The Public Policy Report has been released. The report provides analysis and communication on important issues in the scientific community.
In this issue:
- OSTP Reports Share “Bold” Research Goals for the U.S. Bioeconomy
- BLM Proposes Major Changes to Public Land Management
- Bipartisan Wildlife Bill Reintroduced
- USGS Slated for a 19 Percent Boost in FY 2024
- Small Funding Increase Proposed for NIH
- EPA’s Science Budget Would Grow by 21 Percent
- Societies, Individuals Express Support for Restoring the DDIG Program at NSF-BIO
- Action Alert: Ask Your Members of Congress to Support Investment in NSF
- AIBS Diversity Hero: Roberto Efraín Díaz
- Enter the 13th Annual Faces of Biology Photo Contest
- Biden Vetoes Resolution to Overturn WOTUS Rule
- NASEM Webinar on Continental Scale Biology
- State Department’s Top Biodiversity Official to Step Down
- From the Federal Register
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OSTP Reports Share “Bold” Research Goals for the U.S. Bioeconomy
The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) has released five reports that outline research and development (R&D) goals for the U.S. bioeconomy. Each of the reports was authored individually by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Departments of Agriculture, Energy, Commerce, and Health and Human Services.
The reports are in response to the Executive Order on “Advancing Biotechnology and Biomanufacturing Innovation for a Sustainable, Safe, and Secure American Bioeconomy,” which President Biden signed last September, to accelerate biotechnology R&D, strengthen biosecurity, bolster workforce development activities, and grow the U.S. bioeconomy across multiple sectors.
The five reports focus on five different areas to advance biotechnology and biomanufacturing R&D: furthering climate change solutions; spurring food and agricultural innovations; strengthening supply chain resilience; advancing human health; and furthering cross-cutting advances.
The NSF-led report, focused on cross-cutting advances, lays out six R&D themes: leveraging biodiversity across the tree of life; enhancing prediction and design of biological systems; expanding the capability to build and measure systems; advancing the ability to scale-up novel biotechnologies; accelerating innovation in biomanufacturing approaches; and co-generating and translating biotechnology.
“NSF has supported discoveries in biotechnology for decades resulting in discoveries like PCR which powered the COVID-19 tests to CRISPR gene editing, new polymers and advances in tissue engineering,” said NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan. “To create the bioeconomy of the future, we need to further strengthen this innovation at speed and scale along multiple dimensions.”
Notably, among the R&D needs NSF identified for the biodiversity theme were sustaining and enhancing biological collections “to ensure they remain a resource for diverse downstream applications,” and aligning with the open data initiative “by encouraging biological data (and biological parts) to be Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable (FAIR).” Another R&D need identified was creating ‘innovation laboratories’ to leverage our understanding of biodiversity towards bioinspired design of new materials, devices, and products.
BLM Proposes Major Changes to Public Land Management
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has issued a new proposed rule that would designate conservation as a formal use of public lands, on equal footing with energy development, grazing, and recreation. If finalized, the rule would lead to a fundamental shift in how the agency manages millions of acres of public lands.
According to Department of Interior officials, the proposed changes are necessary because of the rapidly increasing impacts of climate change. “As the nation continues to face unprecedented drought, increasing wildfires and the declining health of our landscapes, our public lands are under growing pressure,” stated Interior Secretary Deb Haaland. “It is our responsibility to use the best tools available to restore wildlife habitat, plan for smart development, and conserve the most important places for the benefit of the generations to come.”
Under the proposal, BLM would be required to identify federal rangelands that need restoration work and establish a mechanism to lease the lands for a fixed period of no more than 10 years to allow this work to be done. This would allow NGOs and conservation groups to lease BLM land to conserve or restore it. These leases could also be purchased by energy, mining, or timber companies to offset project impacts as a condition of permit approval.
The rule also proposes to codify procedures to identify and evaluate rangelands for designation as “areas of critical environmental concern” or ACES, which are areas where special management attention is needed to protect specific plants, animals, and wildlife habitat. According to Interior, this would provide “more cohesive direction and consistency to the agency’s ACEC designation process.”
The draft rule is open for public comment until June 20, 2023.
Bipartisan Wildlife Bill Reintroduced
Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) have reintroduced bipartisan legislation that would make significant investments in wildlife and habitat conservation.
First introduced in 2016, Recovering America’s Wildlife Act would provide $1.3 billion annually for state fish and wildlife agencies and an additional $97.5 million each year for tribal governments to implement their plans to conserve, restore, and protect wildlife and habitat. The bill has enjoyed bipartisan support in Congress. In the previous congressional session, it had 194 co-sponsors in the House and 47 co-sponsors in the Senate.
Last year, the full House passed a version of this bill (H.R. 2773), sponsored by Representatives Debbie Dingell (D-MI) and Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), but the legislation failed to advance in the Senate over concerns about the funding source. The newly reintroduced version is similar to the bill passed out of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee last year. But like that version, it does not include a politically acceptable “pay-for.” Upcoming negotiations will focus on determining an appropriate funding mechanism for the legislation.
USGS Slated for a 19 Percent Boost in FY 2024
President Biden has proposed to fund the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) at $1.8 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2024, an increase of 19 percent compared to FY 2023. Funding increases are proposed for USGS programs across the board, with priority given to climate research and science focused on protecting of human health and safety.
The Ecosystems Mission Area—the primary biological science organization of the Department of the Interior—provides the science needed to achieve sustainable management and conservation of biological resources in wild and urban spaces. The Ecosystems account, which also includes Environmental Health programs, Land Change Science, and the Climate Adaptation Science Centers, would be augmented by $395 million or 29 percent.
Other mission areas are also slated for budget increases. Water Resources would receive a nearly 3 percent increase to $313 million, although the Water Resources Research Act program would be cut by $0.5 million to $15 million. Support for Natural Hazards would increase by 13 percent. This includes programs to monitor earthquakes (+10 percent), volcanoes (-5 percent), and coastal and marine hazards (+46 percent).
Core Science Systems is slated to receive $369 million in FY 2024, a 30 percent boost. Most of the new funding would go to the Science Synthesis, Analysis, and Research (SSAR) Program, which would grow by 180 percent to $85 million. Of this total, $2.5 million would go to the Assessment of Biodiversity program to deliver a National Biodiversity Assessment Dashboard “to conduct an initial assessment that identifies nationwide biodiversity metrics; evaluates the role of protected areas; and projects vulnerabilities under future climate conditions.” The request for SSAR includes $25.5 million to lead the development of the Administration’s American Conservation and Stewardship Atlas, a tool that will enable science to inform conservation for the America the Beautiful initiative. The Atlas will support conservation, stewardship, and restoration activities and provide the data needed to achieve the Administration’s goal of conserving 30 percent of America’s lands and waters by 2030.
The plan would provide $144 million (+24 percent) for the National Land Imaging Program, including $110 million to support the Landsat 7, 8, and 9 satellite ground and flight operations and an increase of $12 million to support the development of Landsat Next, which is planned to launch by late 2030.
The Energy and Mineral Resources Mission Area is looking at a significant increase of 45 percent. Science Support programs at USGS would receive a 26 percent increase, while the Facilities account would get a 5 percent increase.
All research programs are slated for budget increases relative to FY 2023, including species management research (+21 percent), biological threats and invasive species research (+6 percent), land management research (+45 percent), environmental health research (+3 percent), and water use and availability science (+0.5 percent).
The 42 Cooperative Research Units (CRUs), which are located in 40 states, would see their budgets grow by 4 percent to $29.3 million. The CRUs allow USGS to leverage research and technical expertise affiliated with these universities to conduct research, provide technical assistance, and develop scientific workforces through graduate education and mentoring programs.
Major investments are once again proposed for climate research. The National and Regional Climate Adaptation Science Centers are slated for a 38 percent increase in budget to $87 million, with $10.5 million (+$3.5 million) set aside for Tribal Climate Adaptation Science. The Climate Adaptation Science Centers are responsible for developing the science and tools to address the effects of climate change on land, water, wildlife, fish, ecosystems, and communities. The Land Change Science account would nearly double to $41 million.
Other climate-related investments include $3.8 million in additional funding for research on coastal blue carbon sequestration, $3.9 million in increased funding to improve resilience to coastal hazards, and $10 million in new funding to model and forecast coastal hazards. The budget also proposes a $5 million increase for assessing biological greenhouse gases and a $5 million increase to provide decision tools to support clean energy deployment.
Small Funding Increase Proposed for NIH
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is slated for a less than 2 percent budget increase in FY 2024. Overall, the biomedical research agency would receive $48.6 billion, an increase of $920 million over FY 2023. Most of the increase would to the National Cancer Institute as part of the Cancer Moonshot initiative.
ARPA-H is slated to receive $2.5 billion in total, separate from the $48.6 billion requested for NIH. The 67 percent funding boost for ARPA-H would fund high-risk, transformative research that drives biomedical innovations.
The request outlines a number of priorities for NIH in FY 2024, including continued support for the Cancer Moonshot initiative ($716 million), advancing nutrition science ($121 million), tackling the opioid epidemic, eradicating HIV in the United States, developing a universal influenza vaccine, expanding mental health research, addressing health disparities and inequities, researching the human health impacts of climate change, and continued support for pandemic preparedness activities.
The budget request would support a total of 44,410 research project grants, an increase of 790 above FY 2023, including a total of 10,414 new and competing grants.
Given the small proposed increase in overall funding, budgets for several NIH centers would remain flat:
- National Cancer Institute: +7 percent
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: flat
- National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: +0.6 percent
- National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases: flat
- National Institute of General Medical Sciences: flat
- National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences: +2.5 percent
- National Institute of Mental Health: +8.5 percent
- National Human Genome Research Institute: flat
- National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering: flat
- National Library of Medicine: flat
The proposal would boost the Office of the Director’s budget by 9.5 percent. The buildings and facilities account for NIH would remain flat at $350 million, with priority given to addressing the maintenance and repair backlog at the agency.
The budget includes an increase of $25 million for NIH to continue research related to the impact of climate change on human health, in collaboration with other federal agencies.
NIH will continue to fund health disparities and inequities research at $95 million. This includes continued support for the UNITE initiative, an NIH-wide effort launched in FY 2021 to end racial inequities across the biomedical research enterprise.
The budget includes $407 million (-63 percent) in funding made available through the 21st Century Cures Act, with $86 million for the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, $86 million for the National Institute of Mental Health, and $235 million for the Innovation Account.
The request includes $270 million (flat) for the development of a universal influenza vaccine and $26 million (flat) for the NIH-sponsored Centers for AIDS Research to continue research on HIV prevention and treatment. With respect to pandemic preparedness, $2.69 billion is requested for NIH to support research and development on vaccines, diagnostics, and therapeutics, biosafety and biosecurity, and expanding lab infrastructure.
The agency requests level funding of $1.8 billion for opioids, stimulants, and pain research. Within this total, $1.2 billion would support ongoing research across NIH centers, while $636 million would be allocated to the Helping to End Addiction Long-term (HEAL) Initiative, which was launched in April 2018 to combat opioid addiction and perform research on pain and addiction.
The proposal includes an increase of $200 million for the National Institute of Mental Health to support improved diagnostics, treatments, and precision of care for mental health.
EPA’s Science Budget Would Grow by 21 Percent
The President’s FY 2024 budget request for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) represents a 19 percent increase for the regulatory agency.
Overall, EPA would receive $12.1 billion in FY 2024. Of this total, $968 million (+21 percent) would be directed to its Science and Technology account.
The agency’s top priorities for FY 2024 include tackling the climate crisis, through both new budget initiatives as well as the funding provided in the Inflation Reduction Act and the federal infrastructure bill. The EPA is also supporting the Administration’s Cancer Moonshot initiative by preventing and mitigating cancer exposure.
EPA’s Office of Research and Development would receive $643 million. Increased funding would be directed to research on the impacts of climate change on human health and ecosystems, as well as updating the chemical safety assessment process. Research on PFAS exposure on human health and the environment will continue, as will ways to reduce PFAS levels in the environment. EPA is also conducting high-throughput toxicological screening assays on hundreds of PFAS chemicals. New funding is requested for predicting and communicating wildfire smoke to overburdened communities.
The Pesticide Risk Program is proposed to receive $25 million in additional funding for activities to evaluate the risks of pesticides on endangered and threatened species and their habitats. This work is mandated by the Endangered Species Act; the EPA is implementing a 2022 work plan in response to litigation and court orders.
The Safe and Sustainable Water Research Program would receive $5.6 million in increased funding to help address water contamination, harmful algal blooms, and diminished water availability.
The Water Quality Research and Support Grants is once again proposed for elimination. This congressionally directed competitive grant program supports water quality research.
Societies, Individuals Express Support for Restoring the DDIG Program at NSF-BIO
Scientific societies and organizations, as well as individual researchers, have expressed support for a BioScience editorial by Drs. Charles Fenster and Scott Collins that calls for restoring the Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant (DDIG) program within 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.
Following the publication of the editorial, AIBS invited its member societies and organizations, partners, and individuals to endorse the call for the reestablishment of the DDIG program in DEB and IOS. In response, 25 scientific societies and organizations and more than 270 individuals have expressed support for the DDIG program and its goals. View the organizational and individual endorsements.
On April 4, AIBS shared the endorsements for DDIG and its goals with NSF-BIO officials and urged them to think of new, alternative ways to meet those goals as they consider new programming.
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.
AIBS Diversity Hero: Roberto Efraín Díaz
Last year, AIBS launched the “Diversity Heroes” series, where we spotlight individuals who are working to increase Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in the biological sciences. The latest piece spotlights Roberto Efraín Díaz, Ph.D. student in biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of California, San Francisco.
Enter the 13^th^ Annual Faces of Biology Photo Contest
Enter the Faces of Biology Photo Contest for a chance to win $250 and to have your photo appear on the cover of the journal BioScience.
The competition recognizes scientists who use imagery to communicate aspects of biological research to the public and policymakers. Once again, this year's competition is sponsored by the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology in addition to the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS).
“Photography is one of many excellent tools scientists have to showcase their work to new audiences, including policymakers and the public,” said Scott Glisson, CEO of AIBS. “AIBS remains committed to strengthening scientists' ability to communicate with broad audiences. An important part of that effort has been supporting this artful approach to sharing their research.”
The theme of the contest is “Faces of Biology.” Photographs entered into the competition must depict a person, such as a scientist, technician, or student, engaging in biological research. The depicted research may occur outside, in a lab, with a natural history collection, on a computer, in a classroom, or elsewhere.
The winning photos from the 2022 contest will be featured in the April 2023 issue of BioScience.
Submissions must be received by 11:59:59 p.m. Eastern Time on September 30, 2023. For more information or to enter the contest, visit our website.
- President Biden has vetoed a resolution aimed at overturning his Administration’s recent Clean Water Act rulemaking that went into effect on March 20. The Senate passed the House-approved measure with a 53-43 vote in late March. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chair Joe Manchin (D-WW) and Senators Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ), Jon Tester (D-MT), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), and Jacky Rosen (D-NV) joined Republicans in supporting the measure. The resolution aims to repeal the Biden Administration’s waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) definition, which determines which waterways and wetlands fall under federal protection. It now heads back to Congress, where critics of the WOTUS rule lack enough support to override the veto. Last month, a federal court judge ruled to halt the implementation of the rule in Texas and Idaho. The Supreme Court is expected to issue its ruling in the related Sackett v. EPA case this summer.
- The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s (NASEM) Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology is holding a two-part webinar on April 24-25, 2023 on “Paving the Way for Continental Scale Biology: Connecting Research Across Scales.” This is the first of three webinars in a series about how biological research at multiple scales can inform the development of a continental scale biology. Register now.
- Monica Medina, who currently serves as the State Department’s Assistant Secretary for Oceans, Environment and Science, and as a Special Envoy for Biodiversity and Water Resources, will depart the agency at the end of the month. Medina played a key role in the Administration’s work on curbing plastic pollution, weighing in on deep-sea mining, and developing a global biodiversity framework. Medina is leaving to take on the role of President and CEO of the Wildlife Conservation Society.
From the Federal Register
The following items appeared in the Federal Register from March 27 to April 7, 2023.
- Meeting Notice of the National Agricultural Research, Extension, Education, and Economics (NAREEE) Advisory Board, National Genetic Resources Advisory Council (NGRAC)
- Hydrographic Services Review Panel
- Public Meeting of the Ocean Exploration Advisory Board
- The 46th Meeting of the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force
Environmental Protection Agency
- Clean Air Act Advisory Committee (CAAAC): Request for Nominations
- Notice of Meeting of the EPA Children's Health Protection Advisory Committee (CHPAC)
Health and Human Services
- Advisory Committee to the Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- National Advisory Council for Healthcare Research and Quality: Request for Nominations for Members
- National Toxicology Program Board of Scientific Counselors; Announcement of Meeting; Request for Comments
- Request for Nominations to the Advisory Council on Alzheimer's Research, Care, and Services
- Conservation and Landscape Health
- Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Review Committee Notice of Public Meeting
National Science Foundation
Office of Science and Technology Policy
- Request for Information; National Nanotechnology Initiative Environmental, Health, and Safety Research Strategy
- Give your society or organization a voice in public policy. Join AIBS today.
- Become an advocate for science, visit the AIBS Legislative Action Center.
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.
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