Over 50 Leading Organizations Ask Presidential Candidates to Share Positions on Major Science Issues

A coalition of fifty-six leading U.S. nonpartisan organizations, representing more than 10 million scientists and engineers, are asking U.S. Presidential candidates to answer twenty questions related to major issues in science, engineering, health and the environment. The groups have also challenged the news media to press the candidates to answer the questions.

“Taken collectively, these twenty issues have at least as profound an impact on voters’ lives as those more frequently covered by journalists, including candidates’ views on economic policy, foreign policy, and faith and values,” said ScienceDebate.org chair Shawn Otto, organizer of the effort.

The group crowdsourced and refined hundreds of suggestions, then submitted “the 20 most important, most immediate questions” to the Presidential campaigns of Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, and Gary Johnson, “along with an invitation to the candidates to answer them in writing and to discuss them on television,” said Otto. The questions and answers will be widely distributed to the science community, journalists, and the general public to help voters make well-informed decisions at the ballot box this November.

The list of organizations is a who’s who of the American science enterprise.

“Science saves lives and improves our quality of life. The federal government provides almost half of the funding for basic research in the United States. This research is the foundation upon which society - from small start-ups to Fortune 500 companies - develops new products that improve human health, secures our food supplies, and solves complex environmental problems,” said Robert Gropp, interim co-executive director of the American Institute of Biological Sciences. “Just think of the benefits we have derived from the government’s support of the Human Genome Project. Scientists now have a base of knowledge they can use to more strategically and precisely study diseases and explore new treatments. The public deserves to know the candidates’ positions on the important science policy issues.”

Norm Augustine, U.S. aerospace industry CEO and former Under Secretary of the Army said: “The solution to many of the greatest challenges faced by our nation will depend to a large degree upon advancements in the fields of science and engineering. Such challenges include conquering diseases, creating jobs, developing clean energy, providing adequate water supplies, and defending our nation from terrorists and foreign aggressor nations. It is difficult to imagine how any citizen can intelligently cast their ballot without knowing where each candidate stands on the policy issues that will define whether America remains a leader or becomes a follower in the critical fields of science and engineering.”

“Informing citizens about the health of the nation and discussing pivotal science and policy issues such as mental health, chronic and emerging diseases and other public health threats, and vaccine research, are important to not only advance the national dialogue but also improve the country’s overall well-being,” said Victor J. Dzau, President of the National Academy of Medicine.

The groups are asking candidates to provide responses by September 6.

The consortium’s list of 20 questions are available online at ScienceDebate.org/20qs.

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Webinar to Explore Careers in Conservation

The American Institute of Biological Sciences will host a webinar to help students and scientists learn about the variety of career options in environmental conservation. The webinar is the latest in the AIBS Leadership in Biology series. The event will be held on August 31 at 1:00 PM EDT.

Join AIBS for this panel discussion with individuals who have built successful conservation and environmental biology careers in non-profit, federal agency, and university settings. Following the presentations, participants will have an opportunity to ask questions of the panelists.


  • Dr. Gabriela Chavarria, Forensic Science Branch Chief at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife National Forensic Laboratory
  • Rocco Saracina, Conservation Coordinator for the Sustainable Forestry Initiative
  • Lindsey Wise, Biodiversity Data Manager at the Institute for Natural Resources at Oregon State University

Individuals who are interested in this program but are unable to attend the live event, may register and later view a recording of the webinar.

This Leadership in Biology webinar is free and open to the public because of the support of event cosponsor Burk & Associates Inc.

Register for free at www.aibs.org/events/webinar/careers-in-conservation-environmental-biology.html.

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GAO Calls on Agencies to Streamline Administrative Requirements

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently released a report that urged federal agencies to explore strategies for standardizing their budget and procurement requirements for research grants. University stakeholders have raised concerns about the workload and costs associated with complying with administrative grant requirements.

The report examines the sources and goals of specific requirements, factors affecting universities’ administrative workload and costs, and efforts by research funding agencies to reduce the administrative burden.

After a 2011 executive order called for agencies to streamline regulations and adopt regulatory approaches to reduce administrative burdens, funding agencies developed a set of standard administrative terms and conditions for research grants and a standard form for progress reports. Agencies have been making efforts in three areas to reduce administrative workload and costs: (1) standardizing requirements across agencies; (2) postponing certain pre-award requirements until after a decision about a proposal’s likelihood of funding has been made; and (3) allowing universities more flexibility to assess and manage risks for certain requirements.

According to the GAO, there are opportunities within each area to further reduce researchers’ administrative workload and costs. GAO interviewed administrative staff and researchers from six universities about the factors that add to their administrative workload and add costs for complying with selected requirements. They identified common factors including variation in agencies’ implementation of requirements, pre-award requirements for developing detailed documentation for grant proposals, and increased prescriptiveness of certain requirements.

“Further efforts to standardize requirements, postpone pre-award requirements and allow more flexibility for universities could help ensure agencies do not miss opportunities to reduce administrative workload and costs,” the report by GAO stated. “[University staff] said that these factors add to universities’ workload and costs in various ways, such as by causing universities to invest in new electronic systems or in the hiring or training of staff,” added GAO.

GAO recommends that the Office of Management and Budget, Department of Energy, National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, and National Aeronautics and Space Administration “identify additional areas where requirements, such as those for budgets or purchases, can be standardized, postponed, or made more flexible, while maintaining oversight of federal funds.”

The full report and complete list of recommendations from the GAO can be accessed at http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-16-573?utmmedium=email&utmsource=govdelivery.

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Funding Available for Agricultural Training

The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has announced that $3.1 million is available for grants to train the next generation of agricultural leaders. According to NIFA Director Sonny Ramaswamy: “The fellowship program allows us to support the next generation of scientists and innovators, who will play an integral part in the future of our food and agricultural systems.”

The National Needs Graduate and Postgraduate Fellowship Grants Program supports experiential learning for individuals working towards a graduate degree in a discipline relevant to NIFA’s mission. Applicants should propose training projects to support graduate fellowships in one of the eight targeted expertise shortage areas: animal production; plant production; forest resources; agricultural educators and communicators; agricultural management and economics; food science, human nutrition and human sciences; sciences for agricultural biosecurity; veterinary sciences; food and agriculture data analytics and tools; and integrative biosciences for sustainable food and agricultural systems.

Learn more at https://nifa.usda.gov/funding-opportunity/food-and-agricultural-sciences-national-needs-graduate-and-postgraduate.

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Podcast Explores Ways to Effectively Engage Citizen Scientists

The burgeoning field of citizen science offers the public an opportunity to participate directly in research and data analysis—and it provides scientists access to robust data sets that previously would have been impossible to collect. Unfortunately, research on citizen science itself has often been lacking, with most studies focused on existing participants and little attention paid to the wider public’s interest in these important projects. The August episode of BioScience Talks, explores recent research by Vicki Martin of Southern Cross University, in Lismore, Australia. Martin describes the results of a groundbreaking 1,145-person survey of marine users and their attitudes toward citizen science projects. The interview also explores the study’s implications for the general public and for researchers eager to catch a ride on the citizen science wave.

Listen to this interview at https://www.aibs.org/publications/news/latest-bioscience-talks-podcast.html.

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Expand Your Broader Impact Skills: AIBS Communications Boot Camp for Scientists

The American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) is offering a new professional development program designed to enhance the communication skills of scientists, particularly those interested in communicating with decision-makers and the news media. The program is an excellent way to develop new communication skills and identify effective methods for broadening the impact of research and education programs.

The AIBS Communications Training Boot Camp for Scientists expands on AIBS’ highly successful media and science policy training workshops. The Boot Camp meets the needs of everyone from graduate students to senior researchers and program administrators to newly elected professional society leaders.

The Boot Camp is an intensive, two-day, hands-on training program that will be held in Washington, DC on 7-8 December 2016.

Participants will learn:

  • How to translate scientific findings for non-technical audiences
  • How to tell a resonant story that informs decision-makers
  • How to prepare for and participate in a news interview, including broadcast interviews
  • How to prepare for and engage in a meeting with a decision-maker
  • How to protect your scientific reputation
  • How to identify and define the audience you need to reach
  • What policymakers want and need to know from a scientist
  • What reporters are looking for in an interview
  • How the nation’s science policy is developed and implemented

Participants will also have the opportunity for formal and informal discussions with science policy and communications experts working in Washington, DC. A course outline is available here.

AIBS Individual Members and individuals nominated to participate by an AIBS Member Society/Organization receive a $75 discount on registration.

Learn more about the program and register now at https://www.aibs.org/public-policy/communicationsbootcamp.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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