Appropriators Consider NSF's Budget Request for FY 2017

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is unlikely to see a proposed $536.5 million increase next year, if comments during a recent hearing are any indication. The House Appropriations Committee began consideration of NSF’s budget request for fiscal year 2017 on 16 March 2016.

Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Subcommittee Chairman John Culberson (R-TX) said, “unfortunately the president’s budget request includes about $400 million in new, unauthorized mandatory funding from a variety of sources that are not going to happen. It is a difficulty that every agency that is presenting their budget this year to the Appropriations Committee face.”

President Obama’s budget request for FY 2017 included $100.5 million in new discretionary funding, and $400.0 million in new, one time mandatory spending. The mandatory spending would require Congress to first pass authorizing legislation establishing a one-year mandatory spending program.

Dr. France Cordova, Director of the NSF, defended the request as a way to enhance the funding success rate for early career researchers.

Ranking Member Mike Honda (D-CA) pointed out that if one ignores the mandatory spending, the president’s budget request would only provide a 1.3 percent increase for NSF.

Honda also highlighted an ongoing topic of concern to the scientific community: Congress attempting to specify funding for NSF’s directorates instead of leaving such funding decisions to the agency.

Notably, Chairman Culberson stated: “I want also to avoid directorate level funding. I think that it’s important that we not insert political agendas from either end of the political spectrum—from any part of the political spectrum—in the work the scientific community does.”

This is a major shift in Culberson’s position. Last year, he included language in the Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations bill that would have boosted funding for four NSF directorates (biology, computing, engineering, and math and physical sciences) at the expense of social science and geosciences directorates.

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House Budget Would Slash Discretionary Funding in Out Years

The budget resolution approved by the House Budget Committee last week would cut $887 billion over the next decade from non-defense programs. Although the spending plan adheres to the $1.07 trillion discretionary funding level lawmakers previously agreed to for 2017, it does so at the expense of future discretionary spending.

Overall, this plan would result in an 18.6 percent cut to non-defense programs over a decade. In fiscal year 2018, these programs would lose $44 billion. In the subsequent nine years, funding for non-defense programs would be frozen at $472 billion. By fiscal year (FY) 2026, non-defense spending would be $156 billion below the amount provided for under budget sequestration.

Even though Congress reached a deal in the fall of 2015 regarding top line spending for FY 2017, members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus are seeking further cuts. Leaders of the group are pushing for $30 billion in additional reductions in FY 2017. This hardline stance forced House Republican leadership to propose deeper cuts in the out years in the budget resolution.

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AIBS Seeks Temporary/Interim Editor-in-Chief for BioScience

The American Institute of Biological Sciences seeks applicants for a temporary/interim Editor-in-Chief of its scientific journal, BioScience. It is anticipated that the successful candidate will work as either a contractor or for a stipend that augments an existing academic or research position at a recognized university or other research center. This position has the potential to become a long-term/permanent position.

Published monthly, BioScience presents readers with timely and authoritative peer-reviewed scientific Overview and Forum articles, as well as news and analysis, Feature articles, Editorials, Viewpoints, and other non-peer-reviewed content. A highly cited monthly journal, BioScience content is written and edited for accessibility to researchers, educators, and students. A growing national and international institutional subscriber base is augmented by AIBS’s individual members, all of whom receive a subscription to the journal.

Applications will be accepted until the position is filled. Learn more at https://www.aibs.org/classifieds/aibspositionsavailable.html#40314.

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Submit Your Question for a Presidential Science Debate

What would you like to know about the U.S. presidential candidates’ views on science? A coalition of scientific organizations, which includes AIBS, is soliciting questions to ask the Democratic and Republican nominees. Submit your question about science, technology, health, or environment to the 2016 science debate. You can also vote on submitted questions. Learn more at http://questions.sciencedebate.org/forums/283644-2016-presidential-science-tech-health-and-envir.

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Government Watchdog Recommends More Actions to Protect Native Bees

The federal government has taken steps to enhance the health of native bees, but more should be done, according to the Government Accountability Office. The overseer recommended additional actions by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to combat declines in some populations of bee species.

USDA should monitor population trends of wild, native bees. The department currently monitors honey bee colonies that are cared for by beekeepers. Additionally, USDA should evaluate the effectiveness of conservation efforts on private lands to restore bee habitat.

The report recommends that EPA develop assessment tools for the risks posed by mixtures of pesticides to pollinators. The agency already evaluates the potential risks of individual pesticides to bees.

Read the report at http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-16-220?utmmedium=email&utmsource=govdelivery.

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NSF, USDA Announce Joint Funding Opportunity on Animal and Plant Phenomics and Microbiomes

The National Science Foundation (NSF) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have established a $6 million joint funding opportunity to support the development of transformative plant and animal phenomics and microbiome technologies. The new grant opportunity seeks to advance our understanding of basic biological mechanisms and principles.

Grant proposals for high-risk, high-reward research are sought. Proposals must be compatible within a two-year, $300,000 budget. Learn more at http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2016/nsf16058/nsf16058.jsp.

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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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