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Archive for the 'News & Updates' Category

17 May 2019

House Considers FY 2020 Funding Despite No Deal on Budget Caps

Appropriators in the U.S. House of Representatives have started to consider spending bills for fiscal year (FY) 2020. Importantly, Congress and the President have not yet reached agreement on a deal to raise the budget caps that are set to kick in later this year.

Since 2013, budget sequestration has dramatically cut funding available for federal programs that support research, environmental stewardship, education, housing, foreign aid, and other programs. Congress has since reached three budget agreements, in 2013, 2015 and 2018, to lessen the extent of sequestration. The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 expires on October 1, 2019. Several science agencies, including the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), could experience cuts if the budget caps are not raised prior to FY 2020.

The House and Senate leadership have begun discussions with the White House on a possible two-year budget deal. Although it is still unclear how the budget cap negotiations will play out, House appropriators are pushing forward with their own spending plan.

The House Appropriations Committee advanced the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies appropriations bill, their first spending bill for FY 2020, on May 8. The bill includes $189.9 billion in discretionary funding, an increase of $11.8 billion above the 2019 enacted level and $48 billion above the President’s budget request for FY 2020. The National Institutes of Health would receive $41.1 billion in FY 2020, an increase of $2 billion over the FY 2019 enacted level. The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), slated for closure under the President’s budget, would receive $257 million, an increase of $15 million.

The House Appropriations panel has also approved topline spending numbers for each of the twelve appropriations subcommittees, allocating increases to all 12 spending bills relative to FY 2019 enacted levels. The spending number for Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies, which includes the National Science Foundation, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Institute of Standards and Technology, and National Aeronautics and Space Administration, would increase by $2.3 billion to $66.4 billion. The Energy and Water Development allocation, which includes funding for the Department of Energy Office of Science, would get a boost of $1.8 billion over FY 2019. The panel has also approved spending increases for Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies (+$1.7 billion) and Agriculture (+$1.3 billion).

On May 15, the House spending panel on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies advanced their FY 2020 appropriations bill that would boost funding for the Department of the Interior (+$833 million) and the Environmental Protection Agency (+$ 672 million) in FY 2020. The bill would provide $1.24 billion (+$75 million) for USGS, $1.4 billion (+$66 million) for the Bureau of Land Management, $1.7 billion (+$79 million) for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and $3.4 billion for National Park Service (+$168 million). The Smithsonian Institution would receive $1.07 billion, an increase of $28 million above FY 2019.

The Senate has yet to begin marking up spending bills for FY 2020. Republican appropriators in the Senate have expressed an interest in reaching a bipartisan, bicameral agreement on discretionary spending caps before starting work on appropriations.

15 May 2019

NSC Alliance Provides Testimony in Support of IMLS

The Natural Science Collections Alliance (NSC Alliance) provided testimony to the Senate Appropriations Committee regarding fiscal year (FY) 2020 funding for the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

“Museums strengthen our national economy. They provide core educational and outreach programs to engage the public and contribute more than $50 billion to the U.S. economy every year, support more than 726,000 American jobs, and generate $12 billion in tax revenue. It is of paramount importance to invest in museums given the enormous economic and educational contributions of these institutions.”

The testimony urged appropriators to reject the President’s proposal to eliminate IMLS and to instead provide IMLS with at least $257 million in FY 2020.

Read the testimony.

22 Apr 2019

NSC Alliance Urges Senate Appropriators to Support FY 2020 Funding for NSF

The Natural Science Collections Alliance (NSC Alliance) provided testimony to the Senate Appropriations Committee, highlighting the importance and role of natural history collections.

“Natural science collections advance scientific research and education, and that informs actions to improve public health, agricultural productivity, natural resource management, biodiversity conservation, and American economic innovation. Current research involving natural science collections also contributes to the development of new cyberinfrastructure, data visualization tools, and improved data management practices.”

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is a key federal supporter of scientific collections. NSF supports research that uses existing collections as well as studies that gather new natural history specimens. NSF’s Directorates for Biological Sciences (BIO), Geosciences (GEO), and Social and Behavioral and Economic sciences support research and student training opportunities in natural history collections. NSF also supports national biological research infrastructure that houses natural history collections, such as living stock collections and field stations.

The testimony called for $9 billion for NSF in fiscal year (FY) 2020.

Read the testimony.

19 Apr 2019

Action Alert: Ask Your Members of Congress to Support NSF

Congress has begun work to set funding levels for federal programs for fiscal year (FY) 2020. Scientists interested in the National Science Foundation (NSF) should consider contacting their U.S. Representative and Senators to ask that they provide NSF with $9 billion in FY 2020.

NSF is the primary federal funding source for discovery-driven research at our nation’s universities and colleges. The President’s budget request for FY 2020 proposes a 12.5 percent cut to NSF, including a 13 percent reduction to its research activities. This budget hurts research and undermines the nation’s ability to address national challenges.

If funded at $9 billion, NSF can accelerate progress on its 10 Big Ideas, expand support for early career researchers, and create new interdisciplinary research programs. This funding level will also ensure that NSF can sustain investments in the programs that are of interest to NSC Alliance members. At the $9 billion funding level, NSF will be able to sustain investments in core research programs.

Individuals can send a letter to their members of Congress from the AIBS Legislative Action Center.

04 Apr 2019

New Report from BCoN: Extending U.S. Biodiversity Collections to Promote Research and Education

The Biodiversity Collections Network (BCoN) has released its new report, Extending U.S. Biodiversity Collections to Promote Research and Education. You are invited to download and share the summary brochure and to review the longer report that provides additional detail about this vision for the future..

An excerpt from the report: “There is an urgent need to build a network of extended specimen data that represents the depth and breadth of the more than one billion biodiversity specimens held in U.S. collections institutions. The Extended Specimen Network (ESN) would include the physical specimen and its associated physical and digital genetic, phenotypic, and environmental data. The network would rely on new data integration mechanisms necessary to link all of the dynamic components together. The ESN will help researchers understand the rules that govern how organisms grow, diversify, and interact with one another, and how environmental change and human activities may affect those rules. As a resource for formal and informal education (including citizen science), the ESN will provide scalable learning opportunities for K–12 and lifelong learning in data literacy as well as the life sciences and humanities.”

Read the report.

29 Mar 2019

President Trump Proposes Large Budget Cuts for Science

The White House released the President’s Budget Request for fiscal year (FY) 2020 on March 11, 2019, proposing deep cuts to science funding for the third consecutive year. The proposal calls for significant cuts to many federal science agencies, including the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and the Smithsonian Institution.

The $4.7 trillion FY 2020 budget framework includes $1.3 trillion in discretionary spending, of which $543 billion (-5 percent) is for nondefense discretionary spending. Defense spending would receive a 5 percent boost to $750 billion. According to Science Insider, overall federal R&D funding would decrease by 11 percent.

According to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Acting Director Russ Vought, the proposal “embodies fiscal responsibility, and takes aim at Washington’s waste, fraud, and abuse.” The Administration’s key funding priorities include “addressing wasteful Washington spending, strengthening our southern border, promoting a healthy American economy, and maintaining a strong national defense.”

Some key budget items related to science include:
- NSF would receive $7.1 billion in FY 2020, a 12.5 percent cut from the FY 2019 level enacted by Congress.
- The Smithsonian Institution would receive a 6.2 percent budget cut, with the Salaries and Expenses account receiving a boost of $19.3 million.
- The Institute of Museum and Library Services has been proposed for termination for the third year in a row. The budget request would provide $23 million for its “orderly closure.”
- The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) would get $4.5 billion (-17 percent), with funding for “lower priority” NOAA grant and education programs, including the Sea Grant, Coastal Zone Management Grants, and the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund, zeroed out.
- A $12.6 billion (-14 percent) budget is proposed for the Department of the Interior. The National Park Service would receive $2.7 billion (-15 percent), with $321.6 million (-4 percent) targeted to natural and cultural resource stewardship. The Bureau of Land Management would be trimmed by 11 percent to $1.2 billion, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would receive $1.3 billion (-16 percent). The Administration requested $983.5 million for USGS, more than 16 percent below FY 2019. Under the request, 7 of the agency’s mission areas will be realigned into 5 mission areas. Under the new structure, the new Ecosystems mission area would receive a nearly 35 percent budget cut. The proposal would also terminate the Biological Survey Unit and Cooperative Research Units and reduce funding for climate research.
- NIH’s budget would be slashed by 13 percent to $34.4 billion.
- The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) would receive only $688 million, a 30 percent cut, in FY 2020.
- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would see its budget slashed by nearly 31 percent to $6.1 billion. Scientific research at EPA would be reduced by 35 percent.
- Agricultural research is also slated for large cuts. Funding for the Agricultural Research Service within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) would be slashed by 26 percent. The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) would lose 5 percent. On the upside, the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) would receive an infusion of 20 percent to $500 million.

The FY 2020 budget proposal has already largely been dismissed by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and is unlikely to pass as proposed. However, science policy experts warn that given the myriad proposed cuts and realignments, science advocates must offer a spirited and persistent campaign to secure funding.

Describing the President’s budget, House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) said, “President Trump has somehow managed to produce a budget request even more untethered from reality than his past two.” She added, “With such misguided priorities, the Trump budget has no chance of garnering the necessary bipartisan support to become law. I am committed to working with my colleagues, both Democrats and Republicans, to write appropriations bills that responsibly fund the government.”

House Interior-EPA Appropriations Subcommittee Chairwoman Betty McCollum (D-MN), called the budget “dead on arrival.” Republican Appropriator Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) said, “In all the years that I’ve been here, there’s never been a president’s budget that has passed as submitted, and I don’t think this will be any different.”

15 Mar 2019

NSC Alliance Urges Congress to Support Federal Funding for Collections

The NSC Alliance provided testimony to the House Appropriations Committee regarding fiscal year (FY) 2020 funding for certain programs that curate natural history collections within the Department of the Interior and Smithsonian Institution.

“Scientific collections, and the collections professionals and scientists who make, care for, and study these resources, are a vital component of our nation’s research infrastructure. Whether held at a museum, government managed laboratory or archive, or in a university science department, these scientific resources consist of data (for example, genetic, tissue, organism, and environmental) that are a unique and irreplaceable foundation from which scientists are studying and explaining past and present life on earth. Research results improve human health, enhance food security, and provide monitoring for responses to environmental change and species conservation.”

The testimony called for new investments within the Department of the Interior and the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History.

Read NSCA’s FY 2020 Interior testimony.

27 Feb 2019

NSC Alliance Announces New Partnership

The NSC Alliance has just signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the University of Florida (iDigBio) to “promote the sustainable implementation of a national digital data meeting.”

In response to a request from iDigBio in 2018, the NSC Alliance Board of Directors has entered into an agreement that will result in the NSC Alliance becoming a cosponsor of the annual Digital Data in Biodiversity Research Conference beginning this year. Additionally, NSC Alliance and iDigBio will work to secure funds over the next three years to ensure the conference continues after the Advancing Digitization of Biodiversity Collections and iDigBio sunset in their current form.

The NSC Alliance looks forward to working with iDigBio, future conference hosts, the scientific community, and our member institutions to sustain this important scientific program. We hope that you will plan to participate in the 2019 conference this June. The 2019 conference is being held at Yale University from June 10-12. To learn more and register, please visit https://www.idigbio.org/content/save-date-methods-protocols-and-analytical-tools-specimen-based-research-biological-sciences.

24 Jan 2019

NSC Alliance 2019 Collections Policy and Advocacy Meeting: Register Now

Registration is now open for the NSC Alliance 2019 membership meeting, Collections Policy and Advocacy. The meeting will be held in Washington, DC, on April 2-3, 2019. Learn more about the meeting, including a draft agenda, and register at http://nscalliance.org/?page_id=1084. All NSC Alliance member institutions are encouraged to participate. In addition to being an opportunity for NSC Alliance members to network and exchange information with each other, this meeting provides a platform for the community to interact with federal program officers and lawmakers. The meeting will explore opportunities for the community to work collectively to promote new investments in natural science collections, and opportunities to inform or reform policies impacting collections. NSC Alliance members are also invited to share information about initiatives or programs at their institutions. Information about submitting an abstract is available on the meeting website.

Questions about the meeting can be directed to Robert Gropp at rgropp@aibs.org or 202-628-1500 x 250.

24 Jan 2019

Costs Mount as Government Shutdown Drags On

As government offices and research facilities across the country remain shuttered and services delayed or interrupted, the partial government shutdown that has resulted in 800,000 federal workers being furloughed or forced to work without pay has accomplished one thing – it has set a new record for how long the President and Congress have failed to govern the country.

The costs associated with the shutdown continue to grow. Beyond the pain inflicted on federal workers, contractors, and grantees, economists now estimate that the shutdown is having real and significant negative effects on Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Kevin Hassett, Chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, now estimates that the shutdown will reduce quarterly economic growth by 0.13 percentage point each week. Hassett doubled his forecast after initially underestimating the economic impact of the shutdown. To put things into perspective, the economic growth in the first quarter of 2018 was 2.2 percent. Other economists also predict losses in the first quarter of 2019, including New York Federal Reserve President John Williams, who thinks the shutdown could cut quarterly U.S. economic growth by 1 percentage point. In an interview earlier this week, Hassett conceded that 0.0 first quarter growth is a real possibility. There are also a growing number of warnings of a new recession.

Prior to and subsequent to the shutdown, Congress endeavored to pass appropriations to fund the government. Prior to the beginning of the 116th Congress in January, the House and Senate were poised to pass bipartisan appropriations legislation only to have the effort thwarted by the President who at the eleventh hour said he would veto the measure. Rather than passing the legislation and forcing the President to carry out his veto threat, Congress capitulated. Congressional Republicans allowed the government to shutdown to force a standoff between the President and congressional Democrats at the start of the 116th Congress – a shutdown the President famously announced from the Oval Office that he would own. Upon taking control of the House of Representatives in January, Democrats approved appropriations legislation – the measures previously unanimously approved by the Senate in December, only to have Senate Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY) refuse to bring the measure to a vote in the Senate. Senator McConnell is now working on legislation that would fund all agencies in exchange for $5.7 billion in border wall money and other immigration reforms, based on a proposal put forth by the President. The measure, however, includes poison pills ensuring that Democrats will not support the plan. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), however, dismissed the President’s proposal and insists that any negotiations on immigration and border legislation take place only after the government is funded and back to work.

The budget impasse is a threat to science, with shuttered federal agencies unable to award grants until they are funded again. Research conducted by a significant number of federal agencies has also come to a halt or is significantly limited. Currently, the shutdown directly affects the National Science Foundation, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Institutes of Standards and Technology, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Smithsonian Institution, State Department, Census Bureau, United States Geological Survey, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, Environmental Protection Agency, and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, among others.

Efforts to highlight the negative impacts on science have sprung up on social media, where stories are being shared at #ScienceNotShutdown and #ShutdownBugsMe (a tag presumably initiated by the Entomological Society of America). NSC Alliance members are encouraged to share your stories with NSC Alliance via these hashtags.

The scientific community is also increasingly warning of the long-term negative effects of the shutdown. On January 18, 2019, the American Institute of Biological Sciences issued a statement warning: “This shutdown is irresponsible and it is doing real harm to people, the economy, and science… It is past time to open the government. Political fights over a wall can be conducted without destroying the morale of public servants, threatening people’s well-being, and damaging the economy. It is reprehensible to demand that federal workers be called to work without pay simply to mask the real negative impacts of this failure to govern.”

On January 23, 2019, the Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF) – a large coalition of scientific societies and universities that advocates for the National Science Foundation – sent a letter to the President and congressional leaders warning of the effects of the continuing shutdown. The letter urged the President and Congress to promptly fund the government and to provide the National Science Foundation with at least $8.175 billion for fiscal year (FY) 2019.

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