Participate in the 2018 AIBS Congressional Visits Day

Join the American Institute of Biological Sciences for our annual Congressional Visits Day in Washington, DC.

This event is an opportunity for scientists to meet with their members of Congress about the importance of federal support for biological research and education. Event participants advocate for federal funding for biological, life, and environmental sciences research. This event builds support federal research funding agencies, including the National Science Foundation.

This year’s event will be held on April 17-18, 2018 in Washington, DC. During the afternoon of April 17, individuals will participate in an advocacy-training program that provides the information required to effectively advocate for their science. On April 18, scientists participate in AIBS organized meetings with their Representative and Senators.

Supplemental training program: In addition to the core event, AIBS is offering a one-day short course version of the popular AIBS Communications Boot Camp for Scientists. This eight-hour professional development program will train scientists to translate scientific information for non-technical audiences and to engage with the news media. The course includes formal instruction as well as hands-on and interactive exercises. This professional development training will begin on the afternoon of April 16 and be completed during the morning of April 17. We are pleased to announce that participants in the Congressional Visits Day event may register for this training program at the reduced rate of $150.

Scientists and graduate students interested in communicating the importance of federal investments in scientific research and education to lawmakers are encouraged to participate in this important event.

Registration will close on March 4, 2018. Register at https://www.aibs.org/public-policy/congressionalvisitsday.html.

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Action Alert: Take Action on Tax Reform

Congress is considering major tax overhauls that would increase the tax burden for many graduate students. H.R. 1 would increase taxes for many graduate students because tuition waivers would be taxed as income, even though students do not directly receive the money. The bill would also eliminate individual deductions for college tuition, interest, and other education expenses.

The House of Representatives has passed the legislation. The Senate Finance Committee passed their own version of the legislation, which does not include these objectionable changes to current tax law. The Senate bill still needs to be voted on by the full chamber and then any differences in the legislation will be worked out between the chambers.

Please take a minute to write to your Representative and Senators in opposition to this change. Take action today!

The American Institute of Biological Sciences sent a letter to Congress to express concerns about the legislation.

More coverage about the legislation is at https://www.aibs.org/public-policy-reports/20171113.html.

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Feds Propose Two-Year Delay for Clean Water Rule

The Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers are delaying implementation of a rulemaking that would expand the definition of waters subject to protection by the Clean Water Act.

The announcement, which was made on November 16, 2017, will hold off application of the rulemaking for two years. The rule is currently on hold due to a court decision, but a forthcoming Supreme Court decision could reverse the lower court’s stay.

The agencies are currently collecting public input about the 2015 rule. A joint press release stated that the delay is to “provide clarity and consistency” as the process plays out.

Read the agencies’ memo at https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2017-11/documents/wotus2040-af80memooneconomicimpacts111517final_v2.pdf.

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Senate Panel Releases Environmental Funding Bill

The Senate Appropriations Committee released a draft bill that outlines proposed funding levels for the Department of the Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). If enacted, the bill would spare agencies the harsh cuts proposed by President Trump. Moreover, the legislation includes $1.2 billion more than the spending bill approved by the House Appropriations Committee earlier this year.

The EPA would lose 2 percent of its funding if the Senate bill were approved, as compared to the 31 percent cut sought by Trump or the 9 percent reduction approved by the. EPA Science and Technology would be cut by 7 percent.

The U.S. Geological Survey is proposed to receive flat funding relative to 2017. Although the agency’s total budget would not change, individual programs would vary from current funding levels. Four of the five mission areas, including Ecosystems and Climate and Land Use Change, would lose small amounts of funding in order to provide a $12 million increase for the agency’s facilities. That budget line was cut in FY 2013 and has been flat ever since, even though USGS has struggled with pipes bursting and roofs leaking at some research labs.

The budget for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would be cut by $40 million; some of this reduction would come from the Science Support program. Forest Service’s Forest and Rangeland Research program would lose 2 percent of its funding.

The Smithsonian Institution would receive an increase of $15 million.

The Senate bill will likely not be marked up, but rather be used in the bicameral negotiations regarding FY 2018 appropriations. The continuing resolution that has kept the government open since October expires on 8 December.

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USDA Research on Chopping Block

The Trump administration has proposed a significant cut to agriculture programs in order to partly pay for hurricane relief. The administration requested that Congress provide $44 billion in the wake of this year’s hurricanes and flooding. The funding, however, would be partly offset by eliminating $212 million in funding that Congress already approved to upgrade agricultural research facilities.

Senator John Hoeven (R-ND), who chairs the Senate panel responsible for agriculture funding, came out against the administration’s proposal. Hoeven’s spokesperson said “we don’t support paying for [hurricane relief] by using all of the agricultural offsets in the administration’s request.”

The Trump Administration previously called for the closure of 17 USDA labs. Their latest proposal would keep the labs open but put improvements to the facilities on hold.

“Funding for modernization efforts can be delayed while still supporting the agency’s core mission,” the administration said.

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Apply for the 2018 Emerging Public Policy Leadership Award

Are you a graduate student looking to make a difference in science policy and funding? Applications are now being accepted for the 2018 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 AIBS 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 17-18, 2018. 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 investment 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 2018 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.

Applications are due by 11:59 PM Eastern Time on January 17, 2018. The application guidelines can be downloaded at http://www.aibs.org/public-policy/eppla.html.

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Short Takes

  • The 2017 meeting of the AIBS Council of Member Societies and Organizations, Engaging Policymakers: Opportunities for Biological Sciences Organizations, will be held in Washington, DC, on 4 December 2017. AIBS Council Representatives may now register for the meeting.

  • The House of Representatives passed bipartisan legislation that would require the federal government to create a new plan to use evidence-based policy. "Let's measure success based on results," said House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI). "No longer will 'we don't know' be an acceptable answer when asked whether or not a program is working." The legislation is sponsored by Speaker Ryan and Senator Patty Murray (D-WA).

  • The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee approved several bills that would require the construction or upgrade of certain basic energy research facilities. The bills received bipartisan support. The Committee also passed H.R. 4375 to require a study on how to broaden participation in some programs within the National Science Foundation.

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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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