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 email@example.com
Policy Archives available under Group Pages.
Posted By Adam Fagen,
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
The U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies has approved funding legislation for fiscal year (FY) 2012. The bill provides $52.7 billion in funding, a reduction of $626 million from FY 2011.
Of most interest to ASPB members are the proposed cuts at the National Science Foundation. Although details have yet to be released, the Subcommittee released the following in their mark:
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is funded at $6.7 billion, a reduction of $162 million or 2.4 percent below the FY2011 enacted level.
ASPB will keep tabs on the details and the progress of this spending bill...and those for the other agencies of interest to ASPB in both the House and Senate.
Posted By Adam Fagen,
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) will host a webinar on Thursday, September 22 from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. EDT about the 2011 U.S. Billion-Ton Update: Biomass Supply for a Bioenergy and Bioproducts Industry, a report detailing biomass feedstock potential nationwide. The report examines the nation's capacity to produce a billion dry tons of biomass resources annually for energy uses without impacting other vital U.S. farm and forest products, such as food, feed, and fiber crops. It provides industry, policymakers, and the agricultural community with county-level data and includes analyses of current U.S. feedstock capacity and the potential for growth in crops and agricultural products for clean energy applications.
During the webinar, authors of the report will present the purpose, approach, and major assumptions of the 2011 Billion-Ton Update, including how it differs from the 2005 Billion-Ton Study. Authors will also cover the report's findings and discuss how its data might be used by both the public and private sector to grow the bioenergy industry and help achieve President Obama's goals of expanding renewable energy resources and developing alternative fuels for America's transportation sector. Finally, the webinar will include a demonstration of how to explore Billion-Ton Update data onDOE's Bioenergy Knowledge Discovery Framework website and opportunities for attendees to ask questions.
In addition to registering for the webinar, please submit your questions and comments about the Billion-Ton Update to DOE's Bioenergy Knowledge Discovery Framework forum on the subject. This will help the webinar focus on the most frequently discussed topics about the study.
Posted By Lewis-Burke Associates LLC,
Sunday, September 11, 2011
The Senate Appropriations Committee has passed the fiscal year (FY) 2012 budget appropriation for the Department of Energy (DOE) as part of the FY 2012 Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill. The bill totals $31.625
billion, a reduction of $57 million below the FY 2011 enacted level for
programs and agencies funded in the bill.
Given the competition for funding
within the bill, the DOE Office of Science, which funds basic research
associated with agency missions, fared quite well. The Senate Committee
approves $4.843 billion for the DOE Office of Science, which is essentially a
freeze at the FY 2011 enacted funding level. The Committee recommendation
for the DOE Office of Science is $573.5 million (10.6%) below the President’s
Detailed funding recommendations
for the various programs within the Office of Science are displayed in the
chart below. The Senate bill would provide continuation funding for the
three existing Energy Innovation Hubs (Hubs) – the Fuels from Sunlight Hub; the
Energy Efficient Building Systems Design Hub, and the Nuclear Energy Modeling
and Simulation Hub, for which the President requested $24.3 million each.
As did the House of Representatives, the Senate Committee also approves the new
Batteries and Energy Storage Hub within the Office of Basic Energy Sciences,
providing $20 million for the new Hub in lieu of the requested $34.2 million.
The Committee also recommends $10 million for the predictive modeling of
internal combustion engines initiative.
The Senate Committee is silent on
the President’s request for $20 million in the Industrial Technologies program
within the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) to establish
a new Critical Materials Hub even though its overall recommendation of $96
million for the program matches the House-passed bill which does fund the
Hub. The Senate Committee does not approve the third new Hub requested by
the President for Advanced Modeling Grid Research.
The Senate Committee concurs with
the President’s request to provide up to $100 million to continue support for
the 46 existing Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRCs), but not to fund
additional centers at this time.
For the Biological and
Environmental Research (BER) program, the Senate Committee recommendation of
$621.8 million is $10 million (2%) above FY 2011. The Committee
recommends $295.1 million for climate and environmental science, which the
House significantly reduced.
The Senate Committee would
approve $7.5 million to support graduate fellowships.
For the Advanced Research
Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), the Senate would provide $250 million to
continue support for research into high-risk, high-reward transformational new
energy technologies, an increase of $70.4 million (39%) above the FY
2011 enacted funding level, but $300 million (55%) below the President’s
The applied research programs of
DOE relating to renewable energy through Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
(EERE) are sustained at the current level of $1.796 billion for FY 2012. The
President requested $3.2 billion for these programs. The House reduced
EERE to $1.3 billion overall. Details of the Senate recommendations for
wind and solar energy, biomass, and the technologies programs are included in
the following chart. New initiatives within the EERE programs are
unlikely given the constraints under current budget allocations.
Additional details on the funding
recommendations approved by the Senate Committee are included in the chart
Senate Energy and Water
Development Appropriations Bill, FY 2012
As reported by the Senate Energy and Water Development
Appropriations Subcommittee, 9/7/11
Posted By Lewis-Burke Associates LLC,
Friday, September 09, 2011
On September 7, the Senate
Appropriations Committee approved its version of the fiscal year (FY) 2012
appropriations bill which funds the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Food
and Drug Administration (FDA), and related agencies. The bill would
provide a total of $19.78 billion in discretionary funding, a reduction of $138
million (less than one percent) below the FY 2011 enacted level and $2.2
billion (10%) below the President’s FY 2012 budget request. The
bill also provides significant funding for mandatory programs including food
stamps, child nutrition programs, federal crop insurance, and commodity price
While the Senate bill includes
reductions below the FY 2011 level for many programs, it represents a
significant improvement over the House-passed bill due to the enactment of the
Budget Control Act (debt-limit agreement), which included a discretionary
spending cap for the Appropriations Committees that is $24 billion more than
the House allocation under the House-passed budget resolution.
Appropriations Agriculture Subcommittee Chair Sen. Herb
Kohl (D-WI) [at right] characterized the Senate bill as "very austere” and highlighted
Subcommittee priorities including protecting public health and safety;
maintaining current services for the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and
other nutrition programs; making continued investments in research; supporting
rural development; supporting foreign food aid; and responding to floods and
other disasters, of which the Senate bill would provide $266 million for
For the USDA research programs,
the Senate Committee sought to sustain most funding levels. A total of
$2.3 billion would be provided for agricultural research through the National
Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and the Agricultural Research Service
(ARS), which is $39 million below the FY 2011 level.
For NIFA overall, a total of
$1.214 billion is recommended in the Senate bill, a reduction of $798,000 below
the FY 2011 level but $9.231 million above the House-passed bill. NIFA’s
competitive grants program, the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative
(AFRI), would receive $266 million, an increase of $1.53 million above the FY
2011 level, but $59 million below the President’s FY 2012 request.
The Senate recommendation for AFRI is $41.0 million above the House-passed
The Senate Committee sustained
support for the formula funds for land-grant colleges and universities as a
priority in its version of the bill. Funding administered through the
Hatch Act would be sustained at the FY 2011 level of $236.0 million. For
Extension Activities under the Smith-Lever Act 3(b) and 3(c), the Senate would
provide $296.0 million, an increase of $2.09 million above the FY 2011
level. For Extension Activities overall, a total of $478.2 million is
recommended, slightly below the FY 2011 level, but $67.0 million above the
The Senate bill includes
reductions for USDA’s rural development programs below the FY 2011 level.
In addition, reductions are recommended for Housing and Community Development
Programs, Business Programs, Rural Utilities Programs, the National Conservation Service and the Watershed Rehabilitation Program.
A $40 million increase over
current spending is recommended in the Senate bill for the Food and Drug
Administration, which would receive nearly $2.5 billion for FY 2012. The
Senate would also sustain the Food Safety and Inspection Service at $1.0
billion, the same as the FY 2011 level.
The prospects for the bill being
considered by the full Senate are uncertain given the short time remaining
before the beginning of the 2012 fiscal year on October 1 and the need to enact
a Continuing Resolution before then to finance continued operation of the
entire federal government. An omnibus appropriations bill later this year
A chart detailing proposed funding levels for
key programs of interest to the research and education community is
Appropriations Bill, FY 2012
As reported by the Senate Agriculture Appropriations
The National Science Board (NSB) has issued the call for nominations for its 2012 honorary awards. Nominations for each of the awards is due Wednesday, November 2, 2011.
Information about the two awards from the NSB from a press release is reproduced below:
2012 Vannevar Bush Award
Honoring Lifelong Leadership in Science and Technology and
Contributions to the Nation through Public Service
The Vannevar Bush Award is awarded annually to exceptional
lifelong leaders in science and technology who have made substantial
contributions to the welfare of the Nation through public service activities
in science, technology and public policy.
Candidates for the Vannevar Bush Award must be U.S. citizens and
should have demonstrated outstanding leadership and accomplishment in meeting
at least two of the following selection criteria: distinguished him/herself
through public service activities in science and technology; pioneered the
exploration, charting, and settlement of new frontiers in science,
technology, education and public service; demonstrated leadership and
creativity that have inspired others to distinguished careers in science and
technology; contributed to the welfare of the Nation and mankind through
activities in science and technology; and/or demonstrated leadership and
creativity that has helped mold the history of advancements in the Nation's
science, technology, and education.
Recent recipients include: Charles M. Vest, President of the
National Academy of Engineering and President Emeritus of Massachusetts
Institute of Technology; Bruce Alberts, Editor-in-Chief, Science Magazine;
Mildred Dresselhaus, Institute Professor, Massachusetts Institute of
Technology; and Norman Augustine, former Chief Executive Officer and Chairman
of the Board, Lockheed Martin Corporation. For a list of past recipients of
this award, visit the Vannevar Bush Award Recipients on the NSB website.
For detailed nomination instructions and further information
about this award, visit the Vannevar Bush Award on the NSB website.
2012 National Science Board Public Service Award
Honoring Service in Public Understanding of Science and
The National Science Board Public Service Award honors
individuals and groups that have made substantial contributions to increasing
public understanding of science and engineering in the United States. These
contributions may be in a wide variety of areas that have the potential of
contributing to public understanding of and appreciation for science and
engineering--including mass media, education and/or training programs, and
The NSB Public Service Award is typically given to one individual
and one group (company, corporation or organization) each year. Members of
the U.S. Government are not eligible to receive the award.
Candidates for the NSB Public Service Award should have
demonstrated outstanding leadership and accomplishment in meeting the
following selection criteria: increased the public's understanding of the
processes of science and engineering through scientific discovery, innovation
and its communication to the public; encouraged others to help raise the
public understanding of science and technology; promoted the engagement of
scientists and engineers in public outreach and scientific literacy;
contributed to the development of broad science and engineering policy and
its support; influenced and encouraged the next generation of scientists and
engineers; achieved broad recognition outside of the candidate's area of
specialization; and fostered awareness of science and technology among broad
segments of the population.
Past recipients include Moira Gunn, host of Tech Nation; San Francisco's Exploratorium; NUMB3RS, the CBS television drama series; Ira
Flatow, Host and Executive Producer of NPR's Science Friday; Alfred P. Sloan Foundation; Bill Nye, the Science Guy; and NOVA, the PBS
television series. For a list of past recipients of this award, visit the
Public Service Award Recipients on the NSB website.
For detailed nomination instructions and further information
about this award, visit the Public Service Award on the NSB website.
Members of the ASPB community are encouraged to submit nominations for one or both of these prestigious awards or to recommend candidates for ASPB to nominate. All materials are submitted through the Honorary Nominations system on the National Science Foundations' FastLane.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has selected the new head of the Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO): John C. Wingfield, who is currently serving as the director of the Division of Integrative Organismal Biology (IOS). He came to NSF in September 2010 from the University of California, Davis.
Wingfield's research focuses on neural pathways for environmental signals affecting seasonality in birds and their mechanisms of coping with environmental stress. He also studies the interfaces with how animals deal with global climate change, endocrine disruption, and conservation biology.
In a press release announcing the appointment, Wingfield said, "This is a transformational time for biological sciences in the post-genome era as we try to understand life on Earth from its most fundamental components at the molecular levels to functioning organisms interacting with their environment, and with each other, at ecosystem scales."
Although Wingfield is not a plant scientist, the IOS division supports a significant amount of plant-related research at NSF including the Plant Genome Research Program.
Before arriving at UC Davis, Wingfield was a professor and department chair at the University of Washington and on the faculty at Rockefeller University. He holds a BSc in zoology from the University of Sheffield and PhD in zoology and comparative endocrinology from University College of North Wales. Among his honors is The Quest Award for seminal contributions to behavioral research from the Animal Behavior Society and the Association for the Study of Animal Behavior Medal. He is a fellow of the American Ornithologist's Union and the Animal Behavior Society. He served as president of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology and the XXV International Ornithological Congress.
Joann Roskoski had served as acting assistant director for BIO since the departure of James Collins in October 2009. Wingfield will start his position on September 6, 2011.
describe the state of postdoctoral programs in the United States, examine how postdoctoral fellows (postdocs) are being guided and managed, review institutional practices with respect to postdocs, try to determine what happens to postdocs after they complete their programs, explore important changes that have occurred in the postdoc practices and in the research ecosystem, and assess how well current practices meet the needs of these fledgling scientists and engineers and of the research enterprise.
The study committee will also attempt to answer several key questions such as where postdocs are located, what expectations are for postdoctoral appointments, what are career paths, and how postdocs participate in professional activities.
The committee includes many leaders in science and training, though no one with a particular focus on plant biology:
Gregory A. Petsko, PhD (chair), Gyula and Katica Tauber Professor of Biochemistry and Chemistry, and chair of the Department of Biochemistry, Brandeis University
Sibby Anderson-Thompkins, PhD, Director of Postdoctoral Affairs, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Carol W. Greider, PhD, Daniel Nathans Professor, and Director of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Johns Hopkins Institute of Basic Biomedical Sciences, Johns Hopkins University
Emilio F. Moran, PhD, Distinguished Professor and Rudy Professor of Anthropology, Professor of Environmental Studies, and Adjunct Professor of Geography, Indiana University
James D. Plummer, PhD, Frederick Emmons Terman Dean, School of Engineering, and John M. Fluke Professor of Electrical Engineering, Stanford University
E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor, and Dean, School of Medicine, University of Maryland, Baltimore
Nancy E. Schwartz, PhD, Professor of Pediatrics, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Chicago
Paula E. Stephan, PhD, Professor of Economics, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University; and Research Associate, National Bureau of Economic Research
Lorraine Tracey, PhD, Director of Biological Research and Development, NanoDetection Technology; Board Member, National Postdoctoral Association
Michael S. Turner, PhD, Bruce V. and Diana M. Rauner Distinguished Service Professor and Director of the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics, University of Chicago
Allison Woodall, JD, Managing Counsel, Labor, Employment and Benefits group, Office of the General Counsel, University of California Office of the President
Joan B. Woodward, PhD, former Executive Vice President and Deputy Director, Sandia National Laboratories (retired)
A study commissioned by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has revealed that black scientists were less likely to receive an NIH grant than white scientists, even after controlling for differences in institutions and academic track records. The results of the study by Ginther et al.—conducted by researchers at the University of Kansas, NIH, and Discovery Logic/Thomson Reuters—are published this week in the journal Science.
In an article in The New York Times, NIH Director Francis Collins was quoted as saying, "This situation is not acceptable.... This is not one of those reports that we will look at and the put aside." "That's a huge discrepancy, and something that we are deeply troubled about and are determined to do something about," Collins added on National Public Radio.
According to the study of 83,000 grant applications from 2000 to 2006, the success rate for white scientists was about 29%, but only 16% for black scientists. Even after controlling for statistical differences between the pools (applicant’s educational background, country of origin, training, previous research awards, publication record, and employer characteristics), the gap was still about 10%.
Figure 1 from Ginther et al. Probability of NIH R01 award by race and ethnicity, FY 2000 to FY 2006.
The gap seems to occur at the level of peer review. Even though applicants' race and ethnicity are not shared with study sections, Ginther et al. speculate that reviewers often know the application, and it is often not difficult to determine the applicant's race from characteristics such as their name or academic history.
The prevailing view seems to be that these findings are not a result of overt racism. Rather, it may be an example of unconscious bias or an effect of black scientists' tending to keep a lower scientific profile. There may also be differences in the quality of educational and mentoring experiences; Ginther et al. argue that even small differences may accumulate to have large cumulative effects.
Another troubling finding is that black PhD scientists were also significantly underrepresented in the pool of proposals for R01 awards, NIH's main investigator-initiated research grant mechanism. Black scientists submitted only 1.4% of all R01 applications, compared with 3.2% for Hispanics and 16% for Asians. This means that only 185 of the 23,400 R01 grants in the study went to black scientists.
NIH has announced that it has established two task forces to follow up on the study (including the new Diversity in Biomedical Research Working Group) and conduct experiments such as reviewing applications with the names of the applicant and institution removed. The agency will also recruit more early-career researchers and scientists of color to serve on review panels, providing them with a better understanding of how to write successful proposals.
NIH Principal Deputy Director Lawrence Taback was quoted in an NIH news release as saying, "Recruiting the best minds to biomedical research is a shared responsibility. It's up to the academic community to foster and support inquisitive minds and a love of science in people of all races, ethnicities, genders, and socioeconomic backgrounds. And it's up to NIH to ensure that everyone enjoys the same opportunity for NIH funding to succeed in their scientific endeavors."
The study did not find statistically significant differences for Hispanic or Asian scientists, once controlling for language difficulties.
Citation: Donna K. Ginther, Walter T. Schaffer, Joshua Schnell, Beth Masimore, Faye Liu, Laurel L. Haak, and Raynard Kington. (2011). Race, ethnicity, and NIH research awards. Science 333(6045, 19 August): 1015-1019.
ASPB member Nina V. Fedoroff has written an op-ed in the August 19, 2011, edition of The New York Times calling for enhanced support for the development and use of genetically modified (GM) crops.
In the op-ed, Fedoroff describes the enormous potential of GM crops to help in feeding a growing world population while simultaneously reducing the use of pesticides, soil erosion, and other inputs—and decreasing the environmental impact of agriculture.
She points out the difficulty in bringing GM crops to market, with only big companies able to afford to navigate the complex regulatory pathway and a focus only on commodity crops with sufficient financial incentives.
Fedoroff does not dismiss the concerns expressed over genetic modification technologies; rather she cites evidence that argues that crop modification by molecular methods is no more dangerous that crop modification by other methods. For example, the European Union has come to this conclusion after studying the question for 25 years, and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and British Royal Society agree.
It is time to relieve the regulatory burden slowing down the development of genetically modified crops. The three United States regulatory agencies [Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Agriculture, Food and Drug Administration] need to develop a single set of requirements and focus solely on the hazards — if any — posed by new traits.
And above all, the government needs to stop regulating genetic modifications for which there is no scientifically credible evidence of harm.
Fedoroff is the Evan Pugh Professor in the Biology Department and Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences at Penn State University, a member of the external faculty at the Santa Fe Institution, and a distinguished visiting professor at King Adbullah University in Saudi Arabia. She is also the current president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and one of President Obama's science envoys to other parts of the world. Fedoroff previously served as science and technology adviser to the U.S. Secretary of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development. She received ASPB's Leadership in Science Public Service Award in 2010.
National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins has charged the NIH Advisory Committee to the Director to establish a Diversity in Biomedical Research Working Group (DBRWG). This is in response to suboptimal results from a variety of programs designed to foster the participation of underrepresented minorities in the biomedical science workforce pipeline.
The working group will focus on five key transition points in the pipeline:
entry into graduate degree programs;
the transition from graduate degree to post-doctoral fellowship;
the appointment from a post-doctoral position to the first independent scientific position;
the award of the first independent research grant from NIH or equivalent in industry; and
award of tenure in an academic position or equivalent in an industrial setting.
The working group and advisory committee will provide concrete recommendations to the NIH Director on ways to improve the retention of underrepresented minorities, persons with disabilities, and persons from disadvantaged backgrounds through these critical periods. The DBRWG's analysis will include both the NIH intramural research community and the NIH extramural research community.
The DBRWG is charged with producing interim recommendations by December 2011 and final recommendations by June 2012. In recognition of related tasks within the NIH campus, the DBRWG is expected to collaborate and coordinate with the ACD Biomedical Workforce Working Group, the NIH Diversity Task Force, and the NIH Women in Biomedical Research Careers Working Group.
Reed Tuckson, MD, Executive Vice President and Chief of Medical Affairs, UnitedHealth Group, co-chair
John Ruffin, PhD, Director, National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, co-chair
Lawrence Tabak, DDS, PhD, Principal Deputy Director National Institutes of Health, co-chair
Ann Bonham, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer, Association of American Medical Colleges
Jordan Cohen, MD, President Emeritus, Association of American Medical Colleges
José Florez, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School
Gary Gibbons, MD, Director, Cardiovascular Research Institute and Chair, Department of Physiology, Morehouse School of Medicine
Renee Jenkins, MD, Chair, Department of Pediatrics and Child Health, Howard University
Tuajuanda Jordan, PhD, Dean, College of Arts and Sciences, Lewis and Clark College
Wayne Riley, MD, MPH, MBA, President & Chief Executive Officer, Meharry Medical College; Chair, National Advisory Council on Minority Health & Health Disparities, National Institutes of Health; Chairman, Board of Directors, Association of Minority Health Professions Schools
Samuel Silverstein, MD, John C. Dalton Professor of Physiology & Cellular Biophysics, and Professor of Medicine, Columbia University Medical Center
Dana Yasu Takagi, PhD, Professor of Sociology, University of California, Santa Cruz
Maria Teresa Velez, PhD, Associate Dean of the Graduate College, Professor in Psychology, University of Arizona
M. Roy Wilson, MD, MS, Chairman, Board of Trustees, Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science
Keith Yamamoto, PhD, Executive Vice Dean, School of Medicine, Professor Departments of Cellular/Molecular Pharmacology and Biochemistry/Biophysics, University of California, San Francisco
Clyde Yancy, MD, Magerstadt Professor and Chief, Division of Medicine-Cardiology, Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
An August 9, 2011, article in The New York Times reports
on a number of efforts by the scientific community encourage scientists to run
for office and to participate in public debate about scientific issues.
When asked to name a scientist, the article
reports than 47% answer Albert Einstein, who has been dead for more than half a
century, followed by "I don't know" at 23%. In fact, only 4%
could name a living scientist.
Part of the challenge the scientific community
faces is that there are few scientists in public life. According to the
Congressional Research Service, only a handful of the 435 members of the U.S.
House of Representatives have any scientific training: 1 physicist, 1 chemist,
1 microbiologist, 6 engineers, 1 veterinarian, 2 psychologists, and 19 with
some other form of medical training.
Plant evolutionary biologist Barbara Schaal,
who serves as vice president of the National Academy of Sciences, was quoted as
saying "there is a disconnect between what science says and how people perceive
what science says.... We need to interact with the public for our good and the
public good.” The Academy has recently created the Science Ambassador
Program in which researchers will be recruited and trained to speak out on
their areas of expertise.
For the past several years, Scientists and
Engineers for America has offered guidance and encouragement to researchers
considering a run for public office, but it is not clear how many have done so.
In a telephone interview with the New York Times, former Michigan Republican Representative
Vernon Ehlers, who retired this year, said he thinks a kind of "reverse
snobbery” keeps researchers out of public life. "You have these professors
struggling to write their $30,000 grant applications at the same time there are
people they would never accept in their research groups making $100-million
decisions in the National Science Foundation or the Department of Energy."
Ehlers joined with Bill Foster, a physicist
from Fermilab who served in the House from 2008 until 2010, to form Ben
Franklin's List, a nonpartisan political action committee to support scientists
running for office. Of course, Foster
has had to step away from the group – but because he is running for Congress
Foster pointed out that scientific ignorance
is a bipartisan challenge:
There is plenty of scope for these efforts,
said Dr. Foster, who cited "glaring instances of technical ignorance on both
sides of the aisle.” He recalled a fellow Democrat (whom he would not name) as
advocating greater use of wind power "because windmills poll so well” — which
is not, Dr. Foster said, a sound basis for energy policy. And then there was the Republican who praised the development of GPS
technology as an example of innovation unfettered by government, apparently
unaware that the technology is a product of government-sponsored research.
ASPB encourages its members and friends to be
engaged with its public affairs activities and encourages scientists to be
involved in policy debates and to run for office.
ASPB has added its voice to a community letter from The Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research to the chair and ranking member of the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor-HHS-Education. The letter, from 214 organizations and institutions, makes the case for robust funding of the National Institutes of Health in the FY2012 budget:
In this challenging budget environment, we recognize the painful decisions that must be made to secure the nation’s fiscal stability. However, it is imperative that such efforts recognize the federal role in promoting the prosperity and well-being of the American people. Especially in times like these, continuing the nation’s commitment to medical research through NIH is essential to ensuring the health of all Americans and to maintaining U.S. leadership in an increasingly competitive global scientific arena. The Ad Hoc Group strongly recommends that the FY 2012 Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill uphold the longstanding legacy of bipartisan support for the health and economic benefits afforded by an unwavering commitment to NIH.
Anyone participating in ASPB's annual meeting, Plant Biology 2011, will definitely want to stay through the meeting's final session, the ASPB President's Symposium on Plants and BioEnergy.
Kicking off the session will be one of the nation’s chief advocates for renewable energy research—Dr. Steven E. Koonin (at right), who is Under Secretary for Science at the Department of Energy (DOE). A computational and nuclear physicist, Dr. Koonin served as a faculty member at the California Institute of Technology for nearly 30 years including nearly a decade as Caltech's provost. He was most recently chief scientist at BP before being confirmed as DOE Under Secretary in May 2009.
Dr. Koonin will be followed by the leaders of several DOE-supported Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRCs). The EFRCs are harnessing the most basic and advanced discovery research in a concerted effort to establish the scientific foundation for a fundamentally new U.S. energy economy:
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.
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.
Among items on Colglazier's agenda...is 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.
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
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
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.
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 www.ncfar.org.
ASPB member Patrick Schnable will be presenting a research seminar on Capitol Hill next week. Schable, who is Baker Professor of Agronomy and founding director of the Center for Plant Genomics at Iowa State University, will be speaking as part of the National Council for Food and Agriculture Research's (National C-FAR's) "Lunch~N~Learn" seminar series.
Patrick S. Schnable Iowa State University
"Mapping for the Future of Our Food"
Monday, July 25, 2011 12:00 - 12:55 p.m.
1302 Longworth House Office Building
Following its domestication about 10,000 years ago, plant
breeders have exploited the extensive genetic diversity of maize (corn) to
adapt this species to meet human needs. Over the past 75 years breeders
have been tremendously successful at increasing grain yields. But
increasing world demand for corn grain for food, feed, fiber and fuel provides
new challenges, particularly because future yield increases must take place in
a world where critical agricultural inputs will be more expensive (e.g.,
nitrogen fertilizer) and limited (e.g., water). Over the past 15 years,
the Federal government has made substantial research and development investments
in plant genomics, including the $30 million maize genome sequencing
project. This presentation focuses on how future research and development
can be build on the lessons learned from the maize sequencing project to ensure
high levels of sustainable agricultural production even in the face of
increasing climate variability.
The seminar is free and open to the public. If you wish to attend, RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org by 5 p.m. on Friday, July 22.
Schnable is a member of ASPB's Public Affairs Committee. He was named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2010.
National C-FAR is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, consensus-based and customer-led coalition that brings food, agriculture, nutrition, conservation and natural resource stakeholders together with the food and agriculture research community, serving 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. ASPB is a member of National C-FAR and ASPB Public Affairs Director Adam Fagen is a member of National C-FAR's board of directors.
The NSB sets policy for the National Science Foundation (NSF) and advises the President and Congress on issues related to science and technology. NSB members are selected for their eminence in research, education or public service, and records of distinguished service. The Board is made up of 25 members, and the NSF director serves as an ex officio member. The current Board includes ASPB member Douglas Randall of the University of Missouri.
NSB members must be formally nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate, but the Board recommends individuals for consideration. In its review of candidates, the Board applies the statutory eligibility requirements and also considers demographics, balance among professional fields, active researchers, teachers and administrators, and private for-profit and non-profit representation.
According to an advisory from the NSB, the following attributes will be particularly considered for NSB candidates:
Record of distinguished service and potential for further contribution in the line of service.
Credibility in the scientific, technological, engineering, industrial, public sector and educational communities. To include:
outstanding scientific, technological, engineering or public activity credentials
breadth, depth, and understanding of scientific knowledge and contributions thereto
scientific, technological, engineering, industrial, educational and administrative accomplishments
Demonstrated leadership in their field.
Nominations consist of a letter of nomination/recommendation, a biography of the candidate, and the candidate's curriculum vitae (without publications). Nominations will be open through August 12, 2011, and may be submitted through the NSB nomination system (http://www.research.gov/NSB/Nomination).
ASPB welcomes suggestion of individuals from its members of those who would be strong candidates to serve on the NSB. Please direct any suggestions to ASPB Director of Public Affairs Adam Fagen at email@example.com.
As quoted in the release, Sen. Roberts said, "This hearing will allow us to garner insight from our producers in Kansas as we begin the important task of writing the next Farm Bill. Their perspectives on current agriculture programs and the direction of this next Farm Bill are critical to the committee’s work in drafting policies that provide producers and rural America with the tools necessary for success."
The hearing will be held Thursday, August 25, 2011, from 9 a.m.-noon CDT, at the Hilton Wichita Airport, 2098 Airport Road, Wichita, Kansas.
You may participate in the hearing by submitting written testimony which will be included in the official record of the hearing. A copy of your testimony can be submitted at the hearing or can be sent to the committee no later than Thursday, September 1, 2011. Send your testimony to firstname.lastname@example.org or to U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture Nutrition and Forestry, 328A Russell Senate Office Bldg, Washington, D.C. 20510.
The current issue of the NIFA Update, published by the Office of the Director at USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture including the following announcement seeking nominations for the Justin Smith Morrill Lecture:
Each year the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) joins with the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) to sponsor a lecture presented at the APLU annual meeting. The lecture honors one of the three most important historical figures of the land-grant university system, William Henry Hatch for research, Seaman A. Knapp for extension, and Justin Smith Morrill for whom the Morrill Act, which created the Land-Grant University system, is named. In 2011, the normal rotation would honor William Henry Hatch; however, because 2012 marks the 150th anniversary passage of the Morrill Act, both NIFA and APLU agreed to move the Morrill Lecture to the fall of 2011 to serve as the kickoff for the Morrill Act Sesquicentennial Celebration. NIFA and APLU are seeking lecturer nominations to honor Justin Smith Morrill.
The 2011 Justin Smith Morrill Lecture will be presented at the APLU annual meeting in San Francisco, November 13-15. The Lectureship is awarded to honor outstanding contemporary leadership in teaching and significant contributions as an educator. NIFA seeks to identify potential topics and a dynamic speaker who can provoke discussion among meeting participants and prepare a formal lecture. The lecture will be published on the NIFA website for public viewing. Please share this information with colleagues outside of the agricultural research, education, and extension system, including stakeholders, foundations, public interest groups, or international organizations. Nominations are encouraged from all sources.
Nominations should include one-page vitae on the nominee, a description of his or her major accomplishments and how these are pertinent to advancing excellence in higher education in the food and agricultural sciences, and contact information for both the nominee and the nominator. Nominations are due by July 14, 2011, and should be forwarded electronically to Kimberly Whittet (email@example.com), management and policy specialist in NIFA’s Office of the Director. A committee will be appointed to review the submissions and narrow the scope of the recommendations in order to make a final decision.
ASPB members are encouraged to submit nominations of plant biologists and others who would make excellent nominees to deliver the Morrill Lecture.