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Bullet policy · Mar 27, 2023

Latest Public Policy Report

The Public Policy Report has been released. The report provides analysis and communication on important issues in the scientific community.

In this issue:


The AIBS Public Policy Report is distributed broadly by email every two weeks. Any interested party may self-subscribe to receive these free reports by email.

With proper attribution to AIBS, all material from these reports may be reproduced or forwarded. AIBS staff appreciates receiving copies of materials used. If you have questions, comments, or suggestions, please contact the AIBS Director of Public Policy, Jyotsna Pandey, at 202-628-1500 x 225.


Action Alert: Ask Your Members of Congress to Support Investment in NSF

Congress has started considering funding levels for federal programs for fiscal year 2024. Please show your support for the National Science Foundation (NSF) by asking your Senators and U.S. Representative to provide at least $11.9 billion in funding for the agency in 2024.

NSF is the primary federal funding source for fundamental biological research at our nation’s universities and colleges. The agency provides approximately 66% of extramural federal support for non-medical, fundamental biological and environmental research at academic institutions.

The landmark CHIPS and Science Act provides an exciting framework for growing federal investments in scientific research. Failure to meet the funding levels authorized for NSF in this bipartisan law will lead to billions of dollars in lost opportunities to strengthen our nation’s science, technology, innovation, and the STEM workforce.

If provided with at least $11.9 billion in funding, NSF can make progress on scientific priorities articulated in the CHIPS and Science Act, expand support for early career researchers, invest in translational research and emerging industries, and create new interdisciplinary research programs, such as the Integrative Research in Biology program. This investment will sustain core research and education programs that are vital to U.S. competitiveness, economic growth, and national security.

Please take a few moments to ask your members of Congress to provide robust funding for NSF in FY 2024. Send a letter through the AIBS Legislative Action Center.

Invitation to Endorse AIBS Effort to Restore the DDIG Program at NSF-BIO

A recent editorial in BioScience, authored by Drs. Charles Fenster and Scott Collins, calls for restoring the Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant (DDIG) program in the Divisions of Environmental Biology (DEB) and Integrative Organismal Systems (IOS) at the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Biological Sciences Directorate (BIO).

“DDIGs facilitated the development of independent researchers and provided the opportunity for early-career scientists to chart their own research paths,” the authors note. The program was terminated for DEB and IOS in 2017 due to increased proposal workload and changes in agency priorities.

The American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) is currently inviting researchers to endorse this call for the reestablishment of the DDIG program in DEB and IOS. We also encourage you to share this opportunity with others within your network.

AIBS intends to present the list of endorsements to NSF along with an appeal for restarting the DDIG program at BIO.

Express your support.

NSF Budget to Grow by 15 Percent in FY 2024

President Biden released his budget request for fiscal year (FY) 2024 on March 9, once again calling for significant funding increases for science. The budget framework proposes to boost the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) overall funding by 15 percent to $11.3 billion in 2024. This is a major boost of $1.4 billion for the science agency, but the request falls short of the $15.7 billion level authorized by the CHIPS and Science Act for FY 2024.

NSF’s proposal is organized around 4 major themes—advancing emerging industries for national and economic security, building a resilient planet, creating opportunities everywhere, and strengthening research infrastructure. Roughly $2.4 billion is proposed to support investments in “emerging industries for U.S. competitiveness” that include advanced manufacturing, advanced wireless, artificial intelligence, biotechnology, microelectronics, semiconductors, and quantum information science.

NSF’s Bigs Ideas, launched in FY 2017, is slated to end as a “unifying concept” in FY 2023. According to NSF, most of the Big Ideas will “continue as core research programs or be superseded by new but related efforts.” Notably, in FY 2024 NSF will end the Understanding Rules of Life (URoL) Big Idea and build upon the knowledge gained through it to establish a new effort focused on “Using the Rules of Life,” which will support convergent, use-inspired research in biotechnology.

The research account at NSF would receive a total of $9 billion, an increase of 15 percent over FY 2023. Of this total, $1.2 billion would be set aside for the new Technology, Innovation, and Partnerships (TIP) Directorate to help translate research into practical applications. This represents a 35 percent bump for the commercialization-focused directorate compared to the total funding it received in 2023. $300 million is requested under TIP’s budget to support up to 20 NSF Regional Innovation Engines in FY 2024 to create “regional-scale innovation ecosystems” and address the workforce and economic needs of regions across the country. Similarly, the Convergence Accelerator would receive $100 million to “regionalize its approach to accelerate the translation of use-inspired research by investing in regional cohorts of transdisciplinary, multi-sector teams pursuing technology solutions to location-specific challenges.”

Overall, NSF’s Research and Related Activities account would be augmented by $1.2 billion in FY 2024. All research directorates would see growth in their funding compared to FY 2023:

  • Biological Sciences (BIO) Directorate: $972 million (+13.5 percent)
  • Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) Directorate: $1.2 billion (+12 percent)
  • Engineering (ENG) Directorate: $970 million (+20 percent)
  • Geological Sciences (GEO) Directorate: $1.8 billion (+12 percent)
  • Office of Polar Programs (now within GEO): $566 million (+4 percent)
  • Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS) Directorate: $1.8 billion (+9 percent)
  • Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences (SBE) Directorate: $361 million (+15 percent)
  • TIP Directorate: $1.2 billion (+35 percent)
  • Office of International Science and Engineering: $71 million (+3 percent)
  • Integrative Activities: $658 million (+20 percent)

In FY 2024, the Directorate for STEM Education (EDU) would operate at $1.4 billion, 5 percent above FY 2023. Within EDU, the Division of Undergraduate Education would see its budget cut by 5 percent, while the Division of Graduate Education would receive a 7 percent bump compared to FY 2023. Budget for the Division of Equity for Excellence in STEM would grow by 16 percent. The Graduate Research Fellowship Program within EDU, would receive a budget increase of 18 percent to $380 million. Notably, it would support at least 2,500 new fellowships, augment the cost of education allowance from $12,000 to $16,000, and provide a stipend of $37,000 per fellow in FY 2024.

Budget for the NSF INCLUDES, renamed in the CHIPS & Science Act of 2022 as the Eddie Bernice Johnson INCLUDES Initiative, would expand by roughly 44 percent to $50.5 million. This program supports education and career pathways to help build a diverse and skilled American STEM workforce. EDU would invest $10 million (+11 percent) in biotechnology through research and workforce development programs. The NSF Research Traineeship program would receive $62.5 million, roughly 29 percent less than it received in FY 2023.

The Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction (MREFC) account would receive $305 million in FY 2024, a 63 percent boost relative to FY 2023, to support one new construction project and three ongoing major facility projects, including long-term upgrades of NSF's Antarctic infrastructure. Agency Operations and Award Management would receive a 9 percent boost, while support for the National Science Board would increase by 3 percent compared to FY 2023.

Among NSF’s cross-cutting programs, the Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) network is slated to receive $33 million, a nearly 7 percent increase above FY 2023 and the Research Experiences for Undergraduates program would be augmented by 6 percent to $85 million. However, support for Faculty early career development programs or CAREER grants would be cut by 11 percent to $380 million.

Funding for the Biological Sciences Directorate

The FY 2024 request for BIO aligns with a number of Administration priorities, including “biotechnology to promote the bioeconomy, environmental forecasting and mitigating the impacts of global warming on essential ecosystem services, predicting and preventing the emergence of infectious diseases, and increasing racial equity and diversity across the STEM enterprise.”

Within BIO, which provides about 66 percent of the federal funding for basic non-medical biological research at academic institutions, funding boosts would be allocated to each of its five divisions as follows:

  • Biological Infrastructure (DBI): $228 million (+9 percent)
  • Environmental Biology: $189 million (+11 percent)
  • Integrative Organismal Systems: $215 million (+9 percent)
  • Molecular and Cellular Biosciences: $157 million (+7 percent)
  • Emerging Frontiers: $184 million (+37 percent)

BIO would steward a new agency-wide program called BioFoundries to support “collaborative teams of researchers and technology developers who will generate the technologies, instrumentation, workflow pipelines, and advanced computing that will enable the advancement of biology, biotechnology, bioengineering and biomanufacturing.” $30 million is requested in FY2024 to support 2 or 3 new BioFoundry awards.

BIO will continue investments in “building and broadening the biological sciences workforce” through its postdoctoral fellowships, the Building Research Capacity of New Faculty in Biology (BRC-BIO) program, the Research and Mentoring for Post baccalaureates in Biological Sciences (RaMP) program, and its Leading Culture Change through Professional Societies of Biology (BIO-LEAPS) program.

Increased investments of $177 million (+$29 million) are proposed within BIO to support the bioeconomy through research funding programs in biotechnology, synthetic biology, genomics, bioinformatics, structural and computational biology, biophysics, and training fellowships to help build the U.S. workforce in this area. Other research directorates will work together with BIO to make investments in biotechnology, including ENG ($106 million), GEO ($12 million), CISE ($7 million), MPS ($62 million), SBE ($1.5 million), and TIP ($93 million). Overall, NSF proposes making an investment of $470 million (+22 percent) in biotechnology in FY 2024.

BIO would once again prioritize investments in climate change, by increasing support for clean energy research and the U.S. Global Change Research Program by 17 percent to $311 million. Other major BIO investments include advanced manufacturing ($7 million), artificial intelligence ($20 million), quantum information sciences ($3.3 million), and improving undergraduate STEM education ($5 million).

The National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) would receive $78 million through DBI, an increase of $6 million above FY 2023.

BIO proposes to increase investments in synthesis centers focused on “integration and reuse of existing data to create new knowledge that will fuel advances in both basic and use inspired research across all scales of biological organization.” $6.5 million is requested for Centers for Analysis and Synthesis within DBI, including $4.5 million in continued support for a new center in environmental science that will leverage data being provided by NEON, LTER, and other environmental observatories and databases to support community efforts in ecological modeling and eco-forecasting.

The Biology Integration Institutes (BIIs) program, which supports collaborative research on frontier questions about life that span multiple disciplines within and beyond biology, would be funded at $53.7 million (+52 percent). This request would support twenty BIIs in total, including 15 continuing awards and 5 new awards.

Biden Proposes Nearly 8 Percent Increase for USDA Research

Under President Biden’s budget request, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is proposed to receive $32.6 billion in FY 2024, a 14.4 percent increase compared to FY 2023. Agricultural research, however, is slated to receive a smaller increase. The Research, Education, and Economics account at the USDA would receive $4.2 billion (+7.6 percent). Climate change and clean energy continue to be major focal points for the Department, with $350 million directed for climate science and research.

Intramural agricultural research in the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) is proposed to receive $1.9 billion (+5.5 percent). Funding for research activities and other ARS programs would increase by $194 million, but funding for buildings would be cut by $91 million.

Significant increases would be directed to clean energy (+$83 million), climate science (+$88.5 million), and supporting the Cancer Moonshot (+$20 million). For ARS base programs, the Environmental Stewardship and New Products divisions would see the largest increases. Within Environmental Stewardship, new funding is proposed for climate science and greenhouse gas monitoring, including establishing new climate hubs in Alaska and Hawaii, thereby adding to the existing network of 10 hubs. The Climate Hub Fellows initiative would be expanded to attract early career experts in needed scientific domains.

Some of these increases would be offset by shifting $73.4 million in ongoing research “to meet higher priority research demands.” Cuts are proposed in every ARS research division, although Crop Protection is the only division that would see an overall funding decrease.

The Long-Term Agroecosystem Research (LTAR) Network would receive $18 million in new funding, including establishing a new site in California; new research projects in Alaska, Hawaii, and the Southern Great Basin; and support for new climate sensors and data standardization.

The National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility could see an increase of $13 million. This state-of-the-art biocontainment facility will be used to research emerging animal diseases.

The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) partners with academic institutions to conduct extramural research, education, and extension activities. NIFA would be funded at $1.9 billion (+9.1 percent) in FY 2024. Within NIFA, competitively awarded extramural research supported by the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) would receive a proportionally larger increase to $550 million. In addition to addressing climate change and clean energy, targeted investments are proposed to promote food and nutrition security and assist underserved communities.

In terms of education, $372 million is dedicated to creating career development opportunities for the next generation of scholars at Minority-Serving Institutions. The budget also includes $10 million to help address the backlog of facility needs at land-grant universities.

Forest Service Slated for Major Funding Boosts

The President has requested $9.7 billion for the U.S. Forest Service in FY 2024, an increase of $2.6 billion over FY 2023. The Forest and Rangeland Research account within the Forest Service is slated to receive $349 million (+14 percent).

Wildfire management continues to be the major focus of Forest Service activities, representing more than half of total funding for the agency and the largest single destination of new funding.

Research activities at the Forest Service would see an increase of 13.7 percent, including $20.5 million for research related to climate mitigation, adaptation, and resilience on forests. More specifically, the agency will pursue research on nature-based solutions for climate risk reduction, carbon sequestration, wildfire prediction, and watershed restoration.

The Forest Service will continue supporting five Climate Hubs as part of USDA’s network of regional research partnerships.

Notably, the agency is elevating the number of peer-reviewed publications authored by Forest Service researchers to a key performance indicator. This number has previously been tracked internally. The Forest Service also plans to accelerate scientific information transfer to land management agencies, private landowners, and agricultural producers on scientifically sound climate adaptation practices.

AIBS Provides Testimony in Support of FY 2024 Funding for Smithsonian Institution, USGS, USFWS, and EPA

AIBS has provided testimony to the House Appropriations Committee regarding fiscal year (FY) 2024 funding for biological research programs within the Smithsonian Institution, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The testimony reads, in part: “We encourage Congress to provide additional funding to the Smithsonian Institution in FY 2024, including at least $60 million to the National Museum of Natural History with new funding to support scientific and curatorial work. We urge Congress to provide the USGS with $1.85 billion in FY 2024, with at least $395 million for its Ecosystems Mission Area. We further request that Science Applications (previously named Science Support) within USFWS be provided at least $55.5 million in FY 2024. Lastly, we request that Congress provide EPA Science and Technology with at least $967.8 million in FY 2024.”

Robust federal support for scientific research and monitoring that improves our understanding of biological diversity and ecosystem function must be a priority as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, urged AIBS.

Read the full testimony.

AIBS Submits Testimony in Support of $51 billion for NIH in FY 2024

AIBS has provided testimony to the House Appropriations Committee calling for at least $51 billion for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in fiscal year (FY) 2024.

The testimony contends that the requested funding will “grow and sustain the U.S. bioeconomy and enable NIH to accelerate work on important initiatives at the frontiers of science and medicine.” AIBS also argues that increased support is needed to “advance research on infectious disease emergence and transmission, prevent future pandemics, and fill gaps in our knowledge about the spread and evolution of biological threats.”

AIBS further requested that any additional funding to support the new Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H) should supplement, not supplant, the $51 billion request for the world’s largest public funder of biomedical research. “The new agency charged with supporting transformative high-risk, high-reward research must complement, and not interfere with, NIH’s commitment to funding basic research.”

Read the testimony.

Science Coalition Requests Robust Funding for NSF in FY 2024

The Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF)—an alliance of more than 140 professional organizations, scientific societies, universities, and businesses that advocate for the National Science Foundation (NSF)—has called on House and Senate appropriators to provide at least $11.9 billion for NSF in fiscal year (FY) 2024. AIBS is a member of CNSF.

The CHIPS and Science Act authorized $15.7 billion for NSF in FY 2024, but President Biden has requested $11.3 billion, a 15 percent increase over FY 2023 enacted level, for the science agency.

“The Science provisions of CHIPS and Science direct NSF to expand its mission toward transforming innovation ecosystems with the new Technology, Innovation, and Partnerships (TIP) Directorate; address growing workforce gaps in emerging technology areas by expanding its efforts in STEM education and broadening participation programs; and advance many priorities in foundational research and infrastructure programs,” the coalition notes. “We call on Congress to continue its support for NSF, provide at least $11.9 billion, and set NSF on a funding trajectory that will meet the major challenges our nation faces and ensure success for our future competitiveness, security, and resilience.”

AIBS Endorses Community Letters in Support of Agricultural, Microbiome Research

AIBS has endorsed two community letters in support of robust funding for research at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

On March 17, the Friends of the Agricultural Research Service (FARS) Coalition sent a letter, signed by 44 organizations, to the House and Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittees requesting $1.95 billion in total funding for the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in fiscal year (FY) 2024. “This level of funding will ensure that ARS can respond to new plant and animal pests and diseases, weather and environmental stresses, and food safety and nutrition security concerns,” the groups argued.

On March 24, the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Coalition—comprised of research institutions, scientific societies, and other food and agricultural stakeholders—sent a letter, signed by 36 organizations, to the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittees in the House and Senate requesting an appropriation of no less than $500 million in FY 2024 for AFRI, the USDA’s largest competitive extramural research grant program.

Additionally, AIBS signed on to a ‘Microbiome Stakeholder’ letter, along with 42 other organizations, calling for increased coordination and support for microbiome research across the federal science agencies. “As scientists continue to explore the connection between microbiomes and a broad spectrum of important issues, including human and animal health, food production and antimicrobial resistance, we are requesting that you include language in the report accompanying the Fiscal Year 2024 Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (CJS) Appropriations bill that directs the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to appoint an individual to lead the renewal of the charter for the Microbiome Interagency Working Group and to update the Interagency Strategic Plan for Microbiome Research,” the letter urged.

Short Takes

  • Registration is now open for the hybrid 2023 Digital Data in Biodiversity Research Conference, to be held on June 5-7, 2023. Organized by AIBS members iDigBio and Natural Science Collections Alliance and hosted by Arizona State University, this edition of the conference offers both in-person and virtual participation. The overall theme for the conference is Leveraging Digital Data for Conservation, Ecology, Systematics, and Novel Biodiversity Research. Visit the conference website to learn more.
  • Dr. Bernice L. Smith will serve as the next Deputy Division Director for the Division of Environmental Biology (DEB) within the Biological Sciences (BIO) Directorate at NSF. Dr. Smith previously served as a Senior Science and Policy Advisor, Planning and Performance Lead, and Justice40 Lead in the Office of Wetlands, Oceans, and Watersheds at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). She also served as a program manager for global climate change research at EPA’s National Center for Environmental Research.

From the Federal Register

The following items appeared in the Federal Register from March 13 to 24, 2023.

Agriculture

Commerce

Energy

Environmental Protection Agency

Health and Human Services

Interior

National Science Foundation


The American Institute of Biological Sciences is a non-profit 501(c)3 public charity organization that advances the biological sciences for the benefit of science and society. AIBS works with like-minded organizations, funding agencies, and political entities to promote the use of science to inform decision-making. The organization does this by providing peer-reviewed or vetted information about the biology field and profession and by catalyzing action through building the capacity and the leadership of the community to address matters of common concern.

Founded in 1947 as a part of the National Academy of Sciences, AIBS became an independent, member-governed organization in the 1950s. Today, AIBS has more than 100 member organizations and has a Public Policy Office in Washington, DC. Its staff members work to achieve its mission by publishing the peer-reviewed journal BioScience, by providing scientific peer-review and advisory services to government agencies and other clients, and by collaborating with scientific organizations to advance public policy, education, and the public understanding of science.

Website: www.aibs.org.


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