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.
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.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has selected the new head of the Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO): John C. Wingfield, who is currently serving as the director of the Division of Integrative Organismal Biology (IOS). He came to NSF in September 2010 from the University of California, Davis.
Wingfield's research focuses on neural pathways for environmental signals affecting seasonality in birds and their mechanisms of coping with environmental stress. He also studies the interfaces with how animals deal with global climate change, endocrine disruption, and conservation biology.
In a press release announcing the appointment, Wingfield said, "This is a transformational time for biological sciences in the post-genome era as we try to understand life on Earth from its most fundamental components at the molecular levels to functioning organisms interacting with their environment, and with each other, at ecosystem scales."
Although Wingfield is not a plant scientist, the IOS division supports a significant amount of plant-related research at NSF including the Plant Genome Research Program.
Before arriving at UC Davis, Wingfield was a professor and department chair at the University of Washington and on the faculty at Rockefeller University. He holds a BSc in zoology from the University of Sheffield and PhD in zoology and comparative endocrinology from University College of North Wales. Among his honors is The Quest Award for seminal contributions to behavioral research from the Animal Behavior Society and the Association for the Study of Animal Behavior Medal. He is a fellow of the American Ornithologist's Union and the Animal Behavior Society. He served as president of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology and the XXV International Ornithological Congress.
Joann Roskoski had served as acting assistant director for BIO since the departure of James Collins in October 2009. Wingfield will start his position on September 6, 2011.
describe the state of postdoctoral programs in the United States, examine how postdoctoral fellows (postdocs) are being guided and managed, review institutional practices with respect to postdocs, try to determine what happens to postdocs after they complete their programs, explore important changes that have occurred in the postdoc practices and in the research ecosystem, and assess how well current practices meet the needs of these fledgling scientists and engineers and of the research enterprise.
The study committee will also attempt to answer several key questions such as where postdocs are located, what expectations are for postdoctoral appointments, what are career paths, and how postdocs participate in professional activities.
The committee includes many leaders in science and training, though no one with a particular focus on plant biology:
Gregory A. Petsko, PhD (chair), Gyula and Katica Tauber Professor of Biochemistry and Chemistry, and chair of the Department of Biochemistry, Brandeis University
Sibby Anderson-Thompkins, PhD, Director of Postdoctoral Affairs, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Carol W. Greider, PhD, Daniel Nathans Professor, and Director of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Johns Hopkins Institute of Basic Biomedical Sciences, Johns Hopkins University
Emilio F. Moran, PhD, Distinguished Professor and Rudy Professor of Anthropology, Professor of Environmental Studies, and Adjunct Professor of Geography, Indiana University
James D. Plummer, PhD, Frederick Emmons Terman Dean, School of Engineering, and John M. Fluke Professor of Electrical Engineering, Stanford University
E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor, and Dean, School of Medicine, University of Maryland, Baltimore
Nancy E. Schwartz, PhD, Professor of Pediatrics, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Chicago
Paula E. Stephan, PhD, Professor of Economics, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University; and Research Associate, National Bureau of Economic Research
Lorraine Tracey, PhD, Director of Biological Research and Development, NanoDetection Technology; Board Member, National Postdoctoral Association
Michael S. Turner, PhD, Bruce V. and Diana M. Rauner Distinguished Service Professor and Director of the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics, University of Chicago
Allison Woodall, JD, Managing Counsel, Labor, Employment and Benefits group, Office of the General Counsel, University of California Office of the President
Joan B. Woodward, PhD, former Executive Vice President and Deputy Director, Sandia National Laboratories (retired)
A study commissioned by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has revealed that black scientists were less likely to receive an NIH grant than white scientists, even after controlling for differences in institutions and academic track records. The results of the study by Ginther et al.—conducted by researchers at the University of Kansas, NIH, and Discovery Logic/Thomson Reuters—are published this week in the journal Science.
In an article in The New York Times, NIH Director Francis Collins was quoted as saying, "This situation is not acceptable.... This is not one of those reports that we will look at and the put aside." "That's a huge discrepancy, and something that we are deeply troubled about and are determined to do something about," Collins added on National Public Radio.
According to the study of 83,000 grant applications from 2000 to 2006, the success rate for white scientists was about 29%, but only 16% for black scientists. Even after controlling for statistical differences between the pools (applicant’s educational background, country of origin, training, previous research awards, publication record, and employer characteristics), the gap was still about 10%.
Figure 1 from Ginther et al. Probability of NIH R01 award by race and ethnicity, FY 2000 to FY 2006.
The gap seems to occur at the level of peer review. Even though applicants' race and ethnicity are not shared with study sections, Ginther et al. speculate that reviewers often know the application, and it is often not difficult to determine the applicant's race from characteristics such as their name or academic history.
The prevailing view seems to be that these findings are not a result of overt racism. Rather, it may be an example of unconscious bias or an effect of black scientists' tending to keep a lower scientific profile. There may also be differences in the quality of educational and mentoring experiences; Ginther et al. argue that even small differences may accumulate to have large cumulative effects.
Another troubling finding is that black PhD scientists were also significantly underrepresented in the pool of proposals for R01 awards, NIH's main investigator-initiated research grant mechanism. Black scientists submitted only 1.4% of all R01 applications, compared with 3.2% for Hispanics and 16% for Asians. This means that only 185 of the 23,400 R01 grants in the study went to black scientists.
NIH has announced that it has established two task forces to follow up on the study (including the new Diversity in Biomedical Research Working Group) and conduct experiments such as reviewing applications with the names of the applicant and institution removed. The agency will also recruit more early-career researchers and scientists of color to serve on review panels, providing them with a better understanding of how to write successful proposals.
NIH Principal Deputy Director Lawrence Taback was quoted in an NIH news release as saying, "Recruiting the best minds to biomedical research is a shared responsibility. It's up to the academic community to foster and support inquisitive minds and a love of science in people of all races, ethnicities, genders, and socioeconomic backgrounds. And it's up to NIH to ensure that everyone enjoys the same opportunity for NIH funding to succeed in their scientific endeavors."
The study did not find statistically significant differences for Hispanic or Asian scientists, once controlling for language difficulties.
Citation: Donna K. Ginther, Walter T. Schaffer, Joshua Schnell, Beth Masimore, Faye Liu, Laurel L. Haak, and Raynard Kington. (2011). Race, ethnicity, and NIH research awards. Science 333(6045, 19 August): 1015-1019.
ASPB member Nina V. Fedoroff has written an op-ed in the August 19, 2011, edition of The New York Times calling for enhanced support for the development and use of genetically modified (GM) crops.
In the op-ed, Fedoroff describes the enormous potential of GM crops to help in feeding a growing world population while simultaneously reducing the use of pesticides, soil erosion, and other inputs—and decreasing the environmental impact of agriculture.
She points out the difficulty in bringing GM crops to market, with only big companies able to afford to navigate the complex regulatory pathway and a focus only on commodity crops with sufficient financial incentives.
Fedoroff does not dismiss the concerns expressed over genetic modification technologies; rather she cites evidence that argues that crop modification by molecular methods is no more dangerous that crop modification by other methods. For example, the European Union has come to this conclusion after studying the question for 25 years, and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and British Royal Society agree.
It is time to relieve the regulatory burden slowing down the development of genetically modified crops. The three United States regulatory agencies [Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Agriculture, Food and Drug Administration] need to develop a single set of requirements and focus solely on the hazards — if any — posed by new traits.
And above all, the government needs to stop regulating genetic modifications for which there is no scientifically credible evidence of harm.
Fedoroff is the Evan Pugh Professor in the Biology Department and Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences at Penn State University, a member of the external faculty at the Santa Fe Institution, and a distinguished visiting professor at King Adbullah University in Saudi Arabia. She is also the current president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and one of President Obama's science envoys to other parts of the world. Fedoroff previously served as science and technology adviser to the U.S. Secretary of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development. She received ASPB's Leadership in Science Public Service Award in 2010.
National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins has charged the NIH Advisory Committee to the Director to establish a Diversity in Biomedical Research Working Group (DBRWG). This is in response to suboptimal results from a variety of programs designed to foster the participation of underrepresented minorities in the biomedical science workforce pipeline.
The working group will focus on five key transition points in the pipeline:
entry into graduate degree programs;
the transition from graduate degree to post-doctoral fellowship;
the appointment from a post-doctoral position to the first independent scientific position;
the award of the first independent research grant from NIH or equivalent in industry; and
award of tenure in an academic position or equivalent in an industrial setting.
The working group and advisory committee will provide concrete recommendations to the NIH Director on ways to improve the retention of underrepresented minorities, persons with disabilities, and persons from disadvantaged backgrounds through these critical periods. The DBRWG's analysis will include both the NIH intramural research community and the NIH extramural research community.
The DBRWG is charged with producing interim recommendations by December 2011 and final recommendations by June 2012. In recognition of related tasks within the NIH campus, the DBRWG is expected to collaborate and coordinate with the ACD Biomedical Workforce Working Group, the NIH Diversity Task Force, and the NIH Women in Biomedical Research Careers Working Group.
Reed Tuckson, MD, Executive Vice President and Chief of Medical Affairs, UnitedHealth Group, co-chair
John Ruffin, PhD, Director, National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, co-chair
Lawrence Tabak, DDS, PhD, Principal Deputy Director National Institutes of Health, co-chair
Ann Bonham, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer, Association of American Medical Colleges
Jordan Cohen, MD, President Emeritus, Association of American Medical Colleges
José Florez, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School
Gary Gibbons, MD, Director, Cardiovascular Research Institute and Chair, Department of Physiology, Morehouse School of Medicine
Renee Jenkins, MD, Chair, Department of Pediatrics and Child Health, Howard University
Tuajuanda Jordan, PhD, Dean, College of Arts and Sciences, Lewis and Clark College
Wayne Riley, MD, MPH, MBA, President & Chief Executive Officer, Meharry Medical College; Chair, National Advisory Council on Minority Health & Health Disparities, National Institutes of Health; Chairman, Board of Directors, Association of Minority Health Professions Schools
Samuel Silverstein, MD, John C. Dalton Professor of Physiology & Cellular Biophysics, and Professor of Medicine, Columbia University Medical Center
Dana Yasu Takagi, PhD, Professor of Sociology, University of California, Santa Cruz
Maria Teresa Velez, PhD, Associate Dean of the Graduate College, Professor in Psychology, University of Arizona
M. Roy Wilson, MD, MS, Chairman, Board of Trustees, Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science
Keith Yamamoto, PhD, Executive Vice Dean, School of Medicine, Professor Departments of Cellular/Molecular Pharmacology and Biochemistry/Biophysics, University of California, San Francisco
Clyde Yancy, MD, Magerstadt Professor and Chief, Division of Medicine-Cardiology, Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
An August 9, 2011, article in The New York Times reports
on a number of efforts by the scientific community encourage scientists to run
for office and to participate in public debate about scientific issues.
When asked to name a scientist, the article
reports than 47% answer Albert Einstein, who has been dead for more than half a
century, followed by "I don't know" at 23%. In fact, only 4%
could name a living scientist.
Part of the challenge the scientific community
faces is that there are few scientists in public life. According to the
Congressional Research Service, only a handful of the 435 members of the U.S.
House of Representatives have any scientific training: 1 physicist, 1 chemist,
1 microbiologist, 6 engineers, 1 veterinarian, 2 psychologists, and 19 with
some other form of medical training.
Plant evolutionary biologist Barbara Schaal,
who serves as vice president of the National Academy of Sciences, was quoted as
saying "there is a disconnect between what science says and how people perceive
what science says.... We need to interact with the public for our good and the
public good.” The Academy has recently created the Science Ambassador
Program in which researchers will be recruited and trained to speak out on
their areas of expertise.
For the past several years, Scientists and
Engineers for America has offered guidance and encouragement to researchers
considering a run for public office, but it is not clear how many have done so.
In a telephone interview with the New York Times, former Michigan Republican Representative
Vernon Ehlers, who retired this year, said he thinks a kind of "reverse
snobbery” keeps researchers out of public life. "You have these professors
struggling to write their $30,000 grant applications at the same time there are
people they would never accept in their research groups making $100-million
decisions in the National Science Foundation or the Department of Energy."
Ehlers joined with Bill Foster, a physicist
from Fermilab who served in the House from 2008 until 2010, to form Ben
Franklin's List, a nonpartisan political action committee to support scientists
running for office. Of course, Foster
has had to step away from the group – but because he is running for Congress
Foster pointed out that scientific ignorance
is a bipartisan challenge:
There is plenty of scope for these efforts,
said Dr. Foster, who cited "glaring instances of technical ignorance on both
sides of the aisle.” He recalled a fellow Democrat (whom he would not name) as
advocating greater use of wind power "because windmills poll so well” — which
is not, Dr. Foster said, a sound basis for energy policy. And then there was the Republican who praised the development of GPS
technology as an example of innovation unfettered by government, apparently
unaware that the technology is a product of government-sponsored research.
ASPB encourages its members and friends to be
engaged with its public affairs activities and encourages scientists to be
involved in policy debates and to run for office.
ASPB has added its voice to a community letter from The Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research to the chair and ranking member of the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor-HHS-Education. The letter, from 214 organizations and institutions, makes the case for robust funding of the National Institutes of Health in the FY2012 budget:
In this challenging budget environment, we recognize the painful decisions that must be made to secure the nation’s fiscal stability. However, it is imperative that such efforts recognize the federal role in promoting the prosperity and well-being of the American people. Especially in times like these, continuing the nation’s commitment to medical research through NIH is essential to ensuring the health of all Americans and to maintaining U.S. leadership in an increasingly competitive global scientific arena. The Ad Hoc Group strongly recommends that the FY 2012 Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill uphold the longstanding legacy of bipartisan support for the health and economic benefits afforded by an unwavering commitment to NIH.
Anyone participating in ASPB's annual meeting, Plant Biology 2011, will definitely want to stay through the meeting's final session, the ASPB President's Symposium on Plants and BioEnergy.
Kicking off the session will be one of the nation’s chief advocates for renewable energy research—Dr. Steven E. Koonin (at right), who is Under Secretary for Science at the Department of Energy (DOE). A computational and nuclear physicist, Dr. Koonin served as a faculty member at the California Institute of Technology for nearly 30 years including nearly a decade as Caltech's provost. He was most recently chief scientist at BP before being confirmed as DOE Under Secretary in May 2009.
Dr. Koonin will be followed by the leaders of several DOE-supported Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRCs). The EFRCs are harnessing the most basic and advanced discovery research in a concerted effort to establish the scientific foundation for a fundamentally new U.S. energy economy: