New Lawmakers Assigned to Science Committees

Details about how the new Congress will function, including who will serve on various committees, are emerging.

The House and Senate Appropriations Committees, which are responsible for allocating federal funding, will have several new faces. In the Senate, Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Joe Manchin (D-WV), and freshmen John Kennedy (R-LA) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) will join the committee. In the House, Representatives John Moolenaar (R-MI), Dan Newhouse (R-WA), and freshman Scott Taylor (R-VA) secured seats on the Appropriations Committee.

The committees with jurisdiction over science will also have new members. The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee has three newly elected members: Ralph Abraham (R-LA), Darin LaHood (R-IL), and Warren Davidson (R-OH). The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee will have a mix of veteran and freshmen lawmakers joining its ranks, including Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), James Inhofe (R-OK), Mike Lee (R-UT), Catherine Cortez Matso (D-NV), and Todd Young (R-IN).

House Democrats have not yet announced their selections to fill vacancies on these committees.

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House Passes Rule to Target Federal Workforce

The House of Representatives adopted new rules on the first day of the 115th Congress that would allow any Representative to offer an amendment to an appropriation bills to eliminate federal agency employees or cut their pay.

The ‘Holman Rule” was in effect until 1983, when the chamber halted its use. For the past thirty years, lawmakers have generally not been able to target specific programs or individual employees as part of spending cuts. The rule will expire in one year.

“Agencies should be held accountable and tested — this is an avenue for them to do it,” said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). “Any member elected to Congress has the right to look at all these entities and agencies and offer an amendment. You still have to win the vote.”

Other lawmakers saw the rule as congressional overreach.

“Republicans have consistently made our hardworking federal employees scapegoats, in my opinion, for lack of performance of the federal government itself, and this rule change will enable them to make short-sighted and ideologically driven changes to our nation’s civil service,” said House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD).

There was a failed effort within the Republican conference to strip the rule out of the larger rules package. Representative Mike Simpson (R-ID) was among the opponents of the rule. “I think what you are going to see on the floor is a whole bunch of amendments because someone is pissed off about some employee in their district who they could not get to do X, Y or Z, so they are going to eliminate the position or cut salary.”

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Public Input Sought on Climate Science Report

The U.S. Global Change Research Program is accepting public comments on a draft Climate Science Special Report, which updates the physical climate science findings in the 2014 Third National Climate Assessment. The report will be used to inform the next quadrennial climate assessment. Public comments are due by 3 February 2017. Learn more at http://www.globalchange.gov/notices#CSSR.

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Upcoming Webinar on International Research Funding

Have an interest in pursuing science outside of the United States? Tune in for a discussion of opportunities to do research or to train abroad. A panel of experts will provide details about programs that enable researchers from the U.S. to collaborate internationally. Panelists will discuss programs through the National Science Foundation, the Fulbright Scholar Program, and the German Research Foundation.

Panelists:

  • Rebecca Keiser, Head of the Office of International Science and Engineering National Science Foundation
  • Max Vögler, Director, North America DC Office, German Research Foundation
  • Peter VanDerwater, Director of Outreach, Fulbright Scholar Program

This webinar is part of the AIBS Leadership in Biology webinar series. The event is free and open to the public due to the sponsorship of Burk Inc. It will be held on 13 January 2017 at 1 pm (Eastern).

Register at https://www.aibs.org/events/webinar/inter-research-funding-opportunities.html.

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Deadline: Apply for the 2017 Emerging Public Policy Leadership Award

Are you a science graduate student looking to make a difference in science policy and funding? Applications are being accepted for the 2017 AIBS Emerging Public Policy Leadership Award. This award recognizes graduate students in the biological sciences who have demonstrated initiative and leadership in science policy. Recipients receive first-hand experience at the interface of science and public policy.

Winners receive:

  • A trip to Washington, DC, to participate in the Biological and Ecological Sciences Coalition Congressional Visits Day, an annual event that brings scientists to the nation’s capital to advocate for federal investment in the biological sciences, with a primary focus on the National Science Foundation. The event will be held on April 25-26, 2017. Domestic travel and hotel expenses will be paid for the winners.

  • Policy and communications training, including information on the legislative process and trends in federal science funding.

  • Meetings with congressional policymakers to discuss the importance of federal investments in the biological sciences.

  • A one-year AIBS membership, including a subscription to the journal BioScience and a copy of “Communicating Science: A Primer for Working with the Media.”

The 2017 award is open to U.S. citizens and U.S. permanent residents enrolled in a graduate degree program in the biological sciences, science education, or a closely allied field. Applicants should have a demonstrated interest in and commitment to science policy and/or science education policy. Prior EPPLA winners, honorable mentions, and AIBS science policy interns/fellows are not eligible.

Applications are due by 11:59 PM Eastern Time on 9 January 2017. The application can be downloaded at http://www.aibs.org/public-policy/eppla.html.

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Now in BioScience: President Obama's Scientific Legacy

The December 2016 issue of BioScience evaluates the science policy accomplishments achieved during President Barack Obama’s tenure in the White House. An excerpt follows.

Nearly 8 years ago, Barack Obama was sworn into office. During his inaugural address, he pledged to “restore science to its rightful place.” As President Obama concludes his second term, it seems appropriate to consider whether his administration has met this ambitious—and ambiguous—goal.

“President Obama has put science in the center of decisionmaking with stellar appointments—for example John Holdren, Steven Chu, Ernest Moniz—and by ensuring that science is involved at the highest levels of decisionmaking,” said Thomas Lovejoy, university professor of environmental science and policy at George Mason University. “This includes science-driven environmental decisionmaking, most significantly on climate change. He has also gone out of his way to inspire students.”

Read the full article for free at http://bioscience.oxfordjournals.org/content/66/12/1011.full.

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AIBS to Help Scientists Develop Interdisciplinary Skills

Reports abound from professional societies, the Academies, government agencies, and researchers calling attention to the fact that science is increasingly an inter-disciplinary, trans-disciplinary, inter-institutional, and international endeavor. In short, science has become a “team sport.”

There is a real and present need to better prepare scientists for success in this new collaborative environment. The American Institute of Biological Sciences is responding to this call with a new program for scientists, educators, and research managers.

Team science is increasingly common in 21st century biological, life, and environmental sciences. Collaboration is no longer limited to sharing ideas with the biologist in the lab next door. The questions confronting science often require teams that may include a mix of computer and information scientists, physical and social scientists, mathematicians, ethicists, and even policy and management experts, as well as community stakeholders and citizen scientists. Adding to this complexity, teams span programs within organizations, cross organization boundaries to form institutional consortia, and often include international partners.

This intensive, two-day, interactive, professional development course was developed by scientists and experts on collaboration and teamwork to provide participants with the knowledge and skills required to become productive and effective members of scientific teams.

Nothing teaches collaboration like practicing collaboration. This is not a course that asks you to learn in isolation. It is a microcosm of scientific collaboration, with extensive hands-on learning as part of a scientific team.

Who should attend?

  • Research program managers
  • Departmental leaders
  • Scientists engaged in collaborative projects
  • Graduate students and post-docs looking to augment basic research skills
  • Scientists working at the interface of different fields
  • Groups interested in developing successful research proposals
  • Academic, government, and industry scientists

This course is designed for anyone involved in collaborative scientific endeavors. Team leaders will find the course especially helpful. Because participants will work on “real-world” team science concerns, we encourage multiple members of a team to attend together.

Participants will develop and hone the skills needed to:

  • Engage in collaborative scientific ventures;
  • Eliminate barriers to effective team science;
  • Execute the factors that make collaborations successful;
  • Build the right scientific team;
  • Perform with a variety of personalities and work approaches;
  • Create a team roadmap;
  • Enact the five keys to leadership;
  • Develop effective communication strategies and techniques
  • Facilitate scientific collaborations; and,
  • Apply practical solutions for team science concerns.

Learn more and register at https://www.aibs.org/events/teamscienceevent.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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