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Plant Biology Policy Blog (PB2)
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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 afagen@aspb.org Policy Archives available under Group Pages.

 

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Top tags: Congress  appropriations  House  USDA  NSF  Senate  NIH  DOE  President Obama  Farm Bill  OSTP  biofuels  award  education  event  fellowship  international  White House  workforce  COMPETES Act  energy  GMO  grants  NSB  Alert  funding  HHMI  National Academies  New York Times  nomination 

AAAS Seeking Nominations for the 2012 AAAS Charles Valentine Riley Memorial Lecture

Posted By Kathy R. Munkvold, Monday, December 19, 2011

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the Charles Valentine Riley Memorial Foundation (RMF), and the World Food Prize Foundation (WFPF) invite nominations for the 2012 AAAS Charles Valentine Riley Memorial Lecture to be held in Spring 2012 at AAAS Headquarters in Washington, D.C. The lecture was named for the Missouri research entomologist, Charles Valentine Riley, known for implementing one of the first successful uses of biological control of an insect pest. The annual lecture, which commenced in 2010, is aimed at highlighting the important role of agricultural research as the most basic human endeavor and to enhance agriculture through increased scientific knowledge.

Prior lecturers include ASPB members Roger Beachy (2010), then USDA National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) director, and Pamela Ronald (2011), Professor, Department of Plant Pathology at the University of California, Davis.

The 2012 nominees should be well-respected scientists working at the forefront of a pressing issue at the nexus of agriculture and society (see lecturer eligibility specifics below). They should have outstanding scientific contributions or significant policy accomplishments related to agriculture with demonstrated societal impact. The lecture carries an honorarium of $5,000.

Nominations should be typed and include: (1) the nominator’s name, title, institutional affiliation, email address, and phone number; (2) the nominee’s name, title, institutional affiliation, address, email address, and phone number; (3) a summary of the basis of the nomination (not to exceed 500 words); (4) a curriculum vitae (3 page maximum); (5) any documentation (books, articles, or other materials) that exemplify the nominee’s accomplishments with respect to agriculture and society (optional).

Please submit all nominations in PDF or Word format via email to Anne Moraske at amoraske@aaas.org by January 10, 2012. For more information, please send Ms. Moraske an email or call 202-326-6759.

Lecturer eligibility:

  • Nominees may not self-nominate;
  • Nominations must be for individuals and not institutions;
  • Members (and immediate family members) of the Selection Committee and staff of AAAS, RMF, and WFPF are ineligible

Information regarding the sponsors and program for last year’s 2011 AAAS Charles Valentine Riley Memorial Lecture can be found here: https://www.signup4.net/public/ap.aspx?EID=AAAS11E&OID=50.


Tags:  AAAS 

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The U.S. Department of Energy Solicits Nominations for the Ernest Orlando Lawrence Award

Posted By Kathy R. Munkvold, Monday, December 19, 2011

The Lawrence Award honors mid-career, U.S. scientists for exceptional advances in research and development congruent with the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) mission to advance the economic and energy security of the United States. The award is given to scientists through the DOE’s Office of Science in the following eight categories: Atomic, Molecular, and Chemical Sciences; Biological and Environmental Sciences; Computer, Information, and Knowledge Sciences; Condensed Matter and Materials Sciences; Energy Science and Innovation; Fusion and Plasma Sciences; High Energy and Nuclear Physics; and National Security and Nonproliferation.

The Ernest Orlando Lawrence Award was established in 1959 in honor of a scientist who helped elevate American physics to world leadership. E. O. Lawrence was the inventor of the cyclotron, an accelerator of subatomic particles, and a 1939 Nobel Laureate in physics for that achievement. The Radiation Laboratory he developed at Berkeley during the 1930s ushered in the era of "big science," in which experiments were no longer done by an individual researcher and a few assistants on the table-top of an academic lab but by large, multidisciplinary teams of scientists and engineers in entire buildings full of sophisticated equipment and huge scientific machines. During World War II, Lawrence and his accelerators contributed to the Manhattan Project, and he later played a leading role in establishing the U.S. system of national laboratories, two of which (Lawrence Berkeley and Lawrence Livermore) now bear his name.

Each Lawrence Award category winner receives a citation signed by the Secretary of Energy, a gold medal bearing the likeness of Ernest Orlando Lawrence, and a $20,000 honorarium; if there are co-winners in a category, the honorarium is shared equally. Nominations and selection guidelines can be found here: http://science.energy.gov/lawrence/nomination-and-selection-guidelines/. Briefly, nominations are made by submitting a letter of justification, a statement explaining the nominee’s connection to DOE support, a separate bibliography comprising no more than five significant publications related to the achievement, a curriculum vitae, at least three and no more than six letters of support, and a suggested citation. Submission of all nomination materials, including letters of support, in PDF format, is made online at http://www.orau.gov/lawrence/.

For a list of previous Lawrence Award laureates see http://science.energy.gov/lawrence/award-laureates/.

All nomination materials and support letters for the 2012 E. O. Lawrence Award must be received by March 15, 2012, 11:00 PM, ET. No materials will be accepted after the submission deadline has passed.

Tags:  award  DOE 

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Increase to indirect cost limits for NIFA funded grants in the FY 2012 minibus appropriations bill

Posted By Kathy R. Munkvold, Thursday, December 08, 2011

Indirect costs, also known as facilities and administration costs, included in many USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) funded grants have previously been limited to at most 22%. The FY 2012 minibus appropriations bill provides language (see below) that allows for up to 30% for indirect costs, at least for grants funded in FY 2012. Indirect cost rates for most research institutions hover around 50%. This change in policy at the USDA represents a major step towards rates honored at other science funding agencies.


Text from the appropriations bill:

SEC. 720. None of the funds in this Act shall be available to pay indirect costs charged against any agricultural research, education, or extension grant awards issued by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture that exceed 30 percent of total Federal funds provided under each award: Provided, That notwithstanding section 1462 of the National Agricultural Research, Extension, and Teaching Policy Act of 1977 (7 U.S.C. 3310), funds provided by this Act for grants awarded competitively by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture shall be available to pay full allowable indirect costs for each grant awarded under section 9 of the Small Business Act (15 U.S.C. 638).


This post includes content provided by ASPB's external government relations consultant, Lewis-Burke Associates LLC.

Tags:  appropriations  USDA 

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Implications of Supercommittee Collapse for Science Funding and Higher Education

Posted By Lewis-Burke Associates, LLC, Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Media attention has focused on the failure of the 12-member congressional Supercommittee to reach agreement on a package to reduce the federal deficit by at least $1.2 trillion over the next nine years. However, universities and science organizations are not the victims of the deficit impasse. Generally, federal funding for scientific research is not the target of deficit reduction for several reasons: (1) the amount of domestic discretionary funding for science is not large enough to have significant impact on deficit reduction; (2) science has bipartisan support among politicians since it is part of the innovation economy upon which the country’s financial recovery is partially dependent; and (3) dismantling the scientific infrastructure of the country is counter-productive in the global technology-driven forces of the 21st century. There are aspects of the current federal deficit paralysis that indirectly affect higher education – particularly relating to student aid, academic health centers, and tax policy – but reducing direct federal support of scientific research at academic institutions is not front-and-center.

Now, many are trying to determine what happens next as Congress still has much work to do before adjourning next month. With funding fully enacted for the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) the competitive funding arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), with modest increases (NSF and NOAA), flat funding (AFRI) or a slight reduction (NASA), completion of the fiscal year (FY) 2012 appropriations process, especially for NIH funding, is an important challenge. In addition to funding the remaining appropriations bills, which are currently operating under a Continuing Resolution (CR) through December 16th, there are other issues looming before Congress, such as extension of unemployment benefits, doctor payments, and tax extenders. This report describes the impact of the collapse of the Supercommittee at the federal level; however, actions might be taken by state and local governments to respond to possible implications associated with the collapse of the Supercommittee process. 


Near-Term Outlook for Science Funding

Among its many to-dos, Congress must still complete nine remaining FY 2012 appropriations bills, including bills that fund the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Department of Energy (DOE), the Department of Defense (DOD), and the Department of Education (ED). It is expected that this will be done through one large "omnibus” package before the end of the calendar year. As previously reported, other science agencies for which appropriations bills have been passed—namely NSF, NASA, NOAA, and the Department of Agriculture (USDA)—fared relatively well in FY 2012, receiving budgets that are about flat or slightly increased above the FY 2011 enacted level. A similar outcome is expected for basic research in agencies like NIH and DOE in the final appropriations agreement.

One caveat is that it is not uncommon for a modest across-the-board reduction to be included in an omnibus appropriations bill should it be warranted to keep discretionary appropriations within the overall cap of $1.043 trillion enacted in the Budget Control Act (debt limit agreement). Should the appropriations process stall, there has been some discussion of extending the current CR into early next year, which would result in a freeze for all programs at the current (FY 2011) level until Congress completes an omnibus bill or enacts a CR for the remainder of the fiscal year.

Planning is also underway by agencies for the President’s FY 2013 budget request which is expected to be more conservative than in past years and may even be delayed due to the uncertainty of future budget cuts. The FY 2013 process remains very uncertain at the moment with flat funding for federal research agencies considered "a win” in the coming years.


Budget Scenarios for FY 2014 and Beyond

In August, the Budget Control Act enacted a process that would institute automatic across-the-board budget cuts over nine years, known as sequestration, in the event that the Supercommittee could not reach a deal. However, given that the cuts are not scheduled to go into effect until January 2013 (after the election) and are subject to subsequent revision by Congress, it is possible they will be delayed or never triggered at all. In the event no changes are made to the automatic budget cuts, the White House Office of Management and Budget would be required to reduce the discretionary appropriated budget by $109 billion per year for nine years, allocated equally between defense spending and nondefense spending.

Reductions in discretionary spending from 2014 to 2021 would be achieved by reducing the aggregate overall caps on such spending for each year. While the President could propose specific cuts to agencies such as NIH and NSF, specific appropriations would still be subject to the annual congressional appropriations process and program funding could be increased or further decreased within the overall capped amount for all discretionary spending. As a general rule of thumb, if these cuts were allocated proportionately, it would mean 6 to 8 percent reductions to the domestic spending agencies.

Concerns are already being expressed by the Administration and by both Democratic and Republican Members of Congress over the magnitude of potential spending cuts to defense. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the DOD budget could be cut by as much as 10 percent in FY 2013 under the mandated sequester with additional reductions in discretionary defense spending over the nine-year period to estimated savings of about 8.5 percent in FY 2021. Such reductions, totaling an estimated $492 billion, could impact big defense programs already at issue in Congress, as well as drive changes in the structure and mobility of the nation’s military services already under consideration. Additional reductions in mandatory defense spending are also likely under current law. While some want to undo the sequester for defense, the President has threatened to veto any bill that focuses only on exempting defense spending.

In short, the budget outlook for the next several years is uncertain at best. The main question on the table is whether and how to skirt the automatic cuts that would be levied against FY 2013 appropriations as required under the Budget Control Act. However, flat funding for science agencies remains a possibility over the next few years and should be viewed as a "win” in the current budget climate.

Congressional Quarterly (CQ) has produced a graphic that further explains the sequestration process, should that process go forward without changes by Congress: http://www.cq.com/graphics/monitor/2011/11/23/mon20111123-23deficit-cht.pdf

Tags:  appropriations  Congress  DOE  NIH  NSF  USDA 

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NSF sees increase in funding for FY 2012 and AFRI, USDA’s competitive grants program, remains flat as Congress prepares to pass first minibus

Posted By Lewis-Burke Associates LLC, Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The House and Senate have come to a conference agreement on the first fiscal year (FY) 2012 "minibus” bill (H.R. 2112), which combines three appropriations bills into one package – the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration bill; the Commerce, Justice, Science bill; and the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development bill. These bills provide funding for federal research agencies, including the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), among others. While science agencies did well overall, with most gaining modest increases over FY 2011 levels, Administration priorities such as the Sustainable Communities Initiative and high-speed rail were zeroed out, signaling trouble for other White House initiatives in upcoming appropriations bills. The minibus would also include a Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the rest of the federal government through December 16, 2011.

The House is expected to pass the conference report on Thursday, November 17, with the Senate following suit on Friday, November 18. The President is expected to sign the bill into law on Friday before the current short-term CR expires. While the Senate had hoped to continue work on additional minibus bills, that effort has stalled and appropriators are now looking at packaging the remaining appropriations bills into one large omnibus bill.

Below is additional information on funding amounts and agency directives provided for NSF, USDA, and the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), included in the minibus agreement.


National Science Foundation (NSF)

NSF fares well in the conference agreement receiving a total budget of $7.033 billion, which is $173 million or 2.5 percent over FY 2011 and higher than both the House and Senate marks. Within this amount, Research and Related Activities (R&RA) would receive $5.719 billion, $155 million or 2.8 percent over FY 2011 and also higher than both the House and Senate marks. The report is supportive of NSF’s R&RA termination and reduction proposals, including the Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory, Research Initiation to Broaden Participation in Biology, and the Synchrotron Radiation Center, but does not accept the requested reduction to the radio astronomy program. The report approves of NSF prioritization of advanced manufacturing and cybersecurity, and calls for NSF to fully fund cybersecurity at the budget request level of $156.55 million. As in the House report, neuroscience is highlighted as a key area and the report encourages NSF to "establish a cognitive sciences and neurosciences crosscutting theme.”

The Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction (MREFC) account would receive $167.055 million, which is $50 million or 43 percent above the FY 2011 level and higher than both the House and Senate marks. As in the House bill, no funding levels are listed for specific projects, and the report instead directs NSF to prioritize projects nearing completion. The report includes language allowing transfer of funds from R&RA to MREFC, but this authority has been modified to allow $50 million to be transferred rather than the $100 million allowed by the Senate report. As in the House report, NSF is instructed to review its current portfolio of MREFC projects and their out-year funding profiles to make certain they are in line with appropriated funding for FY 2011 and FY 2012. Should adjustments be needed, the Committee directs NSF to report revised profiles to the Committee and to include the new funding profiles in the FY 2013 budget request. Also as in the House report, the Committee directs NSF to strengthen oversight of contingency funding and incentivize grantees to bring projects in under budget. The Committee directs NSF to report on its efforts to limit the use of contingency funding and ensure return of excess funds for large facility projects within 90 days of enactment.

The Education and Human Resources (EHR) account would be funded at $829 million, $32 million or 3.7 percent below the FY 2011 level and equal to the Senate-proposed level. As in the House report, the Conference Committee does not support the proposed reductions to the Robert Noyce Scholarship program and the Math and Science Partnership program, but does approve of all other proposed reductions and terminations in the EHR budget request. Like the Senate, the Committee would also provide an additional $20 million above the request level to expand the Federal Cyber Service: Scholarships for Service program. As in the House report, the Committee directs NSF to distribute the National Research Council’s report, Successful K-12 STEM Education: Identifying Effective Approaches in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, and provide an evaluation plan within 12 months of enactment regarding the steps NSF and other Federal agencies should take to implement the plan. On the topic of broadening participation programs, after some discussion over the last several years regarding the creation of a separate Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) program, the Committee directs NSF to provide a report on how the needs of HSIs will be addressed in FY 2012 and any future plans to establish an HSI program in FY 2013. The Committee also supports the FY 2011 levels for the existing broadening participation programs.


U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)

The conference agreement includes nearly $2.3 billion for research throughout USDA, a reduction of $51.1 million (2 percent) below the FY 2011 enacted level. The conferees recommend $1.095 billion for the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) to support USDA’s intramural research programs, disagreeing with the President’s request to terminate extramural research through ARS. The conferees do concur with the Administration’s proposal to close 12 research laboratories at 10 locations and they request a report on the disposition of the facilities by January 20, 2012.

For the extramural research programs of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), the final bill includes $705.6 million for research and education activities, an increase of $104.8 million (17 percent) above the House recommendation and $4.2 million below the Senate-passed level. The conferees express their strong support for USDA’s agricultural research, extension, and education activities through NIFA, but they note concerns about the focus of the research programs, especially projects through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). The conferees strongly encourage USDA to fund only the highest priority agricultural research authorized by Congress. The conferees approve $9 million for the Graduate Fellowship Grants, Institution Challenge Grants, and Multicultural Scholars Program.

Within NIFA, a total of $264.5 million is approved for competitive extramural agricultural research through AFRI, which is the same as the FY 2011 enacted level. For the formula or capacity-building programs, the final bill includes $236.3 million for the Hatch Act, the same as the FY 2011 level, and $32.9 million for McIntire-Stennis Cooperative Forestry.

The conferees do not fund the Hispanic-Serving Agricultural Colleges and Universities Endowment Fund proposed at $10 million by the President.


Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP)

The conference agreement would provide OSTP with $4.5 million for FY 2012, which is $2.1 million or 32 percent below the FY 2011 level, $1.5 million above the House level, and $1.5 million below the Senate mark. The conferees support OSTP’s efforts to improve coordination of federal STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education programs and to develop a government-wide STEM education strategic plan. The bill also directs OSTP to include in this strategic plan goals to improve distribution of STEM education research and best practices. The bill further encourages OSTP to establish an interagency working group through the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) to coordinate investments in neuroscience research. The report language specifically highlights the need to develop future clinical treatments for traumatic brain injuries and an improved understanding of cognition and learning, Alzheimer’s disease, and childhood development disorders. Also, in light of the recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report in May stating OSTP illegally engaged in bilateral activities with China, the bill restricts OSTP from engaging in any activities that would risk transferring sensitive technology and data and harm U.S. economic and national security interests. The bill does allow OSTP to carry out other activities with China, such as public health planning and disaster response.


The complete report is located here: 

http://www.rules.house.gov/Media/file/PDF_112_1/Committee%20Jurisdiction%20Reports/CR2112%201114s.pdf

The language for the report is located here:

http://www.rules.house.gov/Media/file/PDF_112_1/Committee%20Jurisdiction%20Reports/JointStates.pdf

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Applications open for 2012 AIBS Emerging Public Policy Leadership Award

Posted By Adam Fagen, Monday, November 14, 2011
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 1-year AIBS membership, including a subscription to the journal BioScience and a copy of "Communicating Science: A Primer for Working with the Media."
  • 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.

Good luck to those applying!


Tags:  AIBS  award 

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Koonin steps down as DOE Under Secretary for Science

Posted By Adam Fagen, Friday, November 11, 2011
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.



Tags:  DOE 

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Congress makes progress on FY 2012 appropriations

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.



This post includes content provided by ASPB's external government relations consultant, Lewis-Burke Associates LLC.


Tags:  appropriations  Congress  House  Senate 

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Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack emphasizes research for 2012 Farm Bill

Posted By Adam Fagen, Monday, October 24, 2011
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 climate.

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.

Photo:  USDA

Tags:  Farm Bill  USDA 

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Sen. Kohl speaks on behalf of agriculture research on Senate floor

Posted By Adam Fagen, Thursday, October 20, 2011
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.

Support for agriculture research was seen as one of the most important elements of 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.




Tags:  Congress  research  Senate  USDA 

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NIH selects NIGMS director: Chris Kaiser of MIT

Posted By Adam Fagen, Tuesday, October 18, 2011
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.

Tags:  NIH 

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NSF seeking nominations for Advisory Committee for International Science and Engineering

Posted By Lewis-Burke Associates LLC, Tuesday, October 18, 2011
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is currently accepting nominations for membership on its Advisory Committee for International Science and Engineering (AC-ISE).  The committee provides guidance to NSF's Office of International Science and Engineering (OISE) and to other NSF or federal government activities in international science and engineering.

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 writ large.

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 apply.

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: rwebber@nsf.gov.

Advisory Committee Website: Additional details of the AC-ISE's charge and current composition are available on the OISE website at: http://www.nsf.gov/od/oise/advisory.jsp.

Additional Background: An overview of the process for submitting nominations to serve on NSF advisory committees is at: http://www.nsf.gov/about/performance/dir_advisory.jsp.



This post includes content provided by ASPB's external government relations consultant, Lewis-Burke Associates LLC.

Tags:  international  nomination  NSF 

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CGS and ETS will explore pathways through graduate school and into careers

Posted By Adam Fagen, Friday, October 14, 2011
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
  • Russ Owen, President, Managed Services Sector, CSC
  • Ron Townsend, Executive Vice President, Battelle Memorial Institute
  • Patrick Osmer (Chair), Vice Provost and Dean, Graduate School, The Ohio State University
  • Jeffery Gibeling, Dean, Graduate Studies, University of California, Davis
  • Maureern Grasso, Dean, Graduate School, University of Georgia
  • Freeman Hrabowski, President, University of Maryland, Baltimore County
  • Jean Morrison, Provost, Boston University
  • Suzanne Ortega, Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, University of North Carolina
  • Teresa Sullivan, President, University of Virginia
  • Lisa Tedesco, Dean, Laney Graduate School, Emory University
  • James Wimbush, Dean, University Graduate School, Indiana University
  • Kurt Landgraf (ex officio), President and Chief Executive Officer, Educational Testing Service
  • Debra W. Stewart (ex officio), President, Council of Graduate Schools


Tags:  career  education  graduate 

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OSTP releases Request for Information for National Bioeconomy Blueprint

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 6, 2011.

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?
All comments should be submitted via email to bioeconomy@ostp.gov by December 6, 2011. Individual or organizational comments will be available for the public to view at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/ostp/bioeconomy

To view the Federal Register notice, or for more information, visit: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-10-11/pdf/2011-26088.pdf.


This post includes content provided by ASPB's external government relations consultant, Lewis-Burke Associates LLC.

Tags:  OSTP  White House 

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USAID Policy Framework emphasizes role of science and technology in global development

Posted By Lewis Burke Associates LLC, Friday, October 07, 2011
Building on its commitment to reshape the nation’s global development enterprise, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) recently released its first ever policy framework to detail future strategic directions for the agency and its development partners.  The brainchild of Administrator Rajiv Shah, an advocate for aggressive reforms at USAID and other development entities, the USAID Policy Framework: 2011-2015 follows earlier development vision statements including the inaugural Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) released last December.  The Policy Framework is specific to USAID and drills down into critical challenges facing the agency while also outlining potential solutions.

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.

Future Priorities

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 partners.

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 support.

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.

USAID Forward

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 technology
  • 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.

The full text of the Policy Framework is available at: http://www.usaid.gov/policy/USAID_PolicyFramework.PDF.


This post includes content provided by ASPB's external government relations consultant, Lewis-Burke Associates LLC.


Tags:  international  USAID 

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Continuing Resolution funds federal government through November 18

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 appropriations process.

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; and
  • 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.


This post includes content provided by ASPB's external government relations consultant, Lewis-Burke Associates LLC.

Tags:  appropriations  Congress  White House 

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ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit

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 communities.


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 Energy; and
  • 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:

Early Bird

Advance/On Site

Full Summit and Workshop (Feb 27-29)

Corporate

$1,250

$1,450

Academic/Government/ Start-up

$895

$1,095

Pre-Summit Workshop Only (Feb 27)

Workshop Only Pricing

$350

$450

Summit Only

(Feb 28-29)

Corporate

$995

$1,095

Academic/Government/

Start-up

$595

$695



This post includes content provided by ASPB's external government relations consultant,Lewis-Burke Associates LLC.


Tags:  biofuels  DOE  event 

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NSF launches Career-Life Balance Initiative

Posted By Adam Fagen, Sunday, October 02, 2011
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.
What do you think about the new policies?

Tags:  NSF  White House  workforce 

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White House to develop National Bioeconomy Blueprint

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.

Tags:  White House 

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Senate Approps releases specifics about proposed cuts at NSF

Posted By Adam Fagen, Friday, September 16, 2011
The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) has released report language on its proposed CJS budget for fiscal year (FY) 2012.  As we reported earlier this week, the proposed budget for the National Science Foundation (NSF) was $162 million (2.4%) below the FY 2011 level; the new report provides specifics on how the budget will be allocated.

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."

Tags:  appropriations  Congress  NSF  Senate 

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