Congress Continues Work on FY 2018 Science Funding

A number of funding bills have advanced through the House and Senate Appropriations Committees in the past two weeks. Lawmakers are eager to make progress on fiscal year (FY) 2018 spending before leaving the Capitol for their annual summer recess. When they return from their summer break, there will be less than a month left in the current fiscal year.

House appropriators plan to cut $5 billion from non-defense programs in 2018 and to continue those cuts in future years. If implemented, the draft spending plan would result in a 44 percent reduction to non-defense spending by 2027 once inflation is accounted for. Conversely, Senate appropriators opted to assume flat funding relative to FY 2017. President Trump had sought a $54 billion cut to non-defense programs.

A package of four spending bills is scheduled to be debated by the full House this week. Representatives will be considering funding for defense, military construction-veterans affairs, energy, and legislative affairs.

Agriculture

The House and Senate Appropriations Committees both recommended $375 million for competitive research grants in the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative. This is the same level as FY 2017 and $26 million more than the President’s budget request.

Intramural agricultural research and facilities would be cut by 6 or 7 percent under the House and Senate bills, respectively. These are significant cuts but less damaging than the 20 percent cut sought by President Trump.

Commerce, Justice, and Science

The House Appropriations Committee passed a bill that would fund the Departments of Commerce and Justice, as well as some independent agencies such as the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The NSF would lose $131 million from Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction and $2 million from agency operations. Research and education funding would remain at FY 2017 levels. An amendment offered by Representative David Price (D-NC) to boost NSF funding by $604 million was voted down.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration would be funded at $5 billion, a cut of $710 million from the FY 2017 enacted level. Climate research would be cut by 19 percent. Representative Matt Cartwright (D-PA) offered an amendment to restore the $30 million cut, but the committee rejected it.

Subcommittee chair John Culberson (R-TX) said that Congress would have to pass a broad, far-reaching budget deal if lawmakers wanted any hope to boost funding for NSF or other programs.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration would see a 1 percent increase for science, but earth science research would lose 11 percent. The National Institute of Standards and Technology faces a 4 percent cut.

The Senate has not released their version of the spending bill.

Energy and Water Development

Both chambers have advanced legislation to fund the Department of Energy. The department’s Office of Science could receive a $158 million increase in the Senate bill. This would include a $21 million increase for the Biological and Environmental Research program. The House panel approved flat funding for the Office of Science and would cut $30 million from biological and environmental research.

Another area where the chambers differed significantly was for the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). The House complied with the White House’s request to eliminate the $300 million program. Conversely, the Senate would provide an additional $24 million for ARPA-E, which is “record levels of funding,” according to subcommittee chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN).

Interior and Environment

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is facing more than $500 million in cuts in legislation advancing in the House of Representatives. The $7.5 billion proposed by House appropriators, however, is significantly more than the $5.6 billion proposed by President Trump. The bill would maintain funding levels for restoration efforts in the Chesapeake Bay and Great Lakes; the White House sought to eliminate both programs.

Within the Department of the Interior, the U.S. Geological Survey would receive $1 billion, a $46 million cut; the Ecosystems mission area is facing a 4 percent cut. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is facing a $38 million cut, but science support would be flat funded.

Funding for the Forest and Rangeland Research within the U.S. Forest Service would be cut by $10 million to $278 million.

The Senate Interior appropriations bill has not yet been released.

Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education

The National Institutes of Health could receive a $1.1 billion increase if legislation passed by the House Appropriations Committee were enacted. This is $8.6 billion more than the President’s budget request. Several Obama-era initiatives would receive large increases, including the Cancer Moonshot, precisions medicine, and the BRAIN initiative.

The measure also stipulates that the agency continue reimbursing grantee research institutions for indirect costs due to facilities and administrative costs. The Trump Administration had proposed capping such costs at 10 percent of each grant.

No legislation has been released yet by the Senate Appropriations Committee.

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Nominations for Scientific Posts Trickle from White House

President Trump announced two new nominations for positions in his administration that oversee scientific programs.

President Trump nominated Sam Clovis to be the chief scientist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The position is responsible for the Agricultural Research Service, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, the Economic Research Service, and the National Agricultural Statistics Service, and is also responsible for scientific integrity within the department. Clovis is currently a White House adviser and was previously a talk radio host and an economics professor at Morningside College. He is a self-described climate change skeptic.

Clovis has a B.S. in political science and an MBA and Ph.D. in public administration. Recent undersecretaries for research, education, and economics have been scientists or medical doctors.

The 2008 farm bill requires that the President make the appointment “from among distinguished scientists with specialized training or significant experience in agricultural research, education, and economics.”

Paul Dabbar was nominated to serve as undersecretary for science at the Department of Energy. Dabbar is the managing director of mergers and acquisitions at investment bank J.P. Morgan, where he oversees investments in energy sectors. He has a Master’s in Business Administration and previously served as a nuclear submarine officer. Dabbar currently serves on the department’s Environmental Management Advisory Board.

Both positions are subject to confirmation by the Senate.

Many other scientific positions that require Senate confirmation are still vacant, including the director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, administrators for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the undersecretary for science and technology at the Department of Homeland Security, and the assistant secretary for water and science within the Department of the Interior.

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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 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 9-10 October 2017.

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
  • 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 decision-makers want to hear from a scientist
  • What reporters are looking for in an interview
  • How to leverage social media
  • 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 $55 discount on registration.

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

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New in BioScience: Evolution and State Politics

In the August 2017 issue of BioScience Julie Palakovich Carr writes about the most recent attacks on evolution education in statehouses across the country. An excerpt follows.

A new school year is starting, and if some state legislators have their way, evolution education will be marginalized in the curriculum. In spite of multiple court rulings prohibiting the teaching of creationism in public schools, some lawmakers continue to pursue legislative measures that would challenge the teaching of evolution and other “controversial” scientific subjects.

In statehouses around the country, the 2017 legislative session saw a flurry of attacks on science education. Eleven measures that would undermine evolution education were introduced in legislatures in eight states. This was “on the busy side of normal,” according to Glenn Branch, deputy director of the National Center for Science Education, in Oakland, California.

Read the full article for free.

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Enter the 2017 Faces of Biology Photo Contest

Enter the Faces of Biology Photo Contest for your chance to win $250 and to have your photo appear on the cover of the journal BioScience.

The competition, sponsored by the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS), 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.

The winning photo from the 2016 contest was featured on the cover of the April 2017 issue of BioScience.

Submissions must be received by 11:59:59 p.m. Eastern Time on 1 October 2017.

For more information or to enter the contest, visit http://www.aibs.org/public-programs/photocontest.html.

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Short Takes

  • The House of Representatives voted to retain language in the annual defense authorization bill that directs the Department of Defense to prepare for the effects of climate change. An amendment to strip the requirement from the bill failed 185 to 234, with 46 Republicans and all Democrats voting against removing it.
  • The latest episode of the BioScience Talks podcast features a discussion on low oxygen levels in the Chesapeake Bay. Jeremy Testa of the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory describes the phenomenon and the ongoing efforts to better predict the yearly occurrence. Listen at http://bioscienceaibs.libsyn.com/low-oxygen-in-chesapeake-bay.
  • The National Science Board is accepting nominations for its 2018 Vannevar Bush and Public Service Awards. The nomination deadline is 1 October 2017. Learn more at https://www.nsf.gov/nsb/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=242442&org=NSB&from=news.

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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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