2,100 Organizations Call for End to Sequestration

A diverse group of more than 2,100 organizations have signed a letter to Congress calling for the end of budget sequestration. The letter emphasizes the importance of non-defense discretionary (NDD) programs and the harmful effects of budget cuts to date. The letter also calls for equal relief from sequestration for both defense and non-defense programs.

The letter was coordinated by NDD United, an alliance of organizations working together to protect non-defense discretionary funding. The American Institute of Biological Sciences was among the signatories.

Since 2010, budget cuts have been used to reduce the nation’s deficit. Despite bipartisan agreement that sequestration is bad policy that ultimately hurts our nation, Congress and the President have not been able to agree on an alternate way to reduce the budget deficit. In 2013, the Bipartisan Budget Act negotiated by Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) provided partial, temporary relief from sequestration for two years. With the return of full sequestration in 2016, lawmakers have limited time to negotiate a budget deal.

Read the letter at www.aibs.org/position-statements/20150218endsequestration.html.

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AIBS Releases Analysis of President Obama's Budget Request for Science

The American Institute of Biological Sciences has released an analysis of the Obama Administration’s budget request for biological research and education programs for fiscal year 2016. Federal research and development funding would grow by 5.5 percent if all of the President’s proposals were adopted.

The following articles provide information about the administration’s funding request for several science programs. Details about the budget requests for the National Science Foundation, U.S. Geological Survey, and other agencies were presented in the previous issue of the AIBS Public Policy Report and are available in the full report.

The report is available for free download at www.aibs.org/public-policy/budget_report.html.

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USDA Research Would See 16 Percent Boost in President's Budget Request

President Obama’s spending plan for fiscal year (FY) 2016 would increase spending at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) by $604 million. The proposed budget for research, education, and economics is $433 million more than the FY 2015 level.

The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) partners with extramural academic institutions to conduct research, education, and extension activities. NIFA would receive $1.5 billion (+16.4 percent) in FY 2016. Within NIFA, the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) would receive $450 million for competitive extramural research grants. At this level, AFRI would receive a 38.5 percent budget increase. Funding is included for presidential initiatives on pollinator health and combatting antimicrobial resistance.

The Agricultural Research Service (ARS) conducts intramural research in the areas of natural and biological science. It would receive $1.4 billion in FY 2016, $221 million more than FY 2015. Funding for six of the eight research areas within ARS would be increased, including an additional $5 million for research in support of environmental stewardship. As part of broader government efforts to combat antimicrobial resistance, ARS would receive $17 million in new funding to study resistance in pathogens of humans and livestock. Research would also be expanded on the risks of climate change to agriculture. Other priority research areas include genetic improvements and translational plant breeding, and development and testing of the efficacy of best management practices to prevent colony collapse disorder.

Funding is also included for the construction of a new poultry research lab to study emerging and exotic poultry diseases and the modernization of several ARS research facilities.

Agricultural research education programs, including graduate and postgraduate fellowship grants, would be consolidated into the Department of Education and NSF.

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NOAA Funding Could Reach Record of $6 Billion

Funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) would increase by 9.8 percent if Congress enacted the Obama Administration’s budget request. Although the trend of escalating procurement costs for weather and climate satellites continues, funding would also rise for many research and natural resource management activities.

The Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research would receive a 13.6 percent increase. Climate research activities would be boosted by $29.2 million. New funding would be available for research on the impacts of climate change on fish stocks and for ocean acidification, among other topics. Ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes research would increase by $11.2 million, although funding would be cut for ocean exploration and the National Sea Grant College Program’s competitive research grants.

The FY 2016 budget proposes increased funding for the National Ocean Service (+7.1 percent). An increase is proposed for competitively awarded research to address coastal ocean issues including harmful algal blooms, hypoxia, and coastal ecosystem management (+$4.0 million).

Funding for the National Marine Fisheries Service would increase by 3.3 percent. Increases are sought for ecosystem-based solutions for fisheries management (+$5.0 million) and for fisheries stock assessments (+$2.8 million).

NOAA proposes to make a smaller contribution to education programs. Competitive education grants would be terminated (-$4.0 million), as would regional watershed education programs (-$7.2 million).

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Science Among Winners and Losers in EPA's Budget Request

Spending at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would increase by 5.6 percent in the proposed fiscal year (FY) 2016 budget to $8.6 billion. The proposed staffing level would represent a small uptick from last year, but is still a significant reduction from 2012. Funding for science and technology programs would increase by 4.7 percent.

Within the Office of Research and Development, funding for research for sustainable and healthy communities—a program that includes some ecosystem research—would decline to $139.2 million (-7.2 percent). Three million dollars would be cut from ecosystem services research. Research on pollinator health and a study of the toxicity of pesticides on honeybees would receive $1.5 million in new funding.

Research on safe and sustainable water resources would increase by 3.3 percent. Most of this increase would be directed to investigations on the impacts of hydraulic fracturing on water quality and ecosystems. Additionally, a proposed $3.8 million increase would allow the EPA to expand its work with the Department of Energy and United States Geological Survey to understand the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on air quality.

A competitive grant program to support water quality and availability research would be eliminated. The $4.1 million program was congressionally directed, however EPA is not requesting funds to support the program in FY 2016.

EPA proposes to end the Science to Achieve Results (STAR) and Greater Research Opportunities fellowship programs, a savings of $11.1 million. These graduate and undergraduate research fellowships would be consolidated into education programs in other agencies.

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AIBS Names Emerging Public Policy Leaders

The American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) has selected two graduate students to receive the 2015 AIBS Emerging Public Policy Leadership Award. Kellyann Jones-Jamtgaard is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics at the University of Kansas Medical Center. Taylor Herren is pursuing a Master’s degree in biology at California State University, Chico.

Taylor and Kellyann have extensive experience in science policy at the state level and within their universities. “AIBS is proud to recognize their notable accomplishments with the 2015 Emerging Public Policy Leadership Award,” said AIBS President Dr. Joseph Travis.

Since 2003, AIBS has recognized the achievements of biology graduate students who have demonstrated an interest and aptitude for making contributions to science and science policy. Herren and Jones-Jamtgaard will travel to Washington, DC in May to meet with their congressional delegations. They will also participate in a training program on communicating with policymakers and a briefing on the federal budget for scientific research. These events are in conjunction with the annual Biological and Ecological Sciences Coalition (BESC) Congressional Visits Day. The winners also receive a one-year membership in AIBS, which includes a subscription to the scientific journal BioScience.

AIBS is a professional scientific organization dedicated to informing and leading research, education, and policymaking at the frontiers of the life sciences.

“Each year we are impressed with the applications we receive for this award. It is heartening to see how many graduate students around the country are committed to making a difference in the world by bridging the divide that too often exists between science and good public policy,” said AIBS Interim Co-Executive Director Dr. Robert Gropp. “Kellyann and Taylor join an accomplished group of past Emerging Public Policy Leadership Award winners.”

“Science education and funding for research must be a priority if we are to overcome the challenges of the future,” said Taylor Herren. Science is an important part of “solving the most pressing issues facing society and will give future generations the tools that they need to address issues like global health, climate change, and food insecurity.”

Herren has been active in state policy, making dozens of trips to lawmakers’ offices and to attend legislative committee meetings regarding funding for science education and research throughout the California State University (CSU) system. On campus, she has worked to increase support for undergraduate research opportunities. Herren played a leading role in a successful campaign that resulted in the CSU system adopting a sustainability policy. She is a board member of the California State Student Association and is the President and CEO of Associated Students Inc. Herren has been recognized with multiple awards from CSU for outstanding student leadership. Her B.S. is in animal science from CSU, Chico.

“Basic research enables us to demystify our world and creates the foundation that will lead to long-term advancements in both the public and private sectors,” said Kellyann Jones-Jamtgaard. As scientists, “we need to tell our stories, put a face on research, and advocate for funding levels that will keep the United States at the forefront of discovery.”

Jones-Jamtgaard co-organized the 2012 and 2013 Capitol Graduate Research Summits, events that highlighted for state policymakers the value of research performed by graduate students enrolled at state universities in Kansas. She has been active on campus, serving as President of the University of Kansas Medical Center Graduate Student Council, Vice President of the Student Governing Council, and as co-chair of the policy subcommittee of the Biomedical Research Resource Student Group. Her involvement also includes leading an initiative for the medical center to pass a childbirth accommodation policy for students. Jones-Jamtgaard serves on the Committee for Postdocs and Students for the American Society for Cell Biology. Her B.S. is in Biology and Spanish from Duke University.

AIBS will also recognize three Honorable Mentions. Julia Behnfedt is a Ph.D. student studying cancer biology at The Ohio State University. Don Gibson is pursuing a Ph.D. in Integrative Genetics and Genomics at the University of California, Davis. Tanisha Williams is a Ph.D. student in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Connecticut.

For more information about the Emerging Public Policy Leadership Award, including past recipients, visit http://www.aibs.org/public-policy/resources/EPPLA_Overview.pdf.

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Short Takes

  • The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has announced the availability of $160 million for competitively awarded research funding. Five million is allocated for natural resources and climate change research, including climate and microbial processes in agroecosystems; climate resilient land use for agriculture and forestry; and synthesis and assessment of NIFA's climate investments. Learn more at http://www.nifa.usda.gov/funding/rfas/afri.html.

  • On 3-5 May 2015, a meeting will be held on the Future of Biosciences Graduate and Postdoctoral Training at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. The event seeks to bring together a broad group of stakeholders to discuss solutions "to the career imbalances that have developed in the biomedical workforce." Information about the event is available at http://www.rackham.umich.edu/fobgapt.

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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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