Appropriations Update: Progress Made, But Funding Showdown Looms
Congress is continuing to make headway on annual funding bills in spite of a looming clash over government spending levels. Lawmakers from both parties are predicting that progress is likely to halt without negotiating a new budget deal. Senate Democrats are threatening to filibuster any funding bills that comply with the existing, post-sequester spending caps. The White House has also issued veto threats.
While larger fights over funding continue, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees have drafted and passed several bills that would impact science agencies.
The House of Representatives approved funding for the Departments of Commerce and Justice, the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration on 3 June 2015. H.R. 2587 passed the House by a vote of 242 to 183. NSF would receive $7.4 billion, a $50 million increase, but less than President Obama requested. Report language accompanying the bill specifies that at least 70 percent of research funding be directed to Biological Sciences, Mathematical and Physical Sciences, Engineering, and Computer and Information Science and Engineering. This means that social science and geoscience directorates would have to be cut by over $250 million next year.
Representative Bill Foster (D-IL) offered an amendment that would end NSF’s EPSCoR program, which provides funding for research in states that receive less than 0.75 percent of NSF’s annual research budget. Currently 28 states plus Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Virgin Islands qualify for EPSCoR funding. The program represents $160 million of NSF’s $5.9 billion research budget.
Foster—a Ph.D. physicist—framed his argument in terms of “payer states,” which pay more in federal taxes than they receive back in federal spending, and “taker states.” He called the amendment “a first, small step to begin rolling back” programs that benefit taker states. Foster stated: “Precious research funding would be far better spent in a competitive, merit based process.” Although the amendment was voted down, it gathered support from 97 Republicans and 98 Democrats.
The lower chamber also debated several amendments related to climate research programs at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The House bill would cut $30 million from such programs in fiscal year 2016. Overall, NOAA would receive $274 million less than the current level.
The Senate is also making progress on a Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies spending bill. Last week, the Appropriations Committee approved a bill to fund NSF at $7.3 billion, an overall reduction of $430,000, which would come from the Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction account. The legislation would provide NOAA $212 million more than the House bill, but still represents a cut from the agency’s current funding.
The House Interior and Environment Subcommittee has approved a bill that would slash funding for the Environmental Protection Agency by 9 percent. The legislation would also prevent the agency from implementing regulations for greenhouse gas emissions from new and existing power plants and from making changes to what bodies of water are protected under the Clean Water Act.
The U.S. Geological Survey would be funded at $1.05 billion—the same amount as in 2015. The Smithsonian Institution would also be flat funded. The budget for the Fish and Wildlife Service would be cut slightly by $8 million. Forest and Rangeland Research within the Forest Service would lose $18.5 million (-6.2 percent).
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AIBS Launches "BioScience Talks" Podcast
On 10 June 2015 AIBS launched BioScience Talks, a monthly podcast that features in-depth discussions of recently published BioScience articles. Each episode will delve into the research underlying a highlighted article, providing the listener with unique insight into the author’s work. The show’s first guest was Dr. Jiquan Chen of Michigan State University. Dr. Chen studies coupled human and natural systems on the Mongolian Plateau. His research is focused on the interplay of human and biophysical factors in the region. You can listen to the podcast at http://bioscienceaibs.libsyn.com.
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Participate in the Biological Sciences Congressional District Visits
Join a national initiative to educate lawmakers about the value of research and the scientific facilities in their district. The Biological Sciences Congressional District Visits is an opportunity for biologists across the country to meet with their federal or state elected officials to showcase the people, facilities, and equipment that are required to support and conduct scientific research.
The 7th Annual Biological Sciences Congressional District Visits event enables scientists, graduate students, representatives of research facilities, and people affiliated with scientific collections to meet with their elected officials without traveling to Washington, DC. Participants may either invite their elected official to visit their research facility or can meet at the policymaker’s local office.
Participants will be prepared for their meeting with a lawmaker through an interactive training webinar. Individuals participating in this event will receive training on how to improve their communication skills and tips for conducting a successful meeting with an elected official.
The event is made possible by the American Institute of Biological Sciences, with the support of event sponsors Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology, Natural Science Collections Alliance, Organization of Biological Field Stations, and Society for Comparative and Integrative Biology.
Participation is free, but registration will close on 12 July 2015. For more information and to register, visit www.aibs.org/public-policy/congressionaldistrictvisits.html.
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Opportunities to Serve on Federal Advisory Boards
The AIBS Legislative Action Center features opportunities for scientists to serve on federal advisory committees. Nominations are currently sought for experts in ecology, microbiology, natural resource management, and fisheries biology. Opportunities posted on the website are updated on a weekly basis. Learn more at http://policy.aibs.org/action.
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Enter the Faces of Biology Photo Contest
Help the public and policymakers to better understand the breadth of biology by entering the Faces of Biology Photo Contest. The winner will receive $250 and have their image published on the cover of BioScience.
The competition recognizes scientists who use imagery to communicate aspects of biological research to the public and policymakers.
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 research may occur outside, in a lab, at a natural history collection, at a field station, on a computer, in a classroom, or anywhere else research is done.
The winning photo from the 2014 contest is featured on the cover of the May 2015 issue of BioScience.
Submissions must be received by 11:59:59 p.m. Eastern Time on 30 September 2015.
For more information or to enter the contest, visit http://www.aibs.org/public-programs/photocontest.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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