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Public Policy Report for 02/20/2003

  • Congress finally passes FY03 appropriations - provides for equal distribution of funds among disciplines of 13% increase to NSF Research
  • Science and engineering infrastructure emphasized in President's FY04 request for NSF
  • By the Numbers: A quick comparison of the FY03 and FY04 budget for biology at NSF
  • USGS biology receives small increase in FY04 budget request, other programs cut
  • NRC panel continues process to develop taxonomy of life sciences
  • AIBS participating in April Congressional Visits Day and accepting applications for Emerging Public Policy Leader Award

The AIBS Public Policy Report is distributed broadly by email every two weeks to AIBS membership leaders and contacts, including the President, President-Elect, Secretary, Treasurer, Executive Director, AIBS Council Representative, Journal Editor, Newsletter Editor, Public Policy Committee Chair, Public Policy Representative, and Education Committee Chair of all AIBS member societies and organizations (see the Membership Directories for contact information).

All material from these reports may be reproduced or forwarded. Please mention AIBS as the source; office staff appreciate receiving copies of materials used. If you have questions, comments, or suggestions, please contact the AIBS Director of Public Policy, Dr. Robert Gropp [publ...@aibs.org; 202-628-1500 x250].


CONGRESS FINALLY PASSES FY03 APPROPRIATIONS, PROVIDES EQUAL DISTRIBUTION AMONG DISCIPLINES OF ~13% INCREASE TO NSF RESEARCH

One-third of the way through fiscal year 2003 (FY03), Congress finally passed the remaining 11 appropriations bills for the non-defense sector of the federal government last week. Of particular interest to biologists, Congress made an important step towards a five-year doubling path for the National Science Foundation (NSF) by providing a 13.5% increase for Research and Related Activities over FY02 levels. The final bill provided for a near-equal distribution of the increase - 13.1% to all directorates except for the Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences (SBE) directorate, which would receive 13.9%. (It is important to note that the actual increase to these programs will be slightly less when across-the-board rescissions go into effect.) This near-equal distribution of the increase contrasts sharply with the distribution outlined in the Senate bill (see AIBS Public Policy Report Vol. 24, Issue 3) that provided Biological Sciences Directorate (BIO) with a significantly smaller increase than other disciplines. While it appears that the BIO Directorate has weathered the storm for FY03, it is clear that biologists and their professional societies have a lot of work to do to improve the Senate's opinion on biological research to avoid a repeat of this situation in FY04.
SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING INFRASTRUCTURE EMPHASIZED IN PRESIDENT'S FY04 REQUEST FOR NSF

Based on its proposed budget for FY 04, the National Science Foundation (NSF) appears to have followed the advice of the National Science Board's recent draft report on infrastructure for science and engineering. The budget proposes a 20% increase over the FY03 request for the "tools" category to a total $1.3 billion, thus bumping the tools category to 25% of the total $5.481 billion requested for NSF. This represents an increase from last year's 22.3% of the budget that the National Science Board's Committee on Scientific Infrastructure stated was too low. Of the amount dedicated to "tools", $202 million, a whopping 60.2% increase over last year's request, would go to the Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction (MRE) account. The request for MRE projects includes the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON). In addition to the $12 million requested through the MRE account for construction, an additional $6 million was requested within the Biological Sciences Directorate (BIO0 for logistical support. The Major Research Instrumentation account (MRI) also received a large boost (67%) to $90 million. The MRI account funds instrumentation in the $100,000 to $2 million range, especially for programs at minority-serving institutions and community colleges. The FY04 budget also addresses NSB Committee's recommendation to develop and deploy an advanced cyberinfrastructure by proposing a new $20 million investment to bring next-generation computer and networking capabilities to researchers and educators.

In addition to heeding the advice of the NSB, NSF also appears to have taken some congressional criticism to heart and vastly expanded the amount of information in their proposed budget on the large infrastructure projects. For example, last year's budget dealt with the "tools" category in 13 pages. This year, it covers 50. It also includes a ranking of proposed MRE projects, as well as a list of projects in the pipeline for funding in future years - both were requested by Congress.

BY THE NUMBERS: A QUICK COMPARISON OF THE FY03 AND FY04 BUDGET FOR BIOLOGY AT NSF

Even though NSF accounts for only 23% of federal funding for basic research at academic institutions, it accounts for a whopping 65% of such research on non-health related biology and 44% of the funding for environmental science. NSF is also the sole provider of funding for basic academic research in anthropology. As the primary provider of extramural funding for the fields represented by AIBS, its budget is of particular interest to our members. The passage late last year of HR 4664, the NSF Reauthorization Bill that authorized a five-year doubling path for the agency, signaled a victory for the science community. But as we've noted in previous issues, authorization is only the first step in increasing on-the-ground funding for biological research.

For example, the NSF proposed budget for FY04 touts a 9% overall increase for the agency and a 8.5% increase for research over FY03 requested levels. While these may seem to be healthy increases, they are based on the FY03 request, not the final amounts appropriated (which were not available when the FY04 budget was prepared). The latest figures from the House Science Committee show that the actual increase over the funds approved for FY03 would only be a 3.2% increase for NSF overall and 1.2% increase for research. These numbers fall extremely short of the goal set by the NSF Reauthorization bill - 14.2% overall and 14.4% for research. In essence, that puts the agency an entire year behind the doubling path set out by HR 4664.

Things look even bleaker when the numbers for the Biological Sciences Directorate (BIO) are examined. The FY04 budget proposes a total of $562 million for BIO, a 7.0% increase over the FY03 request. While this may seem like a healthy increase, it actually represents a likely 1.6% decrease from the final FY03 appropriations, which will be approximately $571 million (depending on the final amount of the across-the-board rescissions). While HR 4664 didn't spell out authorization levels for each directorate, it is safe to say that the FY04 requested level is at least 15% below (and one year behind) the amount required for a five-year doubling of the budget.

As evidenced by these numbers and the problems noted above and in earlier issues regarding the Senate's repeated attempts to cut BIO out of the NSF doubling path, this is a critical year in ensuring that research funding for biology begins to meet the needs of the research community. AIBS will be hosting and participating in several events this year aimed at improving the understanding and respect for the non-medical biological sciences on Capitol Hill. We will keep you posted on these events and other opportunities to make your voice heard throughout the year via these policy updates (see below for one such opportunity). In the meantime, if you have any questions or need assistance with planning your own visit or letter to Congress, do not hesitate to the AIBS Public Policy Office for assistance (afroelich@aibs.org).
USGS BIOLOGY RECEIVES SMALL INCREASE IN 2004 BUDGET REQUEST, OTHER PROGRAMS CUT

It appears that many programs in the President's FY04 budget request for the United States Geological Survey (USGS) have received increases over the FY03 budget request. However, due to the cuts proposed by last year's budget, these increases still leave many programs with smaller budgets than they had for FY02.
The USGS, which includes the Biological Resources Discipline (BRD), is responsible for providing the earth and natural science information and research necessary to manage the Nation's natural resources. It is the primary home of scientific research for the agencies of the Department of Interior, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The President's FY04 budget provides USGS with a 3.3% increase to $895.5 million, a net increase of $28.2 million over the fiscal year (FY) 2003 request. Despite the apparent increases, the proposed FY04 budget for USGS is 2% below the $913.9 million requested for FY02.
The proposed FY04 USGS budget would increase funding for biology programs by 5% ($8.4 million) over the request for FY03, but a mere 1.6 % ($2.7 million) increase over the actual FY02 appropriation. Biological Research and Monitoring programs would receive $6.4 million more than the FY03 request of $127.6 million. Funding for Biological Information Management and Delivery would increase by $1.8 million to $20.7 million and the Cooperative Research Units would receive only an additional $170,000, bringing the program to $14.3 million. Included in the FY04 request is $4 million to expand invasive species research and develop a model for a national early warning invasive species detection network for land managers; a $3.0 million increase for the Science on the Interior Landscape initiative to provide dedicated funds for enhanced science support to Interior's bureaus to meet their high-priority science needs; $1 million for Chronic Wasting Disease; and $0.5 million for amphibians.

While BRD received modest increases in the FY04 budget proposal, mapping research, geospatial data collection, mineral resource assessments, and seismic networks are cut. The request for mapping programs is $120.5 million, $12.7 million (11%) below the FY02 request and $18.8 million (7.3%) below the FY 2003 request. More specifically, the budget would eliminate the Center for the Integration of Natural Disaster Information (a $1.4 million cut), and cut $2.8 million from "lower priority mapping research". The National Map Program would receive a $4.4 million cut designed to transition the program from data collection to standard setting.
With respect to water programs, the budget would restore most, but not all, of the cuts proposed in the President's FY 2003 budget. Overall, water programs would receive $200.1 million, 3.1% less than 2002 levels but $22.3 million above the President's request for 2003. The National Water Quality Assessment program would receive an additional $6.3 million, restoring 2003 cuts but only a $0.5 million increase over FY 2002. In 2003 the Toxic Substances Hydrology Program was slated for significant cuts and transfers of funds to the National Science Foundation. In the 2004 budget, the program would receive an $11 million boost, bringing it to $2.9 million below the 2002 amount. The National Streamflow Information Program, a network of 7,000 streamgages would receive an increase of $2.1 million, offsetting a proposed decrease of $2 million in the FY 03 budget request.
It is important to note that these numbers are a request to Congress. Through the budget and appropriations process, Congress can provide more or less money than is requested.


NRC PANEL CONTINUES PROCESS TO DEVELOP TAXONOMY OF LIFE SCIENCES

As reported in the February 3, 2003 AIBS Public Policy Report, the National Research Council's (NRC) Board on Higher Education and Workforce, Committee for Examining the Methodology for Assessment of Research-Doctorate Programs is beginning a study of the quality of research-doctorate education in the United States. The Committee's Panel on Taxonomy and Interdisciplinarity (PTI) will: 1) Develop criteria to include/exclude fields. 2) Determine ways to recognize sub-fields within major fields. 3) How can the faculty associated with a program be identified? 4) Determine issues that are specific to broad fields: agricultural sciences, biological sciences, arts and humanities, social and behavioral sciences, physical sciences and mathematics, and engineering. 5) How can interdisciplinary fields be identified? 6) What emerging fields need to be included in the study and how much information on these fields should be incorporated in the study? and, 7) Can some fields with a small number of degrees and programs be aggregated together?

The PTI has identified 57 fields of study among four major areas: Life Sciences; Physical and Mathematical Sciences and Engineering; Social Sciences; and Humanities. The next assessment will gather quantitative information and generate reputational measures for programs in each of these fields. The current list of fields is different from that used during the last study in 1995.

On February 3, 2003, AIBS submitted comments to the NRC regarding the Draft Taxonomy. In the comments, AIBS expressed a number of concerns with the Panel's lack of recognition of major biological fields, such as the exclusion of evolutionary biology, the linkage of ecology with environmental science, and the co-mingling of basic and applied biology. In general, AIBS thinks that the draft document does not reflect the organizational trends in the life sciences at research universities in the United States. AIBS told the committee that because this document is the basis for the development of the assessment methodology and tools that will result in evaluations of research-doctorate programs, it is important that the document accurately reflect the status of the life sciences at academic research institutions. The full text of the AIBS comments can be viewed at www.aibs.org.

While the NRC has not released a revised taxonomy, AIBS staff has received unofficial reports that during a February 4th meeting the Panel decided include a category in the taxonomy for Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. It is important to state that this is a process and the Panel has not made final decisions about the taxonomy. If you wish to comment on the NRC's Draft Taxonomy of the Life Sciences, please submit your remarks via email to resdoc@nas.edu. The Panel will accept comments through March 1, 2003. You may view the Committee's activities at http://www7.nationalacademies.org/resdoc/index.html and the Draft Taxonomy at www7.nationalacademies.org/resdoc/Draft_Taxonomy.html.

Draft Taxonomy for the Life Sciences
Biochemistry, biophysics, and structural biology (Subfields), Genetics, Molecular biology (Subfields), Cell biology (Subfields), Developmental biology, Neuroscience and neurobiology (Subfields), Microbiology (Subfields), Immunology, Pharmacology and toxicology (Subfields), Ecology and environmental science (Subfields), Physiology, Plant Science (Subfields), Food science and food engineering, Nutrition, Animal sciences (Subfields), Entomology
Emerging Fields
Genomics, computational biology, and bio-informatics


AIBS PARTICIPATING IN APRIL CONGRESSIONAL VISITS DAY AND ACCEPTING APPLICATIONS FOR EMERGING PUBLIC POLICY LEADER AWARD

Biologists with an interest in communicating the benefits of biological science research to Congress are encouraged to participate in this year's Science, Engineering and Technology Working Group's Congressional Visits Day (CVD) on April 2-3 in Washington, D.C. The CVD is a two-day annual event that brings scientists, engineers, researchers, educators, and technology executives to Washington to raise visibility and support for science, engineering, and technology. CVD is hosted by more than 30 organizations, including AIBS, spanning all scientific disciplines. During the CVD, participants will attend briefings by key officials from the White House and Congress and two receptions honoring members of Congress for their work on behalf of science and biology; they will also participate in small group meetings with members of Congress and their staff. This year, biologists will also attend an award breakfast hosted by the Biological and Ecological Sciences Coalition and Co-Farm. The costs of the event are covered by AIBS and the other SETWG societies. Those wishing to attend need only to cover their travel costs and one night's hotel accommodation. If you are interested in participating, please contact Adrienne Froelich, Director of AIBS Public Policy Office, no later than March 1. Space is limited.

This year, AIBS will fund travel costs for 1-2 graduate students to participate in this event as part of the AIBS Emerging Public Policy Leader Award. The award provides an opportunity for graduate students in the biological sciences to receive first-hand experience in the policy arena. Recipients of the award will write a short article describing their experience at CVD to be published in the AIBS journal, BioScience. AIBS is accepting applications for the Emerging Public Policy Leader Award from graduate students (master's or doctoral) in the biological sciences with a demonstrated interest in and commitment to biological science and/or science education policy. Submit applications electronically to Dr. Adrienne Froelich, AIBS Director of Public Policy (afroelich@aibs.org) NO LATER than 8 a.m. EST on Wednesday, 5 March. Awards will be announced by 12 March. More information about the award, including required application materials, can be viewed at the AIBS website (www.aibs.org).



- Register for the 2003 AIBS annual meeting, Bioethics in a Changing World, at www.aibs.org/meeting2003

- IBRCS/NEON updates at www.aibs.org/ibrcs

- Link your website to AIBS at http://www.aibs.org/link/index.html

 


The American Institute of Biological Sciences is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) scientific association headquartered in Washington DC, with a staff of approximately 30. It was founded in 1947 as a part of the National Academy of Sciences and has been an independent organization since the mid-1950s, governed by a Board of Directors elected by its membership. The AIBS membership consists of approximately 6,000 biologists and 80 professional societies and other organizations; the combined individual membership of the latter exceeds 240,000 biologists. AIBS is an umbrella organization for the biological sciences dedicated to promoting an understanding of the natural living world, including the human species and its welfare, by engaging in coalition activities with its members in research, education, public policy, and public outreach; publishing the peer-reviewed journal, BioScience; providing scientific peer review and advisory services to government agencies and other clients; convening scientific meetings; and performing administrative and other support services for its member organizations.


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