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Bullet policy · Apr 21, 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.


AIBS Provides Testimony in Support of FY 2024 Funding for NSF

The American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) has provided testimony to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees regarding fiscal year (FY) 2024 funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF).

AIBS urged Congress to provide NSF with at least $11.9 billion in FY 2024, arguing that this level of funding is needed to “grow and sustain the U.S. bioeconomy and enable NSF to accelerate work on important initiatives at the frontiers of science and engineering.”

The testimony also applauded the passage of the CHIPS and Science Act and urged Congress to “follow through on the promise of this landmark legislation by funding NSF as close as possible to the levels authorized by the law.”

Read the testimony submitted to the House. An identical version was submitted to the Senate.

House Republicans’ Debt Limit Plan Would Cut Federal Spending

Republican lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives have unveiled a proposal to raise the U.S. debt limit for about a year and cut federal spending. The plan is meant to serve as a starting point for negotiations with Democrats and the Biden Administration.

The Limit, Save, Grow Act of 2023 would increase the debt ceiling by $1.5 trillion, enough to avert a payments default until March 31, 2024. It would also eliminate clean energy tax credits enacted under the Inflation Reduction Act.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) argues that the measure would “responsibly raise the debt limit into next year and provide more than $4.5 trillion in savings to the American taxpayer.” Notably, these savings would be realized by returning discretionary spending to fiscal year (FY) 2022 levels—a $130 billion cut—and then limiting the growth of spending to 1 percent per year.

According to estimates from the Federation of American Scientists, the proposed reductions to discretionary spending could translate to a 22 percent cut to non-defense research spending—which includes funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institutes of Health, and other science agencies—in FY 2024 relative to FY 2023, if defense spending is protected from the spending caps.

Speaker McCarthy hopes to pass the measure in the House in an attempt to bring the White House to the negotiating table in order to resolve the ongoing stalemate over raising the debt limit. Without an increase or suspension of the ceiling, the United States would default on payment obligations as soon as June.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said the measure had “no chance of moving through the Senate.” However, Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) applauded the proposal and urged President Biden to “come to the table, propose a plan for real and substantive spending cuts and deficit reduction, and negotiate now.”

The Republican plan to cap FY 2024 discretionary spending at FY 2022 enacted levels had been reportedly unveiled during a closed-door meeting back in January. In response, House Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) had asked agency heads for information about how these spending cuts would impact them. NSF responded that these reductions to FY 2022 levels “would result in the agency making approximately 2,200 fewer awards and able to support over 31,000 fewer researchers, students and others who are critical to our Nation’s science, engineering and technology enterprise.” Responses from the other agencies can be found here.

Hearing Tackles Proposal to Make NOAA Independent

The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee held a hearing on April 18 to consider draft legislation from Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) that would make the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) an independent agency.

The draft legislation, entitled the “National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Act of 2023,” would separate NOAA from the Department of Commerce and allow it to operate as an independent agency. It would also commission a study to examine the feasibility of transferring NOAA’s work on marine mammal protections and endangered species to the Interior Department.

The hearing witnesses were three former NOAA Administrators, namely Dr. Neil Jacobs, Dr. Conrad Lautenbacher, and Dr. Tim Gallaudet, who all served under Republican administrations. The witnesses all greed that authorizing NOAA as a new executive branch agency would streamline operations, strengthen scientific integrity, and facilitate important partnerships with private entities.

Proposals to authorize NOAA as an independent agency have been considered by Congress over a dozen times. Despite bipartisan support, these proposals have failed in the past, but there is now renewed momentum to advance the issue due to the accelerating climate crisis. “An independent NOAA is needed to address current and future challenges without an antiquated, tethered relationship with the Department of Commerce,” said Dr. Lautenbacher, who served as NOAA Administrator from 2001 to 2008.

According to Dr. Gallaudet, moving NOAA’s marine species work to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would streamline the permitting process for new offshore wind farms and ensure more efficient and effective protection of at-risk marine wildlife.

NOAA was created under the Commerce Department in 1970 by an Executive Order signed by President Richard Nixon. Since then, it has operated under “a patchwork of roughly 200 statutes that have resulted in an agency with complex organizational challenges and, at times, an ill-defined mission,” argued Chairman Lucas. “This legislation would clearly state NOAA’s important mission in statute. At the same time, this bill would provide a clean slate for NOAA to reorganize and streamline its operations, helping it to adapt and reset to a modern structure.”

Biden Plans to Nominate Cancer Surgeon to Lead NIH

President Biden is expected to nominate Dr. Monica Bertagnolli, currently the Director of the National Cancer Institute (NCI), to lead the National Institutes of Health (NIH), according to the Wall Street Journal.

The decision comes more than a year after Dr. Francis Collins, who led NIH for more than 12 years, stepped down in December of 2021. If confirmed by the Senate, Dr. Bertagnolli will take over the largest public funder of biomedical research in the world.

Biden appointed Dr. Bertagnolli as the 16^th^ Director of NCI, which supports the majority of cancer research in the US, last August. She is a surgical oncologist with decades of clinical and leadership experience. Bertagnolli previously served as the Richard E. Wilson professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School, as a surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and as a member of the Gastrointestinal Cancer and Sarcoma Disease Center at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. She earned her undergraduate degree from Princeton University and her medical degree from the University of Utah School of Medicine.

NOAA Requests a 7 Percent Growth in Budget in FY 2024

Under the President’s budget, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) would receive $6.8 billion in FY 2024, an increase of 7 percent compared to FY 2023. Nearly $1 billion of the agency’s total request would be invested in research and development, and another $300 million on science equipment and facilities.

Once again, NOAA’s weather and climate observation satellites garner a significant portion of the overall increase proposed for the agency (+$363 million).

Nearly $80 million is requested for building a “climate-ready nation.” A comparable amount would be used to bolster the “new blue economy” such as offshore wind, ocean and coastal mapping, and weather and space infrastructure to support fisheries, shipping, and livelihoods.

The Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research would be funded slightly below the FY 2023 enacted level (-1 percent), driven by the removal of congressionally directed projects accounts. Notable new funding includes $3.5 million for regional climate science partnerships and $0.6 million for extramural competitive research awards through the National Oceanographic Partnership Program. Support for the National Sea Grant College Program, which supports universities that conduct research, education, and training programs on ocean-related topics, would remain essentially flat.

In spite of an overall 6 percent reduction in discretionary funding, the National Ocean Service plans to invest an additional $18 million in the National Marine Sanctuary System,$4 million in Arctic science, $3 million in ocean and coastal mapping, and $6 million for foundational science to plan for offshore wind energy. Program cuts are proposed for geospatial modeling grants, the Cooperative Institute for Research to Operations in Hydrology, and certain congressionally directed spending. Other requested cuts for coastal resilience and coastal zone management grants would be offset by funding included in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

The National Marine Fisheries Service would see a 2 percent increase. New funding is proposed to mitigate the effects of planned offshore wind on NOAA’s scientific surveys (+$15 million.) Other activities that would see additional funding include use of climate science in fisheries management (+$10 million), assessing impacts of offshore wind on protected species (+7 million) and fisheries (+$7 million), and Endangered Species Act consultations (+$3 million). The largest reduction would come from congressionally directed funding for industry grants.

The Office of Education would essentially be flat funded at $35.7 million.

Notable Increase Proposed for DOE Science Budget

The Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science is slated to receive $8.8 billion in FY 2024, an increase of $700 million or 9 percent compared to FY 2023. The Office supports both scientific research and design, development, construction, and operation of scientific user facilities. Approximately 32,000 researchers located at over 300 institutions and 17 DOE national laboratories are supported by grants from the Office of Science.

The FY 2024 request proposes increased investments in Administration priorities, such as basic research on climate change and clean energy, including fusion energy, and increasing participation from underrepresented groups in research activities. The request also provides continued support for quantum information science, artificial intelligence, machine learning, microelectronics, and biopreparedness.

The Office of Science will increase support for its office-wide initiatives of Funding for Accelerated, Inclusive Research (FAIR) and Reaching a New Energy Sciences Workforce (RENEW). The FAIR initiative (+38 percent) is focused on enhancing research on clean energy, climate, and related topics at Minority Serving Institutions, while RENEW (+78 percent) aims to broaden participation and increase retention from underserved communities across research activities.

The Biopreparedness Research Virtual Environment initiative, which enables multidisciplinary research collaborations to respond to future pandemics and other biological threats, would see its budget grow from $60 million to $64 million. Another cross-cutting initiative, Energy Earthshots, which supports science at the nexus of clean energy production and climate change, would receive a 75 percent boost in funding.

Among the Office of Science’s six research programs, fusion energy sciences would receive the largest boost (+33 percent), with biological and environmental research (BER) receiving only a small increase of 2.5 percent. Smaller increases are also proposed for the other research programs, including basic energy sciences (+6 percent), advanced scientific computing research (+5 percent), high energy physics (+5 percent), and nuclear physics (+1 percent).

The $932 million for BER would support enhanced research on climate science by expanding the Urban Integrated Field Laboratories (+$1 million) and the network of climate centers affiliated with Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority Serving Institutions. BER would continue investments in AI for improving Earth and environmental system predictability, expand its Earthshots efforts, and advance biotechnology innovations to support advanced manufacturing.

Within BER, the 3 percent increase for Biological Systems Science prioritizes core research areas of genomic sciences (+2 percent), such as foundational genomics research on microorganisms with bioenergy and bioproduct traits; environmental genomics research to understand genotype to phenotype translations leading to beneficial bioenergy or bioproduct traits in crops; environmental microbiome science to understand the functions of environmentally relevant microbial communities in various ecosystems; and new computational bioscience tools. The four Bioenergy Research Centers, renewed for another 5 years, will continue to support multidisciplinary clean energy research.

BER will continue to support the Energy Earthshot Research Centers in FY 2024 to address key challenges for biological research at the interface of basic and applied energy research. The Energy Earthshot Research Centers are jointly supported by BER, advanced scientific computing research, and basic energy sciences to bring together multi-investigator, multi-disciplinary teams to perform energy research.

The budget would cut funding for two of the three BER scientific user facilities, namely, the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Research Facility (-2 percent) and the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (-22 percent). The Joint Genome Institute would receive a small increase of 2 percent.

Earth and Environmental Systems Sciences–which supports the study of terrestrial ecosystems, including the Arctic–would receive an essentially flat budget of $445 million. Minor funding increases are slated for most of its accounts, including atmospheric systems research (+1 percent), environmental system science (+3.5 percent), and earth and environmental systems modeling (+1 percent), while the facilities and infrastructure account would receive a 5 percent cut.

The budget for basic energy sciences—which supports research in material physics, chemistry, geosciences, and biosciences—would grow by $159 million to $2.7 billion. Advanced scientific computing research would receive a total of $1.1 billion. Increases are proposed for its research activities (+$73 million) and high performance computing and network facilities (+$47 million), while the Exascale Computing Project would shrink by $63 million as it closes out.

The Science Laboratories Infrastructure account is slated to expand by 15 percent to $322 million, with the funds directed to 10 ongoing construction projects to improve infrastructure across the national labs.

Workforce development for teachers and scientists would grow by 10 percent to $46 million. The request prioritizes continued support for learning and hands-on research experiences at DOE national laboratories and efforts to diversify the STEM pipeline.

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.

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 were 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.

From the Federal Register

The following items appeared in the Federal Register from April 10 to 21, 2023.

Commerce

Energy

Health and Human Services

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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