Participate in the 2023 AIBS Congressional Visits Day
Join the American Institute of Biological Sciences on April 15-17, 2024 for our annual Congressional Visits Day in Washington, DC.
Meet with your members of Congress to help them understand the important role the federal government plays in supporting the biological sciences. Advocate for federal investments in biological sciences research supported by the National Science Foundation and other federal agencies.
Participants will complete a communications and advocacy training program provided by AIBS that prepares them to be effective advocates for their science. AIBS will provide participants with background information and materials, as well as arrange meetings with lawmakers on April 17.
Who should participate?
Scientists, graduate students, educators, or other science community members who are interested in advocating for scientific research and education are encouraged to participate in this important event.
The ideal participant will:
- Have an interest in science policy.
Work in a scientific profession or be enrolled in graduate school.
- Be able to speak about the importance of biological research funded by federal agencies (e.g. NSF, NIH, USDA).
- Provide compelling examples from their own experiences.
The event includes a free, half-day training session on how to be an effective advocate for science policy. This training session will be held on April 16, 2024 and is mandatory for everyone who will be participating in congressional meetings.
Additionally, participants have the option to attend the highly acclaimed AIBS Communications Boot Camp for Scientists. This training course will be held in Washington, DC on April 15-16, 2024. This professional development program provides practical instruction and interactive exercises designed to help scientists (e.g. researchers, graduate students, administrators, educators) translate scientific information for non-technical audiences and to effectively engage with decision-makers and the news media. All participants who complete this optional training will receive priority access to the Congressional Visits Day and a certificate of completion indicating that they have successfully completed 16 hours of communications training. Click here for more information, including cost, for this two-day training program.
Express your interest in participating in the event by registering. Registration closes on March 1, 2024. Space is limited and we encourage you to register early. If registrations exceed program capacity, AIBS may prioritize registrants based on participation in the boot camp training, geographic diversity, and other factors. Register now.
Appropriations Work Stalled as House Adjourns for the Holidays
Many legislative priorities, including work on fiscal year (FY) 2024 appropriations bills, remain unfinished as we approach the holiday season. The House adjourned last week with plans to return in the new year. The Senate has delayed its holiday recess to iron out a deal on border security and foreign aid.
Both chambers are slated to resume business after the holidays on January 8--only 10 days before the deadline for completing four out of twelve FY 2024 spending bills. Congress will have two more weeks, until February 2, to pass the remaining 8 spending bills. Lawmakers have thus far failed to reach an agreement on new "topline" funding levels to guide bicameral negotiations on appropriations.
Prior to heading into recess, both chambers voted to pass the annual defense policy bill, which authorizes the annual budget of the Department of Defense (DOD). The conferenced version of the National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 2670) excludes certain research security measures and diversity program restrictions that were previously in the House-passed version but not in the Senate's. But the final $886 billion policy bill does place a limitation on DOD from hiring diversity, equity, and inclusion staff until it provides Congress with a comprehensive review of such positions. Furthermore, the House version included controversial language prohibiting "gain of function" research on potential pandemic microorganisms. This provision did not make it into the final bill. President Biden is expected to sign the bill into law.
Earlier this month, the House approved three bills aimed at improving research coordination on a variety of science and technology issues between the Department of Energy (DOE) and other science agencies. These include:
The DOE and NSF Interagency Research Act (R. 2980), which would enhance research coordination between DOE and the National Science Foundation and authorize collaborative research in a number of areas, including advanced physics, fusion science, biological and computational science and engineering, artificial intelligence, quantum information sciences, advanced manufacturing technologies, and microelectronics.
- The DOE and USDA Interagency Research Act (R. 1713), which would authorize collaborations between DOE and the U.S. Department of Agriculture and improve research on advanced biomass and biofuels, electric grid modernization, and invasive species.
The DOE and NASA Interagency Research Coordination Act (R. 2988), which would support cross-cutting and collaborative research between DOE and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, including to enable a future mission to Mars.
Last week, Democrats in the Senate introduced a non-binding resolution calling for a national biodiversity strategy. Introduced by Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and co-sponsored by 5 other Democrats, the resolution expresses the need to establish a strategy that would encourage federal agencies to identify and pursue various actions that could conserve and enhance biodiversity. The resolution also calls for establishing four-year assessments to monitor the progress in addressing the biodiversity crisis. In the House, Representatives Joe Neguse (D-CO) and Jared Huffman (D-CA) introduced a companion resolution in March. The measure has 57 co-sponsors but has yet to receive a committee hearing. Neguse previously introduced the resolution back in January 2021, but the measure failed to advance through Congress.
New Report Sheds Light on the State of Science in America
A new report from the Science and Technology Action Committee--a nonpartisan group of 25 non-profit, academic, foundation, and corporate leaders in the U.S. research community-- provides comprehensive insights on the benefits of science and technology (S&T) investments, the obstacles to advancing S&T, and the challenges facing the U.S. as it engages in global competition.
The "State of Science in America" report surveyed 1,981 professionals currently employed in 5 key sectors, namely healthcare; K-12 education; science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM); military/national security; and business. According to the report, American workers across those sectors share bipartisan concerns about the country's leadership in S&T. They express a bipartisan consensus in favor of increased S&T funding and acknowledge the significant importance of S&T in American society.
A key finding from the report is that the U.S. is perceived to be losing the race for global S&T leadership. More than 75 percent of respondents feel that the U.S. is either currently losing or has already lost this crucial competition, with 60 percent predicting that China will become the leader within the next five years.
A majority of respondents, spanning various political ideologies and sectors, believe that federal funding for S&T is crucial. Approximately 70 percent of all respondents express the view that government investment in S&T should be safeguarded from budget cuts. About 41 percent of respondents attribute the primary responsibility for the strength of S&T to the federal government, surpassing private companies, academic institutions, and non-profits.
Furthermore, a significant majority of respondents, across political affiliations, find the increasing distrust and politicization of science troubling. In addition, concerns about the rapid growth of artificial intelligence are rising, with 39 percent of respondents anticipating a negative impact on society.
Notably, respondents from all surveyed sectors identified the quality of K-12 STEM education as the top obstacle to future scientific advancement in the United States.
The report offers several policy recommendations based on these findings. It calls for the creation of a comprehensive, national strategy for advancing S&T innovation in the U.S., as well as doubling federal investments in S&T over the next 5 years. The report also argues that the U.S. should partner with other nations, both allies and adversaries, on global challenges, and work to ensure a diverse domestic STEM workforce while also cultivating international talent.
NSF Issues Guidelines on the Use of Generative AI in Merit Review
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has issued a notice to the U.S. research community regarding the use of generative artificial intelligence (AI) technology in the NSF merit review process.
In the notice, NSF acknowledges the "great potential" of generative AI systems to support scientific progress and streamline processes, but adds that, "[w]hile NSF will continue to support advances in this new technology, the agency must also consider the potential risks posed by it."
The agency outlines guidelines for reviewers and proposers to safeguard the integrity of its merit review process. Specifically, NSF reviewers are prohibited from uploading proposal content, review information, and related records to non-approved generative AI tools, ensuring confidentiality. Proposers are encouraged to disclose any generative AI usage in project descriptions.
The memo underscores the risk of information disclosure to external entities, as it may breach confidentiality and erode trust. NSF reviewers are held to confidentiality obligations and are prohibited from using non-approved generative AI tools. Proposers bear responsibility for the accuracy of proposals developed with generative AI tools, aligning with NSF's policies on research misconduct.
NSF plans to update the 2025 Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide (PAPPG) to align with these new guidelines, and will continually assess generative AI applications for future use by staff and the research community.
House Passes Bill to Expand Foreign Funding Disclosures
The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a bill to expand oversight and disclosure requirements for universities and individual researchers receiving foreign funding. The Defending Education Transparency and Ending Rogue Regimes Engaging in Nefarious Transactions (DETERRENT) Act (H.R. 5933), sponsored by Representative Michelle Steel (R-CA), passed by a vote of 246-170, with 31 Democrats joining in support.
The bill would require institutions of higher education to annually disclose to the Department of Education any gift of any dollar amount received from a foreign "country of concern," such as China, Russia, and Iran. It proposes reducing the reporting threshold for a gift or contract from other foreign countries from $250,000 to $50,000.
If passed by the Senate, the legislation would also add new reporting requirements for individual researchers at institutions receiving over $50 million in annual federal R&D funds. Additionally, it would prohibit institutions from entering into contracts with a country or entity of concern without first obtaining a waiver from the Department of Education.
Request for Comments: Draft Framework for Federal March-In Authority
In March, the Department of Commerce, in collaboration with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), unveiled a comprehensive government plan to assess federal march-in authority under the Bayh-Doyle Act, which promotes commercialization of research results. This included the establishment of the Interagency Working Group for Bayh-Dole (IAWGBD) tasked with formulating a framework that considers various factors, including price, in agencies' evaluations of whether to exercise march-in rights.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), serving as the coordinating agency for IAWGBD, is now requesting public comments on the Draft Interagency Guidance Framework for Considering the Exercise of March-In Rights. NIST will accept stakeholder feedback until February 6, 2024.
To facilitate understanding of the draft interagency march-in framework, NIST will conduct a public informational webinar on Wednesday, December 13 from 1:00-2:00 PM Eastern Time. This webinar aims to explain the key aspects of the framework and address any questions or concerns from the public.
AIBS Endorses Letter Requesting 5 Percent Increase for USDA Research
Forty-five organizations, including AIBS, have sent a letter to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) requesting a 5 percent funding increase for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Research, Education, and Economics (REE) mission area in fiscal year (FY) 2025. The REE mission area supports research, analysis, and education to advance scientific knowledge across the food and agricultural enterprise.
"This increase is consistent with the level of funding outlined in the bipartisan, bicameral America Grows Act (S. 1628, H.R. 5268) and will expand American competitiveness in foreign markets, improve sustainable production for a growing global population, increase nutrition access, address threats from extreme weather, pests, and diseases, and expand adoption of new technologies, advanced computing, and robotics," reads the letter. "As USDA research funding for FY24 remains unresolved in Congress, we implore you to show your commitment to agricultural innovation by submitting a robust request for USDA REE for FY25. If the United States continues its trend of underinvestment in agricultural and food research, we leave our producers, consumers, and communities vulnerable to rising prices, limited access, poor health outcomes, and threats to national security."
A group of 14 Democratic Senators, led by Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, have also sent a Dear Colleague letter to the OMB and USDA with a similar request for REE funding. "As the President's Fiscal Year (FY) 2025 budget request is prepared, we request that an increase of at least five percent, plus inflation, above the FY 2024 funding levels proposed by the Senate, be provided across the board for all USDA research activities underway within the Agricultural Research Service, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, the Economic Research Service, and the National Agricultural Statistics Service," wrote the Senators.
Science Coalitions Request Supplemental Funding for Key Science Agencies
The Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF), the Energy Sciences Coalition, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Coalition, the Coalition for Aerospace and Science, and the Tech Hub Advocacy Group--collectively representing nearly 200 research organizations, academic institutions, science and professional societies, higher education associations, and private industries that advocate for federal science agencies--have sent a letter to congressional appropriators urging the inclusion of $13 billion in a supplemental spending package "to advance U.S. national security, energy security, and economic competitiveness through research and economic development activities."
The coalitions argue that a supplemental funding package should include $5 billion for the National Science Foundation, $2 billion for Department of Energy Office of Science, $2.5 billion for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and $1.6 billion for NIST.
"These federal agencies have a successful track record of delivering science- and technology-based solutions to solve national, societal, and geostrategic challenges," the letter contends. "Congress has supported legislation to further expand their missions in driving regional innovation, accelerating technology transfer and adoption, training the next-generation workforce, and creating the jobs of the future. These federal agencies cannot meet these goals without additional funding."
AIBS is a member of CNSF.
Apply for the 2024 Emerging Public Policy Leadership Award
Are you a science graduate student looking to make a difference in science policy and funding? The American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) is now accepting applications for the 2024 Emerging Public Policy Leadership Award. This award recognizes graduate students in the biological sciences who are demonstrating an interest and aptitude for working at the intersection of science and policy.
Recipients of the AIBS Emerging Public Policy Leadership Award receive:
A trip to Washington, DC, to participate in the AIBS Congressional Visits Day, an annual event where scientists meet with lawmakers to advocate for federal investment in the biological sciences, with a primary focus on the National Science Foundation. The event will be held over three days in the spring of 2024 (likely in April). Domestic travel and hotel expenses are paid for the winners.
Policy and communications training, including information on the legislative process, trends in federal science funding, and how to engage with policymakers and the news media.
- Meetings with congressional policymakers to discuss the importance of federal investment in the biological sciences.
- A one-year online subscription to the journal BioScience.
The 2024 award is open to U.S. citizens and U.S. permanent residents enrolled in a graduate degree program in the biological sciences, science education, or a closely allied field. Applicants should have a demonstrated interest in and commitment to science policy and/or science education policy. Prior recipients are not eligible for the award.
Applications are due by 05:00 PM Eastern Time on January 17, 2024. Learn more about how to apply.
President Biden has nominated Kristen Sarri to head the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs at the State Department. Sarri, the former CEO of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, previously served in policy leadership positions at the Department of Commerce, Department of the Interior, and the White House Office of Management and Budget during the Obama administration. Pending Senate confirmation, Sarri will take over from Monica Medina, an environmental lawyer who vacated the position in April.
Join the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Directorate for Biological Sciences on Tuesday, December 19 at 3:00-4:00 PM ET for a Virtual Office Hour, where Program Officers will present on "Research Resources Programs in the Division of Biological Infrastructure (DBI)" and discuss any recent updates to solicitations. They will also provide tips on how to write proposals for these areas. There will be a 30-minute presentation, followed by an open Q&A session with Program Officers. Register now.
Join the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on Wednesday, December 20 at 3:00 PM ET for a virtual stakeholder briefing on the newly released Arctic Report Card. The report card focuses on the impacts of weather and climate which are directly affecting Indigenous communities and national security. NOAA Leadership as well as experts who are authors of the report will provide key takeaways as well as insights on the importance of effective collaboration across agencies, toward a Climate-Ready Nation. Register now.
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine are holding a virtual workshop on "Effective Communication with the General Public about Scientific Research that Requires the Care and Use of Animals" on December 19-20, 2023. The program will explore public views on care and use of animals in research and how scientists can communicate effectively with members of the public. Learn more and register.
From the Federal Register
The following items appeared in the Federal Register from December 4 to 15, 2023.
Environmental Protection Agency
Health and Human Services
National Science Foundation