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Public Policy Report for 3 June 2013

Sign Up to Showcase Science to Policymakers This August

The American Institute of Biological Sciences is proud to announce that it is partnering with the Entomological Society of America to present the 5th Annual Biological Sciences Congressional District Visits event.

This national initiative is an opportunity for biologists across the country to meet with their federal or state elected officials to showcase the people, facilities, and equipment that are required to support and conduct scientific research.

The 5th Annual Biological Sciences Congressional District Visits event will be held throughout the month of August 2013. This event is an opportunity for scientists, graduate students, representatives of research facilities, and people affiliated with scientific collections to meet with their elected officials without traveling to Washington, DC. Participants may either invite their elected officials to visit their research facility or can meet at the policymaker’s local office.

Participants will be prepared for their meeting with a lawmaker through an interactive training webinar. Individuals participating in this event will receive information about improving their communication skills, tips for conducting a successful meeting with an elected official, and information about federal funding for biological research.

The event is made possible by the American Institute of Biological Sciences and Entomological Society of America, with the support of event sponsors American Society of Naturalists, Botanical Society of America, Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology, Natural Science Collections Alliance, Organization of Biological Field Stations, and Society for the Study of Evolution.

Participation is free, but registration will close on 15 July 2013. For more information and to register, visit www.aibs.org/public-policy/congressionaldistrictvisits.html.

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Scientific Organizations Defend Peer Review at NSF

More than 100 organizations have signed a letter to Congress in defense of peer review. The letter was prompted by recent congressional actions that called into question the merit review process used by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to award research grants.

“It is imperative that NSF’s system of support for basic research be based upon excellence, competitive scientific merit, and peer-review,” states the letter. “While Congress does play an important role in oversight of federally funded research, it should avoid legislative attempts that could undermine a decades-long system of success and ultimately impede discovery and innovation.”

Among the congressional actions that prompted concern within the scientific community is the High Quality Research Act, a draft bill that would require the director of NSF to certify that any grant is of the highest quality, in the best interests of the United States, and not duplicative of other research efforts.

Three former directors of NSF and three former chairmen of the National Science Board spoke out against the draft bill in a recent letter to the leaders of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee. The former NSF leaders said that the draft bill would have “a chilling and detrimental impact on the merit-based review process.”

The American Institute of Biological Sciences contributed to the letter and was one of the organizations to sign the letter. AIBS member organizations endorsing the letter included: American Society of Agronomy, American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists, American Society of Plant Biologists, Association of Ecosystem Research Centers, Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography, Botanical Society of America, Crop Science Society of America, Ecological Society of America, Entomological Society of America, Genetics Society of America, Long Term Ecological Research Network, National Association of Marine Laboratories, Natural Science Collections Alliance, Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology, and Soil Science Society of America.

Read the letter at www.aibs.org/position-statements/20130520nsfpeer_review.html.

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Action Alert: Voice Your Support for a Science Laureate

A bipartisan group of lawmakers have introduced legislation to create the position of Science Laureate for the United States. The bill would allow the President to appoint up to three Science Laureates to engage the public and increase public awareness of science. Appointments would be made on the basis of an individual’s scientific contributions and ability to foster public interest in science.

If you support the establishment of a Science Laureate, you can send a letter to your Representative and Senators asking them to co-sponsor the Science Laureates of the United States Act of 2013.

Take action on the AIBS Legislative Action Center at http://capwiz.com/aibs/issues/alert/?alertid=62675261.

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Organizations Release Guiding Principles for America COMPETES Act

The scientific community is gearing up for congressional consideration of a law that affects basic federal research. Congress is expected to soon address legislation that sets funding authorization levels and policy directives for the National Science Foundation (NSF) and other federal science agencies.

In anticipation of congressional action, 118 scientific organizations and universities have crafted guiding principles for the America COMPETES Act reauthorization. The guidelines call for “steady and sustained real growth in funding for all of the major federal research agencies.” Other highlights include preservation of peer review and reduction of unnecessary or duplicative federal regulations. In terms of education and workforce issues, support for science education programs and high-skilled immigration reform are identified as priorities.

The America COMPETES Act was last considered by Congress in 2010. The law set funding guidelines for NSF for three years, which will expire this year.

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Now in BioScience: Biobanks and Genome Sequencing

In the Washington Watch column in the May 2013 issue of the journal BioScience, Eve McCulloch explores the balance between patient privacy and scientific progress in genome sequencing.

The complete article is now online at www.aibs.org/washington-watch/washingtonwatch2013_05.html. The following is an excerpt from the report:

Genome sequencing coupled with medical and personal data holds enormous promise for unraveling the mysteries of the human body and advancing disease treatment. Increasingly, research projects are collecting data on large numbers of people to determine links among diseases, lifestyle, environment, and genes. The biobanks being created with these data raise questions about protecting the privacy of individuals whose DNA and medical records fuel research.

Repositories of human genetic material emerged more than a decade ago in Iceland with the company deCODE genetics. The United Kingdom has created a biobank with 500,000 enrolled volunteers. In the United States, researchers at Kaiser Permanente have revealed early findings based on a treasure trove of genetic and medical data collected from 100,000 Californians. This effort, establishing perhaps the largest biobank in the United States, has already shown new links between disease traits and genetic variants.

Continue reading the article for free at www.aibs.org/washington-watch/washingtonwatch2013_05.html.

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Enter the Faces of Biology: Broader Impacts Photo Contest

Biological research is transforming our society and the world. Help the public and policymakers to better understand these broader impacts in biological research by entering the Faces of Biology: Broader Impacts Photo Contest. The contest is sponsored by the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS).

The theme of the contest is broader impacts of biology. Photographs entered into the contest should demonstrate how biological research is transforming our society and the world. Examples of broader impacts include, but are not limited to, informing natural resources management, improving human health, addressing climate change, enhancing food or energy security, advancing foundational knowledge, and improving science education.

The First Place 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 subscription to BioScience. The Second and Third Place Winners will have his/her winning photo printed inside BioScience, and will receive a one year membership in AIBS, including a subscription to BioScience.

The contest ends on 30 September 2013 at 11:59:59 pm Eastern Time.

For more information and to enter the contest, visit http://www.aibs.org/public-programs/photocontest.html.

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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! (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.

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