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Public Policy Report for 19 May 2014

Registration Now Open for Biological Sciences Congressional District Visits

The American Institute of Biological Sciences is pleased to announce that registration for the 6th Annual Biological Sciences Congressional District Visits event is now open.

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 6th Annual Biological Sciences Congressional District Visits 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 official 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, with the support of event sponsors Botanical Society of America, Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology, Natural Science Collections Alliance, Organization of Biological Field Stations, Society for the Study of Evolution, and Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology.

Participation is free, but registration will close on 13 July 2014. For more information and to register, visit www.aibs.org/public-policy/congressionaldistrictvisits.html.

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NSF, NOAA Funding Bill Passes House Committee

The House Appropriations Committee has approved a bill to fund the National Science Foundation (NSF) at $7.4 billion in fiscal year 2015, a $237 million increase. The legislation also includes $5.3 billion for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which is roughly the same amount of funding the agency received in 2014. NOAA’s fisheries and ocean management programs would be cut in order to increase funding for the National Weather Service.

An amendment offered by Representative David Price (D-NC) would have increased funding for NSF by an additional $659.2 million. Price withdrew the amendment from the committee’s consideration, but may offer it again when the bill is debated by the full House of Representatives.

Another amendment to cut NSF research funding by $5 million was adopted by voice vote. Representative Jamie Herrera Beutler (R-WA) successfully restored $15 million for pacific salmon recovery at NOAA. The increase is paid for by offsets from NSF and from the Census Bureau.

The committee report that accompanies the bill provides additional details about the funding proposed for NSF. Notably, the bill passed by the Appropriations Committee would increase neuroscience research funding by $21.5 million.

The committee expressed concern “that a significant amount of recent research cannot be easily reproduced.” NSF is directed to provide recommendations to address “the problem of replication” and to promote research practices that increase transparency and replicability.

Another concern raised in the committee report is the increasing cost of rotators at NSF. These personnel are on leave from their home academic institution to work at NSF on a temporary basis. The program was created through the Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA). “NSF should be able to better control these costs through more aggressive negotiations with IPA employees’ home institutions, the imposition of cost sharing requirements and other means. To incentivize NSF to continue pursuing these cost savings opportunities, the recommendation permits NSF to continue hiring IPAs but does not provide the requested increases for IPA compensation, per diem, lost consultant fees and travel.”

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House of Representatives Passes R&D Tax Credit

A bill to make permanent a tax credit for business expenditures on research and development (R&D) sailed through the House of Representatives on 9 May 2014. H.R. 4438 gained bipartisan support from 212 Republicans and 62 Democrats despite a veto threat from the White House.

A sticking point for some lawmakers is that the $156 billion cost of the tax credit over ten years is not paid for.

The Senate is likely to consider the R&D tax credit as part of a broader package of tax credits that expire annually, known as tax extenders.

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National Climate Assessment Presents Strengthened Evidence of Anthropogenic Climate Change

Earlier this month, the third National Climate Assessment was released. The White House touted the report as “the most comprehensive look ever at climate change impacts in the United States.”

The assessment prepared by scientists and other experts highlights the impacts of climate change that are already being felt. The report concludes that “the evidence of human-induced climate change continues to strengthen and that impacts are increasing across the country.”

William Hohenstein, the director of the Department of Agriculture’s Climate Change Program Office notes: “Agriculture has been able to adapt to recent changes in climate; however, increased innovation will be needed to ensure the rate of adaptation of agriculture and the associated socioeconomic system can keep pace with climate change over the next twenty five years.”

In conjunction with the climate assessment, the U.S. Geological Survey unveiled an online climate-visualization tool. The National Climate Change Viewer allows resource managers and the public to look at climate-driven impacts on watersheds and see projected changes at the local and regional scale. The tool is accessible at http://www.usgs.gov/climatelanduse/clurd/nccv.asp.

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President Obama Nominates NOAA Chief Scientist

The long vacant chief scientist position at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) may finally be filled after more than a decade. President Obama nominated Dr. Rick Spinrad, who worked at NOAA from 2003 to 2010. For much of that time, Spinrad was assistant administrator for research, where he supervised the climate program, ocean exploration, and the National Sea Grant College program. Spinrad also led the White House committee that developed the first national set of ocean research priorities. He is currently vice president for research at Oregon State University, where he received his Ph.D. and M.S. in oceanography. The nomination is subject to approval by the Senate.

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Solicitation of Proposals for Collections in Support of Biological Research

The National Science Foundation has announced that the Collections in Support of Biological Research program is back to an annual funding cycle. A new call for proposals (NSF 14-564) was recently released with a deadline of 11 August 2014.

The Collections in Support of Biological Research Program provides funds: 1) for improvements to secure, improve, and organize collections that are significant to the NSF BIO-funded research community; 2) to secure collections-related data for sustained, accurate, and efficient accessibility of the collection to the biological research community; and 3) to transfer collection ownership responsibilities.

View the solicitation at http://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgmsumm.jsp?pimsid=503651.

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Short Takes

  • Three AIBS members were awarded the nation's highest honor conferred on museums and libraries for service to the community. In a ceremony at the White House presided over by First Lady Michelle Obama, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, and Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History were awarded the National Medal for Museum and Library Service. Learn more at http://www.aibs.org/public-policy/news/aibs_member_organizations_honored_by_first_lady_michelle_obama.html.

  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released a new tool, EnviroAtlas, that will help decision makers understand the implications of policy decisions on ecosystems. EnviroAtlas integrates more than 300 data layers. Access the tool at http://enviroatlas.epa.gov/enviroatlas/.

  • A new report from the National Academies looks at how organizations are supporting research from converging fields, including life, physical, chemical, mathematical, computational, engineering, and social sciences. The report discusses details of current programs and how organizations measure success, and summarizes lessons learned. Read the report at http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=18722.

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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 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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