House Looks at FY 2020 Funding

Appropriators in the U.S. House of Representatives have started to consider spending bills for fiscal year (FY) 2020. Importantly, Congress and the President have not yet reached agreement on a deal to raise the budget caps that are set to kick in later this year, when the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 expires. Unless these spending caps established by the Budget Control Act of 2011 are raised, many programs will experience budget cuts in the next fiscal year.

The House Appropriations Committee advanced the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies appropriations bill, their first spending bill for FY 2020, on May 8. The bill includes $189.9 billion in discretionary funding, an increase of $11.8 billion above the 2019 enacted level and $48 billion above the President’s budget request for FY 2020. The National Institutes of Health would receive $41.1 billion in FY 2020, an increase of $2 billion over the FY 2019 enacted level.

The House Appropriations panel has also approved topline spending numbers for each of the twelve appropriations subcommittees, allocating increases to all 12 spending bills relative to FY 2019 enacted levels. The spending number for Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies, which includes the National Science Foundation, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Institute of Standards and Technology, and National Aeronautics and Space Administration, would increase by $2.3 billion to $66.4 billion. The Energy and Water Development allocation, which includes funding for the Department of Energy Office of Science, would get a boost of $1.8 billion over FY 2019. The panel has also approved spending increases for Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies (+$1.7 billion) and Agriculture (+$1.3 billion).

On May 10, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations advanced their spending bill for the State Department, which includes a provision to keep the U.S. committed to the Paris Climate Agreement. The bill would bar allocation of any funding towards withdrawal from the climate agreement and lift a funding prohibition on the UN Green Climate Fund, which helps developing countries respond to climate change. Earlier this month, the House passed another piece of climate legislation, H.R. 9, that would bar the use of tax-payer funds to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris accord. The measure is unlikely to pass in Senate.

Meanwhile, the Senate is yet to begin marking up appropriations legislation for FY 2020. Republican appropriators in the Senate have expressed an interest in reaching a bipartisan, bicameral agreement on discretionary spending caps as a part of a two-year budget agreement before starting work on appropriations.

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USDA Announces Top Sites for Relocation of NIFA, ERS

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced its top three choices for where it might relocate the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and Economic Research Service (ERS). Multiple sites within Indiana, the Greater Kansas City Region in Missouri, and North Carolina’s Research Triangle region, have been shortlisted.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced the “finalists” on May 3, 2019 from a list of 136 Expressions of Interest from parties in 35 states. Two “alternative locations” were also identified by the department in St. Louis, MO and Madison, WI, in case the top three candidates failed to meet USDA’s needs.

According to USDA, the finalists were selected on the basis of a set of criteria defined by USDA, NIFA, and ERS leadership. Criteria included quality of life, as determined by housing costs, access to healthcare, community safety, etc.; capital and operating costs; availability of labor workforce in the region; IT infrastructure availability; and logistics such as airport accessibility and proximity to customers.

Democratic lawmakers on the House Appropriations Committee have indicated that they will likely include language in the fiscal year 2020 spending bill to slow down or block the relocation, according to E&E News. However, the move has support from Republican lawmakers in the Senate.

Last September, more than 100 stakeholder groups, including AIBS, raised questions and concerns about the impact of the relocation on NIFA’s relationship with its stakeholders and other federal agencies, its staff recruitments.

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UN Panel Warns of Unprecedented Species Extinction

A new report by the United Nation’s (UN) Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) warns that about a million species of plants and animals worldwide face extinction within the next few decades.

“Nature is declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history - and the rate of species extinctions is accelerating, with grave impacts on people around the world now likely,” warned the report, released on May 6, 2019.

According to the report, land-use change resulting from agriculture and urban developments and disruption of marine environments are the biggest threats to species. “More than a third of the world’s land surface and nearly 75 percent of freshwater resources are now devoted to crop or livestock production,” the report states. Urban areas have more than doubled since 1992 and 66 percent of the marine environment has been significantly altered by humans.

Other drivers of biodiversity loss include direct exploitation of organisms, climate change, pollution, and invasive species. The report concludes that climate change is a “direct driver that is increasingly exacerbating the impact of other drivers on nature and human well-being.”

The panel asserts that current efforts to prevent the loss of biodiversity are failing and that most of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets set for 2020 under the UN Convention on Biodiversity will not be met, although some progress is possible.

The authors urge governments across the globe to address the global loss of biodiversity along with anthropogenic climate change. The report, by 7 lead co-authors from universities across the world, suggests that if no action is taken to reduce the intensity of drivers of biodiversity loss, “there will be a further acceleration in the global rate of species extinction, which is already at least tens to hundreds of times higher than it has averaged over the past 10 million years.”

The report is a result of a 3-year assessment done by nearly 150 authors from 50 nations. IPBES is an intergovernmental body of 132 member countries, including the U.S., which is responsible for assessing the state of biodiversity and the ecosystem services it provides in order to inform decision makers. Read a summary of the findings: https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/blog/2019/05/nature-decline-unprecedented-report/

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Help Inform Science Policy This Summer

Registration is now open for the 2019 Biological Sciences Congressional District Visits event.

This national initiative, organized by the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) is an opportunity for scientists from across the country to meet with their federal or state elected officials to showcase the people, facilities, and equipment that are required to support and conduct scientific research and education.

Now in its eleventh year, the event enables scientists, graduate students, representatives of research facilities, and people affiliated with scientific collections to meet with their federal or state elected officials without traveling to Washington, DC. Participants may either invite their elected officials to visit their research facility or can meet at the policymaker’s local office. AIBS works with participants to schedule the meetings with lawmakers and prepare participants through online training and one-on-one support.

“When I found out about the AIBS Biological Sciences Congressional District Visits, I thought that this would be a perfect way to share not only my passion about my work but also my concerns and interests with a local government representative that might be able to influence policy and share advice about how to become even more involved,” said 2018 participant Khailee Marischuk. “I had not had any previous experience with this type of meeting, but AIBS did a fantastic job connecting me with my State Representative and preparing me for the lab tour and conversation. My meeting with Representative Terese Berceau was incredibly rewarding as she shared our enthusiasm for scientific research and our passion for promoting science policy for elected officials and the general public alike, along with giving our group insight in how best to make our voices and opinions known and heard. It was a thought-provoking discussion for me and hopefully everyone else involved.”

The event is made possible by AIBS, with the support of event sponsors American Society of Plant Taxonomists, Botanical Society of America, Helminthological Society of Washington, Natural Science Collections Alliance, Paleontological Society, Society for Freshwater Science, Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections, and Society for the Study of Evolution and event supporter Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology.

Participation is free, but registration is required. Registration will close on July 10, 2019. For more information and to register, visit https://www.aibs.org/public-policy/congressionaldistrictvisits.html

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Increase Your Career Opportunities and Your Impact: 2019 AIBS Writing for Impact and Influence Course

The American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) is offering a professional development program to help scientists and students hone their written communication skills to increase the power of their message.

Writing for Impact and Influence combines practical instruction and hands-on exercises to improve participants’ general writing proficiency and their ability to reach large audiences. The program will provide participants with the skills and tools needed to compose scientific press releases, blog posts, emails, and memoranda.

Learn to write for stakeholders, decision-makers, and the general public, with a focus on perfecting the reader experience.

The course consists of six 90-minute online modules conducted live and will begin on Thursday, July 11, 2019, with subsequent course sessions held weekly on Thursdays. Individuals who actively participate in and complete the full course will receive a certificate recognizing that they have completed a nine-hour professional development course on business writing for scientists.

Register now: http://io.aibs.org/writing

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AIBS Webinar: Grant Proposal Development

Join Dr. Julie Cwikla in a discussion about grant proposal development. The webinar will focus on - Art, Architecture, and Attitude - all important in building a competitive grant proposal.

Dr. Cwikla holds degrees in Mathematics, Chemistry, Applied Mathematics, and Mathematics Education. She serves as Director of Creativity & Innovation in STEM at the University of Southern Mississippi. Her research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, NASA, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Department of Education, Craig Newmark Philanthropies, and others. A recipient of the National Science Foundation’s “Early CAREER Award” she’s directed over $15 million in funded research programs serving children, teachers, professors, and families. She was named 2019 Ada Lovelace STEM Educator and just released Good to Great Grant Writing: Secrets to Success.

Date: Thursday, May 16, 2019 Time: 2:00 - 3:00 PM Eastern Daylight Time.

Register at: https://www.aibs.org/events/webinar/grant-proposal.html

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Short Takes

  • The National Science Board (NSB) is accepting nominations for the NSB Class of 2020-2026 through May 31, 2019. NSB, the oversight and governance board of the National Science Foundation, is seeking recommendations for new Board Members from leading scientific, engineering, and educational organizations, as well as the public. Information about the process and requirements is available at: https://www.nsf.gov/nsb/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=298427

  • The National Science Foundation (NSF) is requesting ideas for future NSF Convergence Accelerator tracks that build on the foundational research developed by its 10 Big Ideas, or on other topics that may not relate directly to a Big Idea but that may have significant scientific and societal impact. More information about the Request for Information and how to submit your ideas are available at: https://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2019/nsf19065/nsf19065.jsp?WT.mc_id=USNSF_25&WT.mc_ev=click

  • The National Institutes of Health (NIH) will be imposing term limits on midlevel leadership positions starting next year, according to a report by Science Insider. The new policy would limit the 272 lab and branch chiefs who oversee NIH's intramural research to three 4-year terms. Nearly half of the chiefs are set to reach their term limits in the next five years. "We see this as an opportunity for diversity in the leadership at NIH, especially gender and ethnic diversity," said Hannah Valantine, NIH's Chief Officer for Scientific Workforce Diversity. Deputy Director for Intramural Research, Michael Gottesman, noted that exceptions could be made when a turnover would have "serious consequences," for example if there are no good candidates for the job. A draft version of the policy was released in January 2019 and is currently being finalized. The policy will not apply to the scientific directors of NIH's 23 institutes, but according to Valantine, term limits could "move up to other kinds of leadership."

  • A new report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, Reproducibility and Replicability in Science, recommends steps that researchers, academic institutions, journals, and funders can take to strengthen rigor and transparency in order to improve the reproducibility and replicability of scientific research. Read more at: http://www8.nationalacademies.org/onpinews/newsitem.aspx?RecordID=25303

  • President Trump has announced his intention to nominate former energy lobbyist Robert Wallace to be the next Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife, and Parks for the Department of the Interior, a position that has remained vacant since the beginning of this Administration. He has previously served as Assistant Director of Legislative and Congressional Affairs for the National Park Service. Wallace has also served in various positions on Capitol Hill, including Chief of Staff to former Senator Malcolm Wallop (R-WY) and Staff Director of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

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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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