A  GSPA winner’s close encounter with an Alaska senator and a fish called ‘Walter’ while advocating for NSF
Jun14

A GSPA winner’s close encounter with an Alaska senator and a fish called ‘Walter’ while advocating for NSF

A guest commentary by Timothy Treuer (Princeton University), 2016 ESA Graduate Student Policy Award recipient Walking through the door into Senator Lisa Murkowski’s fourth floor office in the Hart Senate Building feels like stepping from the halls of the nation’s capital into a home in Alaska. The walls and shelves are covered in photos of arctic landscapes, Alaska Native artwork, and other mementos of my home state. Indeed, walking around the reception area felt a lot like pacing the living room of my parents’ house back in suburban Anchorage. There were five of us there on the afternoon of April 28th. We constituted the California and Alaska contingent of the Biological and Ecological Sciences Coalition (BESC) Congressional Visits Day. The event is organized annually to give biologists and ecologists from around the country a chance to interact with Congress on the ever-pressing issue of National Science Foundation (NSF) funding. ESA sponsored my participation through a Graduate Student Policy Award (GSPA), along with Brian Kastl of University of California, Santa Barbara and four other awardees representing different states. Though we had been expecting to meet with Senator Murkowski’s legislative aide, as we were ushered into a conference room we were pleasantly surprised to learn that the senator herself would be dropping in for the second half of the meeting. Because of a last minute conflict with a vote in the Capitol Building, this meant that Sen. Murkowski would be our only in person meeting with a member of Congress that day. The goal of BESC’s Congressional Visits Day is twofold. First, we were there to put a human face on NSF funding–too often federally funded research gets caricatured and lambasted by politicians whose mental image of a scientist is likely something along the lines of a Revenge of the Nerds protagonist in a lab coat. Having a collection of business-attired biologists with a polished pitch on how their federally funded research achieves real world impacts leaves a lasting impression. Second, and more concretely, we were there to ask for $8 billion in funding for NSF for fiscal year 2017. If that seems like a lot to you, consider the following three facts: (1) $8 billion is $2.44 billion less than the cost of a single Ford-class aircraft carrier, (2) proposal funding rates at NSF have fallen over the last decade by a third, and (3) the NSF would need an additional $4 billion to fund all proposals deemed meritorious (average review of ‘very good’ or higher). The meeting with Sen. Murkowski’s staff started off in what by that point felt like a familiar routine. We went around our table introducing ourselves,...

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‘Putting a face’ on science funding, Lear reflects on congressional visits experience
Jun06

‘Putting a face’ on science funding, Lear reflects on congressional visits experience

A guest commentary by Kristen Lear (University of Georgia), 2016 ESA Graduate Student Policy Award recipient As a 2016 ESA Graduate Student Policy Award (GSPA) recipient, I traveled to D.C. in late April for three days to receive hands-on exposure to the interface between science and policy. This was a departure from my “day-job” as a graduate student at the University of Georgia studying the conservation of an endangered pollinating bat species in Mexico. The other five GSPA recipients and I spent the first evening of this jam-packed two-day experience representing ESA at the Coalition for National Science Funding reception on Capitol Hill, where scientists representing their professional society or university showcase their research that is supported by federal funding. Usually “higher-up” members of ESA get to do this, but because the CNSF reception happened to fall on the dates of the GSPA trip, we had the unique opportunity to participate. We staffed a table for ESA and talked with visitors, many of whom were Congressional members or staff, about our research and ESA’s work. As a recipient of a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship for my PhD research, I can personally attest to the importance of federal funding of scientific research. Dr. France Cordova, director of the National Science Foundation (NSF), stopped at the ESA exhibit. On our first full day, we got a crash-course in how federal science policy works, with guest speakers from the National Science Foundation, the Ecological Society of America, and others involved in the science policy arena. Next, we split into our geographically-paired teams to practice for the next day’s Biological and Ecological Sciences Coalition (BESC) Congressional Visit day meetings, where we would be thrown into the ring (aka Senate and House offices) to discuss the importance of continued federal funding for NSF. After some discussion among Team GA-MS (four graduate students from Georgia and Mississippi and a Team Leader), about how to approach our Hill meetings, we were as prepared as we could be for the real thing. The following morning we gathered on the Hill, dressed in our fancy business attire, and proceeded to meet with a total of seven House and Senate and offices. Many of our meetings were with the staff of the Members, but our group was lucky enough to get to meet with some of the Members themselves: Representative Jody Hice from Georgia and Senator Roger Wicker from Mississippi. During our meetings we asked for $8 billion for NSF in the FY2017 budget. This may seem like a crazy amount of money, but when you consider that federally-funded basic science research has led to the creation of...

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ESA Policy News May 18: Senate considers COMPETES reauthorization, House CJS bill would reduce NSF funding
May18

ESA Policy News May 18: Senate considers COMPETES reauthorization, House CJS bill would reduce NSF funding

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here.  RESEARCH: SENATE COMMITTEE CONTINUES DELIBERATION OF AMERICA COMPETES REAUTHORIZATION On May 11, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee convened a hearing entitled “Leveraging the US Science and Technology Enterprise.” The hearing is part of the committee’s ongoing efforts to solicit input from the scientific community as it drafts legislation to reauthorize the America COMPETES Act. In his opening statement, Chairman John Thune (R-SD) praised the work of committee members Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Gary Peters (D-MI) in their bipartisan efforts to solicit input from and convene roundtables allowing members of the scientific community to weigh in on the Senate’s efforts to reauthorize the bill. “Common themes arising from the roundtables included support for continued investment by the federal government in basic research, as well as encouragement of wider participation in STEM subjects; stronger partnerships among government, the private sector, and academia that could better leverage discoveries emerging from our research universities to drive innovation; and the importance of minimizing barriers and improving incentives for universities and the private sector to better maximize the scientific and economic return on limited federal research resources,” said Thune. Witnesses testifying included  Kelvin Droegemeier, vice chairman, National Science Board; Jeannette Wing, corporate vice president for research, Microsoft Corp.; Robert Atkinson, president, Information Technology and Innovation Foundation; and David Munson, the Robert J. Vlasic Dean of engineering, University of Michigan College of Engineering. Click here to view the hearing. APPROPRIATIONS: HOUSE CJS BILL REDUCES NSF, SCIENCE FUNDING On May 17, the House Appropriations Committee released its Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) and Related Agencies Fiscal Year 2017 spending bill. In total, the bill includes $56 billion in discretionary spending, a $279 million increase over the FY 2016 enacted level. The National Science Foundation (NSF) would receive $7.4 billion in FY 2017, a $57 million decrease over FY 2016. Research and Related Activities is increased by $46 million targeted to programs that foster innovation and US economic competitiveness, including funding for research on advanced manufacturing, physics, mathematics, cybersecurity, neuroscience and STEM education. Reductions are made in equipment and construction costs. Unlike the Senate CJS appropriations bill, there is no increased funding allocated towards the construction of Regional Class Research Vessels, setting up a potential showdown if the two chambers negotiate a final bill this fall. Below are funding levels for other science agencies in the bill, compared to the FY 2016 enacted level: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: $5.6 billion, a $185 million decrease National Aeronautics and Space Administration:$19.5 billion, a $223 million increase National Institute of...

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ESA Policy News May 4: Senate committee moves NSF, DOE funding bills, ESA grad students visit Capitol Hill
May04

ESA Policy News May 4: Senate committee moves NSF, DOE funding bills, ESA grad students visit Capitol Hill

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here.  APPROPRIATIONS: SENATE COMMERCE, JUSTICE AND SCIENCE BILL CLEARS SUBCOMMITTEE On April 19, the Senate Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Subcommittee approved its Fiscal Year 2017 spending bill. The bill includes $56.3 billion, $563 above the FY 2016 enacted level and $1.6 billion above the Obama administration’s FY 2017 budget request. The National Science Foundation (NSF) would receive $7.5 billion in FY 2017, a $46.3 million increase over FY 2017. The added funding is directed solely towards NSF major research and facilities construction, specifically the design and construction of three Regional Class Research Vessels. NSF research and related activities remains flat at the FY 2016 enacted level. Below are funding levels for other science agencies in the bill, compared to the FY 2016 enacted level: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: $5.7 billion, a $33.5 million increase. National Aeronautics and Space Administration: $19.3 billion, a $21 million increase. White House Office of Science and Technology Policy: $5.6 billion, level. Click here for additional information on the Senate CJS bill.   APPROPRIATIONS: HOUSE, SENATE REPORT ENERGY AND WATER SPENDING BILLS On April 20, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees moved their respective energy and water spending bills for Fiscal Year 2017, which begins Oct 1, 2016. The House bill would provide $37.4 billion in funding, a $259 million increase over the FY 2016 enacted level. Below are funding levels for specific federal entities of interest to the ecological community compared to FY 2016: US Army Corps of Engineers: $6.1 billion, a $100 million increase. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Science: $5.4 billion, a $50 million increase. Advanced Research Agency-Energy (ARPA-E): $306 million, a $15 million increase. DOE Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy programs: $1.8 billion, a $248 million cut. DOE Environmental Management: $6.2 billion, a $66 million cut. DOE Fossil Energy Research and Development: $645 million, a $13 million increase. Bureau of Reclamation: $1.1 billion, a $131 million cut. In contrast, the Senate Energy and Water appropriations bill passed committee with bipartisan support. Its Energy and Water bill would provide $37.5 billion in FY 2017, slightly larger than the House measure. Below are funding levels for specific federal entities of interest to the ecological community compared to FY 2016 enacted levels: The US Army Corps of Engineers: $6 billion, an $11 million increase. The DOE Office of Science: $5.4 billion, a $50 million increase. DOE Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy programs: $2 billion, level. DOE Environmental Management: $6.4 billion, a $133 million increase. DOE Fossil Energy Research and Development: $632...

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ESA Policy News March 30: House committees review FY 2017 NSF, NOAA, Forest Service budget requests, ESA submits funding testimony to Capitol Hill
Mar30

ESA Policy News March 30: House committees review FY 2017 NSF, NOAA, Forest Service budget requests, ESA submits funding testimony to Capitol Hill

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here.  HOUSE: SCIENCE COMMITTEE EXAMINES NSF FY 2017 BUDGET On March 22, a House Science, Space and Technology Research Subcommittee hearing examined the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) FY 2017 budget. During the committee hearing, both Subcommittee Chair Barbara Comstock (R-VA) and Ranking Member Daniel Lipinski (D-IL) expressed general support for the work of the National Science Foundation. In her remarks, NSF Director France Córdova noted that since 2010, research funding for the agency in constant dollars has declined, which affects the number of NSF grants awarded. “The result is that the fraction of proposals that we can fund has decreased significantly. The funding rate was 30 percent in FY 2000 and is just over 20 percent now,” said Córdova. “Of great concern to us is that the situation is more challenging for people who haven’t previously received an NSF award, including young investigators. For them, the funding rate has gone from 21 percent in FY 2000 to 16 percent today.” Ranking Member Daniel Lipinski (D-IL) voiced skepticism about new mandatory spending outlined in the agency’s budget request, but he remained hopeful that colleagues could support another bipartisan increase for NSF. He expressed support for continuing to give NSF discretion in how it prioritizes directorate funding, citing similar views recently iterated by House Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Culberson (R-TX). Click here to view the Research and Technology Subcommittee NSF hearing. Click here to view the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittee hearing. HOUSE: NOAA WEATHER FORECASTING, CLIMATE RESEARCH EXAMINED IN FY 2017 BUDGET REQUEST“] On March 16, the House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on the Environment convened for a hearing examining the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’s FY 2017 budget request. Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) accused the budget request of prioritizing climate research over weather forecasting. “Instead of hyping a climate change agenda, NOAA should focus its efforts on producing sound science and improving methods of data collection.  Unfortunately, climate alarmism often takes priority at NOAA,” said Smith. “This was demonstrated by the agency’s decision to prematurely publish the 2015 study that attempted to make the two-decade halt in global warming disappear.” Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) used her opening statement to emphasize the importance of NOAA’s climate change research and how monitoring rising temperatures and changes in ocean chemistry and ecosystems helps us better manage our fisheries, coasts, and improves the resiliency of our nation’s coastal communities. She also took the opportunity to address Chairman Smith’s investigation into NOAA’s climate science research. “Before I yield back...

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ESA Policy News Feb. 17: President’s final budget prioritizes climate, energy research, Court vacancy could impact climate plan, House passes ‘National interest’ bill
Feb17

ESA Policy News Feb. 17: President’s final budget prioritizes climate, energy research, Court vacancy could impact climate plan, House passes ‘National interest’ bill

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here.  WHITE HOUSE: PRESIDENT’S FINAL BUDGET PRIORITIZES CLIMATE, ENERGY RESEARCH On Feb. 9, President Obama released the eighth and final budget of his administration. The president’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 budget request includes significant increases for federal agencies that conduct scientific research with a focus towards increasing investments in renewable energy. The president’s budget seeks to double funding for clean energy research and development over the next five years. Programs that fund climate change and renewable energy research are the most consistently bolstered in the president’s budget request. National Science Foundation For the National Science Foundation (NSF), the request would provide $7.96 billion a $500.53 million (6.7 percent) increase over the FY 2016 enacted level. The request provides $790.52 million for the biological sciences, a $46.35 million (6.2 percent) increase over FY 2016. The National Ecological Observatory Network would receive $65 million, a $20.96 million (47.6 percent) increase over FY 2016. The Division of Environmental Biology would receive $145.17 million, a $1.14 million (0.8 percent) increase over FY 2016. NSF programs that fund STEM education would see a 2.5 percent increase over FY 2016. Click here for an overview of the FY 2017 NSF budget request. Department of Agriculture The Department of Agriculture (USDA) would receive $25 billion in discretionary spending, $1 billion less than FY 2016. The funding includes $1.11 billion to support 700 research projects at the Agricultural Research Service, a $22 million increase over the FY 2016 enacted level. The US Forest Service would receive $4.89 billion, $787 million less than the enacted level. The budget seeks to prioritize forest restoration and to reduce the threats posed by wildfires. The budget request would provide $291.98 million for Forest and Rangeland Research, an increase of $982,000 over FY 2016. Click here for additional information on the USDA budget request. Department of Energy The administration requests $32.5 billion for the Department of Energy (DOE) in FY 2017, a $2.9 billion increase over FY 2016. Science, energy and DOE-related programs would receive $12.9 billion, a $2.8 billion increase over FY 2016. Click here for additional information on the FY 2017 DOE budget. Department of Interior The total budget request for the Department of Interior (DOI) is $13.4 billion, a $61 million increase over FY 2016. The budget funds the National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center and its eight regional Climate Science Centers at $30.9 million, an increase of $4.5 million above 2016. The US Geological Survey, which serves as DOI science arm, would receive $1.2 billion in FY 2017,...

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ESA Policy News Feb. 3: Policymakers react to Flint water crisis, ESA selects 2016 GSPA winners, ESA Past president honored
Feb03

ESA Policy News Feb. 3: Policymakers react to Flint water crisis, ESA selects 2016 GSPA winners, ESA Past president honored

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here.  EPA: FLINT WATER CRISIS GETS ATTENTION FROM WHITE HOUSE, CONGRESS On Jan. 16, the president signed an official state of emergency declaration for Flint Michigan in light of the city’s drinking water crisis. The action authorizes the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate disaster relief efforts to alleviate or avert the threat of a catastrophe in the region of Genesee County, MI. In January, House Energy and Commerce Committee members sent a bipartisan letter to US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy requesting a briefing on the water crisis in Flint, MI. The letter was led by Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), Ranking Member Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Environment and Economy Subcommittee Chairman John Shimkus (R-IL) and Environment and Economy Subcommittee Ranking Member Paul Tonko (D-NJ). On Feb. 3, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee became the first congressional committee to hold a hearing on the Flint water crisis. Click here to view the congressional hearing. Click here to view the White House statement on the emergency declaration. Click here to view the House letter.   PUBLIC HEALTH: ZIKA VIRUS DECLARED INTERNATIONAL EMERGENCY On Feb. 1, leaders of the World Health Organization declared the spread of the Zika virus as a global health emergency and predicted as many as four million cases expected across Central and South America. Human migration, climate change, and urbanization are cited as factors that may contribute to the spread of these diseases. Rising global temperatures and longer periods of warm weather aide both mosquito breeding cycles and the expansion of their geographical range. Human communities provide multiple sources of standing water that serve as breeding grounds for the insects, which include flower pots and drainage ditches. Click here to view a White House fact sheet on the Zika virus.   NSF: NSB REPORT HIGHLIGHTS INTERNATIONAL TRENDS IN RESEARCH INVESTMENT On Jan. 19, the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) National Science Board released its biennial Science and Engineering Indicators report. The report highlights United States lead throughout the world in its investment in research and development (R&D), but notes that China, South Korea, and India are rapidly increasing their investments. According to the report, China is now the second-largest performer of R&D, accounting for 20 percent of global R&D. The United States accounts for 27 percent of global R&D. China leads the United States as the world’s number one producer of undergraduates with degrees in science. China graduates 49 percent of science bachelor’s degrees, compared to 33 percent of bachelor’s science degrees...

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ESA Policy News Dec. 16: World leaders reach climate accord, Congress finalizes FY 2016 spending deal, NEON to undergo management restructuring
Dec16

ESA Policy News Dec. 16: World leaders reach climate accord, Congress finalizes FY 2016 spending deal, NEON to undergo management restructuring

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here.  INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS: WORLD LEADERS REACH FIRST EVER CLIMATE ACCORD On Dec. 12, over 190 countries of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change agreed to the first-ever international climate change agreement in Paris. The 31-page agreement sets a goal of limiting global temperature increases to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and  pursues efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Assessments on the progress of countries’ pledges will be conducted every five years, beginning in 2018. All countries will update and revise existing climate targets every five years, starting in 2020 with a goal of each target reflecting progress over the prior one. As part of the agreement, developed countries will pledge to raise $100 billion to aid developing nations in tackling climate change. For the first time, the agreement requires all countries to report on national inventories of emissions by source, allowing the general public to understand better the level of pollution generated by countries around the world. The agreement is considered a win for President Obama, who had pledged that the United States would lead by example in mitigating the effects of climate change. Click here for a summary of the agreement. APPROPRIATIONS: CONGRESS REACHES FUNDING AGREEMENT FOR REMAINDER OF FY 2016 On the evening of Dec. 15, congressional leaders released a bipartisan $1.149 trillion omnibus spending deal that funds the federal government for the remainder of Fiscal Year (FY) 2016. The bill comes after enactment of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, which made it possible for moderate increases in overall discretionary spending for the next two fiscal years. To prevent a shutdown, Congress passed a stopgap continuing resolution to fund the government through Dec. 22. The House is expected to take up the measure on Dec. 18. with the Senate expected to vote on the bill shortly after. The legislation is expected to pass both chambers of Congress and the president has indicated he will sign the measure. Most of the major harmful environmental riders from House appropriations bills were not included from the final bill. For NSF, the bill includes $7.46 billion, a $119 million increase over the FY 2015 enacted level. The bill does not include restrictions on the NSF directorates that fund the geosciences or social and behavioral sciences. The bill requires federal agency Inspector Generals to conduct random audits of grant funding to combat waste and fraud and establishes an early warning system on cost overruns and requires agencies to notify congressional committees when costs grow...

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