasive species such as Asian carp and Burmese pythons, and further studies on white-nose syndrome in bats.

The proposed budget for the USGS includes an increase of $8.8 million above the FY 2012 enacted level for climate variability science. The budget request fully funds the eight operational Climate Science Centers. The centers provide scientific information, tools, and techniques that natural resource managers can use to monitor and adapt to environmental changes. Also included in an increase of $6.6 million for science in support of activities at other Interior bureaus.

A new initiative on Science for Coastal and Ocean Stewardship would receive an increase of $6.8 million to “support priority objectives of the National Ocean Policy in the areas of marine and coastal science, resource and vulnerability assessments, ecosystem-based management, adaptation to climate change, and providing science-based tools to inform policy and management.”

The Water Resources activity would be funded at $209.8 million (-$4.8 million). The request includes $13.0 million in additional funding for water availability and use assessment, but reduces spending on the Cooperative Water program by $4.7 million, and cuts $6.5 million from the Water Resources Research Act program.

Additional funding is proposed for science to support Interior’s New Energy Frontier initiative, and $13.0 million in increased funding is included to address priority science issues related to hydraulic fracturing. A $1.0 million increase is proposed for research related to wind energy development.

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Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative Selects Chief Science Officer

On Friday, February 24, 2012, the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) Research Board announced the selection of Dr. Charles “Chuck” A. Wilson to serve as the GoMRI Chief Science Officer.

“I am pleased that Dr. Wilson has accepted this important position,” said Dr. Rita Colwell, chairman of the GoMRI Research Board. “His professional experience and leadership skills make him the ideal person for this important position.”

“This is an exciting opportunity,” said Dr. Wilson. “My career has spanned the conduct of research, administration, and the management of a research, outreach and education program. I enjoy envisioning partnerships and motivating people towards common goals. There are numerous opportunities for collaboration and interaction between the research consortia and other scientific teams funded by the GoMRI and I look forward to helping facilitate this collaboration.”

The Chief Science Officer is a new position created by the Research Board to provide scientific and research advice and leadership to the GoMRI. Dr. Wilson will coordinate the work of the GoMRI Research Board with the various administrative units implementing the research program and with the Gulf of Mexico Alliance. Additionally, he will support the Research Board’s efforts to ensure the intellectual quality, research effectiveness, and scientific independence of the $500 million GoMRI research initiative.

Dr. Wilson is a distinguished scientist and academic leader. He has held faculty and administrative posts at Louisiana State University (LSU), where he joined the faculty in 1984 as an assistant professor in the Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences. Since then, he has risen through the academic ranks to full professor and department chairman. Most recently, he has served as Executive Director of the Louisiana Sea Grant College Program, and prior to that as the Vice Provost for Academic Affairs. During his tenure at LSU, Dr. Wilson has received more than $15,000,000 in private, state, and federal funding for research and education programs, and has authored or co-authored more than 100 scientific publications.

“I am extremely grateful to LSU for an exciting and fulfilling academic career and for opportunities that the University has afforded me over the past 28 years,” said Dr. Wilson.

Dr. Wilson’s leadership goes well beyond the academic setting. He has distinguished himself through service in scientific organizations and on scientific advisory bodies, including the GoMRI Research Board.

“Chuck has demonstrated an ability to get big things done and to bring people and organizations together to accomplish common goals,” said Dr. Colwell. For example, his accomplishments include co-founding the Louisiana Artificial Reef Program, and helping to establish the Louisiana Artificial Reef Trust Fund and the Louisiana State Universities Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program. He has led research teams investigating fisheries management, life history studies of fish, and the impact of oil and gas platforms on fish and fish communities.

A search committee was established by the GoMRI Research Board to conduct a rigorous review of candidates for the Chief Science Officer position. The committee carefully considered applications and interviewed candidates before it ultimately recommended Dr. Wilson for the post.

Dr. Wilson will continue to serve on the GoMRI Research Board until the Gulf of Mexico Alliance announces a replacement or until he begins work as the Chief Science Officer, whichever occurs first.

The GoMRI Research Board is an independent body that administers BP’s ten-year, $500 million commitment to independent research into the effects of the Deepwater Horizon incident. Through a series of competitive grant programs, the GoMRI is investigating the impacts of the oil, dispersed oil, and dispersant on the ecosystems of the Gulf of Mexico and the affected coastal States in a broad context of improving fundamental understanding of the dynamics of such events and their environmental stresses and public health implications. The GoMRI also funds research that improves techniques for detecting oil and gas, spill mitigation, and technologies to characterize and remediate spills. Knowledge accrued will be applied to restoration and to improving the long-term environmental health of the Gulf of Mexico.

The GoMRI is an independent scientific research program and is separate from the Natural Resources Damages Assessment process.

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Now in BioScience: "White House Begins to Map Course toward Bio-Based Economy"

The White House is evaluating the potential to stimulate economic growth from sectors based in biological research. Such a plan could help to grow the economy and to create jobs while addressing national challenges in health, food, energy, and the environment. Learn more about what a National Bioeconomy Blueprint could mean for basic biological research in the Washington Watch column in the February 2012 issue of BioScience. An excerpt from the article, “White House Begins to Map Course toward Bio-Based Economy,” follows:

Politicians and pundits clogged the airwaves last year with rhetoric about the state of the nation’s economy. Amid this noise, a few economic policy initiatives did begin to take shape. For instance, last fall, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) issued a request for comments on a draft policy to stimulate the bioeconomy.

Scientists have long asserted that research is an investment that yields economic prosperity. A growing number of scientists and engineers have more recently advised that the biological sciences are poised to inspire transformative discoveries that can solve persistent problems while stimulating new economic opportunities. Indeed, in 2009, the National Research Council (NRC) released a 112-page report, A New Biology for the 21st Century: Ensuring the United States Leads the Coming Biology Revolution, which offered recommendations intended to harness the potential of the biological sciences to solve society’s grand challenges in the areas of energy, environment, food, and health.

To read the entire article for free, please visit

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Short Takes

  • The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is requesting input into the deliberations of the Council of Councils Working Group on the Use of Chimpanzees in NIH-Supported Research. The working group is charged with developing a plan for implementing the recommendations made by the Institute of Medicine regarding the use of chimpanzees in biomedical and behavioral research. Public comments will be accepted through 10 April 2012. More information is available at

  • The National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) will start construction of three research sites in early summer 2012. The sites are located in Colorado, Florida, and Massachusetts. The project is funded by the National Science Foundation. NEON anticipates beginning construction on an additional six to eight locations by the end of the year.

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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 to send a prepared letter or to sign up to receive periodic Action Alerts.

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