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Public Policy Report for 27 August 2012

New AIBS Report Explores Forthcoming Federal Budget Cuts

The AIBS Public Policy Office has just released a new report that explains the forthcoming fiscal cliff, budget sequestration, and other formidable fiscal policies that have the potential to devastate federal investments in research and science education and push the nation back into recession.

Under current law, $6.8 trillion in deficit reduction will occur over the next decade through increased taxes and spending cuts. The increasingly discussed ‘fiscal cliff’ refers to this abrupt and significant change to the federal budget that will occur in January 2013. If Congress and the President fail to reach an agreement to forestall the fiscal cliff, non-defense spending will immediately be cut by 7.8 percent across the board in January, and tax rates will rise for many Americans.

One aspect of the fiscal cliff that is of particular concern is $1.2 trillion in automatic, across-the-board defense and non-defense spending reductions set to occur over the next decade. This budget sequestration will start in 2013. Non-defense agencies, including the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, Department of the Interior, and others, will lose about 7.8 percent of their funding next year. Defense programs, including various research and development programs, will be subject to a 10 percent reduction. These cuts will likely cause layoffs of federal employees, cuts to external grants and contracts, and reduced government services.

Download your free copy of the report to learn more: www.aibs.org/public-policy/resources/AIBSSequestrationReport.pdf.

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Act Now: Urge Congress to Prevent Devastating Budget Cuts

Please consider sending a letter urging Congress to avoid the forthcoming budget sequestration, which would have dramatic negative impacts on U.S. domestic programs, including science and education. The letter, which was developed by the Ecological Society of America (ESA), the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS), and the American Mathematical Society (AMS), asks that Congress devise a bipartisan solution to addressing the nation’s debt crisis and avoid draconian cuts that will hurt the economy and the nation’s future, and do nothing to stave off the fiscal crisis.

AIBS, AMS and ESA were among 3,000 organizations that signed on to a letter to Congress urging a balanced approach to deficit reduction. Now it is vitally important that members of Congress hear from you, their constituents. To weigh in on this important issue, visit the AIBS Legislative Action Center where you will be able to personalize the letter, which will then be sent to your congressional delegation. The links below provide additional information you can use in your letter.

On 2 January 2013, automatic cuts (“sequestration”) will occur unless Congress and the President amend current law. This was one option agreed to by lawmakers last year to reduce the national debt, as nearly one-third of U.S. spending is borrowed and debt is set to skyrocket in the coming decades if reforms do not happen. Health care costs are the primary driver of the nation’s debt.

The Budget Control Act of 2011 (P.L. 112-25) established caps on discretionary spending over ten years, which will result in nearly $1 trillion in cuts spread across discretionary programs. Discretionary programs are those that Congress funds annually through the appropriations process and include both defense and non-defense programs. Non-defense discretionary (NDD) programs include medical and scientific research, education and job training, infrastructure, public safety and health, environmental protection and social services, among many others.

The Budget Control Act also directed a congressional “Super Committee” to find an additional $1.2 trillion in savings over ten years. The committee failed to reach a deal, triggering the “sequester” to take effect on 2 January 2013. These cuts will be across-the-board and, assuming Congress and the White House agree to a Continuing Resolution to fund the federal government through March 2013 at fiscal year 2012 levels, then NDD programs will be cut by about 8 percent.

Although the sequester would delay the federal debt from reaching 100 percent of U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by two years, this short extension would come at a high cost. Sequestration is projected to cost the economy over 1 million jobs in 2013 and 2014.

AIBS has prepared a report that explains sequestration and the fiscal cliff, and details the possible impacts on research and science education.

A PowerPoint presentation on sequestration by the Bipartisan Policy Center gives additional information on this issue, including a chart that shows how states will be negatively impacted by sequestration.

A report by the Aerospace Industries Association showcases how many jobs will be lost per state (Table 3, pages 9 and 10).

Take action now-in just a few minutes you can make your voice heard. Please visit http://capwiz.com/aibs/issues/alert/?alertid=61759666 to send a prepared letter. You may also personalize the letter.

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AIBS Seeks Input on the Network Integrated Biocollections Alliance

With support from the U.S. National Science Foundation, in September 2012 the American Institute of Biological Sciences will convene a two-day workshop in Reston, Virginia, to develop an implementation plan for the Strategic Plan for a Network Integrated Biocollections Alliance (NIBA). The outcome of the workshop will be a detailed report that will be published in November.

The workshop organizing committee wants the report to be informed by as many viewpoints as possible. There will be two opportunities for individuals and organizations to inform the recommendations contained in the report. Right now, interested parties are invited to review the Strategic Plan for NIBA at http://digbiocol.wordpress.com/brochure/. Then, please share any suggestions or other comments you think could help inform the discussion and outcomes of the September workshop.

The workshop will consider how best to achieve the following objectives.

  1. Digitize data from all U.S. biological collections, large and small, and integrate these in a web-accessible interface using shared standards and formats.
  2. Develop new web interfaces, visualization and analysis tools, and data-mining and georeferencing processes and make all of the tools available for use in the nation’s collections.
  3. Enable real-time upgrades of biological data and prevent the future occurrence of non-accessible collection data through the use of tools, training, and infrastructure to ensure digital capture of data from all specimens that are added to collections henceforth.

Of particular interest to the planning committee are suggestions concerning the organization and governance required to achieve these objectives, as well as the technology development, workforce development, and workforce training that will be required to achieve them.

Please email comments to publicpolicy@aibs.org by Friday, 7 September 2012.

Following the workshop, additional community input will be sought on the draft report.

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Successful NIH Grantees to Face Additional Scrutiny

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced a new policy to provide an additional layer of review for research proposals from principal investigators with more than $1 million in annual support from the agency.

Proposals from grantees who receive more than $1 million in direct costs from NIH will be subject to additional consideration by the Institute and Center Advisory Councils. “In assessing these applications, Council will be asked to recommend consideration of funding for applications that afford a unique opportunity to advance research which is both highly promising and distinct from the other funded projects from the PD/PI [Program Director/Principal Investigator],” according to the new policy. The recommendations also recognize that certain types of research require higher levels of support, such as clinical trials.

NIH had previously considered a threshold of $1.5 million in total annual costs, but ultimately decided to change the limit. About 80 grants will be reviewed in September are be subject to the $1 million cutoff. NIH estimates that less than 1 percent of all proposals will be subject to the extra review.

The announcement from NIH stated that the policy “does not represent a cap on NIH funding.” However, the policy was originally proposed as part of an effort to stretch NIH’s budget. It is uncertain how much funding the policy could free up for other researchers.

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AIBS Past President to Participate in Global Health Webinar

On 3 September 2012, Dr. Rita Colwell will participate in a webinar on “Science and Global Health: The Role of Basic Science.” The webcast is part of the Kavli Prize Science Forum to be held in Oslo, Norway. The program will run from 9:30 am to 12:00 pm Eastern Time.

The panel will also feature Alice Dautry (President, Institut Pasteur, France); Harvey Fineberg (President, Institute of Medicine, National Academy, U.S.); and Kiyoshi Kurokawa (Chairman, Health and Global Policy Institute, Japan). The Prime Minister of Norway, Jens Stoltenberg, will make the opening address.

Before and during the forum, viewers may submit questions for consideration. Questions can be submitted via Twitter (#KavliSF) or email (info@kavlifoundation.org). Full program and webcast information are available at http://www.kavlifoundation.org/kavli-prize-science-forum.

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November Elections Draw Near: Register to Vote

This November, voters will head to the polls to elect the next President, all members of the United States House of Representatives, 33 Senate seats, and various state government offices. To find out more about elections in your district, visit the AIBS Legislative Action Center at http://capwiz.com/aibs/election/home/.

If you have recently moved, you will need to re-register to vote. To obtain a voter registration form, visit http://aibs.capwiz.com/election/register_vote/, or contact your state or local election board.

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Short Takes

  • On 7 August 2012, voters in Missouri overwhelmingly approved an amendment to the state constitution regarding religious freedom. Although the proposal does not explicitly address the teaching of evolution, it does state, "that no student shall be compelled to perform or participate in academic assignments or educational presentations that violate his or her religious beliefs." Some are concerned that this language could allow public school students who believe in creationism to skip school assignments on evolution.

  • Federal agencies are being encouraged to develop policies and procedures to support science-related volunteering activities by their employees. A recent memo issued by the White House Office of Personnel Management encourages federal agencies to allow scientists and engineers to use flexible work schedules to perform science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) related volunteer service.

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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, 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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