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Explore the most recent news about AIBS's initiatives, programs, resources, and events.

Bullet policy · May 22, 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.

AIBS Public Policy Report, Volume 24, Issue 11, May 22, 2023

  • House Panel Advances Agriculture Spending Bill with Cuts to Climate Research
  • Senate Votes to Rescind Two Biden ESA Rules
  • House Republicans Urge More Support for DOE Science Office
  • USGS Request’s Input on Biodiversity and Climate Change Assessment
  • NSF Requests Comments on Novel Approaches to Emerging Technology Career Pathways
  • Wildlife Bill Gains Bipartisan Support in Senate
  • White House Holding Listening Sessions on Open Science with Early Career Researchers
  • AIBS Signs Letter Urging Congress to Reject Cuts to Non-Defense Discretionary Spending
  • AIBS Endorses Letter in Support of Robust Funding for NOAA in FY 2024
  • Enter the 13th Annual Faces of Biology Photo Contest
  • Short Takes
    • House Passes Bipartisan Science Bills
    • NSF Webinar: Building Research Capacity in Biology Program
    • Register for the SPNHC Natural History Education DemoCamp
  • From the Federal Register

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.


House Panel Advances Agriculture Spending Bill with Cuts to Climate Research

The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies has advanced along party lines a spending bill for fiscal year (FY) 2024 that would slash climate change research programs at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The agriculture spending bill would set discretionary spending at USDA at $17.2 billion, which is $8.7 billion below FY 2023. Democrats opposed the measure, saying this allocation is at a level last seen in 2006. The bill would also rescind approximately $8 billion from past appropriations that haven’t yet been obligated. According to Subcommittee Chair Andy Harris (R-MD), this would effectively cut spending by barely more than 2 percent compared to FY 2023.

The bill would cut funding for a number of priorities for the Democratic party. It would eliminate funding for USDA’s climate change research programs and end the “climate hubs” program that tracks the impacts of the changing climate on food production. The bill would also prohibit the “implementation, administration, or enforcement” of President Biden’s executive orders on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and would bar funds for USDA’s new DEI Office.

USDA’s Agricultural Research Service would receive $1.75 billion, an increase of $1.2 million compared to FY 2023. The National Institute of Food and Agriculture would be funded at $1.7 billion, a decrease of $9.5 million. The measure would provide an increase of $5 million for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, USDA’s flagship competitive research grants program. The bill would reduce funding for the Natural Resources Conservation Service, a conservation agency that deals with climate impacts, by $29.7 million.

“They have to do more with less under the Biden economy,” said Subcommittee Chair Harris, adding that Republicans are being “responsible stewards” of taxpayer funds by targeting what they consider “wasteful spending.”

The legislation now moves to the full Appropriations Committee for consideration. Three other FY 2024 appropriations bills have been advanced by their respective subcommittees, including the spending bills for Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, the Legislative Branch, and Homeland Security.

Senate Votes to Rescind Two Biden ESA Rules

The Senate has voted to pass resolutions repealing two Endangered Species Act (ESA) rules finalized by the Biden Administration.

One resolution (S.J.Res.24), authored by Senator Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), would block a rule that elevated the northern long-eared bat from threatened to endangered species status. Species designated as endangered receive greater federal protections than threatened species. The northern long-eared bat was designated as a threatened species in 2015. Since then, the continued spread of white-nose syndrome, a disease caused by the fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans, has placed the species at increased risk. According to the Fish and Wildlife Service, white-nose syndrome has “caused estimated northern long-eared bat population declines of 97–100 percent across 79 percent of the species’ range.”

The second resolution (S.J.Res.23) would repeal another Biden ESA rule that reversed a Trump Administration rule regarding the definition of critical habitats designated for endangered and threatened species. Restoring the Trump-era rule would effectively limit critical habitat to areas currently inhabited by the protected species.

“Protecting habitats that is necessary to the survival of species is appropriate,” said Senator Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), sponsor of S.J. Res. 23. “The problem that has arisen, however, is that these designations have on occasion been weaponized, to the detriment of landowners and the American public.”

Both resolutions passed narrowly, by a 51-49 vote. Senator Angus King of Maine, an independent, and Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) joined the Republicans in voting for the critical habitat resolution. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Senator Manchin voted with the Republicans in favor of the bat measure.

The House Committee on Natural Resources has advanced identical resolutions (H.J.Res.46 and H.J.Res.49), which now await approval by the full House. President Joe Biden has pledged to veto the resolutions if they land on his desk.

House Republicans Urge More Support for DOE Science Office

Eight Republican members of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, led by Committee Chair Frank Lucas (R-OK), sent a letter to the Department of Energy (DOE) on May 9 expressing “serious concerns with DOE’s ongoing lack of robust and consistent support for its Office of Science.”

The letter argues that DOE’s FY 2024 budget request prioritizes applied clean energy activities at the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) and the Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations (OCED) over traditional research activities at the Office of Science. The former, it asserts, are already “extremely well-funded” after DOE received a $100 billion influx through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (H.R. 3684) and the Inflation Reduction Act (H.R. 5376), of which only 2 percent went to the Office of Science.

Biden’s FY 2024 budget proposal has requested a 9 percent increase above the FY 2023 enacted level for the DOE Office of Science, while requesting an 11 percent hike for the EERE and a 142 percent boost for the OCED.

The letter also contends that DOE’s “neglect” of the office is “showing up as cracks in its workforce,” citing the recent departures of five senior career officials. Only one of those leadership vacancies has been successfully filled.

“This Department’s leadership team appears to be more concerned with serving industry interests and scoring politically expedient points than advancing key fundamental research programs and capabilities,” argued the letter. “The Office of Science is the engine that drives breakthrough scientific discoveries. It is an essential part of the federal research enterprise, and we urge the Department to start treating it as such.”

USGS Request’s Input on Biodiversity and Climate Change Assessment

The U.S. Congress charged the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) with developing an assessment of the linkages between biodiversity and climate change as part of the fiscal year 2022 budget. The USGS, in collaboration with Environment and Climate Change Canada and Mexico's La Comisión Nacional para el Conocimiento y Uso de la Biodiversidad (CONABIO), and with assistance from the Morris K. Udall and Stewart L. Udall Foundation, will be undertaking a two-year (2023–2025) regional assessment of biodiversity and climate change. The assessment will culminate in a report addressing these two challenges together for the United States, Canada, Mexico, and U.S. territories.

The agency is now requesting the public to comment on the draft prospectus for the assessment, provide nominations for membership on the assessment authoring team, and provide expressions of interest in serving on the Biodiversity and Climate Change Assessment Guidance Committee.

Comments regarding the draft prospectus and nominations for the authoring team must be submitted by July 7, 2023. Expressions of interest for the Guidance Committee must be submitted by June 7, 2023. For more information, see the Federal Register notice.

NSF Requests Comments on Novel Approaches to Emerging Technology Career Pathways

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has issued a request through a Dear Colleague Letter seeking input about challenges and opportunities related to investing in robust and engaging pathways for talent interested in working in emerging technology areas.

Specifically, NSF seeks new approaches to recruit diverse individuals into fields including, but not limited to, advanced manufacturing, advanced materials, advanced wireless, artificial intelligence, biotechnology, microelectronics and semiconductors, and quantum information science. NSF’s objective is to develop new funding opportunities that will accelerate efforts to increase both the rate and overall composition of domestic students enrolled in traditional academic pathways into STEM disciplines that will lead to emerging technology careers.

Comments must be received by 5:00 PM Eastern time on June 21, 2023.

Wildlife Bill Gains Bipartisan Support in Senate

Recovering America’s Wildlife Act or RAWA (S. 1149), sponsored by Senators Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Thom Tillis (R-NC), has been gaining support in Congress. On May 9, ten Senators—including five Democrats, four Republicans and an independent—signed onto the bill.

The bipartisan legislation, which was reintroduced in the current congressional session in March, would make significant investments in wildlife and habitat conservation. It 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.

The new co-sponsors for S.1149 include Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Susan Collins (R-ME), Tom Carper (D-DE), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Jon Tester (D-MT), John Boozman (R-AK), Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) and Ted Budd (R-NC). A companion measure has yet to be introduced in the House.

Last year, the measure failed to advance in the Senate over concerns about the funding source. The reintroduced version is similar to the bill passed out of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee last year, in that it does not include a politically acceptable “pay-for.”

“Investing in proactive conservation work well before species ever become imperiled or endangered is something that Republicans and Democrats can agree on,” said Senators Heinrich and Tillis. They added that they’re determined to “get RAWA across the finish line” even though an appropriate funding mechanism for the bill is yet to be negotiated.

White House Holding Listening Sessions on Open Science with Early Career Researchers

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) is hosting a series of virtual public listening sessions between May 31 and June 12, 2023 to explore perspectives from the early career researcher community on the challenges and opportunities for advancing open science in the United States. Hosted as part of a Year of Open Science, these listening sessions aim to elevate the needs, priorities, and experiences of early career researchers in shaping a future of open and equitable research.

OSTP seeks input from undergraduate students, graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows from a diverse range of backgrounds and disciplines, as well as those involved in training and capacity building, including librarians, educators, and administrators. The sessions will be open to the public but registration is required to attend.

More information about each of the listening sessions can be found on the OSTP website.

AIBS Signs Letter Urging Congress to Reject Cuts to Non-Defense Discretionary Spending

AIBS was among 760 organizations that signed a letter urging Congress to reject proposed cuts to non-defense discretionary (NDD) appropriations.

Led by the Coalition for Health Funding, the letter calls on Congress to reject cuts to NDD appropriations and instead set funding for fiscal year 2024 at a level that recognizes both rising costs and the need for investment in programs important to fostering economic growth and meeting human needs.

The letter reads, in part: “Non-defense appropriations are a small part of the federal budget—less than one-sixth—yet they fund a wide range of important programs and services that make America run. Examples include: scientific and medical research, medical care for veterans, environmental protections, assistance with housing and child care for low-income families, rural development, support for K-12 education and skills training, financial aid for college students, infrastructure investments in things like sewage treatment, safe drinking water, flood control and navigation improvements, diplomacy, humanitarian aid and development, courts and reentry programs, assistance for small businesses, and other programs for seniors, public health, and many more.”

The letter is in response to the House-passed debt limit bill, the Limit, Save, Grow Act of 2023, which would return discretionary spending to fiscal year 2022 levels—a $130 billion cut—and then limit the annual growth of spending to 1 percent for a decade. This Republican-led measure was meant to serve as a starting point for negotiations with Democrats and the White House. Talks to finalize the details of a debt ceiling deal are still ongoing.

AIBS Endorses Letter in Support of Robust Funding for NOAA in FY 2024

AIBS has joined stakeholders of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), representing industry, labor, academia, and the non-profit sector, in urging Congress to fund the agency at $7.2 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2024.

The letter, led by Friends of NOAA, reads in part: “The services and outreach provided by NOAA offices are critical to citizens and decision-makers' ability to protect life and property and mitigate environmental impacts. They also play an important role in informing strategic investments and improvements needed to reinforce and rebuild an improved and more equitable economy and society still reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic. Robust and predictable science funding for NOAA is critical for our nation’s security and for it to remain a world leader in climate, atmospheric and oceanic science, research, and technology. This support will also allow the Agency to continue to build partnerships with industry, which improves the nation’s ability to turn science into real-world success, and with community stakeholders, who are critical to locally informed solutions and public education. A well-funded, world-class NOAA is essential to these, and so many more, efforts.”

The group strongly encouraged lawmakers to continue to support NOAA and recognize its role in protecting and supporting our national economy, national security, and public health, by funding it at level of at least $7.2 billion in FY 2024.

Enter the 13th 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.

Short Takes

  • The U.S. House has passed two bipartisan science bills relating to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The Coastal Communities Ocean Acidification Act (H.R. 676), sponsored by Representative Chellie Pingree (D-ME), passed on a 351 to 58 vote and requires NOAA to undertake studies of ocean acidification in collaboration with state, local, and tribal governments. The Advanced Weather Model Computing Development Act (H.R. 1715), sponsored by Representative Max Miller (R-OH), passed on a vote of 356 to 50. It requires the Department of Energy and NOAA to collaborate with each other as well as other agencies, the national labs, universities, and nonprofit organizations to conduct research on improving weather and climate modeling and prediction.
  • The National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Building Research Capacity of New Faculty in Biology (BRC-BIO) program will hold an informational webinar on May 22, 2023 from 4:00-5:00 PM EDT. A short presentation will be followed by an open Q&A session with cognizant Program Officers. The BRC-BIO program is intended to enhance research capacity and broaden participation among new faculty of biology at minority-serving institutions, predominantly undergraduate institutions, and other universities and colleges that are not among the nation’s most research-intensive and resourced institutions. Register here.
  • AIBS is partnering with the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections (SPNHC) to host a virtual Natural History Education (NHE) DemoCamp to share, discover, and discuss educational materials that have a framework in natural history. The NHE DemoCamp is a free event that will be held via Zoom on June 14-15, 2023. The event is designed to provide materials and resources to teachers, educators, and faculty looking for easy to adopt educational materials that engage students with the natural world. Learn more and register.

From the Federal Register

The following items appeared in the Federal Register from May 8 to 19, 2023.

Agriculture

Commerce

Environmental Protection Agency

Health and Human Services

Interior

National Aeronautics and Space Administration

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.