AIBS Urges Congress to Include Scientific Societies in COVID-19 Economic Measures

The American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) has asked congressional leaders to include scientific societies and organizations in economic measures crafted to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

AIBS noted, in part: “As Congress considers the economic costs of COVID-19, we request that you include in any economic recovery and resilience measures non-profit scientific societies and organizations. Professional societies and research institutions are suffering significant economic impacts from cancelling scientific conferences, workshops, and other meetings. For many professional associations/scientific societies, annual meetings, regional and topical conferences are one of the primary ways that scientists share information. These meetings are also one of the core revenue sources that sustain the work of these non-profit organizations. Scientific societies have been at the forefront of the public response to COVID-19. Often, cancelling programs to reduce exposure risks prior to any request or directive from government and public health officials.”

To read AIBS’s letters, visit

In related news, the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) has written to Mr. Larry Kudlow, Director of the White House National Economic Council urging that tax-exempt associations suffering from event cancellations and reduced meetings attendance be considered in any federal aid package. Additionally, ASAE draws attention to the fact that “many associations operate similarly to small businesses and are greatly impacted if employees are forced to take sick leave or quarantined as a result of COVID-19 interaction.” The letter further reads, “We are aware that the Administration is considering measures for small businesses that may require cash flow assistance amid the outbreak, and ask that tax-exempt entities not be excluded from any temporary aid designed to stem the economic fallout resulting from COVID-19.” Read ASAE’s letter here:

Congress is currently working on what is anticipated to be the first of a series of economic relief packages.

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AIBS Testimony: Support Increased Funding for Science

The American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) has provided testimony to House and Senate Appropriations Committees regarding fiscal year (FY) 2021 funding for the National Science Foundation and biological research programs within the Smithsonian Institution, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

AIBS urged Congress to reject the deep cuts proposed in the President’s budget request and to continue its bipartisan tradition of investing in our nation’s scientific capacity.

In testimony to the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, AIBS urged Congress to provide new funding to the Smithsonian Institution with at least $55 million to support scientific and curatorial work within the National Museum of Natural History; provide the USGS with $1.35 billion, with at least $260 million for its Ecosystems mission area; restore funding for Science Support in USFWS to the FY 2020 enacted level of $17.3 million; and provide EPA Science and Technology with at least $760 million.

As noted in the testimony: “The loss of biological diversity and the concomitant negative implications for human health and well-being are of significant concern. As human population grows and people increasingly come into contact with new environments and species migrating into new habitats, the risk of new diseases, such as zoonotic pandemics, is of growing concern. Biological diversity offers a buffer against the spread of pathogens. Biological diversity contributes to environmental sustainability and increases our resilience to natural disasters. Robust federal investments in scientific research and monitoring that improves our understanding of biological diversity and ecosystem function must be a priority. The agencies funded by this appropriations bill are centrally involved in conducting, supporting, and using this scientific research for public benefit.”

AIBS encouraged Congress to provide NSF with at least $9 billion in FY 2021 in written testimony to the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies.

“The President’s budget request for FY 2021 proposes a 6.5 percent cut to NSF, including a 7.8 percent reduction of its research activities. If enacted, this budget will hurt research and undermine the nation’s ability to address national challenges. Congress provided NSF with $8.278 billion in funding for FY 2020, an increase of 2.5 percent. This increase allows for critical federal investments in scientific and educational research as well as support for the development of the scientific workforce. We encourage Congress to continue supporting increased investments in our nation’s scientific capacity,” AIBS testified.

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Biden's COVID-19 Plan Stresses Action on Climate Change

Former Vice President and 2020 Presidential Candidate Joe Biden has proposed a new plan to address the new coronavirus disease, COVID-19, and to prepare for future global health threats. The plan argues that aggressive action on climate change is needed to combat health threats such as infectious diseases.

“The link between climate change and health security is well-documented and will create a growing threat to Americans,” according to Biden’s proposal. “A Biden Administration will recommit the United States to the Paris Agreement on day one and lead an effort to get every major country to ramp up the ambition of their domestic climate targets. As President, Biden will fully integrate climate change into our foreign policy and global health security strategies, and prioritize efforts to mitigate disease and migration challenges caused by a warming planet.”

The plan cites the National Climate Assessment, a congressionally mandated scientific report prepared every four years by scientists from 13 federal agencies, which found that “climate change threatens human health and well-being in many ways, including impacts from increased extreme weather events, wildfire, decreased air quality, and illnesses transmitted by food, water, and diseases carriers such as mosquitoes and ticks.”

It remains to be seen if the pandemic will still be active if Biden is sworn into office in January 2021, but he offered his plan as advice to the Trump administration as well as a look into how his Administration would handle future health threats.

“We should be investing in rebuilding and strengthening the Global Health Security Agenda, which we launched during our administration, specifically to mobilize the world against the threats of new infectious diseases,” said Biden while announcing his plan, reported E&E News. “No President can promise to prevent future outbreaks. But I can promise you this: When I’m President, we will be better prepared, respond better and recover better. We’ll lead with science, we’ll listen to the experts, we’ll heed their advice, we’ll build American leadership and rebuild it to really the world and meet global threats we’ll likely to face again.”

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EPA Broadens "Secret Science" Proposal

On March 3, 2020, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a supplemental addition to the proposed rule “Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science,” also referred to as the “secret science” rule, that would bar the use of scientific studies in crafting regulations unless the underlying data “are publicly available in a manner sufficient for independent validation.”

According to EPA, this supplemental is not a new rulemaking and rather provides clarifications on certain terms and aspects of the proposed rule, first introduced in 2018 by former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. It was reported that EPA was planning to propose this supplemental back in November 2019.

“These additions and clarifications to the proposed rule will ensure that the science supporting the agency’s decisions is transparent and available for independent validation while still maintaining protection of confidential and personally identifiable information,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler.

The supplemental would broaden restrictions on the type of scientific studies EPA can use when crafting regulations. The original proposal applied only to dose-response studies, while the revised plan requires that the agency rely only on studies that make all of their underlying data public. The supplemental also clarifies that the restrictions proposed under the rulemaking applies not only to the agency’s regulatory decisions but also to “influential scientific information” disseminated by the agency. The revisions would also give the EPA Administrator the discretion to consider a study that has not made all its data public.

The revised proposal, however, would not apply retroactively to reverse any existing regulations and would only apply to studies “that are potentially pivotal to EPA’s decisions or influential scientific information that are developed in the future.”

According to critics, restrictions in the updated proposal are more far-reaching than the original proposal. “It’s increasing the damage of the proposed rule,” said Betsy Southerland, former Director of EPA’s Office of Science and Technology, according to a report by E&E News. “Number 1, it expands the scope of the rule, and number 2, by no means does it demonstrate they have a legal authority to do this rulemaking.” She added that the draft fails to identify a need. “They’re putting in nonscientific criteria to decide what science the agency can use,” said Andrew Rosenberg, Director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, according to a report by the New York Times. “Now the most important thing is whether the data is public, not the strength of the scientific evidence.”

There will be a 30 day comment period on the supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking after it is published in the Federal Register. A pre-publication version of the revised proposed rule is available here:

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New AIBS Report on Biological Sciences in the President's FY 2021 Budget

A new report from the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) provides an analysis of the President’s fiscal year (FY) 2021 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 (NIH), 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.

Most federal science agencies would receive budget cuts in FY 2021 if the President’s budget is enacted. Notably, the plan proposes a 7.3 percent cut to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases within NIH. However, the President’s budget request was released prior to the global spread of COVID-19. That development is likely to have significant impacts on FY 2021 funding as the government works to respond to this global issue and also to address the significant economic impacts arising from COVID-19.

The report is available here:

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Registration Open for Writing for Impact and Influence Online Course

The American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) is once again offering its popular 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, 9 July 2020, 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:

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Now Online: 2020 Communications Boot Camp for Scientists

The American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) is offering a professional development program designed to enhance the communication skills of scientists, particularly those interested in communicating with decision-makers and the news media. The program is an excellent way to develop new communication skills and identify effective methods for broadening the impact of research and education programs.

The AIBS Communications Training Boot Camp for Scientists expands on AIBS’s highly successful media and science policy training workshops. The Boot Camp meets the needs of everyone from graduate students to senior researchers and program administrators to newly elected professional society leaders.

In light of the recent COVID-19 pandemic, the Boot Camp will be offered as an intensive, two-day, hands-on online training program on April 20-21, 2020.

Participants will learn:

  • How to translate scientific findings for non-technical audiences
  • How to tell a resonant story that informs decision-makers
  • How to prepare for and participate in a news interview
  • How to prepare for and engage in a meeting with a decision-maker
  • How to protect your scientific reputation
  • How to identify and define the audience you need to reach
  • What decision-makers want to hear from a scientist
  • What reporters are looking for in an interview
  • How to leverage social media
  • How the nation’s science policy is developed and implemented

Learn more about the program and register now at

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Now Online: Enabling Interdisciplinary and Team Science

Reports abound from professional societies, the Academies, government agencies, and researchers calling attention to the fact that science is increasingly an interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary, inter-institutional, and international endeavor. In short, science has become a “team sport.”

There is a real and present need to better prepare scientists for success in this new collaborative environment. The American Institute of Biological Sciences is responding to this call with a new program for scientists, educators, and individuals who work with or participate in scientific teams.

Team science is increasingly common in 21st century biological, life, and environmental sciences. Collaboration is no longer limited to sharing ideas with the biologist in the lab next door. The questions confronting science often require teams that may include a mix of computer and information scientists, physical and social scientists, mathematicians, ethicists, policy and management experts, as well as community stakeholders and citizen scientists. Adding to this complexity, teams span programs within organizations, cross organization boundaries to form institutional consortia, and often include international partners.

This intensive, two-day, interactive, professional development course was designed by scientists and experts on collaboration and teamwork to provide participants with the knowledge and skills required to become productive and effective members of scientific teams. From its first offering the course has evolved to include a greater focus on team planning and teamwork, and less time allocated to university administration of interdisciplinary teams.

Nothing teaches collaboration like practicing collaboration. This is not a course that asks you to learn in isolation. It is a microcosm of scientific collaboration, with extensive hands-on learning as part of a scientific team, with scientific case studies and examples.

The Enabling Interdisciplinary and Team Science course is designed for anyone involved in collaborative scientific endeavors. Team leaders will find the course especially helpful. Because participants will work on “real-world” team science concerns, we encourage multiple members of a team to attend together. We can also customize the course and bring it to your university, department, lab, or research team. This course provides the right foundation from which your team can successfully accomplish your goals.

In light of the recent COVID-19 pandemic, the April 27-28, 2020 workshop will now be offered as an online program. Register at

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AIBS Postpones Congressional Visits Day, Moves to Online Advocacy Events

In light of the recent COVID-19 pandemic, AIBS has determined that the appropriate course of action at this time is to postpone the annual Congressional Visits Day scheduled for April 22. In the coming weeks, we will evaluate options for rescheduling the event for a time this fall.

We appreciate your flexibility and commitment to science-informed public policy. In the coming weeks, AIBS will be sharing opportunities to communicate with members of Congress through the online AIBS Legislative Action Center. We will also organize a “call-in” day - a coordinated event where participants will call members of Congress to express support for science.

Scientists, graduate students, educators, or other science community members who are interested in advocating for scientific research and education are encouraged to participate in these virtual efforts.

If you would like to participate in these efforts, please fill out the interest form available at

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Short Takes

  • The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) has extended the comment periods for two recent Requests for Information. The deadline to submit comments on open access publishing is now April 6, 2020. With this solicitation, the OSTP is requesting recommendations on approaches for ensuring broad public access to the peer-reviewed scholarly publications, data, and code that result from federally funded scientific research. Details about the submission process can be found at: Comments on a draft set of desirable characteristics of data repositories used to locate, manage, share, and use data resulting from federally funded research can now be submitted until March 17, 2020. More information is available at:

  • The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) Committee on Biological and Physical Sciences in Space is seeking community input for their next Decadal Survey on Physical and Biological Science in Space. Sponsored by NASA, the survey will establish priorities and provide recommendations for research in microgravity and partial gravity for the coming decade. This is an opportunity to provide preliminary ideas regarding key issues, challenges, and emerging topics about physical and biological research that can only be done in space. More information available at:

  • The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is requesting written stakeholder input on agency services, "to assist NIFA in optimizing delivery of services and better serve stakeholders' and partners' research, extension, and education needs." Written input on certain target questions can be submitted to until 5:00 PM Eastern time on April 03, 2020. More information about the solicitation is available at:

  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is soliciting nominations for members of its Science Advisory Board (SAB). The SAB, comprised of approximately fifteen members, advises the Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and the NOAA Administrator on long- and short-range strategies for research, education, and application of science to resource management and environmental assessment and prediction. Applications can be submitted electronically to until April 23, 2020. More information can be found at:

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