Manufactured Crisis Hinders Science

Now in its third week, the manufactured crisis that shutdown a significant portion of the federal government and has forced some federal employees to work without pay is quickly becoming a real crisis. For science, the shutdown means no new grants from agencies such as the National Science Foundation, United States Department of Agriculture and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, among others, until the agencies are once again funded. Federal research conducted by agencies such as the United States Geological Survey, Fish and Wildlife Service, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, and National Museum of Natural History is also suspended or severely limited and dependent upon agencies declaring staff essential and forcing them to work without pay. Given, too, that we are now a quarter of the way through fiscal year 2019, federal science programs and workers will face a tremendous challenge when they return to work as they endeavor to address a backlog of work while trying to implement programs and disburse new funding.

Ironically, the shutdown which is now being framed by the President as a matter of national security has meant that the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security are not currently funded. Thus, the federal employees charged with protecting the public safety are either furloughed or expected to work without pay.

When the 116th Congress convened last week, the House of Representatives passed legislation to fund the federal government. The bipartisan legislation had been negotiated in the Senate last year. This year, however, the measure was opposed by all Senate Republicans except for Senators Collins (R-ME) and Gardner (R-CO) who are both up for re-election in 2020.

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Science and Border Walls

As large swaths of the federal government are shuttered while politicians spar over whether or not a wall along the border with Mexico improves national security and thwarts illegal border crossings, science has shed some light on issues related to walls. In 2017, Lesley Evans Ogden authored a feature article published in BioScience that explored “Border Walls and Biodiversity: New Barriers, New Horizons” (https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/bix044). Interestingly, as Evans Ogden reported, camera trap data from researchers along the border found no difference in the number of humans crossing at locations with or without a wall. Not surprisingly, the walled locations did hinder animal movement across the border.

More recently, on January 2, 2019, Jennifer R. B. Miller penned a blog post for Scientific American (https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/how-trumps-wall-would-alter-our-biological-identity-forever/) that expands on a Viewpoint article, “Nature Divided, Scientists United: US-Mexico Border Wall Threatens Biodiversity and Binational Conservation.” Miller and seventeen coauthors published the article in BioScience in October 2018 (https://academic.oup.com/bioscience/article/68/10/740/5057517).

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Participate in the 2019 Congressional Visits Day

Join the American Institute of Biological Sciences on March 25-27 for our annual Congressional Visits Day in Washington, DC.

Meet with your members of Congress to help them understand the important role the federal government plays in supporting the biological sciences. Advocate for federal investments in biological sciences research supported by the National Science Foundation and other federal agencies.

Participants will complete a communications and advocacy training program provided by AIBS that prepares them to be effective advocates for their science. AIBS also provides participants with background information and materials, as well as arranges meetings with lawmakers.

Supplemental training program: In conjunction with the 2019 AIBS Congressional Visits Day, AIBS is offering its highly acclaimed Communications Boot Camp for Scientists. This professional development training course will be offered on March 25-26. All participants who complete the course will receive priority access to the Congressional Visits Day program and a certificate of completion indicating that they have successfully completed 12 hours of communications training. This professional development training program provides practical instruction and interactive exercises designed to help scientists (e.g. researchers, graduate students, professionals, educators) translate scientific information for non-technical audiences and to effectively engage with decision-makers and the news media.

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

Express your interest in participating in the event by registering. Registration will close on February 8, 2019. Space is limited and it may not be possible to accommodate the participation of all interested individuals. Individuals who register for the training program will be given preference when selecting participants for Congressional Visits Day.

Register at: https://www.aibs.org/public-policy/congressionalvisitsday.html

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Attention Graduate Students: Apply for the 2019 AIBS Emerging Public Policy Leadership Award

Are you a science graduate student looking to make a difference in science policy and funding? The American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) is now accepting applications for the 2019 AIBS Emerging Public Policy Leadership Award. This award recognizes graduate students in the biological sciences who are demonstrating an interest and aptitude for working at the intersection of science and policy.

Recipients of the AIBS Emerging Public Policy Leadership Award receive:

  • A trip to Washington, DC, to participate in the AIBS Congressional Visits Day, an annual event where scientists meet with lawmakers to advocate for federal investment in the biological sciences, with a primary focus on the National Science Foundation. The event will be held on March 18-20, 2019. Domestic travel and hotel expenses are paid for the winners.
  • Policy and communications training, including information on the legislative process and trends in federal science funding, and how to engage with policymakers and the news media.
  • Meetings with lawmakers 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 2019 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. Prior recipients, including Honorable Mentions, are not eligible for the award.

Applications are due by 05:00 PM Eastern Time on January 14, 2019. The application guidelines can be downloaded at http://www.aibs.org/public-policy/eppla.html.

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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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