AIBS Past President to be Honored by President Obama

Entomologist May R. Berenbaum is among 10 recipients of the prestigious National Medal of Science. The award is the nation’s top honor for achievement and leadership in advancing science.

“These scholars and innovators have expanded our understanding of the world, made invaluable contributions to their fields, and helped improve countless lives,” President Barack Obama said. “Our nation has been enriched by their achievements, and by all the scientists and technologists across America dedicated to discovery, inquiry, and invention.”

Dr. Berenbaum will be recognized at a White House ceremony later this year for her pioneering contributions to our understanding of the co-evolution of insects and plants and her extensive public engagement.

Berenbaum served as President of the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) in 2009. She is a professor and head of the Department of Entomology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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Ecosystem Scientists to Present Research to Policymakers

Ecosystem science plays an important role in the development of adaptation and mitigation strategies for climate change. A distinguished panel of scientists will present their research findings to policymakers on 9 October 2014. The briefing, to be held on Capitol Hill, is hosted by the Association of Ecosystem Research Centers (AERC), as part of their annual meeting in Washington, DC.

Dr. Jay Arnone, AERC president and research professor at the Desert Research Institute, will moderate the one-hour science briefing. Sharing findings from recent ecosystems research will be: Dr. Jerry Hatfield, laboratory director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment and director of the Midwest Climate Hub; Dr. Julia Cherry, associate professor at the University of Alabama; and Dr. G. Darrel Jenerette, associate professor at the University of California, Riverside. Their presentations will be posted on the AERC website following the briefing.

AERC is a member of the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS). This year, as part of the AERC meetings in Washington, DC, AIBS will conduct a half-day workshop on communicating ecosystem science to decision-makers and the media for AERC members participating in the annual meeting.

As a member organization of AIBS and a contributor to the AIBS Public Policy Office, AERC received planning and logistical assistance for the congressional briefing from AIBS. For more information about the AIBS Public Policy Office and its services for AIBS members and contributing societies, please visit http://www.aibs.org/public-policy/.

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NSF Announces Expansion of Postdoc Research Fellowship Program

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is expanding the areas of award for the Postdoctoral Research Fellowships in Biology program. In addition to two existing areas, a new focus on research using biological collections has been added. This replaces a prior focus on international fellowships, although all competitive areas will accept applications for foreign postdoc positions.

In addition to postdocs involving biological collections, applications will be accepted in the areas of broadening participation of groups under-represented in biology and the National Plant Genome Initiative.

The fellowships aim to provide Ph.D. recipients the opportunity to pursue independent research and receive active mentoring in the most appropriate research locations regardless of the availability of funding for the fellows at that site.

More information is available at http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2015/nsf15501/nsf15501.htm.

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Final Rule Released on Dual Use Research

The federal government has finalized a rule to better regulate life sciences research involving dangerous agents at universities and other research centers. So-called ‘dual use research’ has the potential to generate knowledge, products, or technologies that could be intentionally used for harmful purposes. The rulemaking applies to a subset of dual use research that poses “a significant threat with broad potential consequences to public health and safety, agricultural crops and other plants, animals, the environment, materiel, or national security.”

Scientists whose federally funded research involves 15 dangerous microbes or toxins will have to notify a special review committee at their institution about dual use studies. Any dual use research that the committee sees as potentially harmful will have to be reported to the funding agency and have a risk mitigation plan.

The new policy complements a March 2012 federal policy that describes the responsibilities of federal agencies in addressing dual use research of concern. The rule goes into effect on 24 September 2015. Additional resources are available at http://www.phe.gov/s3/dualuse/Pages/default.aspx.

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USGS Coalition Honors Four Senators

On 16 September 2014, the USGS Coalition honored Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Mark Udall (D-CO), and Dean Heller (R-NV) with the Coalition’s 2014 Leadership Award. The awards were presented during the USGS Coalition’s annual reception on Capitol Hill in honor of the lawmakers long standing support for the scientific programs and personnel of the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

AIBS is a founding member of the USGS Coalition and AIBS director of public policy Robert Gropp is chair of the group. In addition to remarks by Senator Heller and staff for Senators Murkowski and Udall, two senior Interior officials spoke. Anne Castle, who just resigned from her post, was the assistant secretary for water and science at the Department of the Interior. Suzette Kimball, acting director of the USGS, thanked the Senators and the USGS Coalition for the years of effort they have given to elevating the profile of the USGS among policymakers.

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New Global Alliance to Tackle Climate Impacts on Agriculture

The Obama administration announced a new program to provide solutions to address the effects of climate change on agriculture. The Global Alliance for Climate Smart Agriculture will help to improve food security in crop, livestock, and aquaculture systems around the world. The initiative will design new technologies and share information through new alliances.

According to a blog post on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s website, “The Alliance will advance a more inclusive, innovative, and evidence-based approach to food security. It will provide platforms for partners to collaborate on agricultural practices, make key investments, develop policies that empower producers to mitigate the impact of climate change and, through sustainable agriculture practices, contribute to a dramatic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.”

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Become an Advocate for Science: Join the AIBS Legislative Action Center

Quick, free, easy, effective, impactful! Join the AIBS Legislative Action Center.

The Legislative Action Center is a one-stop shop for learning about and influencing science policy. Through the website, users can contact elected officials and sign-up to interact with lawmakers.

The website offers tools and resources to inform researchers about recent policy developments. The site also announces opportunities to serve on federal advisory boards and to comment on federal regulations.

This new tool is made possible through contributions from the Society for the Study of Evolution, Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography, and the Botanical Society of America.

AIBS and our partner organizations invite scientists and science educators to become policy advocates today. Simply go to policy.aibs.org to get started.

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