Congressional Vacancies Begin to Pile Up

Now, as the second session of the 115th Congress is beginning, political pundits are increasingly analyzing congressional retirements. To date, 50 members have left Congress or are opting to not run for re-election, well above the average of 22 retirements per election cycle. The tally does not include the five members who left their seats to serve in the Trump Administration. Notably, two-thirds of the vacancies are from Republicans, even though the GOP controls both chambers of Congress and the White House.

Five Republican committee chairmen in the House will not be running for re-election. Four are retiring: Lamar Smith (TX) of the Science, Space, and Technology Committee, Bill Shuster (PA) of the Transportation Committee, Bob Goodlatte (VA) of the Judiciary Committee, and Gregg Harper (MS) of the Committee on House Administration. Diane Black (TN) is stepping down from chairing the Budget Committee to run for governor.

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Congress Still Working on Funding Deal

Lawmakers are facing another deadline for fiscal year (FY) 2018 funding. The current continuing resolution, which has kept the government open well into the fiscal year, expires on January 19.

Several issues have complicated the negotiations between political parties, including the balance of funding between defense and non-defense programs. The “Budget Control Act of 2011” set annual caps for defense and non-defense programs. Spending within each pot cannot be increased above these levels without a change in law.

Negotiators are reportedly considering a roughly $100 billion increase for FY 2018 and again in FY 2019. Republicans are pushing to increase defense spending by $54 billion and non-defense spending by $37 billion.

Democrats have been insisting that any increase to the defense budget cap must be accompanied by an equal increase to the non-defense cap.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) countered that it is “an arbitrary political formula that bears no relationship to actual need.”

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AIBS 2017 Policy Annual Report

The AIBS Public Policy Office has released its annual report for 2017. Read about our achievements in science policy.

Highlights include:

  • Taught 14 professional development workshops that trained 411 scientists and graduate students to successfully communicate their research with decision-makers and reporters, to improve their writing skills, or to work effectively on interdisciplinary teams.
  • Facilitated 133 meetings with federal and state lawmakers.
  • Opposed policies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency barring agency-funded scientists from serving on scientific advisory panels and a proposal for a “red team/blue team” exercise to challenge climate science.
  • Issued a statement to voice concerns about the potential censorship of scientific words at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Rallied the scientific community to successfully oppose negative impacts of the tax reform bill on graduate students tuition waivers. The provision was defeated.

Read the 2017 annual report at

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Job Announcement: AIBS Public Policy Manager

The Public Policy Manager works with AIBS leadership and membership to develop and implement the organization’s science policy and communications agenda, which is focused on promoting informed decision-making that advances the biological sciences for the benefit of science and society. The position requires the ability to work effectively with internal and external stakeholders, including congressional and executive branch officials. The Manager is responsible for promoting and maintaining an efficient workflow in the office to ensure the timely completion of projects, as well as anticipate and make plans to accommodate new initiatives and activities. The ideal candidate will have familiarity with public policy and science, as well as excellent and demonstrable written and oral communication skills.

Duties include:

  • Monitor, analyze, and report on science policy matters of interest to the organization and its membership.
  • Formulate and prepare position statements, testimony, comments and other policy education and outreach documents.
  • Organize grassroots advocacy events.
  • Organize science policy briefings for policymakers.
  • Train scientists to communicate effectively with the public, the media, and policymakers.
  • Prepare regular written policy updates.
  • Manage the online AIBS Legislative Action Center.
  • Support and participate in organizational social media initiatives.
  • Assist with press relations for AIBS, AIBS member organizations, and AIBS clients.
  • Represent AIBS in various science policy coalitions and to other external stakeholders.
  • Contribute to AIBS-wide initiatives and priorities.
  • Other duties as assigned.


  • At least five years of public policy experience with knowledge of science policy and the legislative and regulatory processes of the federal government.
  • Strong and demonstrable written and oral communication skills.
  • Detail-oriented, self-directed, reliable, and discrete.
  • Familiarity with using and comfort learning new content management systems to help communicate information to target audiences.
  • The ability to work as a member of a team.
  • A desire to identify efficiencies and process improvements.
  • A Bachelor’s degree is required. Advanced degree(s) in biology, science policy, or related field is highly desirable, but not required.

Some travel may be required, as well as periodic work on weekends or outside of normal business hours.


Submit a cover letter with salary history, resume, and a writing sample to Application review will begin 5 January 2018 and continue until the position is filled.

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Deadline Approaching: 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 16-18, 2018. Domestic travel and hotel expenses will be paid for the winners.
    • Policy and communications training, including information on how to communicate science to policymakers, 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

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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

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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 and the Botanical Society of America.

AIBS and our partner organizations invite scientists and science educators to become policy advocates today. Simply go to to get started.

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