Meet with Your Lawmakers This Summer, Help Inform Science Policy

Registration is now open for the Biological Sciences Congressional District Visits event.

This national initiative, initiated and organized by the American Institute of Biological Sciences, is an opportunity for scientists across the country to showcase for their elected officials the people, facilities, and equipment required to advance scientific research and education.

Now in its eighth year, the event enables scientists, graduate students, and representatives of research facilities to meet with their federal and state elected officials without traveling to Washington, DC. Participants may invite their elected officials to visit their research facility or meet at the policymaker’s local office.

AIBS will schedule the meetings with lawmakers and will help participants prepare through online training and one-on-one support.

“The annual congressional district visits provided me a low-stress introduction to science-based advocacy at the state level,” said Jessica Welch, of the University of Tennessee and a participant of the 2015 event. “AIBS arranged my meeting and supplied materials that helped me guide conversation with my senator.”

The event is made possible by the American Institute of Biological Sciences, with the support of event sponsors Botanical Society of America, Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology, Natural Science Collections Alliance, Paleontological Society, Society for Freshwater Science, and Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections.

Participation is free, but registration is required. You must register by 17 July 2016. For more information and to register, visit www.aibs.org/public-policy/congressionaldistrictvisits.html.

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2017 Appropriations a Mixed Bag for Science

Fiscal year 2017 is shaping up to be a year of haves and have-nots for science programs.

Several research programs would receive funding increases if legislation moving through Congress were enacted. Both chambers are considering proposals to increase funding for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative by $25 million and the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy by at least $15 million.

Legislation moving through both chambers would provide an additional $50 million to the Department of Energy’s Office of Science. Funding for the Biological and Environmental Research program, however, would increase by $1 million in the Senate bill and decline by $14 million in the House bill.

The Senate is also advancing legislation to increase funding for the National Institutes of Health by $2 billion. The House has not released its version of the bill.

Among the research agencies and programs that could experience budget cuts are the Agricultural Research Service (at least $104 million cut), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (at least $74 million cut), and the Environmental Protection Agency ($164 million cut).

Future funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF) is less clear, with the House proposing a $57 million cut and the Senate Appropriations panel pushing for $46 million in additional funding in 2017. A key difference between the proposals is the impact on research funding. The current version developing in the House would boost NSF research funds—in spite of an overall reduction for the agency. The Senate would cut research funding and direct new funding to the construction of ocean research vessels.

Congress is making better progress on appropriations this year than in recent years. The Senate is leading the House of Representatives in drafting and approving the twelve appropriations bills that collectively fund the federal government. The Senate panel has approved nine bills, as compared to eight in the lower chamber. Both chambers have debated and approved two bills on the floor. This is considerably faster than this time last year, when only six bills had been moved by the House committee and four by the Senate committee.

Progress on appropriations can partly be attributed to forthcoming national elections. With the presidential nominating conventions in July, Congress will be recessing several weeks earlier than usual for their summer break.

It remains to be seen, however, whether the bills can be passed, reconciled, and sent to the President. This would, indeed, represent a significant departure from recent history where legislation stalled during the summer and the fall fight was over how many continuing resolutions and omnibus spending plans should be passed.

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House to Vote on NSF Reform Bill

Legislation that would overhaul management of large research projects at the National Science Foundation (NSF) could be taken up by the House of Representatives this week. H.R. 5049 would require the agency to conduct an audit of all projects with a price tag of $100 million or more.

The legislation was motivated by concerns about management of the National Ecological Observatory Network. Management of the project was changed to the Battelle Memorial Institute, a nonprofit research and development organization, in March 2016 due to concerns about cost overruns and construction delays.

NSF has “serious concerns” about the legislation. “NSF already has rigorous oversight, reporting and control processes regarding its major facilities, and is currently implementing internal standard operating guidance to further clarify and codify these processes. Further, NSF abides by existing regulations that provide consistency across the federal government,” the agency said in a statement.

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Webinar on Biological Informatics Workforce Needs

The biological sciences are increasingly driven by the ability to collect, identify, integrate, analyze, and interpret complex data. Researchers and educators, current and future, must have the knowledge and skills required to use these data and data management and analysis tools appropriately. In December 2015, the American Institute of Biological Sciences convened a workshop in conjunction with its annual meeting of Member Societies and Organizations to explore the education and training issues that must be addressed to ensure we have the skilled biological informatics workforce required to advance biology for the benefit of science and society. The workshop generated a report with 12 recommendations for professional societies, journal editors, universities, faculty and students, government agencies, and funding organizations. This webinar will summarize this meeting and explore in greater detail the recommendations identified by workshop participants.

Join AIBS on 20 July 2016 at 1 pm EST for this free event. Register at https://www.aibs.org/events/webinar/addressing-bio-informatics-workforce.html.

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Nominations Sought for Collections Research Uses Working Group

The Biodiversity Collections Network is seeking nominations/applications for members of a new working group on next generation research uses of digitized collections. The group will consider the opportunities, needs, and limitations to next generation research uses of digitized specimens and their associated data. Learn more and apply to participate at https://bcon.aibs.org/working-groups/bcon-next-generation-research-working-group/.

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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 toxicology, marine biology, and forestry management. 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

The American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) has launched the 6th Annual Faces of Biology Photo Contest. 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 First Place Winner will have his/her winning photo featured on the cover of BioScience, and will receive $250 and a one year membership in AIBS, including a subscription to BioScience. The Second and Third Place Winners will have his/her winning photo printed inside the journal, and will receive a one year membership in AIBS, including a subscription to BioScience.

Submissions must be received by 11:59:59 p.m. Eastern Time on 30 September 2016. 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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