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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 Policy Archives available under Group Pages.


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

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:

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: 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)




Academic/Government/ Start-up



Pre-Summit Workshop Only (Feb 27)

Workshop Only Pricing



Summit Only

(Feb 28-29)








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

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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Senate Appropriations Subcommittee suggests cuts for NSF

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.

Tags:  appropriations  Congress  NSF  Senate 

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DOE to host Sep. 22 webinar on biomass feedstock potential

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.

Register for the September 22 webinar

DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy invests in clean energy technologies that strengthen the economy, protect the environment, and reduce America's dependence on foreign oil. Learn more about DOE's support of research and development of biofuels, bioenergy, and bioproducts.

Tags:  biofuels  DOE  energy 

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Senate Appropriations Committee approves FY 2012 funding for DOE

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 request.

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 request.

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 below.

Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill, FY 2012

As reported by the Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee, 9/7/11

(In thousands of dollars)

FY 2011 CR

FY 2012 Subcom Mark

Subcom vs.

FY 11 CR


vs. House

Subcom vs.

FY 12 Request

DOE, total



-42,176 (<1%)

808,254 (3%)

-5,134,802 (17%)





42,665 (<1%)

-573,449 (11%)

Advanced Scientific Computing Research



19,622 (5%)

14,526 (3%)

-23,981 (5%)

Basic Energy Sciences



15,665 (1%)

5,715 (<1%)

-291,140 (15%)

Biological and Environmental Research



10,000 (2%)

74,748 (14%)

-96,077 (13%)

Fusion Energy Sciences Program



-40,000 (11%)

-70,537 (17%)

-64,237 (16%)

High-energy Physics



-15,220 (2%)

-17,000 (2%)

-17,000 (2%)

Nuclear Physics



10,000 (2%)

-1,866 (<1%)

-55,186 (9%)

Workforce Development for Teachers and Scientists



-2,600 (12%)

2,151 (12%)

-15,600 (44%)

Science Laboratories Infrastructure



11,053 (9%)

33,313 (32%)

25,000 (22%)




359 (0.01%)

491,364 (38%)

-1,404,053 (44%)

Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology




6,550 (7%)

-2,450 (2%)

Biomass and Biorefinery Systems R&D



-2,695 (1%)

30,000 (20%)

-160,500 (47%)

Solar Energy



26,500 (10%)

123,857 (75%)

-167,000 (37%)

Wind Energy




4,000 (5%)

-46,859 (37%)

Geothermal Technology



-4,003 (11%)

-4,000 (11%)

-67,535 (67%)

Water Power



4,000 (13%)

-16,000 (32%)

-4,500 (12%)

Vehicle Technologies



19,157 (6%)

65,157 (26%)

-268,846 (46%)

Building Technologies




60,500 (40%)

-260,200 (55%)

Industrial Technologies



-12,241 (11%)


-223,784 (70%)

Federal Energy Management Program



-402 (1%)


-3,072 (9%)

Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability



-10 (<1%)

1,504 (1%)

-96,717 (41%)

Nuclear Energy



-141,824 (20%)

-149,633 (20%)

-170,028 (23%)

Fossil Energy Research and Development



-185,529 (42%)

-217,993 (46%)

-193,975 (43%)




70,360 (39%)

70,360 (39%)

-300,011 (55%)

Loan Guarantee Program






DOE Defense Activities



527,480 (5%)

450,969 (4%)

-662,598 (6%)

Weapons Activities



293,602 (4%)

98,339 (1%)

-399,384 (5%)

Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation



109,347 (5%)

326,230 (15%)

-136,492 (5%)

Defense Environmental Cleanup



22,262 (<1%)

64,381 (1%)

-404,781 (7%)

Army Corps of Engineers, total



6,787 (<1%)

95,594 (2%)

291,000 (6%)

Bureau of Reclamation, total



4,415 (<1%)

161,704 (18%)

48,611 (5%)

For additional information, including the Appropriations Committee’s press release, please see the Senate Appropriations Committee website: .

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

Tags:  appropriations  Congress  DOE  energy  Senate 

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Senate Appropriations Committee approves FY 2012 funding for USDA

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 stabilization activities.

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 disaster aid.

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 bill.

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 House-passed level.

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 is anticipated.

A chart detailing proposed funding levels for key programs of interest to the research and education community is below.

Senate Agriculture Appropriations Bill, FY 2012

As reported by the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, 9/7/11

(In thousands of dollars)

FY 2011 CR

FY 2012 Subcom Mark

Subcom vs.

FY 2011 CR

Subcom vs. House

Subcom vs.

FY 2012 Request

USDA, Research



-278,182 (11%)

75,395 (3%)

-285,762 (11%)




-38,181 (3%)

101,704 (10%)

-42,641 (4%)




-798 (<1%)

194,000 (19%)

9,231 (<1%)

Research and Education



11,085 (2%)

109,025 (18%)

1,718 (<1%)




-954 (<1%)

66,978 (16%)

11,390 (2%)




-10,978 (30%)

17,948 (224%)

-3,926 (13%)


264, 470


1,530 (<1%)

41,000 (18%)

-58,655 (18%)

     Hatch Act



-334 (<1%)

28,000 (13%)

31,750 (16%)

     Smith-Lever Act 3(b) and 3(c)



2,089 (<1%)

36,800 (14%)

13,375 (5%)

     Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA)




34,596 (4%)

-4,907 (<1%)

FDA, total



39,999 (1.6%)

324,761 (15%)

-246,965 (9%)

Rural Development



-10,776 (<1%)

327,229 (16%)

218,166 (10%)

See the Senate Appropriations Agriculture Subcommittee for additional information.

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

Tags:  appropriations  Congress  Senate  USDA 

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NSB issues call for 2012 honorary award nominations

Posted By Adam Fagen, Tuesday, September 06, 2011
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 Engineering

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 entertainment.

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.

Tags:  award  NSB  NSF 

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NSF selects head of Biological Sciences Directorate

Posted By Adam Fagen, Tuesday, August 30, 2011
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.

Tags:  NSF 

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National Academies revisiting the postdoctoral experience

Posted By Adam Fagen, Saturday, August 27, 2011
The National Academies will be revisiting its landmark report on Enhancing the Postdoctoral Experience of Scientists and Engineers. The report, released in 2000, played an important role in shining the light on the postdoctoral experience, which has, in turn, let to significant enhancements in the training of scientists.

According to its statement of task, the new project will

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)
The committee will author a consensus report that will be released at the conclusion of the study. The project is conducted under the auspices of the Academies' Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy.

Additional information:

Tags:  NRC  postdoc 

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NIH study shows black scientists less likely to win federal research grants

Posted By Adam Fagen, Friday, August 19, 2011
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%.

R01 Award Probability

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.

Tags:  diversity  New York Times  NIH  NPR  Washington Post 

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Nina Fedoroff writes about genetically modified crops in The New York Times

Posted By Adam Fagen, Friday, August 19, 2011
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.

She concludes the op-ed this way:

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.

Tags:  GMO  New York Times 

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NIH establishes working group on diversity in biomedical research

Posted By Adam Fagen, Wednesday, August 17, 2011
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:
  1. entry into graduate degree programs;
  2. the transition from graduate degree to post-doctoral fellowship;
  3. the appointment from a post-doctoral position to the first independent scientific position;
  4. the award of the first independent research grant from NIH or equivalent in industry; and
  5. 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.

The members of DBRWG are listed below:

  • 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

Tags:  diversity  NIH  workforce 

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Encouraging scientists to engage in public debate and run for office

Posted By Adam Fagen, Thursday, August 11, 2011

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 again.

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.

Tags:  New York Times  politics 

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ASPB signs on to Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research letter on FY2012 funding for NIH

Posted By Adam Fagen, Thursday, August 11, 2011
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. 

Tags:  letter  NIH 

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DOE Under Secretary for Science kicks off ASPB President's Symposium at Plant Biology 2011

Posted By Adam Fagen, Wednesday, August 10, 2011
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:
  • Maureen McCann, Center for Direct Catalytic Conversion of Biomass to Biofuels (C3Bio), Purdue University:  "A roadmap for selective deconstruction of lignocellulosic biomass to advanced biofuels and useful co-products"
  • Richard Sayre, Center for Advanced Biofuel Systems (CABS), Donald Danforth Plant Science Center:  "Molecular strategies for enhanced biomass and oil accumulation in microalgae"
  • Robert Blankenship, Photosynthetic Antenna Research Center (PARC), Washington University in St. Louis:  "The Photosynthetic Antenna Research Center (PARC)
  • Andrew Bocarsly, Princeton University:  "Artificial Photosynthesis: The Efficient Reduction of Carbon Dioxide and Water to Organic Products"
The session will be held in room L100 of the Minneapolis Convention Center from 2:00 until 5:05 p.m.

Tags:  biofuels  DOE 

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Debt ceiling increased; what is the impact on science and education?

Posted By Lewis-Burke Associates LLC, Tuesday, August 02, 2011
Moments ago, the U.S. Senate passed the bipartisan Budget Control Act of 2011 on a vote of 74-26, which raises the nation's debt ceiling, thus preventing a possible government default at the end of the day.  The U.S. House of Representatives had passed the bill on a vote of 269-161 last night.  President Obama is expected to sign the bill shortly.

Members of the ASPB community may be curious about the impact of this bill on the scientific and educational communities.  First, some key take-aways:
  • The Budget Control Act of 2011, largely resembles recent proposals introduced by House Republicans and Senate Democrats in that it would cap discretionary spending for the next ten years and require future deficit reduction to be determined by a joint Congressional Committee and approved by Congress by December 23, 2011.
  • The discretionary spending cap for fiscal year (FY) 2012 would be $24 billion above the levels currently governing the House appropriations bills. The agreement, however, would establish "firewalls" around security and non‐security spending so that funding could not be redistributed between the two categories of spending.
  • While the plan would not initially cut federal science and education programs, these and other programs subject to annual appropriations could be subject to funding cuts in the deficit reduction package that must pass Congress before the end of 2011.
  • The bill would largely make up for the shortfall in mandatory funding for the Pell grant program, but additional discretionary funding will be required to maintain the $5,550 maximum award. It would also reform federal student aid programs, cutting interest subsidy loans for graduate and professional students and some student loan repayment incentives.
The bill would cap discretionary spending levels at $1.043 trillion in FY 2012, a slight reduction from FY 2011 discretionary spending which totaled about $1.049 trillion, but an increase of approximately $24 billion over the House‐passed budget resolution for FY 2012. Caps on discretionary spending would gradually increase to $1.234 trillion by FY 2021 and save an estimated $917 billion over that time frame. The bill establishes a "firewall" around security and non‐security spending so that funding could not be redistributed between the two categories of spending. Security spending is defined in the bill as funding for the Department of Defense (DOD), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the intelligence community management account, and Function 150 programs (State Department and International Assistance).

The bill would allow the President to raise the debt ceiling by $400 billion right away and by another $500 billion after that. However, Congress can vote to stop the second increase in the debt ceiling. Future increases in the debt ceiling, which will be required by the end of 2011, would be subject to passage of another $1.2 to $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction over the next nine years, which may include both spending cuts and revenue raisers. Should Congress fail to pass a deficit reduction measure by December 23 that reduces the deficit by at least $1.2 trillion, the bill would force across‐the‐board cuts (sequestration) totaling $1.2 trillion or the difference between the deficit reduction package agreed to by Congress and the $1.2 trillion level. Cuts would be equally divided between security and non‐security programs to provide incentive for both Republicans and Democrats to broker a deal. Social Security, Medicaid, veterans’ benefits, and other essential benefits would be exempt from cuts. Cuts to Medicare are capped at 2 percent and are limited to funding for providers.

The bill also includes $17 billion in mandatory funding for the Pell grant program. President Obama’s FY 2012 budget request assumes a $20 billion shortfall for the Pell Grant program in order to continue to fund the maximum Pell at $5,550. While the plan would provide the bulk of the estimated shortfall, additional discretionary funding would still be needed within the appropriations process to fund Pell at the maximum grant level for FY 2012.

Finally, the bill includes a provision requiring both the House and the Senate to vote on a balanced
budget amendment to the Constitution before the end of the year. The debt limit increase, however, is not contingent on passage of the amendment as it was in an earlier House version of this legislation.

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

Tags:  appropriations  Congress 

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State Department names former National Academies official as new science adviser

Posted By Adam Fagen, Friday, July 29, 2011
The U.S. Department of State has named a new adviser on science and technology.  E. William (Bill) Colglazier will lead the Office of the Science and Technology Adviser to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  The mission of the office is to provide the secretary and other senior State Department officials with scientific and technical expertise in support of the development and implementation of U.S. foreign policy.  The adviser serves as an advocate for science-based policy at the State Department and helps to identify and evaluate scientific and technical issues that are likely to affect U.S. strategic and foreign policy interests.

Colglazier recently retired from the National Academies, where he had worked for 20 years, most recently as chief operating officer and executive officer of the National Academy of Sciences and National Research Council.

According to an article in ScienceInsider:

Among items on Colglazier's ensuring that "by the end of my term the whole department feels [my office] is an asset." That's important in a world dominated by technological or scientific issues, he said, in part because many U.S. embassies lack science counselors. The continuing tight U.S. budgets expected in the future will mean that will probably remain the case. Even when relations with the United States are strained, he says, science can bring nations together.

The previous science and technology adviser was ASPB member and plant biologist Nina Fedoroff.  Among many other honors, Federoff received ASPB's Leadership in Science Public Service Award in 2010, which she accepted on the last day of her tenure at the State Department.

Additional Information

Tags:  international  National Academies  State Department 

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ASPB member Patrick Schnable gives Capitol Hill seminar on the future of our food

Posted By Kathy R. Munkvold, Tuesday, July 26, 2011

ASPB member Patrick Schnable addressed a standing room only crowd of congressional staffers, agency representatives, and others interested in scientific research in a hearing room for the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture. The presentation was part of National Coalition for Food and Agriculture Research’s (National C-FAR’s) "Lunch~N~Learn” seminar series. Schnable is the Baker Professor of Agronomy at Iowa State University, the founding director of the university’s Center for Plant Genomics, and a member of the ASPB public affairs committee. He was named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2010.

The seminar, entitled "Mapping for the future of our food,” focused on the importance of public sector funding of plant science research and development in boosting crop yields amid increasing demands for plant-based products including food, feed, fiber, and fuel. Schnable called for innovation in addressing potential challenges, namely decreasing amounts of arable land, increasing costs and undesirable ecological impacts of agricultural inputs, and coping with climate variability.

Schnable highlighted the value of next generation sequencing technologies in linking genes to crop traits resulting in ultimate improvements in yield, disease and pest resistance, and nutrient utilization. He sees traditional breeding and genetic engineering as complementary approaches in meeting this goal. He stressed that U.S. involvement in this type of agricultural research is essential. In the absence of federal support for scientific research in these areas, other countries have the means to do this research and will profit in areas such as intellectual property, including patents on genes associated with beneficial traits, and job growth at our expense. He emphasized that the time between the initial research and a finished crop variety displaying an enhanced trait is on the scale of a decade or more—so now is the time to make investments to address anticipated challenges ahead. Moreover, public sector support must be continuous to allow progress to be made.

National C-FAR is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, consensus-based, and customer-led coalition that brings food, agriculture, nutrition, conservation, and natural resource stakeholders (including ASPB) together with the food and agricultural research and extension community. The coalition serves as a forum and a unified voice in support of sustaining and increasing public investment at the national level in food and agricultural research, extension, and education. For additional information, go to

Tags:  Congress  event  National C-FAR 

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