NSF Releases FY 2019 Budget Details
The National Science Foundation (NSF) released detailed information regarding its budget request to Congress for fiscal year (FY) 2019 on February 28, 2018. The administration’s budget request for the agency is $7.47 billion, a decrease of $32 million (0.4 percent) from 2017 enacted levels.
Under the proposed budget, NSF would accelerate its “10 Big Ideas for Future Investments,” allocating support to high-priority areas that integrate science and engineering fields and create partnership opportunities with industry, private foundations, other federal agencies, and the education sector. The agency would provide $30 million to each of the six research-focused Big Ideas, that include Understanding the Rules of Life (URoL): Predicting Phenotype; Navigating the New Arctic (NNA); The Future of Work at the Human Technology Frontier (FW-HTF); and Harnessing the Data Revolution (HDR), among others, for a total of $180 million. The remaining four, aimed at enhancing processes to improve U.S. science and engineering, would receive $102.5 million. Additionally, NSF would invest $60 million in two Convergence Accelerators directed towards HDR and FW-HTF in FY 2019 to “leverage resources across the agency to support the most innovative science.”
NSF’s request would provide $738 million in spending for the Directorate of Biological Sciences (BIO), a decrease of $4 million from 2017. BIO provides 69 percent of federal funding for basic non-medical biological research at academic institutions. Within the request for BIO, funding would be allocated towards the five divisions as follows:
- Molecular and Cellular Biosciences: $137.7 million (+0.5 percent)
- Integrative Organismal Systems: $185 million (-14.2 percent)
- Environmental Biology: $146.2 million (+0.5 percent)
- Biological Infrastructure: $175.1 million (+34.4 percent)
- Emerging Frontiers: $94.2 million (-17.2 percent)
Spending priorities for BIO would focus on URoL, National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON), and Understanding the Brain (UtB), which includes the BRAIN initiative. URoL, first introduced in 2017, would continue to emphasize research on relationships between genotype and phenotype in plants, animals, and microbes in FY 2019. NEON is scheduled to complete construction in fall 2018, at which point the BIO directorate would assume responsibility for funding all on-going operations and oversight. NEON would receive $65 million in FY 2019, an increase of almost $15 million from FY 2017, with their operations and maintenance funding included in the budget for the division of Biological Infrastructure.
NSF’s cross-disciplinary initiatives would remain flat or decline in FY 2019. Innovations at the Nexus of Food, Energy, and Water Systems (INFEWS), which supports research on the natural, social, and human-built factors involved in these interconnected systems, would receive $16.4 million, a 70.6 percent decrease from FY 2017. This is because of a planned decrease in activities and support for INFEWS-related research being moved to Big Ideas and programs across the agency. The NSF Innovation Corps, which improves researchers’ access to resources that help transfer knowledge to downstream technological applications, would receive $30 million (+0.5 percent).
The Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) network would receive $29.1 million (-6 percent). Graduate research fellowships would be cut by 15.3 percent to $270 million and support for NSF’s Research Traineeship program would be decreased by 1.4 percent to $52.1 million.
The Education and Human Resources (EHR) Directorate would receive flat funding at $837.4 million. Within EHR, the division of graduate education would receive $256 million (-5 percent) and the division of undergraduate education would receive $224.65 million (-2 percent). Support for human resource development would increase by 25 percent to $187.2 million. NSF’s investments in the STEM workforce would be cut by 10 percent to $423 million.
Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction (MREFC) would receive $94.6 million, a 57.5 percent decrease from FY 2017. The request for MREFC includes funding to continue construction of two telescopes, the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope and the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, as well as two Regional Class Research Vessels, which provide scientific infrastructure to enable better understanding of the impacts of storm surges and tsunamis; natural resource identification and extraction; and fisheries and aquaculture.
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AIBS Selects 2018 EPPLA Winners
The American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) has selected Joanna “Jo” Downes Bairzin and Karena Nguyen to receive the 2018 AIBS Emerging Public Policy Leadership Award (EPPLA). The EPPLA recognizes graduate students in the biological sciences who have demonstrated leadership skills and an aptitude for future professional success working at the intersection of science and public policy.
Joanna Bairzin is a doctoral candidate in molecular and cell biology at the University of California, Berkeley, where her research is focused on the regulation of developmental patterning genes by an oncoprotein, which could ultimately help inform our understanding of tumor cell development. Bairzin earned her BA in biology from the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Karena Nguyen is a doctoral candidate in integrative biology at the University of South Florida, where she is active in outreach, student government, and education initiatives. Her research has been recognized with the Best Scientific Talk at the Southeastern Branch of the American Society for Microbiology Meeting and the Outstanding Student Poster at the American Society for Microbiology General Body Meeting. Nguyen received her BS in biology with a minor in public health from Saint Louis University.
Both awardees are active in their professional communities. Bairzin has previously organized congressional visits as a participant in the AIBS Congressional District Visits event. Through the Genetics Society of America, she has participated on a policy subcommittee that has helped to provide early career scientists with information about career options. Nguyen, a member of the Ecological Society of America and American Society for Microbiology, has served as a mentor, held leadership positions in student government, and participated in media interviews.
Nguyen pursued the EPPLA because she plans “to pursue a career in science policy or informal science education at a museum, zoo, or other community institution.” Moreover, “policymakers are ultimately the individuals who decide how funds are allocated toward biological sciences.” This view is shared by Bairzin, who states that “we cannot expect busy policymakers to pay special attention to the issues we care about, like federal funding for scientific research and education, if we never talk to them or make ourselves available.”
Like Nguyen, Bairzin views “public engagement as a critical part of my job as a scientist, so I’ve tried to consistently advocate to my elected officials.”
This is the fifteenth year that AIBS has recognized graduate student achievement through the EPPLA program. Bairzin and Nguyen will travel to Washington, DC, in April to participate in an AIBS science communications-training program and to meet with their members of Congress as part of the annual AIBS Congressional Visits Day.
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AIBS Receives Major Gift to Support Graduate Student Program
The American Institute of Biological Sciences is pleased to announce that it has received a $15,000 gift in support of its Emerging Public Policy Leadership Award (EPPLA) program. An AIBS individual member who has asked to remain anonymous made the gift.
This generous donation ensures that AIBS can support the professional development of more biology graduate students for years to come. Through the EPPLA program, each year AIBS recognizes graduate students who demonstrate leadership and the potential to successfully work at the intersection of science and public policy. Past awardees have gone on to hold faculty positions, work for members of Congress, serve in the Foreign Service, work for federal agencies, and non-profit organizations.
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EPA to Restructure Environmental Research Center
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is planning to eliminate the National Center for Environmental Research (NCER) as part of its extensive reorganization efforts. NCER, a component of EPA’s Office of Research and Development (ORD), provides millions of dollars in grants for research on national environmental issues such as impacts of human exposure to pollution and chemicals. Under the proposed plan, EPA would combine NCER’s grants, contracts, and administrative functions with two other EPA offices that administer grants and reassign their scientific staff to other positions within the agency.
The reorganization would combine the Office of Administrative and Research Support, Office of Program Accountability and Resource Management, and the federal environmental grant program managed by NCER, into the Office of Resource Management. The new office would be responsible for Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, records management, and budget formulation.
Liz Bowman, EPA’s associate administrator for public affairs, stated that the proposed consolidation, which is still in a preliminary phase, would create more efficiency. She said in a statement that the change would move “staff to the labs and offices where their expertise is most effective.” She added, “This potential reorganization would not affect anyone’s employment or status, and the management of research grants will continue.”
NCER’s most popular program, Science to Achieve Results (STAR), provides grants to support research across scientific disciplines that focus on health effects of particulate matter, water quality, global change, ecosystem assessment and restoration, etc. STAR also provides grants to the Children’s Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Centers, which work on reducing children’s health risk from environmental factors. In a report requested by the EPA, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) touted the STAR program for its “numerous successes, such as research on human health implications of air pollution, on environmental effects on children’s health and well-being, on interactions between climate change and air quality, and on the human health implications of nanoparticles.” NAS recommended that the agency continue with the STAR program to address emerging environmental challenges.
The Trump Administration’s fiscal year (FY) 2018 and FY 2019 budget requests have also proposed cuts to NCER. However, lawmakers have not included these cuts in appropriations.
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Lawmakers Criticize Agency Website Changes in Letter to White House
In a letter addressed to the White House on 28 February, the House Safe Climate Caucus protested the Trump Administration’s efforts to remove climate change information from agency websites.
The lawmakers expressed concerns over the administration’s effort to suppress public access to federal resources. “As members of the Safe Climate Caucus, we have been alarmed by the systematic effort by your administration over the past year to reduce access to climate change resources, science, and other information that had previously been accessible through federal government channels,” the letter read. “We are concerned that several of the administration’s actions violate the intent of the Federal Records Act.”
The letter cited a report from the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative (EDGI), which found that several federal agencies have been systematically changing information on their websites to remove mention of climate change or make climate-related information difficult to find. The caucus members also indicated that U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt played a role in removing climate science related information from EPA’s website.
The lawmakers implored agencies to not remove any climate-related webpages in the future and “consider the fact that human-caused global climate change is one of the greatest existential threats to the future of our planet.” The administration has attributed the website changes to refocusing of priorities, emphasizing that all of the climate-related content has not been removed.
The Safe Climate Caucus is only comprised of members from the Democratic party, including Representatives Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Don Beyer (D-VA), Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-CA), Paul Tonko (D-NY), and twenty-two others.
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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 policy.aibs.org to get started.
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