President Trump's Budget Request Would Cut Billions from Science

On 23 May, the White House released the details for its fiscal year 2018 budget request. The proposal continued steep cuts outlined in the ‘skinny budget’ released in March. Billions of dollars would be cut from science programs, including from every major source of federal funding for biological research.

The American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) issued a statement about the budget proposal: “The Administration’s budget request stifles innovation, future economic growth, and job creation,” said Dr. Robert Gropp, Co-Executive Director of AIBS. “These deep cuts to scientific research and education programs will negatively impact our ability to improve public health and solve environmental problems for years to come.”

Most federal research programs are facing cuts on the order of 10 percent or more.

  • Science and Technology within the Environmental Protection Agency would be cut by $255.7 million (-36.2 percent). Extramural STAR research grants would be eliminated, as would “voluntary” climate change programs. Sustainable Communities, which includes research on ecosystem services, would be cut by nearly 60 percent.
  • Funding for the National Institutes of Health would be reduced by $7.4 billion (-22.2 percent). The budget request assumes that Congress will provide the full $496 million authorized for the agency in the 21st Century Cures Act. The funding rate for research grants would decline to less than 14 percent. The Administration also proposes to reduce the reimbursement rate for grantees’ indirect costs.
  • Funding for the Agricultural Research Service (excluding facilities) would be cut by $237.1 million (-20.3 percent). Seventeen laboratories or work sites would be closed.
  • The Department of Energy Office of Science would be cut by $919.5 million (-17.1 percent). A 43 percent cut from Biological and Environmental Research is proposed.
  • The Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy would be terminated.
  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration would lose $900.1 million (-15.9 percent), including large cuts from research. The Sea Grant program and Office of Education would be eliminated.
  • The U.S. Geological Survey’s budget would be cut by $163.0 million (-15.0 percent). The Ecosystems mission area would lose 17.3 percent, including the termination or significant reduction of several research programs.
  • The National Science Foundation would lose $819.3 million (-11.0 percent). Biological sciences research would be cut by 9.7 percent overall. Graduate research fellowships and funding for states that receive less federal research funding—the EPSCoR program—would be cut heavily.
  • Forest and Rangeland Research within the U.S. Forest Service is facing a $29.5 million cut (-10.2 percent).
  • Science Support within the Fish and Wildlife Service would be eliminated.
  • Competitively awarded agricultural research grants would lose $25.7 million (-6.9 percent).
  • Science within the National Aeronautics and Space Administration would be cut by $53.1 million (-0.9 percent), but Earth Science would experience deeper cuts, including the termination of five research missions. NASA’s education program would be eliminated.
  • The Institute of Museum and Library Services would be terminated.

“For years, Congress has demonstrated bipartisan support for investing in science. I encourage them to continue to invest in our nation’s future by rejecting the President’s budget requests for scientific research and education programs. We should be investing in research and science education, which are the keys to opportunity,” added Gropp.

The President’s budget request is just the first step in the annual appropriations process. Congress is responsible for writing the 12 appropriations bills that collectively fund the federal government.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that the President’s budget request is “a statement of their priorities, that is not necessarily ours.”

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Biology Community to Congress: Reject Budget, Fund Science

A letter to Congress calls for lawmakers to reject the deep cuts to research and science education proposed in President Trump’s fiscal year 2018 budget request.

“The budget cuts outlined by the Administration for 2018 would set back American innovation for years. Funding rates for programs that support foundational biological research are already extremely low, with roughly four out of five research proposals rejected by the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, and Agriculture and Food Research Initiative. The proposed budget would slash these funding rates even further for researchers at universities, colleges, marine labs, field stations, biological collections, and other non-profit research centers. Research conducted at federal labs would be harmed by likely staff reductions and cuts to research budgets.”

The letter was organized by AIBS and signed by 40 other scientific organizations.

Read the letter at https://www.aibs.org/position-statements/20170523multisocietyletter.html.

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AIBS Testimony on Interior and Environment Research Programs

The American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) has provided testimony to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees regarding 2018 funding for biological research programs within the U.S. Geological Survey, Forest Service, Environmental Protection Agency, Fish and Wildlife Service, and Smithsonian Institution.

AIBS urged Congress to reject the deep cuts proposed in the President’s budget request and to continue the bipartisan tradition of investing in our nation’s scientific capacity.

Read the testimony at https://www.aibs.org/position-statements/20170524aibstestimonyinterior2018.html.

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Science Committee Considers NSF Indirect Costs

Payments to universities and other entities that conduct federally sponsored research were the focus of a recent hearing by the House Science Committee.

So-called indirect costs are not directly identifiable with a specific research project, but are required for an organization to do the research.  Examples of indirect costs include laboratory occupancy costs, libraries, IT, data transmission and storage, administration, and compliance with federal regulations.

Subcommittee Chair Barbara Comstock (R-VA) called indirect costs “legitimate and necessary,” but expressed the view that the system is overly complex.  Presently, every institution negotiates its own indirect cost rate with the government, which range from less than 1 percent to more than 60 percent.  ”It raises a question of whether we have created a system of haves and have-nots, where wealthy institutions benefit the most,” said Comstock.

Ranking Member Dan Lipinski (D-IL) countered with evidence that reimbursed rates are 19 percent lower than negotiated rates.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) spent $1.3 billion last year on indirect costs, about one-fifth of its total research budget.  The percentage of NSF’s funding spent on indirect costs has been relatively stable since 2000.

NSF negotiates indirect cost rates for about 5 percent of its awardees.  These are largely non-profits, such as research centers, scientific societies, and museums.  All other grantees’ rates are negotiated by other federal agencies.

Some lawmakers on the panel accused universities of making a profit on federally supported research because of reimbursement of indirect costs. One witness, who represented Duke University, said that the university loses money on research. “We absorb every incremental dollar of administrative or compliance activities… We’re not making money on the research endeavor whatsoever.”

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Meet with Your Lawmakers This Summer and Help Inform Science Policy

Registration is now open for the 2017 Biological Sciences Congressional District Visits event.

This national initiative, organized by the American Institute of Biological Sciences, 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.

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

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

“Participating in the Biological Sciences Congressional District Visits event was an invaluable experience to have as a graduate student,” said 2016 participate Erin Larson. “The training provided by AIBS made me feel confident and ready to go have a conversation with Representative Reed’s District Director about federal funding, especially how it’s benefitted me during my Ph.D. I was struck during our meeting by how meaningful it is to ‘show up’ and participate in the political process, especially as it relates to federal funding for the biological sciences. We scientists take the importance of federal funding to do our research to be a given, but it’s important for us to be able to communicate that effectively, especially with policymakers, to ensure that federal funding is maintained in the future.”

The event is made possible by the American Institute of Biological Sciences, with the support of event sponsors American Society of Plant Taxonomists, American Society of Primatologists, Botanical Society of America, Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology, Helminthological Society of Washington, Natural Science Collections Alliance, Organization of Biological Field Stations, Paleontological Society, Society for Freshwater Science, and Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections, and event supporter Society of Nematologists.

Participation is free, but registration will close on July 18, 2017. For more information and to register, visit https://www.aibs.org/public-policy/congressionaldistrictvisits.html.

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Writing for Impact and Influence Course

The American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) has heard a common refrain from faculty, scientists, government and private sector executives, and everyone in between: Scientists are losing the ability to communicate effectively in writing. The concern is less about how well a scientific manuscript is drafted and more about how routine business and public engagement information are communicated.

AIBS is responding by offering a professional development program designed to help biologists, including graduate students, hone their written communication skills to increase the impact and influence of their message.

This course complements AIBS’s highly successful Communications Boot Camp for Scientists, which focuses on oral communication.

Writing for Impact and Influence provides practical instruction and hands-on exercises that will improve the participant’s general writing proficiency. The program will provide participants with the skills and tools needed to compose scientific press releases, blog posts, emails, and memoranda. Each product-focused session will have an assignment to be completed independently, with feedback from the instructor. The course is interactive, and participants are encouraged to ask questions and converse freely with the instructor and other participants.

Learn more at https://www.aibs.org/events/programs/writing-for-impact-and-influence.html.

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Short Takes

  • The Department of Energy announced that it would honor commitments to three previously awarded ARPA-E projects that had been placed on hold by the new Administration. According to an agency spokesperson, the projects were “reviewed and it was concluded that they should be awarded.”
  • Six House Democrats sent a letter to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to express concern about the dismissal of nine members of the agency’s Board of Scientific Counselors. “This action is already having a chilling effect on the Board and on the broader scientific community,” the lawmakers wrote.
  • Abstracts are being accepted for the 2017 Chemical and Biological Defense Science and Technology Conference, which will take play in Long Beach, California 28-30 November 2017. The conference is sponsored by the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency. The deadline to submit is 9 June. Learn more at https://www.cbdstconference.com/call-for-papers-2017/topics-2017.

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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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