Action Alert: House to Vote on COMPETES Reauthorization

This week, the House of Representatives is expected to consider legislation that would reduce funding authorization levels for some research programs at the National Science Foundation (NSF) and Department of Energy Office of Science.

The America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015, H.R. 1806, would cut funding for biological and environmental research at the Department of Energy by 7 percent below the current level. The bill would also reduce authorized funding levels for the social and behavioral sciences and geosciences directorates at NSF by 45 percent and 8 percent, respectively. These proposed cuts are in spite of a higher overall authorization level for NSF.

Many scientific societies and universities have expressed concerns with the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015, including the American Institute of Biological Sciences, the Ecological Society of America, the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography, the American Geophysical Union, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

It is important that members of Congress hear from scientists. Please take a minute to write to your Representative to urge him/her to oppose HR 1806. Take action at http://policy.aibs.org/app/write-a-letter?1&engagementId=99853.

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Scientists Meet with Congress, Advocate for Funding

Biological scientists traveled to Washington, DC on 13-14 May 2015 to communicate to members of Congress the importance of sustained federal investments in scientific research and graduate education programs. The scientists and graduate students were in the nation’s capital as part of the annual Biological and Ecological Sciences Coalition (BESC) Congressional Visits Day.

The participants included researchers affiliated with the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) and its member organizations, including the Organization of Biological Field Stations, Botanical Society of America, American Society of Mammalogists, and the Ecological Society of America. Among the participants were Kellyann Jones-Jamtgaard and Taylor Herren, the 2015 AIBS Emerging Public Policy Leadership Award recipients.

The two-day event began with a training session for the participants. Policy staff from AIBS and the Ecological Society of America provided insights into the federal budget, instruction on how Congress works, and how to effectively advocate for science. Kei Koizumi, Assistant Director for Federal R&D at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, presented an overview of President Obama’s budget request for fiscal year 2016.

On 14 May, participants fanned out across Capitol Hill for meetings with members of Congress and their staff. The group emphasized the importance of sustained federal investments in research that help the nation create new jobs and respond to society’s needs, such as food security, maintaining healthy ecosystems, and improving human health. Participants highlighted the importance of the National Science Foundation in fostering economic growth. The agency’s Biological Sciences Directorate funds about 66 percent of fundamental, non-medical biological research.

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House Subcommittee Advances Bill to Fund NSF, NOAA in FY 2016

The House Appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over commerce, justice, and science has passed a spending bill that would slightly increase funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF) in fiscal year (FY) 2016. The agency would receive $7.4 billion, a $50 million increase. The additional funding would be directed to research, while education funding would not change from the current funding level.

During the subcommittee’s consideration of the legislation, Subcommittee Chairman John Culberson (R-TX) expressed a desire to continue to look for ways to provide additional funding for NSF. Panel members from both sides of the aisle verbalized strong support for scientific research.

The appropriations legislation would provide large increases for space exploration and efforts to combat cybercrime and terrorism.

“This is a tough budget year, but this bill ensures our law enforcement officers have the resources they need to protect our lives and property,” said Chairman Culberson. “It also makes important scientific research a top priority. Breakthroughs in these areas are vital to America’s future economic growth.”

Funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) would be cut by $274 million. Details have not yet been released on how the proposed $5.2 billion would be allocated among NOAA’s programs.

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New Science Education Grants Initiative

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) has announced a $60 million science education grants initiative that aims to motivate higher education institutions to increase capacity to better engage all students in science. Approximately 60 grants will be awarded. Each grant will be for $1 million spread out over five years.

Unlike previous initiatives that were restricted to universities that were invited to participate, the new initiative is open to more than 1,500 schools.

“We are looking for schools with a mindset that encourages and fosters organizational learning,” said David Asai, Senior Director of Undergraduate and Graduate Programs at HHMI. “Just as the sciences will benefit by welcoming diverse perspectives, we recognize that higher education will benefit from learning through diverse perspectives on how best to include all students.”

Learn more at http://www.hhmi.org/news/hhmi-announces-60-million-science-education-initiative?utmsource=HHMI+News&utmcampaign=dfebc7165c-InclusiveExcellenceAnnouncement&utmmedium=email&utmterm=0_8f2808e1d6-dfebc7165c-69552641.

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IPBES Seeks Nominations for New Fellowship

The Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services is seeking nominations of young scientists for a new fellowship. The program will offer the opportunity for fellows to gain an understanding of the assessments process on land degradation and restoration. Nominations are due by 31 May. Learn more at http://www.ipbes.net/news/660-nomination-fellows.html.

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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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