Stopgap Government Funding Extended to March
On January 19, President Biden signed another continuing resolution into law extending stopgap funding for federal agencies at current levels until the first week of March. The bill received approval in the Senate with a vote of 77-18, and the House echoed the decision with a vote of 314-108, where all but two of the dissenting votes came from Republicans.
The measure (H.R. 2872) buys a few more weeks for lawmakers to finalize appropriations for fiscal year (FY) 2024. They now have a deadline of March 1 to complete the first four appropriations bills, including those for Agriculture-Rural Development, Energy-Water, Military Construction-Veterans Affairs, and Transportation-Housing and Urban Development. For the remaining 8 bills, which include funding for science agencies such as the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health, the deadline has been extended to March 8.
Congressional leaders reached an agreement on topline spending-levels earlier this month, allowing for $886 billion (+3 percent relative to FY 2023) in defense spending and $773 billion (essentially flat) in nondefense spending. House and Senate appropriators have yet to negotiate how these funds would be allocated to each of the 12 spending bills.
Another critical deadline to keep in mind is April 30. If lawmakers fail to finalize spending legislation by April 30, a 1 percent across-the-board cut may be triggered, as stipulated in the debt legislation enacted last year.
White House Unveils National Plan to Address Emerging Water Contaminants
The Biden Administration has launched a government-wide plan for agencies to identify, track, and mitigate emerging water contaminants that could harm human health or the environment. The plan aims to ensure that Americans have access to clean water, free from harmful chemicals and pollutants.
In response to the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, the National Science & Technology Council's Contaminants of Emerging Concern Strategy Team launched the National Emerging Contaminants Research Initiative (NECRI) last year to detect and assess emerging contaminants in drinking water. These contaminants, known as Contaminants of Emerging Concern (CECs), pose health and environmental risks, including cancer, heart issues, and lung disease.
"The emerging status of these contaminants makes it hard for scientists to understand precisely how these contaminants pose a threat to humans," stated Benjamin Place, Assistant Director for Environmental Health, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). "These CECs require unique scientific and operational approaches to measure and understand their risk to our communities."
The CEC Strategy Team has now released a roadmap, developed with input from experts in various disciplines, to establish concrete steps for a whole-of-government approach to address CECs. The National Emerging Contaminants Research Initiative Implementation Plan outlines short-term and long-term actions focused on cross-governmental coordination, knowledge management and data sharing, and community engagement and communication. The goal is to advance the understanding of CECs, identify exposures, expedite toxicological research, conduct thorough risk assessments, and efficiently develop mitigation technologies.
NSF Holding Virtual Town Halls on New Bioeconomy Initiative
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has created a new initiative, Catalyzing Across Sectors to Advance the Bioeconomy (CASA-Bio), to work towards creating a unified, collaborative strategy to advance the U.S. bioeconomy.
CASA-Bio is inspired by the Executive Order on Advancing Biotechnology and Biomanufacturing Innovation for a Sustainable, Safe, and Secure American Bioeconomy, which laid out a vision to advance biotechnology and biomanufacturing through foundational and use-inspired research and development in five thematic areas: climate change, food and agriculture, supply chain resilience, human health, and cross cutting areas to advance all these areas.
The agency held three virtual office hours in January to present information on opportunities for the NSF research community to get involved in sharing their research ideas on the bioeconomy. A summary of these sessions along with slides are now available online.
NSF is currently inviting input from the research community on the next steps for the CASA-Bio activity. Input can be shared during upcoming virtual town halls or using this form. Virtual town halls are scheduled for February 12, 15, 21, and 22. These sessions will be highly interactive with lots of time for breakout discussions among community members. Learn more and register.
NIH Requests Input on Strategic Plans for Data Science, Autoimmune Disease Research
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is inviting public comments on its updated Strategic Plan for Data Science (2023-2028). According to NIH, the draft plan "sets a bold vision for the future, one in which data generated in the course of care of individuals and data generated from biomedical and basic research become powerful inputs that enhance our understanding of fundamental biology and enables the development of new clinical treatments and diagnostic technologies."
The agency requests comments on various aspects of its strategic plan, including the appropriateness of goals, strategies, and implementation tactics. They are also seeking input on potential partnerships, emerging research needs, and any other relevant topics for consideration in the development of the plan. Comments will be accepted until March 15, 2024. Learn more.
Additionally, NIH is soliciting comments to inform the development of an agency-wide strategic plan to advance autoimmune disease research. In particular, input is sought on the following key areas in autoimmune disease research:
- Research areas that could benefit from collaborative efforts across various fields.
- Opportunities for advancement in collaborative, innovative, or interdisciplinary aspects of autoimmune disease research.
- Improving outcomes for individuals with autoimmune diseases, especially those in health disparities populations, rare diseases, and historically underrepresented groups.
Cross-cutting areas integral to autoimmune disease research, such as establishing a central repository, incorporating sex- and gender-intentional research design, and engaging diverse populations in research and clinical trials. The details can be found at NIH website.
Comments can be submitted until March 1, 2024.
Participate in the 2024 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.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Science Policy (OSP) is offering a summer internship for undergraduate, graduate, and/or professional students to gain science policy experience in support of the NIH mission. Interns will work with policy experts to learn strategies for advancing national science and technology policy and obtain practical experience in policy analyses and development. OSP will be hosting interns for an 8-12 week period beginning in May or June 2024. Interns will receive a stipend commensurate with their level of education. Applications are due February 12, 2024.
A group of Democratic senators, led by Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR), has introduced legislation to enhance research on how microplastics end up in biosolids left over from wastewater treatment, which are used as fertilizer by farmers. The "Research for Healthy Soils Act" aims to expand the Department of Agriculture's research focus on understanding the presence and impact of microplastics in biosolids. "We know how negatively microplastics impact the human body," said Merkley. "As microplastics leave their mark on seemingly every aspect of our lives, it's important that we invest in research to better understand just how many microplastics are found in biosolids." The legislation seeks to address gaps in current research on microplastics in agriculture and their potential implications for human health. Companion legislation (R. 3871) was introduced in the House last year by Representatives Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (D-WA) and Young Kim (R-A).
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is soliciting input on draft updates to its Scientific Integrity Policy that have been made in response to the requirements of the 2021 Presidential Memorandum on Restoring Trust in Government Through Scientific Integrity and Evidence-based Policymaking. The updated policy adopts a new federal definition of scientific integrity, clarifies the role and responsibilities of the EPA Chief Scientist, and revises several policy elements (e.g., protecting scientific processes, reviewing science, ensuring the free flow of scientific information, etc.) to help ensure a culture of scientific integrity at the agency. Comments on the draft changes can be submitted until February 23, 2024.
From the Federal Register
The following items appeared in the Federal Register from January 15 to 26, 2024.
Agency for International Development
Environmental Protection Agency
Health and Human Services
National Science Foundation