Action Alert: Ask Your Members of Congress to Support NSF

Congress has begun its work to set funding levels for federal programs for fiscal year (FY) 2020. Scientists interested in the National Science Foundation (NSF) should consider contacting their U.S. Representative and Senators to ask that they provide NSF with $9 billion in FY 2020.

NSF is the primary federal funding source for discovery-driven biological research at our nation’s universities and colleges. The agency provides approximately 69% of extramural federal support for non-medical biological and environmental research at academic institutions.

The President’s budget request for FY 2020 proposes a 12.5 percent cut to NSF, including a 13 percent reduction to its research activities. This budget hurts research and undermines the nation’s ability to address national challenges.

If funded at $9 billion, NSF can accelerate progress on its 10 Big Ideas, expand support for early career researchers, and create new interdisciplinary research programs. Moreover, this investment will sustain core research and education programs that are vital to U.S. competitiveness.

Interested individuals can send a letter to their members of Congress from the AIBS Legislative Action Center.

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NOAA Facing Deep Cuts in FY 2020

Under the President’s budget request for fiscal year (FY) 2020, funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) would be cut by nearly 18 percent to $4.5 billion.

The Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) would receive $335.1 million (- 41 percent), with funding for climate research activities slashed by 45 percent. Competitive grants for climate-change research, which received $60 million in FY 2019, would be terminated. The plan calls for eliminating NOAA’s Air Resources Laboratory in College Park, Maryland (-$4.8 million), which studies air chemistry and atmospheric transport of hazardous chemicals. The Unmanned Aircraft Systems Program Office (-$5.4 million) that supervises the use of aircraft for weather, polar, and marine observations would also be terminated.

The National Marine Fisheries Service is slated to receive an 18 percent reduction in discretionary funding to $843 million, with significant cuts to Protected Resources Science and Management (-5.2 percent), Fisheries Science and Management (-9 percent), and Habitat Conservation and Restoration (-33 percent).

The FY 2020 budget proposes significantly decreased funding for the National Ocean Service (-36.5 percent). Large cuts are proposed for coastal science and assessment (-43 percent) as well as navigation, observations, and positioning activity (-15 percent).

The request would eliminate $273 million in grants, including the National Sea Grant College Program (-$80 million), the National Estuarine Research Reserve System (-$27 million), coastal zone management grants (-$75.5 million), and the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund (-$65 million). The National Sea Grant College Program supports more than thirty American universities that conduct research, education, and training programs on ocean-related topics.

The budget also proposes to gut the Office of Education (-97 percent), eliminating the competitive education grants (-$3 million), an educational partnership program with minority serving institutions (-$16 million), and watershed education and training programs (-$7.5 million). The remaining $1 million would be targeted towards STEM education activities.

Acting NOAA Director Neil Jacobs defended the budget request during a hearing held by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies on March 27. “I believe this budget request meets NOAA’s core mission while also positioning the agency to be more efficient and effective moving forward,” Jacobs told lawmakers. “In the budget situation we’re in, we had to make tough choices,” he added. Jacobs replaced retired Rear Adm. Timothy Gallaudet as NOAA’s acting chief last month.

During the budget hearing, Jacobs listed priorities for the agency in 2020, which included reducing the impacts of extreme weather and water events, better forecasting, maximizing the economic contributions of ocean and coastal resources, and advancing space innovation.

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New AIBS Report on Biological Sciences in the President's FY 2020 Budget

A new report from the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) provides an analysis of the President’s fiscal year (FY) 2020 budget request for biological sciences research and education.

The report provides an overview and analysis of the budget request for several federal agencies and programs, including the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Standards and Technology, United States Geological Survey, Department of Energy Office of Science, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Environmental Protection Agency, among others.

The report is available here.

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843 Organizations Urge Congress to Raise Spending Caps

The American Institute of Biological Sciences was among 843 national, state, and local organizations that called upon federal lawmakers to negotiate a new budget agreement that provides relief from budget sequestration for nondefense discretionary programs.

An excerpt from the letter reads, “Congress and the President must work together to reach a new agreement that averts the cuts that would be required under the Budget Control Act and allows us to make smart investments in our nation’s future. In reaching an agreement, new investment must be balanced between nondefense and defense programs, as strong investments in both NDD and defense are necessary to keep our country competitive, safe, and secure.”

Since 2013, budget sequestration has dramatically cut funding available for federal programs that support research, environmental stewardship, education, housing, foreign aid, and other programs.

Congress has since reached three budget agreements, in 2013, 2015 and 2018, to lessen the extent of sequestration. The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 expires on 1 October 2019. Unless amended, sequestration limits would be triggered resulting in cuts to federal programs. Nondefense spending would decrease by 9 percent or $54 billion and defense spending would be trimmed by 11 percent or $71 billion. Several science agencies, including the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), could experience cuts if the budget caps are not raised prior to FY 2020.

Congress remains divided on the issue of raising spending caps. The House Budget Committee on April 3 approved a bill raising defense and nondefense spending caps by $133 billion over fiscal years (FY) 2020 and 2021. The bill would raise FY 2020 caps on nondefense spending by $34 billion, to $631 billion, and increase defense spending by $17 billion, to $664 billion. In FY 2021, the nondefense cap would increase to $646 billion, while the defense cap would increase to $680 billion. However, divisions within House Democrats forced congressional leadership to abandon a vote on the bill to raise caps and instead adopt a procedural “deeming” measure that would set the top line for discretionary spending at $1.295 trillion for FY 2020, a 10 percent increase over the sequester level. Meanwhile, the Senate budget panel has passed a distinctly different measure that would adhere to the current spending caps. The House and Senate leadership have agreed to begin preliminary discussions on a possible two-year budget deal but it remains to be seen how the budget cap negotiations play out.

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Lawmakers Introduce Bill to Address Sexual Harassment in Science

Democratic Senators have introduced a bill to address sexual harassment in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. On April 4, 2019, Senators Kamala Harris (D-CA), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), introduced the Combating Sexual Harassment in Science Act of 2019, which would authorize $17.4 million per year in funding to address the causes and consequences of sexual harassment in STEM.

The bill comes in response to a National Academies’ study published in 2018 that found that 50 percent of women in STEM fields say they have been sexually harassed. A companion measure was introduced in the House by House Science Committee Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) in January 2019.

The legislation directs the National Science Foundation (NSF) to award grants to expand research into sexual harassment in the STEM workforce and to examine “interventions” to prevent and respond to such harassment. The bill also asks NSF to work with federal statistical agencies to gather national data on the “prevalence, nature, and implications of such harassment in institutions of higher education.”

In addition, NSF would work with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to update a “responsible conduct guide” and to study the impact of sexual harassment on the careers of individuals in the STEM workforce. Additionally, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy would develop uniform policy guidelines for federal science agencies to prevent and respond to reports of sexual harassment.

The bill has been endorsed by several groups, including the American Society of Mammalogists, an AIBS member organization, the American Education Research Association, the American Mathematical Society, the American Physical Society, and the Society of Women Engineers.

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Scientific Societies Oppose Revised Definition of WOTUS

Twelve scientific societies, including the American Institute of Biological Sciences, have submitted comments to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers opposing a proposed rule to revise the definition of the “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS). The new definition would limit the number of wetlands and waterways that would receive federal protections under the Clean Water Act (CWA).

The letter reads, in part, “The proposed redefinition of WOTUS will make it impossible to achieve the objectives of the CWA because it excludes numerous waters and wetlands that directly affect the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of primary waters. Furthermore, many of the definitions and terms in the proposed Rule lack clarity and/or are not based in science. Likewise, many of the criteria for jurisdiction are not based in science and fail to meet the stated goal of clarity, predictability and consistency. Under this proposed Rule, the CWA’s primary goal of maintaining and restoring the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of downstream traditional navigable waters would not be possible. In conclusion, we wish to state in the strongest possible terms that the proposed Rule should be rejected.”

The comments, including a list of signatories, can be found here:

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Scientists Call for National Agenda on Biodiversity Research, Education

The Biodiversity Collections Network (BCoN), an NSF-funded project led by AIBS in partnership with the NSC Alliance and the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections, released its new report, Extending US Biodiversity Collections to Promote Research and Education, at the National Press Club on April 4, 2019.

The report outlines a national agenda that leverages digital data in biodiversity collections for new uses. Informed by a series of workshops and stakeholder discussions, the report aims to stimulate new research endeavors, particularly in areas where biology intersects with other fields and engages students and the public.

To download a brochure describing the plan, please visit:

A podcast with the BCoN Advisory Council is also available:

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Short Takes

  • The National Science Foundation's (NSF) Division of Integrative Organismal Systems (IOS) has announced a new information opportunity; monthly virtual Office Hours. These information sessions are an opportunity to learn about ongoing and new opportunities at NSF. Program Directors will be available on the third Thursday of each month at 1:00 pm Eastern Time to answer questions, discuss current opportunities at NSF, and make NSF accessible to all. The first IOS virtual Office Hour session will be held April 18th, 2019 and will include discussion of the new IOS solicitation, the different tracks within it, and operating details about the new no-submission deadline mechanism. Register at

  • The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Energy Technologies Office's recently announced a funding opportunity, which includes research funding for improving data collection and sharing methods in order to better assess the potential impacts of utility-scale Photo Voltaic and Concentrating Solar Plants on birds (Topic 3.2 in the Funding Opportunity Announcement). The office will host an overview webinar along with five webinars that detail each of the topics. Mandatory letters of intent are due by May 7. More information available at:

  • Senate lawmakers confirmed David Bernhardt as the next Interior Secretary on April 11, 2019. Bernhardt is currently serving as the Acting Interior Secretary after former Secretary Ryan Zinke resigned from the position in December 2018. Bernhardt previously served as the Deputy Interior Secretary after being confirmed by the Senate in August 2017.

  • A bipartisan legislation to provide permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has been introduced by Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV). The bill would make funding for the LWCF mandatory at its current authorized annual level of $900 million. The bill currently has 17 co-sponsors.

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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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