This blog from ASPB's public affairs unit will provide updates on policy developments in Washington and other plant biology news impacting the ASPB community. Please send any news, comments, or suggestions to ASPB's public affairs director, Adam Fagen, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Policy Archives available under Group Pages.
The American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) is now accepting applications for its 2012 AIBS Emerging Public Policy Leadership Award (EPPLA). The award recognizes graduate students in the biological sciences who have demonstrated initiative and leadership in science policy.
EPPLA recipients receive first-hand experience at the interface of science and public policy, including the following:
A trip to Washington, D.C., to participate in the Biological and Ecological Sciences Coalition (BESC) Congressional Visits Day, an annual event that brings scientists to the nation's capital to advocate for federal investments in the biological sciences, with a primary focus on the National Science Foundation. The 2012 event will last for two days and may be held between March and May. The official dates will be announced in 2012.
Policy and communications training, and information on federal science budgets and the legislative process.
Meetings with Congressional policymakers to discuss the importance of federal investments in the biological sciences.
A certificate and membership in the EPPLA alumni network.
The 2012 award is open to U.S. citizens enrolled in a graduate degree program in the biological sciences, science education, or closely allied field. Applicants should have a demonstrated interest in and commitment to science policy and/or science education policy. Prior EPPLA winners and AIBS science policy interns/fellows are not eligible.
Applications are due by January 20, 2012, and include a cover letter, statement, resume, and letter of reference. Additional details are available on the AIBS website.
Steven Koonin has announced that he is stepping down from his position as Under Secretary for Science at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).
ScienceInsider reports that he had been looking around for some time, because his position did not allow him enough power, especially over the budget for the DOE Office of Science. That office is lead by William Brinkman. Michael Lubell with the American Physical Society was quoted as saying, "Here was a guy [Koonin] who had no budget authority, and that's a tough position."
Among other achievements during his 2.5 years at DOE, Koonin helped draft the agency's strategic plan and led its first Quadrennial Technology Review. He has also been connected to ASPB, including by speaking in the ASPB's President's Symposium on bioenergy at Plant Biology 2011 this past summer in Minneapolis.
Koonin has a background in theoretical physics and previously served as a professor and provost at Caltech. He also served as chief scientist for BP before coming to DOE. He will be joining the Institute for Defense Analyses' Science and Technology Policy Institute in Washington, D.C., upon his departure.
DOE has not yet announced who will be filling the vacated Under Secretary position.
Posted By Lewis-Burke Associates LLC,
Saturday, November 05, 2011
The House and Senate appear to have come together on a
strategy to complete consideration of the fiscal year (FY) 2012 appropriations
bills. Rather than combine all 12 appropriations bills into one large
omnibus appropriations package, as Congressional appropriators have done in the
past, Congressional leaders plan to enact the appropriations bills through a
more piecemeal approach; passing three or four appropriations bills at one time
in "minibus" appropriations packages. Congressional leaders from both
parties have also indicated that they will adhere to the top line discretionary
spending levels that were agreed to in the Budget Control Act of 2011 (the debt
limit bill), which are approximately $24 billion higher than the total
discretionary spending level approved by the House earlier in the year.
The first such minibus bill was passed by the Senate on
November 1 and included the Senate's Agriculture–FDA appropriations bill,
Commerce–Justice-–Science bill, and Transportation–Housing and Urban Development
bill. These bills provide funding for federal research agencies such as
the National Science Foundation, the National Aeronautics and Space
Administration, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the
U.S. Department of Agriculture, among others. On the
evening of November 3, House and Senate appropriators met to begin conference
negotiations on the first minibusbill.
Conference members agreed to top line spending targets for each bill that
comply with the Budget Control Act. Specifically, they agreed to $19.6
billion for the Agriculture–FDA bill ($2.4 billion above the House-passed
level, and $200 million below the Senate-passed level), $52.7 billion for the
Commerce–Justice–Science bill ($2.5 billion more than the House proposed level,
and level with the Senate-passed bill), and $55.6 billion for the
Transportation–Housing and Urban Development bill ($400 million above the
House-proposed level and $300 million above the Senate-passed level).
Negotiators were very courteous to one another during the
conference committee meeting, stating their intentions to work together to
complete the FY 2012 appropriations bills before the end of the calendar
year. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers (R-KY) stated
that the conferees have been instructed to keep their schedules open over the
upcoming Congressional recess period to complete negotiations on the minibus
package before November 14. The House and Senate are expected to pass the
first minibus bill during the week of November 14, before the current
continuing resolution (CR) expires on November 18. The minibus package
will likely include an additional CR to extend funding for programs under the
remaining appropriations bills through mid-December to provide additional time
for Congress to complete its work.
While negotiators have agreed to top line funding levels for
each appropriations bill, there are still discrepancies between the House and
Senate on programs within the bills that will need to be worked out. This
includes emergency aid to states for recent natural disasters and funding for
transportation projects through the Transportation Investment Generating Economic
Recovery (TIGER) grants program, among others. Funding for science and
education programs within these appropriations measures has not been
highlighted as an area of contention, and in fact, research agencies are faring
quite well in receiving funding that is flat or slightly below current levels.
Appropriators have stated that they may attach additional,
less controversial spending bills to this minibus appropriations package such
as the Legislative Branch bill and the Homeland Security bill. The Senate
is expected to consider a second minibus package in the coming week which may
include the Energy and Water Development bill, the Financial Services bill, and
the State and Foreign Operations bill.
Earlier today, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack emphasized the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) priorities for the 2012 Farm Bill.
His speech at the John Deere Des Moines Works in Iowa discussed priorities for the legislation which provides authorization for USDA. While highlighting a number of themes, one of the top priorities was providing robust support for research:
Now, the second key principle I
alluded to earlier centers on sustaining agricultural productivity.
Farmers and ranchers and growers must be able to produce an affordable and
appealing product each and every year.
Our farmers are the most
productive in the world, and that leadership position must be maintained.
Today there's no question that American farmers can produce enough to feed our
nation, but that hasn't always been the case. Over the past 60 years,
yields per acre of major crops—corn, soy, wheat, and cotton—have doubled,
tripled, and in some cases even quadrupled.
At the same time, livestock
production and specialty crop production have become far more efficient.
Now, this evolution was not pre-ordained. Producers embraced new science and
new technologies and production techniques we see here at this plant. We laid
the foundation for this incredible productivity through a sustained investment
in research; and Congress must find ways to support research that is focused on
crop production and protection, on livestock production and protection.
Studies have shown that public
investments in agricultural research earn a 20 dollars-to-1 return of
investment in the U.S. economy. Once that information is disseminated to
farmers, ranchers, and producers, they take it and make—make it work. And
these benefits extend beyond just economic returns. Research also leads
to improved soil and water and air quality, and they help us to design
strategies that will enable us to deal with the impacts of the changing
Public funding for agricultural
research has remained basically flat-lined since the 1990s, clearly not keeping
pace with other federally-supported research; and a recent USDA study sounded a
warning signal to all of us that there is a direct link between increases in
agricultural investment on research and agricultural productivity. If we
continue to flat-line our commitment to research, our productivity will likely
suffer; this at a time when our productivity will have to continue to increase
to meet the global demand for food.
Thank you to Secretary Vilsack for continuing to be a strong supporter of USDA investments in research.
Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI) took a strong stand for agricultural research on the floor of the U.S. Senate earlier this week. In introducing the 2012 Agriculture Appropriations Bill, Sen. Kohl, who chairs the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, emphasized the priorities in the bill.
Another priority worthy of protection is agricultural research. Without continued investment, food production in this country and around the globe will not be able to keep up with challenges posed by growing populations, climate change, invasive pests, and other threats. According to the Economic Research Service, global demand for food will grow 70 to 100 percent by 2050. To meet that demand, our production capacity will have to increase. Those increases will not happen without sustained emphasis on agricultural research. Senator Blunt and I have worked hard to protect these investments, often at the expense of other USDA programs.
Sen. Blunt (R-MO) is the Republican Ranking Member on the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee.
Thank you, Senators, for supporting and speaking up on behalf of agriculture research.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has selected Chris A. Kaiser, PhD, as the new director of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS). Kaiser, a cell biologist, is currently MacVicar Professor and head of the Department of Biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is expected to join NIGMS in the spring.
He will replace Judith H. Greenberg, PhD, who became acting director of NIGMS in July 2011 after the departure of Jeremy M. Berg, PhD, who had served as director since 2003.
As NIGMS director, Kaiser will oversee the institute’s $2 billion budget, which primarily funds basic research in the areas of cell biology, biophysics, genetics, developmental biology, pharmacology, physiology, biological chemistry, bioinformatics and computational biology. NIGMS supports more than 4,500 research grants—about 10% of those funded by NIH as a whole—as well as a substantial amount of research training and programs designed to increase the diversity of the biomedical and behavioral research workforce. NIGMS is also the biggest sponsor of plant biology research at NIH.
An NIGMS grantee since 1992, Kaiser uses genetic, biochemical and structural biology methods to understand the basic mechanisms of protein folding and intracellular transport, molecular processes essential to normal cell function. His efforts have led to the identification of numerous genes and related mutations involved in these processes. Kaiser is particularly interested in determining how secreted and other proteins form disulfide bonds, which are important for protein folding and stability. To study these questions, Kaiser uses yeast, a model organism for investigating mammalian genetics.
An initiative Kaiser said he’s particularly eager to join is the Institute’s effort to build and sustain a strong and diverse scientific workforce, as outlined in the recent NIGMS strategic plan for research training. "Fostering scientific careers and improving workforce diversity are critical to research progress, and NIGMS has really taken a lead in this arena," said Kaiser, who oversaw an effort that increased graduate student diversity within the MIT biology department from 5% to 18% over six years.
Kaiser joined the MIT faculty in 1991, became a full professor in 2002, and chaired the Biology Department since 2004. He received an AB in biochemistry from Harvard University in 1980 and a PhD in biology from MIT in 1987, then did postdoctoral research at the University of California, Berkeley.
He is co-author of a widely used textbook, Molecular Cell Biology (5th and 6th editions). He has also organized Cold Spring Harbor scientific meetings, served on NIH review committees, and been associate editor of the journal Molecular Biology of the Cell as well as a member of the editorial board for the journal Traffic.
His honors include a Markey scholarship (1990–1996), a Searle scholarship (1992–1996), the Whitehead Career Development professorship (1994–1997) and election as an American Association for the Advancement of Science fellow (2011). In 1999, he received MIT’s highest teaching honor for the introductory genetics course he taught from 1992 to 2011.
Under the direction of long-time ASPB member Machi Dilworth, OISE administers a number of NSF's prominent international
programs, including the Partnerships for International Research and Education
(PIRE) program, and provides strategic guidance for international activities
across the agency's divisions and directorates. The Advisory Committee
advises Dr. Dilworth and NSF Director Subra Suresh on international science and
education issues which directly affect the agency and its programs.
The Advisory Committee has gained influence as Dr. Suresh
has made expanding international activities a pillar of his agenda for the
agency. Dr. Suresh recently challenged AC-ISE members to think beyond
the relatively limited portfolio housed within OISE and to consider new
strategic directions and areas of emphasis for NSF international activities
While there is no formal call for nominations, OISE staff
indicates that they are looking to replace up to five Advisory Committee members
whose terms expired on September 30. OISE seeks nominees from a diverse
range of academic and professional backgrounds with unique insights into the
changing landscape of international research and education. University
administrators responsible for international initiatives as well as NSF-funded
researchers with a history of international research and collaborations should
The Committee meets twice annually at NSF's headquarters in
Arlington, Virginia, although the fall 2011 meeting has been canceled as OISE
works to fill the vacancies. OISE officials hope to select new members in
time for the next regularly scheduled meeting in April 2012.
Submission Deadline: OISE has requested names and
background information for nominees by October 21.
Required Nomination Materials and Procedure: In order
to nominate an individual to AC-ISE, the following information should be sent to Robert Webber in
OISE: the submitting person or organization’s name and affiliation, a cover
letter describing the person’s qualifications and interest in serving, the
person’s curriculum vitae, and person’s contact information. Weber,
the designated federal officer for the Committee, can be reached at: email@example.com.
The Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) and the Educational
Testing Service (ETS) have convened a commission of academic and industry
leaders to consider students’ pathways through graduate school and into
careers. The need to develop a highly skilled workforce was first addressed in
a 2010 landmark report The Path Forward:
The Future of Graduate Education in the United States. That report argued
that the nation’s future prosperity and ability to compete in the global
marketplace depends on producing graduate degree holders prepared to address
the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century. One major unmet need the
report identified was that of understanding pathways through graduate school
into the world of professional occupations.
The new commission will guide a research effort addressing
issues such as graduate student knowledge of career options and how they learn
about them, the role of graduate programs and faculty in informing and guiding
students, and the career pathways that those with graduate degrees actually
follow. The commission will also help create a national conversation about why
understanding of these pathways is important.
The members of the Commission on Pathways through Graduate School and into Careers are listed below:
William D. Green, Chairman, Board of Directors, Accenture
Stan Litow, President, IBM Foundation, and Senior Vice President, IBM
Joseph Miller, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Office, Corning
Posted By Lewis-Burke Associates LLC,
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
On October 7, the White House Office of Science and
Technology Policy (OSTP) released a Request for Information (RFI) pertaining to
the development of a National Bioeconomy Blueprint. The Bioeconomy Blueprint,
first announced when President Obama signed into law the America Invents Act,
reflects the Administration’s focus on commercialization and more applied
research to make impacts in grand societal challenges. Specifically, the
Blueprint represents the Administration’s efforts to harness the nation’s
biological research towards solving national problems in energy, food, health
and the environment, while creating high-skill jobs. The RFI is intended to
generate input from relevant stakeholders on policies and strategies capable of
moving the Bioeconomy Blueprint initiative forward. Comments are requested by December
The National Bioeconomy Blueprint is intended to utilize
biological science in service of solving the "Grand Challenges” President Obama
has laid out. Therefore, comments should address the challenges listed below:
Research and Development: What
research goals are conceivable and offer the greatest return in a constrained
fiscal environment? What should national research priorities be, and what kind
of infrastructure is required to support them? What barriers exist to hold
research back? For example, understanding protein functions of genes must
precede their use in therapy; therefore, are there interdisciplinary funding
efforts that could advance this field of inquiry?
Moving life science breakthroughs from lab to
market: What are the barriers that keep medical breakthroughs from
coming to market in a reasonable amount of time? Can federal agencies alter
present practices to ensure treatments come to commercial markets more quickly?
Would changes in the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) or Small
Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs alleviate some of the recognized
barriers? Are there alternatives to the dominant venture funding model? If so,
do such alternatives feature a role for government agencies?
Workforce development: What changes to
doctoral science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education are required to ensure graduates have the skills to
participate in a "bioeconomy”? How can academia, community colleges, industry,
and government contribute to workforce development in the bio-sciences?
Reducing regulatory barriers to the
bioeconomy: What regulations fail to protect safety and are overly
burdensome for researchers? What points in the regulatory process require
alteration? In the case of new or emerging technologies and treatments, how can
the regulatory process improve to reflect these new challenges?
Public-private partnerships: What are
successful models for public-private partnerships? What would public-private
partnerships in the bioeconomy look like, and what goals would they pursue?
What opportunities exist for collaboration in the pre-competitive space, and is
there a role for government here?
Administrator Shah has made
enhancing the use of science and technology to spur next-generation development
a lynchpin of his reform agenda for the agency. This focus is clearly
reflected throughout the Policy Framework. What’s more, the Policy
Framework makes repeated references to the need for USAID to expand its
partnerships with outside entities, including universities, in its pursuit of
new science and technology capabilities. More broadly, the document also
lays out the case for continued American investment in global development at a
time when foreign aid has come under intense pressure from some Congressional
Republicans in their efforts to reduce the debt and deficit. Despite
emphasizing that foreign aid constitutes less than 1% of the federal
budget, USAID acknowledges the need to do more with less and will lean heavily
on technological innovation to achieve its future goals.
The Policy Framework clarifies
that USAID will continue to focus its limited resources on a number of policy
initiatives articulated by President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham
Clinton, and Administrator Shah early in their tenures. In particular,
the Administration’s Feed the Future (FTF) global food security program and the
Global Health Initiative (GHI) aimed at improving health across the developing
world will remain priorities for USAID as the budgetary environment
necessitates difficult choices. FTF and GHI are signature initiatives for
the Administration involving numerous federal agencies and outside
While both create policy
influence and funding opportunities for U.S. researchers, strong partnerships
with local institutions in host countries are critical to success. FTF
and GHI differ from previous development efforts by focusing on a limited set
of target countries rather than seeking sweeping solutions applicable
worldwide. FTF and GHI focus countries are selected based on a firm set
of criteria, including the level of buy-in from local institutions which will
build capacity to solidify USAID objectives following the end of agency
Beyond food security and global
health, other ongoing USAID priorities identified in the Policy Framework
include building resiliency to global climate change in developing countries,
driving broad-based economic growth, supporting transitions to democracy,
increasing preparedness to deal with natural and man-made disasters, and bringing
innovative development approaches to fragile and conflict affected
states. More information on specific activities USAID intends to pursue
in each of these areas is included in the complete Policy Framework.
The Policy Framework also provides
further details of Administrator Shah’s reform agenda for the agency, titled
USAID Forward. Reforming contracting and management policies at an agency
that has historically been criticized for outsourcing large projects and lax
oversight has been a top priority for Administrator Shah since he took over
USAID. The seven pillars of USAID Forward described in the Policy
Framework are as follows:
Rebuilding policy capacity
Restoring budget management
Strengthening and monitoring evaluation
Leading on innovation
Supporting capabilities in science and
Building local capacity
Attracting and retaining talent
The Policy Framework contains
numerous USAID Forward details of interest to the research community. For
example, the Framework states that USAID will host a series of Evidence Summits
to "connect empirical research to important policy or operational decisions
facing the agency.” Members of the academic community are expected to be
key participants in these events. Related, the Policy Framework states
that USAID will form a variety of Policy Task Teams within the agency to
produce strategies on top priority issues. While these Task Teams will
consist of USAID employees, meetings with key agency personnel provide an
opportunity for the research community to directly impact U.S. development
policy. Most of the science and technology and innovation provisions
outlined in the plan were previously announced and reported on.
Further reflecting Administrator
Shah’s influence, the Policy Framework focuses heavily on how USAID will use
evaluation and assessment tools to enhance the effectiveness of its
programs. Echoing the new USAID Evaluation Policy released in January,
the Policy Framework sets the eventual target of 3 percent of each program’s funding
to be reserved for evaluation and assessment. There are expected to be
increased roles for the academic community in assisting USAID with identifying
best practices for program evaluation and assessment.
Posted By Lewis Burke Associates LLC,
Thursday, October 06, 2011
On October 5, President Obama signed a bill to continue funding the operations of the entire Federal Government
through November 18. The Continuing Resolution (CR) (H.R.
2608) is necessary because none of the 12 annual appropriations bills for fiscal year (FY
2012) were enacted by October 1, the beginning of the new fiscal
year. The CR will provide Congress with the opportunity over the next few
weeks to negotiate an omnibus appropriations bill to complete the FY 2012
While the CR was overwhelmingly passed by the House on a 352
to 66 vote, the House Republican leadership depended on nearly an equal number
of Democrats to Republicans to pass the CR, reflecting the deep divisions that
remain within the House Republican caucus about continued efforts to reduce
federal spending. Both the overall level of spending for FY 2012 and
whether or not to offset spending on disaster aid with funding reductions
elsewhere in the budget are issues that are likely to complicate negotiations
on a final FY 2012 omnibus appropriations bill.
The Continuing Resolution would:
Reduce all discretionary programs
across-the-board by 1.503% below the FY 2011 enacted level to keep
spending within the $1.043 trillion overall cap enacted in the Budget Control
Act of 2011 (debt limit agreement);
Limit the activities of Federal agencies to
those funded or underway in FY 2011;
Provide for certain "anomalies" or special cases
where additional authority is needed to continue ongoing activities. For
example, the Small Business Administration (SBA) is given the authority to
carry out the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program through
September 30, 2012, and to carry out the Small Business Technology Transfer
(STTR) and the Commercialization Pilot Programs through November 18;
Provide a total of $2.65 billion in disaster
relief funding to assist the thousands of Americans who have been affected by
floods, wildfires, Hurricane Irene, and the Mid-Atlantic earthquake, and other
natural disasters. The final CR drops the proposed offsetting savings to
help pay for the disaster aid funding to which Senate Democrats and the White
House objected. House Republicans initially wanted to partially
offset the disaster spending by rescinding (canceling) $1 billion for the
Department of Energy’s (DOE) Advanced Vehicle Manufacturing Loan Program, and
$100 million from the DOE Innovative Technology Loan Guarantee Program.
The U.S. Senate passed the CR on a 79 to 12 vote on
September 26. Without passage, the previous CR would have expired at midnight this morning.
Posted By Lewis-Burke Associates LLC,
Tuesday, October 04, 2011
The Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects
Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) will hold its third annual Energy Innovation Summit on
February 27–29, 2012, at the Gaylord Convention Center near Washington,
D.C. Dr. Arun Majumdar, Director of ARPA-E, recently announced the summit,
which is designed to bring together the business and energy investment
communities with leaders in clean energy research to make key connections in
the energy technology pipeline.
The three-day event will include a pre-conference workshop
on Monday, February 27, designed to provide
researchers with insight into ARPA-E’s priorities, as well as guidance in the
grant review process. ARPA-E program managers will be present to assist current
and/or potential grantees about funding for ARPA-E’s clean energy technology
program. This event is highly recommended for the opportunity to meet
ARPA-E program managers, to discuss ARPA-E priorities for future funding
opportunities, and to network with the clean energy business and investment
On Tuesday and Wednesday, February 28 and 29, ARPA-E will
host the Innovation Summit and Technology Showcase. Keynote speakers
include the following:
Bill Gates, Microsoft Chairman and CEO;
Fred Smith, FedEx Chairman, CEO and President;
Lee Scott, former WalMart CEO;
Steven Chu, Secretary of the Department of
Arun Majumdar, Director of ARPA-E.
The full program is not yet available, but participants will
have the opportunity to hear from leaders in the clean energy field, as well as
investors, policymakers and representatives from global corporations and
government agencies. The showcase will highlight past ARPA-E award
winners and finalists, as well as their technologies. This year’s
showcase will feature projects drawn from the fields of grid-scale storage,
power electronics, batteries for electric vehicles, building efficiency,
advanced carbon capture and electrofuels, rare earth alternatives, plant
engineering for fuel applications, advanced thermal storage, network
integration architecture for the electrical grid, and power electronics for photovoltaic applications.
Registration is now open to attend the full
three-day event or to only the pre-conference workshop or the summit itself. Reduced rates are provided for
registration on or before January 26, 2012 (see below). Information on
the ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit can be found at: http://www.energyinnovationsummit.com/.
Participation in the Showcase requires submitting a Showcase
Application by December 15. An additional fee of $500 also
applies. More information about the Showcase criteria and how to apply
can be found at: http://www.energyinnovationsummit.com/showcase/. Rates for participation in the third annual
ARPA-E Innovation Summit are listed below:
The National Science Foundation (NSF) announced new workplace flexibility policies, its Career-Life Balance Initiative, at a White House event last week. This 10-year plan will expand best practices NSF-wide, including one that will allow researchers to delay or suspend their grants for up to one year in order to care for a newborn or newly adopted child or fulfill other family obligations.
"Too many young women scientists and engineers get sidetracked or drop their promising careers because they find it too difficult to balance the needs of those careers and the needs of their families,” said NSF Director Subra Suresh in a White House release. "This new initiative aims to change that, so that the country can benefit from the full range and diversity of its talent.”
Women today currently earn 41% of PhDs in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, but make up only 28% of tenure-track faculty in those fields. Reducing the dropout rate of women in STEM careers is especially important in the quest for gender equality because women in STEM jobs earn 33% more than those in non-STEM occupations and the wage gap between men and women in STEM jobs is smaller than in other fields.
NSF has launched targeted workplace flexibility efforts in the past, but the new initiative is the first to be applied Foundation-wide to help postdoctoral fellows and early-career faculty members more easily care for dependents while continuing their careers. The new initiative will offer a coherent and consistent set of family-friendly policies and practices to help eliminate some of the barriers to women’s advancement and retention in STEM careers. It will:
Allow postponement of grants for child birth/adoption – Grant recipients can defer their awards for up to one year to care for their newborn or newly adopted children.
Allow grant suspension for parental leave – Grant recipients who wish to suspend their grants to take parental leave can extend those grants by a comparable duration at no cost.
Provide supplements to cover research technicians – Principal investigators can apply for stipends to pay research technicians or equivalent staff to maintain labs while PIs are on family leave.
Publicize the availability of family friendly opportunities – NSF will issue announcements and revise current program solicitations to expressly promote these opportunities to eligible awardees.
Promote family friendliness for panel reviewers – STEM researchers who review the grant proposals of their peers will have greater opportunities to conduct virtual reviews rather than travel to a central location, increasing flexibility and reducing dependent-care needs.
Support research and evaluation – NSF will continue to encourage the submission of proposals for research that would asses the effectiveness of policies aimed at keeping women in the STEM pipeline.
Leverage and Expand Partnerships -- NSF will leverage existing relationships with academic institutions to encourage the extension of the tenure clock and allow for dual hiring opportunities.
Posted By Adam Fagen,
Thursday, September 22, 2011
As part of the announcement of President Obama's support for the America Invents Act, the White House has announced a plan for developing a National Bioeconomy Blueprint by January 2012:
Development of a National Bioeconomy Blueprint: By January 2012, the Administration will develop a Bioeconomy Blueprint detailing Administration-wide steps to harness biological research innovations to address national challenges in health, food, energy, and the environment. Biological research lays the foundation of a significant portion of our economy. By better leveraging our national investments in biological research and development the Administration will grow the jobs of the future and improve the lives of all Americans. The Blueprint will focus on reforms to speed up commercialization and open new markets, strategic R&D investments to accelerate innovation, regulatory reforms to reduce unnecessary burdens on innovators, enhanced workforce training to develop the next generation of scientists and engineers, and the development of public-private partnerships.
This was among the points mentioned at the Plant Science Research Summit, now ongoing. We encourage you to participate remotely at http://www.aspb.org/PlantSummit.
The recommendation is to provide $6.7 billion for NSF in FY 2012, $1.1 billion below the budget request.
The Research & Related Activities (R&RA) account is proposed at $5.4 billion, which is $121 million (2%) below last year, and $811 million (13%) below the budget request. The report language states that "The Committee’s fiscal year 2012 recommendation renews its support for Federal long-term basic research that has the potential to be transformative to our economy and our way of life in the context of a Federal budget that is shrinking," prioritizing multi-disciplinary, high-risk research.
The Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction (MREFC) account is recommended to receive $117 million, the same as FY 2011 funding but $108 million (48%) below the budget request. Of some concern to life scientists is permission for NSF to transfer up to $100 million from the R&RA account to fully fund the Ocean Observatories Initiative or begin work on the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON), which is based in the Biological Sciences Directorate.
The Education & Human Resources (EHR) account is proposed at $829 million, a $32 million (4%) reduction from FY 2011 and $82 million (9%) below the budget request. Despite the cut, the report reinforces that "the future of U.S. competitiveness rests on our ability to train the next generation of scientists and engineers." The Appropriations Subcommittee speaks in favor of NSF investment in Professional Science Master's programs and several programs to broaden participation in STEM fields.
The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee accepts NSF's decision to terminate several programs including the Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory, Graduate STEM Fellows in K–12 Education, National STEM Distributed Learning (Digital Library), Research Initiation to Broaden Participation in Biology, and Science of Learning Centers. The report also applauds NSF for the creation of the Innovation Corps (I-Corps) to help translate new discoveries into commercial products. And it affirms that "broadening participation should remain an essential component of the NSF merit review criteria."
Posted By Adam Fagen,
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
The U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies has approved funding legislation for fiscal year (FY) 2012. The bill provides $52.7 billion in funding, a reduction of $626 million from FY 2011.
Of most interest to ASPB members are the proposed cuts at the National Science Foundation. Although details have yet to be released, the Subcommittee released the following in their mark:
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is funded at $6.7 billion, a reduction of $162 million or 2.4 percent below the FY2011 enacted level.
ASPB will keep tabs on the details and the progress of this spending bill...and those for the other agencies of interest to ASPB in both the House and Senate.
Posted By Adam Fagen,
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) will host a webinar on Thursday, September 22 from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. EDT about the 2011 U.S. Billion-Ton Update: Biomass Supply for a Bioenergy and Bioproducts Industry, a report detailing biomass feedstock potential nationwide. The report examines the nation's capacity to produce a billion dry tons of biomass resources annually for energy uses without impacting other vital U.S. farm and forest products, such as food, feed, and fiber crops. It provides industry, policymakers, and the agricultural community with county-level data and includes analyses of current U.S. feedstock capacity and the potential for growth in crops and agricultural products for clean energy applications.
During the webinar, authors of the report will present the purpose, approach, and major assumptions of the 2011 Billion-Ton Update, including how it differs from the 2005 Billion-Ton Study. Authors will also cover the report's findings and discuss how its data might be used by both the public and private sector to grow the bioenergy industry and help achieve President Obama's goals of expanding renewable energy resources and developing alternative fuels for America's transportation sector. Finally, the webinar will include a demonstration of how to explore Billion-Ton Update data onDOE's Bioenergy Knowledge Discovery Framework website and opportunities for attendees to ask questions.
In addition to registering for the webinar, please submit your questions and comments about the Billion-Ton Update to DOE's Bioenergy Knowledge Discovery Framework forum on the subject. This will help the webinar focus on the most frequently discussed topics about the study.
Posted By Lewis-Burke Associates LLC,
Sunday, September 11, 2011
The Senate Appropriations Committee has passed the fiscal year (FY) 2012 budget appropriation for the Department of Energy (DOE) as part of the FY 2012 Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill. The bill totals $31.625
billion, a reduction of $57 million below the FY 2011 enacted level for
programs and agencies funded in the bill.
Given the competition for funding
within the bill, the DOE Office of Science, which funds basic research
associated with agency missions, fared quite well. The Senate Committee
approves $4.843 billion for the DOE Office of Science, which is essentially a
freeze at the FY 2011 enacted funding level. The Committee recommendation
for the DOE Office of Science is $573.5 million (10.6%) below the President’s
Detailed funding recommendations
for the various programs within the Office of Science are displayed in the
chart below. The Senate bill would provide continuation funding for the
three existing Energy Innovation Hubs (Hubs) – the Fuels from Sunlight Hub; the
Energy Efficient Building Systems Design Hub, and the Nuclear Energy Modeling
and Simulation Hub, for which the President requested $24.3 million each.
As did the House of Representatives, the Senate Committee also approves the new
Batteries and Energy Storage Hub within the Office of Basic Energy Sciences,
providing $20 million for the new Hub in lieu of the requested $34.2 million.
The Committee also recommends $10 million for the predictive modeling of
internal combustion engines initiative.
The Senate Committee is silent on
the President’s request for $20 million in the Industrial Technologies program
within the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) to establish
a new Critical Materials Hub even though its overall recommendation of $96
million for the program matches the House-passed bill which does fund the
Hub. The Senate Committee does not approve the third new Hub requested by
the President for Advanced Modeling Grid Research.
The Senate Committee concurs with
the President’s request to provide up to $100 million to continue support for
the 46 existing Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRCs), but not to fund
additional centers at this time.
For the Biological and
Environmental Research (BER) program, the Senate Committee recommendation of
$621.8 million is $10 million (2%) above FY 2011. The Committee
recommends $295.1 million for climate and environmental science, which the
House significantly reduced.
The Senate Committee would
approve $7.5 million to support graduate fellowships.
For the Advanced Research
Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), the Senate would provide $250 million to
continue support for research into high-risk, high-reward transformational new
energy technologies, an increase of $70.4 million (39%) above the FY
2011 enacted funding level, but $300 million (55%) below the President’s
The applied research programs of
DOE relating to renewable energy through Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
(EERE) are sustained at the current level of $1.796 billion for FY 2012. The
President requested $3.2 billion for these programs. The House reduced
EERE to $1.3 billion overall. Details of the Senate recommendations for
wind and solar energy, biomass, and the technologies programs are included in
the following chart. New initiatives within the EERE programs are
unlikely given the constraints under current budget allocations.
Additional details on the funding
recommendations approved by the Senate Committee are included in the chart
Senate Energy and Water
Development Appropriations Bill, FY 2012
As reported by the Senate Energy and Water Development
Appropriations Subcommittee, 9/7/11
Posted By Lewis-Burke Associates LLC,
Friday, September 09, 2011
On September 7, the Senate
Appropriations Committee approved its version of the fiscal year (FY) 2012
appropriations bill which funds the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Food
and Drug Administration (FDA), and related agencies. The bill would
provide a total of $19.78 billion in discretionary funding, a reduction of $138
million (less than one percent) below the FY 2011 enacted level and $2.2
billion (10%) below the President’s FY 2012 budget request. The
bill also provides significant funding for mandatory programs including food
stamps, child nutrition programs, federal crop insurance, and commodity price
While the Senate bill includes
reductions below the FY 2011 level for many programs, it represents a
significant improvement over the House-passed bill due to the enactment of the
Budget Control Act (debt-limit agreement), which included a discretionary
spending cap for the Appropriations Committees that is $24 billion more than
the House allocation under the House-passed budget resolution.
Appropriations Agriculture Subcommittee Chair Sen. Herb
Kohl (D-WI) [at right] characterized the Senate bill as "very austere” and highlighted
Subcommittee priorities including protecting public health and safety;
maintaining current services for the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and
other nutrition programs; making continued investments in research; supporting
rural development; supporting foreign food aid; and responding to floods and
other disasters, of which the Senate bill would provide $266 million for
For the USDA research programs,
the Senate Committee sought to sustain most funding levels. A total of
$2.3 billion would be provided for agricultural research through the National
Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and the Agricultural Research Service
(ARS), which is $39 million below the FY 2011 level.
For NIFA overall, a total of
$1.214 billion is recommended in the Senate bill, a reduction of $798,000 below
the FY 2011 level but $9.231 million above the House-passed bill. NIFA’s
competitive grants program, the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative
(AFRI), would receive $266 million, an increase of $1.53 million above the FY
2011 level, but $59 million below the President’s FY 2012 request.
The Senate recommendation for AFRI is $41.0 million above the House-passed
The Senate Committee sustained
support for the formula funds for land-grant colleges and universities as a
priority in its version of the bill. Funding administered through the
Hatch Act would be sustained at the FY 2011 level of $236.0 million. For
Extension Activities under the Smith-Lever Act 3(b) and 3(c), the Senate would
provide $296.0 million, an increase of $2.09 million above the FY 2011
level. For Extension Activities overall, a total of $478.2 million is
recommended, slightly below the FY 2011 level, but $67.0 million above the
The Senate bill includes
reductions for USDA’s rural development programs below the FY 2011 level.
In addition, reductions are recommended for Housing and Community Development
Programs, Business Programs, Rural Utilities Programs, the National Conservation Service and the Watershed Rehabilitation Program.
A $40 million increase over
current spending is recommended in the Senate bill for the Food and Drug
Administration, which would receive nearly $2.5 billion for FY 2012. The
Senate would also sustain the Food Safety and Inspection Service at $1.0
billion, the same as the FY 2011 level.
The prospects for the bill being
considered by the full Senate are uncertain given the short time remaining
before the beginning of the 2012 fiscal year on October 1 and the need to enact
a Continuing Resolution before then to finance continued operation of the
entire federal government. An omnibus appropriations bill later this year
A chart detailing proposed funding levels for
key programs of interest to the research and education community is
Appropriations Bill, FY 2012
As reported by the Senate Agriculture Appropriations
The National Science Board (NSB) has issued the call for nominations for its 2012 honorary awards. Nominations for each of the awards is due Wednesday, November 2, 2011.
Information about the two awards from the NSB from a press release is reproduced below:
2012 Vannevar Bush Award
Honoring Lifelong Leadership in Science and Technology and
Contributions to the Nation through Public Service
The Vannevar Bush Award is awarded annually to exceptional
lifelong leaders in science and technology who have made substantial
contributions to the welfare of the Nation through public service activities
in science, technology and public policy.
Candidates for the Vannevar Bush Award must be U.S. citizens and
should have demonstrated outstanding leadership and accomplishment in meeting
at least two of the following selection criteria: distinguished him/herself
through public service activities in science and technology; pioneered the
exploration, charting, and settlement of new frontiers in science,
technology, education and public service; demonstrated leadership and
creativity that have inspired others to distinguished careers in science and
technology; contributed to the welfare of the Nation and mankind through
activities in science and technology; and/or demonstrated leadership and
creativity that has helped mold the history of advancements in the Nation's
science, technology, and education.
Recent recipients include: Charles M. Vest, President of the
National Academy of Engineering and President Emeritus of Massachusetts
Institute of Technology; Bruce Alberts, Editor-in-Chief, Science Magazine;
Mildred Dresselhaus, Institute Professor, Massachusetts Institute of
Technology; and Norman Augustine, former Chief Executive Officer and Chairman
of the Board, Lockheed Martin Corporation. For a list of past recipients of
this award, visit the Vannevar Bush Award Recipients on the NSB website.
For detailed nomination instructions and further information
about this award, visit the Vannevar Bush Award on the NSB website.
2012 National Science Board Public Service Award
Honoring Service in Public Understanding of Science and
The National Science Board Public Service Award honors
individuals and groups that have made substantial contributions to increasing
public understanding of science and engineering in the United States. These
contributions may be in a wide variety of areas that have the potential of
contributing to public understanding of and appreciation for science and
engineering--including mass media, education and/or training programs, and
The NSB Public Service Award is typically given to one individual
and one group (company, corporation or organization) each year. Members of
the U.S. Government are not eligible to receive the award.
Candidates for the NSB Public Service Award should have
demonstrated outstanding leadership and accomplishment in meeting the
following selection criteria: increased the public's understanding of the
processes of science and engineering through scientific discovery, innovation
and its communication to the public; encouraged others to help raise the
public understanding of science and technology; promoted the engagement of
scientists and engineers in public outreach and scientific literacy;
contributed to the development of broad science and engineering policy and
its support; influenced and encouraged the next generation of scientists and
engineers; achieved broad recognition outside of the candidate's area of
specialization; and fostered awareness of science and technology among broad
segments of the population.
Past recipients include Moira Gunn, host of Tech Nation; San Francisco's Exploratorium; NUMB3RS, the CBS television drama series; Ira
Flatow, Host and Executive Producer of NPR's Science Friday; Alfred P. Sloan Foundation; Bill Nye, the Science Guy; and NOVA, the PBS
television series. For a list of past recipients of this award, visit the
Public Service Award Recipients on the NSB website.
For detailed nomination instructions and further information
about this award, visit the Public Service Award on the NSB website.
Members of the ASPB community are encouraged to submit nominations for one or both of these prestigious awards or to recommend candidates for ASPB to nominate. All materials are submitted through the Honorary Nominations system on the National Science Foundations' FastLane.