President Obama released a $3.77 trillion budget plan for fiscal year (FY) 2014 on 10 April 2013. According to the White House, the budget proposal would cut deficits by increasing revenues and reducing spending. The proposal would replace sequestration, the $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts mandated by the Budget Control Act.
Science is once again a priority in the President's budget request. The Administration proposed $143 billion for federal research and development (R&D), an increase of 1.3 percent over the 2012 level. Although defense R&D would be cut by 5.2 percent, non-defense R&D would increase by 9.2 percent to almost $70 billion, with much of the increase going to basic and applied research.
Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education programs would be consolidated across the federal government. The total number of programs would decrease from 226 to 112. Nearly $180 million would be redirected from 11 agencies to the Department of Education, National Science Foundation, and Smithsonian Institution. K-12 STEM programs would be reorganized at the Department of Education, with NSF taking the lead on graduate and undergraduate education programs. Smithsonian would be the lead agency on informal science education.
A summary of proposed funding for select science agencies follows:
New guidelines for science education could change K-12 education across the nation. The Next Generation Science Standards represent a collaborative, state-led effort to develop common science curriculum standards for grades K-12.
Although states are not required to adopt the new standards, 26 states have pledged to seriously consider implementing them. The states include Arizona, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia.
Leaders of the effort say that the new standards may result in teachers covering fewer subjects, but covering them more in depth.
The standards place an emphasis on critical thinking and investigation. The standards are written as student performance expectations, which are grouped by topic and by grade: K-5, middle school and high school. Each topic includes disciplinary core ideas, science and engineering practices, and crosscutting, interdisciplinary concepts. Examples of biological standards include natural selection and adaptation, connections between organisms and ecosystems, and structure and function of living organisms.
The standards are based on the National Research Council’s “Framework for K-12 Science Education.” The framework identified the science elements K-12 students should know, based on the most current research in science and science learning.
Biological scientists traveled to Washington, DC on 10-11 April 2013 to communicate to members of Congress the importance of sustained federal investments in the biological sciences. The scientists and graduate students were in the nation’s capital as part of the annual Biological and Ecological Sciences Coalition (BESC) Congressional Visits Day.
Among the participants were researchers affiliated with the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) and its member organizations, including the Organization of Biological Field Stations, Botanical Society of America, Entomological Society of America, and the Ecological Society of America. Also participating were Jennifer Rood and Paul Tanger, the 2013 AIBS Emerging Public Policy Leadership Award recipients.
The two-day event began with a training session for the roughly thirty participants. Policy staffers from AIBS and the Ecological Society of America provided participants with budget analysis and advocacy training.
On 11 April, participants fanned out across Capitol Hill for meetings with members of Congress and their staff. This year, the group emphasized the importance of sustained federal investments in research that will help the nation create new jobs and respond to society’s needs, such as food security, maintaining healthy ecosystems, and improving human health. Participants highlighted the importance of the NSF in fostering economic growth. The agency’s Biological Sciences Directorate funds about 64 percent of fundamental, non-medical biological research.
This year, BESC recognized two members of Congress for their leadership and support of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics research and education. Representatives Daniel Lipinski (D-Illinois) and Dave Reichert (R-Washington) were awarded the Biological and Ecological Sciences Coalition Congressional Leadership Award.
Download a BESC fact sheet on the importance of federal investments in biological research at http://www.aibs.org/public-policy/resources/BESC2013Leave_Behind.pdf.
Representatives Daniel Lipinski (D-Illinois) and Dave Reichert (R-Washington) are the recipients of the 2013 Biological and Ecological Sciences Coalition (BESC) Congressional Leadership Award. The award is given to recognize congressional leaders who have demonstrated a commitment to promoting public policy that advances the nation’s scientific research enterprise.
“We are fortunate to have two such strong supporters of the natural sciences in Congress,” said Nadine Lymn, co-chair of BESC and director of public affairs for the Ecological Society of America. “Representatives Lipinski and Reichert have repeatedly demonstrated that they value the contributions of biology and other sciences to society and believe that sustaining the nation’s research and technology enterprise is a worthy investment.”
Lipinski is the Ranking Member on the House Subcommittee on Research. He sponsored the National Science Foundation Authorization Act of 2010, which authorized increased funding for the National Science Foundation; the legislation became part of the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act, which was signed into law in 2011. Lipinski is a vocal supporter of the use of prizes to stimulate innovation, and successfully amended U.S. law to allow federal agencies to award cash prizes to innovators. The congressman is also a co-chair of the House Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics Education Caucus, and a member of the Congressional Research and Development Caucus.
Reichert has worked actively to conserve the wild areas of Washington state and the nation. A former member of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, he sponsored a resolution that recognized the contributions of female scientists. Reichert was one of only 17 House Republicans to support the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010. He is co-chair of the National Parks Caucus and National Landscape Conservation Caucus, and a member of the Congressional Biomedical Research Caucus and Wild Salmon Caucus. Reichert is chair of the Human Resources Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee.
“Representatives Lipinski and Reichert are steadfast advocates for scientific research, particularly at the National Science Foundation,” said BESC co-chair Robert Gropp, director of public policy at the American Institute of Biological Sciences. “They both appreciate that research drives innovation, contributes to the solution of complex problems, and will help drive new economic growth.”
The Biological and Ecological Sciences Coalition (BESC) is an alliance of organizations united by a concern for every aspect of the biology of the natural world, from agricultural systems to zoology. BESC supports the goal of increasing the nation’s investment in the non-medical biological sciences across all federal agencies including the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Department of Energy, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
Top federal employees will not have to disclose their personal financial information on the Internet. Congress repealed a requirement that was enacted as part of the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act, which would have required the creation of a publically searchable online database of senior officials’ personal financial information. These employees are currently required to file financial disclosure statements that are public, but not available online.
The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee is expected to consider legislation in the coming weeks that would reauthorize future funding levels for NSF and potentially make policy changes at the agency. The Committee held two hearings on 17 April 2013 funding and oversight of the National Science Foundation (NSF).
Remarks made by committee members provide some insight into the panel’s views of NSF research. Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) repeatedly questioned the value of social science research funded by NSF. Smith asked the hearing witnesses about the potential to implement a legislative provision that requires any research funded by NSF to directly benefit the American people. Dr. Dan Arvizu, chair of the National Science Board, rebutted that such a provision would be difficult to tailor in a way that would not compromise the scientific credibility of the agency. In a separate hearing, Dr. John Holdren, President Obama’s science advisor and director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, cautioned against Congress micromanaging how agencies such as NSF award research grants. But he also conceded that there is “room for improvement” in how NSF prioritizes research initiatives based on potential value to the national interest.
Another committee member, Congressman Bill Posey (R-FL) also questioned NSF’s role in supporting social science research. Posey suggested that these scientific fields should be funded by private industry, not American taxpayers.
Representative Daniel Lipinski (D-IL) highlighted some of the benefits of social science research, including the Nobel Prize for economics awarded to Dr. Elinor Ostrom, who received NSF funding for some of her work on common property.
A new initiative by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) offers 100 million mapped records of nearly every living species in the United States. Biodiversity Information Serving Our Nation (BISON) provides specific locations for the vast majority of records, not just county or state records.
“The USGS is proud to announce this monumental resource,” said Kevin Gallagher, Associate Director of USGS Core Science Systems, “and this is a testament to the power of combining the efforts of hundreds of thousands of professional and citizen scientists into a resource that uses Big Data and Open Data principles to deliver biodiversity information for sustaining the Nation’s environmental capital.”
Anticipated users of BISON include researchers, land managers, water resource managers, educators, citizen scientists, and others.
USGS is collaborating with other federal agencies to increase the data set. In addition, hundreds of thousands of researchers and citizen scientists have contributed data.
Access BISON at http://bison.usgs.ornl.gov/.
Quick, free, easy, effective, impactful! Join the AIBS Legislative Action Center today! (www.aibs.org/public-policy/legislativeactioncenter.html)
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. These exciting new advocacy tools 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 Entomological Society of America, Society for the Study of Evolution, Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography, and the Botanical Society of America.
AIBS and our partner organizations invite scientists and science educators to become policy advocates today. Simply go to http://capwiz.com/aibs/home/ to send a prepared letter or to sign up to receive periodic Action Alerts.