New Session of Congress Convenes

Last week, the 114th Congress convened in Washington, DC. Seventy of the lawmakers sworn into office on Tuesday are new to Congress and none of these new members are scientists.

Both chambers of Congress have selected the issue of the Keystone XL oil pipeline as a top priority. The House of Representatives passed a bill that would authorize the construction of the pipeline to transport oil from Canada into the United States. The Senate is expected to act on the issue in the near future. The White House has threatened to veto the legislation.

The House has also passed several bills that relate to specific areas of research. The “Tsunami Warning, Education, and Research Act of 2015” would reauthorize an existing program at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that improves detection, warning, and research on tsunamis. Another bill, “Low-Dose Radiation Research Act of 2015,” would create a research program at the Department of Energy to study the effects of exposure to low dose radiation.

In the Senate, Democratic leaders for appropriations subcommittees have been announced. Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) is the new ranking member of the subcommittee that provides funding for the Department of the Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency. The subcommittee that funds agriculture will also have a new Democratic leader, Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR). The committees that oversee funding for the Departments of Commerce and Energy will retain the same Democratic leadership as during the last session of Congress. This means that full committee ranking member Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) will continue in her post as the top Democrat on the subcommittee with responsibility for the National Science Foundation and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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NSF Proposes New Management Fee Policy

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is accepting public comments on a proposed strengthening of the agency’s policy regarding management fees paid to large facility grantees. The policy would prohibit the use of management fees for alcohol, non-business travel and meals, and lobbying.

The draft policy was made public only a few weeks after the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee held a hearing to invest the use of funds by the NEON, Inc., a large facility funded by NSF.

Learn more at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2014-12-30/html/2014-30244.htm.

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AIBS Public Policy Office 2014 Annual Report Now Available

The AIBS Public Policy Office made significant contributions to research and science education policy in 2014. Staff efforts were focused on sustaining federal investments in biological research and education, promoting the responsible use of science in the policymaking process, furthering the policy interests of natural science collections and other research infrastructure, and advancing science education and workforce policy.

A few key accomplishments from 2014:

  • Launched the Beyond the Box Digitization Competition with the National Science Foundation, which will award $1 million for the creation of a technology that increases the speed and accuracy of digitization of a drawer of insect specimens and their associated data.
  • Launched a national initiative to build a biocollections community that is able to fully implement the goals of the Network Integrated Biocollections Alliance.
  • Rallied the scientific community in support of sustained federal science funding.
  • Worked to improve legislation that would cut future funding for some areas of basic research and damage the peer review process at the National Science Foundation.
  • Facilitated more than one hundred meetings for scientists with federal and state lawmakers.

To download the report, visit http://www.aibs.org/public-policy/resources/PPO2014Annual_Report.pdf.

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AIBS Comments on New Requirements for Pre-Proposals for Ag Research Grants

On 2 January, AIBS sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) about a proposed change in the department’s grant application process. USDA has recommended a new requirement for potential grantees to submit a letter of intent prior to submitting a grant proposal.

The comments from AIBS recognize that “In and of itself, such a requirement is not likely to have adverse impacts on the research community.” The letter goes on to state: “We are concerned, however, that this is the first step by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to implement more burdensome requirements.”

The concerns are prompted by changes at other agencies. In 2012, the National Science Foundation implemented a requirement for the submission of preliminary proposals. Also included with this change were new limits on the number of pre-proposals a researcher could submit per cycle and a change in the submission deadline to once per year. NSF grant applicants have expressed concerns about these changes.

AIBS asked USDA “to carefully consider changes that could be create overly restrictive submission policies associated with pre-proposals.

Read the letter from AIBS at http://www.aibs.org/position-statements/20150102nifapreproposals.html.

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Call for Nominations for UN Global Environmental Outlook

The United Nations sanctioned Sixth Global Environmental Outlook (GEO-6) aims to support the global decision-making process by providing in depth and scientifically credible environmental assessment. The GEO is the primary tool by which UNEP informs global environmental policy and education.

Candidates must have expertise in one or more of the following: environmental science; natural resource measurement and management; environmental and resource economics; environment and development priorities, challenges, and policy; or environmental management.

U.S. nominations to GEO-6 are being coordinated by the Department of State. Nominations must be submitted to both the UN and the Department of State Office of Environmental Quality and Transboundary Issues at matuszakjm@state.gov and lathamme@state.gov.

Nominations are due no later than 19 January 2015. For more information, visit http://www.unep.org/geo/nomination.asp.

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Deadline Approaching: Graduate Student Leaders Sought to Shape Science Policy

Applications are being accepted for the 2015 AIBS Emerging Public Policy Leadership Award. This award recognizes graduate students in the biological sciences who have demonstrated initiative and leadership in science policy. Recipients receive first-hand experience at the interface of science and public policy.

Winners receive:

  • A trip to Washington, DC, to participate in the Biological and Ecological Sciences Coalition Congressional Visits Day, an annual event that brings scientists to the nation’s capital to advocate for federal investment in the biological sciences, with a primary focus on the National Science Foundation. The event will be held on 13-14 May 2015. Domestic travel and hotel expenses will be paid for the winners.
  • Policy and communications training, including information on the legislative process and trends in federal science funding.
  • Meetings with congressional policymakers to discuss the importance of federal investments in the biological sciences.
  • A one-year AIBS membership, including a subscription to the journal BioScience and a copy of “Communicating Science: A Primer for Working with the Media.”
  • An award certificate and membership in the EPPLA alumni network.

The 2015 award is open to U.S. citizens enrolled in a graduate degree program in the biological sciences, science education, or a closely allied field. Applicants should have a demonstrated interest in and commitment to science policy and/or science education policy. Prior EPPLA winners and AIBS science policy interns/fellows are not eligible.

Applications are due by 11:59 PM Eastern Time on Sunday, 18 January 2015. The application can be downloaded at http://www.aibs.org/public-policy/eppla.html.

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Participate in the Biological and Ecological Sciences Coalition Congressional Visits Day

Scientists and graduate students who are interested in communicating the importance of federal investments in scientific research and education to lawmakers are invited to participate in the Biological and Ecological Sciences Coalition (BESC) Congressional Visits Day in Washington, DC.

This event is an opportunity for scientists to meet with their members of Congress to discuss the importance of federal funding for biological research and education. Event participants advocate for federal investments in biological sciences research, with a primary focus on the National Science Foundation, as well as other federal agencies.

BESC is co-chaired by the American Institute of Biological Sciences and the Ecological Society of America.

This year’s event will be held on 13-14 May 2015 in Washington, DC. The first day of the program is a training program that will prepare participants for meetings with congressional offices. The second day is spent on Capitol Hill meeting with members of Congress and their staff.

There is no cost to participate in this event, but space is limited. BESC and its member organizations are not able to pay/reimburse participants for their travel expenses.

Learn more about the event and express your interest in participating at http://www.aibs.org/public-policy/congressionalvisitsday.html. The deadline to sign up is 13 March 2015.

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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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