Government Shutdown Averted, Speaker Fight Halts Appropriations Work
The federal government came within hours of a shutdown on September 30th, which was averted when Congress passed a deal to keep the government operating for 45 more days. The Continuing Resolution maintains Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 funding while negotiations for FY 2024 continue.
Those fiscal conversations are being complicated by the current vacancy for House Speaker; Representative Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) was voted to be removed from that office days after the shutdown deal was reached.
Until a new Speaker is elected, regular legislative business has come to a halt in the House of Representatives.
In the days leading up to the passage of the Continuing Resolution, the House passed three appropriations bills, but failed to advance a fourth bill when Democrats and nearly two dozen Republicans voted against it. The Agriculture, Rural Development, and Food and Drug Administration appropriations bill included funding cuts even deeper than agreed to as part of the deal to raise the debt limit this summer.
The Biden Administration issued a statement saying that President Joe Biden would veto the House bill if passed as the legislation breaks the deal to hold non-defense programs roughly flat.
Those additional cuts to agriculture programs made the bill unpalatable to some Republicans. For instance, an amendment put forth by Representative Andy Harris (R-MD), who chairs the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, cut an additional $1.2 billion from the bill--a roughly 5 percent cut.
The House bill would have funded intramural research in the Agricultural Research Service at $1.7 billion, an increase of $1.3 million relative to last year but $192.8 million less than the President's budget request. Extramural agricultural research in the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) was proposed to receive $1.1 billion, a cut of $8.9 million from FY 2023 and $853 million less than the President's budget request.
Among the amendments adopted during debate on the House floor include elimination of funding for regional Climate Hubs, which research climate impacts on agriculture.
An amendment sponsored by Representative Andy Biggs (R-AZ) to cut funding for NIFA to FY 2019 levels was rejected in a vote of 106 in favor to 323 against.
Since the bill failed to get a majority vote in the House of Representatives, changes will likely need to be worked out before the House takes the bill back up.
Senators Get Update on CHIPS and Science Act Implementation
The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee held a hearing last week on the implementation of the CHIPS and Science Act.
Committee Chair Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) noted that the law is already having a positive impact, spurring more than $200 billion in private sector investment from semiconductor companies. She called on Congress to fully fund the CHIPS and Science Act, otherwise risk not realizing the full potential of the law. "[Two] previous attempts at competitiveness bills fell short because the funding was not realized," said Senator Cantwell. "We know that our foreign adversaries are not waiting. We know that our strategic competitors are also moving ahead. And we need to make this investment to ... de-risk the supply chain, and make sure we are innovating and translating our science faster."
In the year since the law was passed, the Department of Commerce launched two rounds of funding, receiving more than 500 statements of interest from companies hoping to receive federal monies to establish and grow semiconductor research and manufacturing activities in the U.S. Nearly 400 entities applied for funding through the Regional Technology and Innovation Hub Program to start, grow, and retain "centers of innovation and job creation."
National Science Foundation (NSF) Director Sethuraman Panchanathan told the committee that by the end of this year, his agency will have invested nearly $200 million in regional innovation and $20 million at 49 institutions of higher education to build capacity at minority-serving institutions. Funding for NSF's Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) has also increased because of the law. Under the law, NSF is required to increase the percentage of the agency's investments in EPSCoR jurisdictions over seven years to 20 percent. In FY 2023, NSF exceeded the statutory target of 15.5 percent.
During the hearing, Ranking Member Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) raised concerns about the government "picking winners and losers" as well as requirements included in agency regulations to protect the environment, provide workplace childcare, and other labor protections.
Senator Cruz also used the hearing to raise concerns about 70 NSF-funded research grants on countering disinformation on social media.
The CHIPS and Science Act was enacted in 2022 with bipartisan support to significantly boost semiconductor manufacturing and scientific research in the United States. The law authorizes over a five year period $81 billion for NSF, $50 billion for the Office of Science in the Department in the Energy, and $10 billion for the National Institute of Standards and Technology. It also codified NSF's new Directorate for Technology, Innovation, and Partnerships and authorized the Regional Innovation Engines program to encourage new businesses in parts of the U.S. that have typically been left out of the technology boom.
Senate Fails to Overturn Endangered Species Protections
Enhanced protections for two endangered species will stand in the wake of a pair of presidential vetoes and subsequent failed override votes in the Senate.
President Joe Biden vetoed S.J. Res. 24, a joint resolution that would have prevented the elevation of the northern long-eared bat from threatened to endangered species status. Species designated as endangered receive greater federal protections than threatened species. The northern long-eared bat was designated as a threatened species in 2015. Since then, the continued spread of white-nose syndrome, a disease caused by the fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans, has placed the species at increased risk.
In his veto message, President Biden stated that "The northern long-eared bat now faces extinction due to white-nose syndrome, a deadly disease that has spread across approximately 79 percent of the northern long-eared bat's entire range and is expected to affect 100 percent of the species' range by the end of the decade... S.J. Res. 24 would overturn a science-based rulemaking that follows the requirements of the law, and thereby undermines the ESA [Endangered Species Act]."
The second resolution, S.J. Res. 9, would have prevented the lesser prairie-chicken from being listed as endangered for its southern population and as threatened for its northern population. The presidential veto message stated that approximately 90 percent of the historical habitat of the species has been lost. "The lesser prairie-chicken serves as an indicator for healthy grasslands and prairies, making the species an important measure of the overall health of America's grasslands. If enacted, S.J. Res. 9 would undermine America's proud wildlife conservation traditions, risk the extinction of a once-abundant American bird, and create uncertainty for landowners and industries who have been working for years to forge the durable, locally led conservation strategies that this rule supports."
Only 47 votes were cast by Senators in favor of overriding the vetoes; two-thirds were required. Given these votes, the protections remain in place.
2023 AIBS Council Meeting - Expanding the IDEA
Scientific institutions increasingly recognize the need to remove barriers for individuals historically underrepresented in science and to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). A wider breadth of scientific competencies--achieved by expanding DEI--is needed to address critical concerns with worldwide impacts. Improving DEI requires a significant cultural shift, and scientific societies provide a unique platform to lead these cultural changes in the biological sciences. Scientific societies represent a wide variety of individuals and institutions; they have access to multiple fields of biology to impart resources and education; and they can enable networking and idea sharing across many disciplines and organizations to empower new approaches.
AIBS released a Diversity Plan in 2021, updated in 2023, which focused on actions that centered on three of our core activities: assessment, training, and communication. AIBS has worked to assess our current programs as well as to develop and expand programs and policies that increase diversity, equity, and inclusion in the biological sciences. AIBS was able to successfully lay the foundation for programs and activities that will achieve these ends.
One major focus of our activities in 2021 was to expand the annual meeting of the AIBS Council of Member Societies and Organizations, also known as the IDEA2 conference. The IDEA2 conference focuses on Enabling Scientific Societies to Support Inclusive, Diverse, Equitable, Accepting, Accessible (IDEA2) Scientific Environments. The first meeting of the conference was held in November of 2021. The outcomes from this meeting have been published as a special report in our premier journal, BioScience.
The 2022 IDEA conference was a series of mini-sessions that culminated with the annual meeting of the AIBS Council of Member Societies and Organizations. The 3 mini-sessions focused on society commitment to DEI and explored internal structure, external communication and assessment.
The focus of this year's meeting will be Expanding the IDEA. On November 30th, the meeting will bring like-minded organizations together to identify collaboration opportunities, needed resources, and future activities.
Who should attend?
- Officers of AIBS member societies and organizations (MSOs), particularly those in one of the following positions: representative to the AIBS Council, president or president-elect, executive director or senior staff.
- Members of AIBS MSOs' diversity committee or director/manager of diversity initiatives.
- Members of AIBS MSOs interested in diversity, equity, and inclusion in science
Student members of AIBS MSOs interested in diversity, equity, and inclusion in science.
Registration for the 2023 IDEA Conference is now open. Please complete the registration form as soon as possible as space is limited.
Nominations Sought for the IDEA2L Leadership Award
Nominations are now being accepted for the AIBS Inspiring Inclusivity, Diversity, Equity, Acceptance, Accessibility, and Learning (IDEA2L) Leadership Award, which recognizes commendable leadership in advancing inclusion, diversity, equity, acceptance, accessibility, and learning in the biological sciences community.
Awards will be made at the discretion of the AIBS IDEA2 Committee, which may choose one award, no award, or multiple awards in any one year.
Individual award recipients are recognized at the AIBS Annual Council meeting and receive complimentary registration to an AIBS Professional Development Training Course. Recipients are also given a $500 honorarium or the option of donating the amount to an AIBS Initiative.
Anyone may submit a nomination for the IDEA2L Award with the candidate's permission. Self-nominations are accepted. Nominations must clearly document why the candidate should be considered, above all others, for this distinguished award.
Learn more about the nomination and selection process.
BioScience Talks Podcast: On Site at the Joint Meeting of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists
Th latest episode of BioScience Talks was recorded on location at the Joint Meeting of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists in Norfolk, Virginia, and features a range of presenters and organizers. Guests include Sinlan Poo, Curator of Research at the Memphis Zoo and affiliated with Arkansas State University; Prosanta Chakrabarty, Curator of Fishes and a Professor at Louisiana State University's Museum of Natural Science; Erin Anthony, President of the Virginia Herpetological Society; and others. Captions are available on YouTube.
According to a new report, state agencies face challenges in terms of scientific integrity. For instance, only two state agencies have scientific integrity policies, leading to situations where "[s]enior state and local officials routinely reject scientific advice and facts that would lend support to policies they oppose or cast doubt on their leadership," states the report.
The National Academies are seeking nominations for experts in the areas of marine mammals, innovative technologies, carbon sequestration, marine archaeology and cultural resources, and human dimensions of fisheries, among others, for an existing Standing Committee on Environmental Science and Assessment for Ocean Energy Management. Deadline to submit nominations is October 20, 2023.
From the Federal Register
The following items appeared in the Federal Register from September 25 to October 6, 2023.
Executive Office of the President
Health and Human Services
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
National Science Foundation