Congress Passes Third Coronavirus Relief Package, Includes Research Funding

On March 27, 2020, Congress passed the “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act” or “CARES Act,” the largest economic stimulus package in U.S. history to address economic impacts of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. President Trump signed the measure on the same day. The $2 trillion stimulus package includes economic relief measures to help individuals, small businesses, and “severely distressed” industry sectors deal with the impacts of the outbreak. Funds are also provided to support coronavirus-related research.

The legislation provides $4.3 billion to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to support public health preparedness and response and $1.25 billion in funding for federal research agencies to support research to understand the disease.

The measure allocates $76 million for the National Science Foundation (NSF), including $75 million for Research and Related Activities “to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus, domestically or internationally, including to fund research grants and other necessary expenses,” and $1 million to address impacts on the grant administration process. The research allocation will support NSF’s ongoing Rapid Response Research (RAPID) funding mechanism in response to coronavirus. RAPID grants fast-track time-sensitive research by allowing NSF “to receive and review proposals having a severe urgency with regard to availability of or access to data, facilities or specialized equipment as well as quick-response research on natural or anthropogenic disasters and similar unanticipated events.” NSF has invited such proposals in a recently shared Dear Colleague Letter.

Other provisions in the stimulus package include:

  • $945.5 million for the National Institutes of Health for “vaccine, therapeutic, and diagnostic research to increase our understanding of COVID-19, including underlying risks to cardiovascular and pulmonary conditions.”
  • $20 million for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to support agency operations and National Weather Service life and property related services.
  • $60 million for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration for operational adjustments associated with rescheduling missions.
  • $99.5 million for the Department of Energy Office of Science for the operation of the national laboratory scientific user facilities, including support for equipment and personnel associated with research and development efforts related to coronavirus.
  • $6 million for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to support agency operations during the emergency, including “research and measurement science activities to improve coronavirus testing capabilities and support development of coronavirus diagnostics.”
  • $3 million for the United States Forest Service for its research account “to re-establish scientific experiments impacted by travel restrictions, such as the Forest Inventory and Analysis program.”

Additionally, the package provides financial aid for universities that have shut down as a result of the pandemic, with some of the funding directed to support disrupted research. The Department of Education would receive $30.9 billion in “flexible funding” that will go directly to states, local school districts, and institutions of higher education “to help schools, students, teachers, and families with immediate needs related to coronavirus.” This includes $14.25 billion for higher education, at least half of which would be directed to support students “facing urgent needs related to coronavirus” and the rest would be used to “support institutions as they cope with the immediate effects of coronavirus and school closures.”

On March 19, four organizations representing major research institutions and medical schools across the country requested the White House and Congress to increase research spending at federal science agencies by 15 percent or $13 billion to deal with research disruptions. “We anticipate significant impacts on research personnel and students and their work but, given the great uncertainties about the duration of the crisis, we cannot comprehensively quantify all the costs at this time,” noted the Association of American Medical Colleges, the Association of American Universities, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, and the American Council on Education.

This is the third bill passed by Congress in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The first emergency supplemental appropriations package, enacted on March 6, allocated $8.3 billion to respond to the virus, including funds for vaccine development, support for state and local governments, and assistance for affected small businesses. The second bill, enacted on March 18, “guarantees free coronavirus testing, secures paid emergency leave, enhances Unemployment Insurance, strengthens food security initiatives, and increases federal Medicaid funding to states.”

link to this

CARES Act Suspends Tax Provision to Provide Deduction for Donations to Charities, Including Non-Profit Science Organizations

Non-profit organizations, including scientific organizations, are eligible for some of the economic measures included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act enacted on March 27, 2020.

On March 12, 2020, AIBS requested that congressional leaders include scientific societies and organizations in economic measures crafted to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Provisions for 501(c)(3) and other nonprofit organizations in the economic stimulus package include emergency small business loans of up to $10 million to help maintain operations and employee retention payroll tax credits to employers that have seen at least 50 percent reduction in revenue in the first quarter of 2020 compared to the first quarter of 2019. The bill also modifies limitations on charitable donations, with a temporary universal charitable deduction of up to $300 available for cash-only, non-itemized tax filings and the current adjusted gross income limits temporarily suspended for charitable deductions for cash gifts.

link to this

AIBS, Member Societies Ask NSF to Extend Grant Proposal Deadlines

On March 23, 2020, the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS), along with 22 of its member societies, requested the National Science Foundation to extend current grant proposal deadlines in light of the COVID-19 emergency.

“Faculty researchers across the country are actively endeavoring to re-envision their courses for an online instructional environment that is likely to last for at least the balance of the academic year. Faculty members must develop new methods and plans for how they will engage and support their students remotely. At the same time, many are working to minimize damage and loss to on-going research endeavors. Research administrators who are instrumental to the research process are also actively engaged in campus-wide planning and response to the COVID-19 emergency,” reads the letter to NSF. “As the scientific community works to make these important adjustments, they lack the capacity to meet current grant proposal deadlines. They will also find it nearly impossible to sustain progress on current research endeavors.”

The group urged NSF to extend by 30 days any current grant application deadlines and automatically provide a one-year no cost extension to any grant set to expire between March 1 and September 30 of 2020.

On March 26, 2020 NSF shared a list of deadline extensions for current grant proposals, which will be updated regularly. The Biological Sciences Directorate (BIO) shared a letter clarifying that core programs within BIO do not have submission deadlines and that the few programs that do have been extended. Additionally, for current awards, grantees and program officers have flexibility to provide no-cost extensions: “NSF gives all awardee organizations the authority to extend an award for one year of no-cost extension (NCE) without needing to seek NSF approval. That first-year extension is called a Grantee-Approved extension and should be utilized prior to requesting an NSF-Approved extension. Your organization’s grants office simply needs to inform NSF, two weeks prior to the end of the award, that they intend to use a Grantee-Approved NCE by sending a notification to NSF via Research.gov. If additional time beyond the first year of extension is required, a formal request for an NSF-Approved NCE can be submitted by the organization’s grants officer via Research.gov prior to the end date of the grant. BIO program officers will accommodate such requests for a second year of NCE associated with delays due to COVID-19.”

link to this

NSF BIO to Hold Virtual Office Hours on COVID-19 Impacts on Research

The Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO) within the National Science Foundation (NSF) will be holding a series of four BIO-wide virtual office hours where the research community is invited to share concerns, ask questions, or offer suggestions on how the agency can do more to address the national emergency and mitigate the longer-term harm of COVID-19 on U.S. research and training.

Sessions will be held at 4:00 PM EDT on Monday, March 30; 3:00 PM EDT on Tuesday, March 31; 2:00 PM EDT on Wednesday, April 1; and 1:00 PM EDT on Thursday, April 2. Representatives from across BIO will be in attendance during each session.

More information on how to join these virtual sessions is available at https://www.nsf.gov/events/eventsumm.jsp?cntnid=300246&org=NSF.

More information on NSF’s activities and response to COVID-19 is available on this site, which is updated regularly: https://www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/coronavirus/

link to this

Scientific, Medical Groups Call for Lifting Ban on Fetal Tissue Research

A group of 100 research societies, professional organizations, and universities has urged President Trump to lift the ban on federally funded research using human fetal tissue in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic. The groups argued that the restrictions would delay medical research that could lead to new treatments and vaccines for COVID-19.

The letter reads, in part: “The world is facing an unprecedented public health threat that, by some estimates, could claim the lives of over a million Americans. While there are promising treatments in development, we will not know whether these treatments are safe and effective for COVID-19 patients until the clinical trials conclude. The full assessment may take months or years to complete. In the meantime, all biomedical research tools should be made immediately available to develop new treatments, vaccines, and cures to save lives and reduce suffering in the response to COVID-19. Fetal tissue has been critical for the development of other vaccines and therapies for viral pathogens, such as HIV, in the past.”

The Trump Administration first announced that it will restrict federal funding for medical research that uses human fetal tissue from elective abortions in June 2019. Fetal tissue has been used in vaccine research for years. The new policy prohibits all intramural research, or research conducted within the National Institutes of Health (NIH), involving the use of human fetal tissue from elective abortions. Extramural research projects funded by NIH grants involving aborted fetal tissue are now required to go through an additional review process convened by an ethics advisory board. In July 2019, more than 90 science, medical, and academic organizations and institutions, including AIBS, sent a letter to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar expressing strong opposition to the Administration’s fetal tissue research policy.

link to this

DOE Requests Input on COVID-19 Response

The Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science is soliciting ideas about how the Department and the National Laboratories might contribute resources for science and technology efforts and collaborations in response to the national public health emergency.

The scientific community is urged to consider research questions that underpin COVID-19 response and provide input on strategic, priority research directions that may be undertaken using DOE user facilities, computational resources, and enabling infrastructure.

More information is available in this Dear Colleague Letter.

link to this

BioScience, Oxford University Press Share Coronavirus-related Articles with Public

The American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) and Oxford University Press (OUP) have made all coronavirus-related articles published in BioScience freely available.

Relevant articles from other journals published by OUP are also available in the collection (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/coronavirus). As new articles are published, they will be added to this collection. This content is being made freely available in the PubMed Central and World Health Organization databases, with no restrictions on reuse or text- and data-mining.

link to this

Recording of AIBS Webinar on Online Learning Resources Now Available

AIBS hosted a webinar entitled, “Empowering 21st Century Learners through Biodiversity Knowledge: Resources for Online Learning,” on March 24, 2020. The presenter, Dr. Anna Monfils, Professor of Biology at Central Michigan University, talked about the NSF-funded Biodiversity Literacy in Undergraduate Education Network (BLUE).

BLUE has focused efforts on developing and disseminating exemplar educational materials, defining core biodiversity data literacy skills and competencies, and extending the network to engage with communities of scientists advancing similar initiatives. The webinar showcased new resources and a course based undergraduate research exercise for undergraduates that provides opportunities for students to directly engage with digital data resources, facilitate data discovery and exploration, and create inclusive and culturally relevant research experiences.

A recording of the webinar is now available at: https://www.aibs.org/events/webinar/onlineresources.html

link to this

Increase Your Career Opportunities and Your Impact: 2020 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: http://io.aibs.org/writing

link to this

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 https://www.aibs.org/public-policy/communicationsbootcamp.html.

link to this

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 https://www.aibs.org/events/teamscienceevent.html.

link to this

Short Takes

  • The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) has extended the comment period for its request for information on open access publishing. The deadline to submit comments 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: https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2020-03-05/html/2020-04538.htm.

  • The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) has extended the deadline to nominate experts to serve on the standing committee to guide the Gulf Research Program in the design, planning, and implementation of a long-term research effort to improve understanding of the Gulf of Mexico circulation and other Gulf ocean systems. NASEM is seeking individuals with expertise in multidisciplinary oceanographic campaigns, and specifically in oceanographic and atmospheric modeling and forecasting, data communications, and data management. Nominations can be submitted until March 31, 2020 at https://nas.us8.list-manage.com/track/click?u=8dc5d96edd0cea5da1175b8c1&id=ffed9286ed&e=d8aadd5426.

  • The National Science Foundation (NSF) is soliciting input on how to communicate better with the scientific community, in terms of content (funding opportunities, research news, etc.) and method of delivery (email, web, social media). Your input can help NSF curate content to your preferences and improve engagement with the science community. The survey takes about 7 minutes to complete and showcases a pilot video for an informational series called NSF101. The first episode in the series is titled, "Early Career Researcher funding opportunities." The NSF Science Community Outreach Survey is available at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/tellNSF.

link to this

back to Public Policy Reports

Bookmark and Share