President Obama released a $3.8 trillion budget plan for fiscal year (FY) 2014 on 10 April 2013. According to the White House, the budgetproposal would reduce the federal deficit by increasing revenues and cutting spending. The proposal would replace sequestration, the $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts mandated by the Budget ControlYou can download a copy of the full report at http://www.aibs.org/public-policy/budget_report.html.
Science is once again a priority in the President's budget request. The Administration proposed $142.8 billion for federalresearch and development (R&D), an increase of 1.3 percent over the 2012 level. Although defense R&D would be cut by 5.2 percent,
nondefense R&D would increase by 9.2 percent to $69.6 billion.
Nearly all science agencies and biological research programs would see increased funding in FY 2014. Notably, the National Science Foundation would receive an 8.4 percent increase. Other science programs slated for a budget increase include the National Institutes of Health,
Department of Energy Office of Science, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Department of Agriculture, and several Department of the Interior bureaus. Funding for Environmental Protection Agency science would be reduced.
Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education programs would be consolidated across the federal government. More than 100 programs at 11 agencies are targeted for elimination or reorganization. Some programs would be moved to the Department of Education, National Science Foundation, or Smithsonian Institution.
The multi-agency U.S. Global Change Research Program would receive $2.7 billion, an increase of about six percent.
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Senate Delivers Devastating Blow to Integrity of Scientific Process at NSFIf you agree with me that scientific studies of how policies are made and implemented are vital to intelligent decision-making in government, I urge you to contact your senator and ask her/him to find a way to reverse this action.
Restricts Political Science Projects Receiving NSF Funds
Alert Update (Wednesday, 3/20, 4:15pm):
Senator Coburn's modified amendment was passed in the Senate by voice vote. Read APSA news release to the DC bureaus of national and international media, op-ed writers and political talkshows. APSA will provide additional information as it's known.
A modified version of the Coburn amendment (SA 65 to H.R. 933) was submitted Tuesday. The stated purpose is:
"To prohibit the use of funds to carry out the functions of the Political Science Program in the Division of Social and Economic Sciences of the Directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences of the National Science Foundation, except for research projects that the Director of the National Science Foundation certifies as promoting national security or the economic interests of the United States."
Click here for the full text of the modified amendment.
Graduate Student Leaders Sought to Shape Science Policy
Applications are now being accepted for the 2013 AIBS Emerging Public Policy Leadership Award. This award recognizes graduate students in the biological sciences who have demonstrated initiative and leadership in science policy. Recipients receive first-hand experience at the interface of science and public policy.
- A trip to Washington, DC, to participate in the Biological and Ecological Sciences Coalition Congressional Visits Day, an annual event that brings scientists to the nation's capital to advocate for federal investment in the biological sciences, with a primary focus on the National Science Foundation. The event will last for two days and will be held in late March or early April 2013. Domestic travel and hotel expenses will be paid for the winners.
- Policy and communications training, and information on trends in federal science funding and the legislative process.
- Meetings with Congressional policymakers to discuss the importance of federal investments in the biological sciences.
- A 1-year AIBS membership, including a subscription to the journal BioScience and a copy of "Communicating Science: A Primer for Working with the Media."
- An award certificate and membership in the EPPLA alumni network.
The 2013 award is open to U.S. citizens enrolled in a graduate degree program in the biological sciences, science education, or a closely allied field. Applicants should have a demonstrated interest in and commitment to science policy and/or science education policy. Prior EPPLA winners and AIBS science policy interns/fellows are not eligible.
Applications are due by 5:00 PM Eastern Time on Monday, 28 January 2013. The award application can be downloaded at http://www.aibs.org/public-policy/eppla.html.
The editors of Nature conclude an editorial in the most recent issue with these words:
Free science resources for a decision-making public
Science influences many aspects of our lives, and a sound understanding of today's science issues is crucial for shaping good national policies. We want you to be well-informed about the science behind many issues that have a significant impact on our future.
Several leading U.S. science and engineering organizations came up with the most important science policy questions facing the United States in 2012. In all, 14 questions were posed to the Presidential candidates, and their answers were posted side-by-side at ScienceDebate.org. How would you respond to these same questions?
Click on one of the reading lists below. There, you'll find the Science Debate question, a link to the candidates' answers, and a hand-picked set of National Academies reports on the topic. All our resources are available to download for free and to purchase in print from NAP.edu.
Over the past four years, Obama has demonstrated strong support for science and innovation, as well as policies that flow from research. Romney has not offered many details of his plans for science, but those he has released -- and the recent record of his party -- do not bode well for US science or its international partners.Whether you support President Obama or Governor Romney, if you are a U.S. citizen, I hope you are registered to vote, that you take your responsibilities as a citizen seriously, and that you vote on November 6.2 Choices matter, and your vote will help determine the choice - not only for President of the United States, but for senators, congressmen, and local official.
Suppose sequestration goes through with cuts of about 9.4 percent for defense spending and about 8.2 percent for non-defense spending. Under that scenario, AAAS project cuts in funding for non-defense R&D of 7.6-8.2 percent.
That's pretty bad, but it gets a lot worse if defense programs were protected from cuts. It's hard to know how much defense spending might be cut, but some have suggested that it be held sacrosanct. So AAAS examined what would happen if DoD didn't take any cuts at all. Then cuts in non-defense R&D were estimated at 10.4-17.5 percent.
The impacts would be devastating. I am most familiar with NSF, so I'll focus on the impact there. The FY 2012 appropriation was just over $7 billion dollars, so cuts of $1 billion per year amount to 1/7th of its budget. With success rates in programs I'm familiar with already less than 10 percent, NSF may have to eliminate some programs completely and drastically limit the size of awards that it makes. Neither would be consistent with its mission.
NSF is the only federal agency whose mission includes support for all fields of fundamental science and engineering, except for medical sciences. We are tasked with keeping the United States at the leading edge of discovery in areas from astronomy to geology to zoology. So, in addition to funding research in the traditional academic areas, the agency also supports "high-risk, high pay-off" ideas, novel collaborations and numerous projects that may seem like science fiction today, but which the public will take for granted tomorrow. And in every case, we ensure that research is fully integrated with education so that today's revolutionary work will also be training tomorrow's top scientists and engineers. (source)
I worry sometimes that discussion of women's issues focus heavily on parenthood, which can be narrow, presumptive, and alienating for women who cannot or choose not to have children. I'd also love to hear comments from readers outside the U.S. on the pros and cons of their policies affecting women in science in their countries, since my perspective is very U.S.-centric.I'm certainly no expert, but I do have a few thoughts, some of them inspired by my recent post on sexism in science. Since so many others know so much more about issues of parenthood than I,1 I'm going to focus on other ideas. I'm also going to make suggestions that have to do primarily with what we can do as individuals rather than those that have to do with how our institutions are structured, not because these suggestions are necessarily the most important, but because they're the ones that are under our most immediate control.
- As the study I wrote about last week illustrates, all of us have unconscious biases that influence our evaluation of others, whether it's teachers evaluating students, graduate advisors evaluating current or potential advisees, PIs evaluating post-docs or potential post-docs, or faculty evaluating potential colleagues in hiring or current colleagues in promotion and tenure. Our first task: Admit to ourselves that we have unconscious biases. Only if we admit that can we begin to overcome them.
- Having admitted to ourselves that we have unconscious biases, we must then work to minimize their influence on our evaluations of others. Some years ago I spent some time reading about strategies of decision making. In the context of evaluating candidates for a job, one idea that's stuck with me is the idea of formulating for yourself explicit criteria before you've seen any of the candidates for a position. Of course, that alone won't do any good if the criteria you adopt are biased. Our second task: Identify explicit criteria and performance standards before any evaluation, and scrutinize them as closely as you can to make sure they don't introduce an unintentional bias into the evaluation.
- Just identifying those criteria will help a lot, but we can do even better. Once you have a list of criteria in front of you, it's natural to use a spreadsheet - maybe even one that you put in Excel &ndsah; to record how well each candidate performs on each of the criteria. And once you have all of the candidates scored for every criterion, it's easy to construct a composite index that expresses the overall performance of each candidate. The index could be something as simple as the sum or the average of each of the individual scores, or the criteria might be weighted with respect to how important they are. Our third task: Evaluate everyone on each criterion and base a final judgment on the same combination of all criteria for everyone.
Those ideas have to do with how we evaluate groups of people. What can we do for individuals? Ed Yong describes a fascinating study from a physics class in Colorado. Head over there for a description of the study, but it suggests to me a fourth task that we can engage in every day: Affirm the dignity and worth of everyone you interact with, and encourage everyone to take time to affirm the positive values they hold for themselves.
The first report was commissioned by the Environmental Protection Agency, which asked it "to assess the overall capabilities of the agency to develop, obtain, and use the best available scientific and technologic information and tools to meet persistent, emerging, and future mission challenges and opportunities." Among other findings, this bullet point in the summary caught my attention:
Key areas where enhanced leadership and capacity can strengthen the agency's ability to address current and emerging environmental challenges include: enhanced agency-wide science leadership, more effective coordination and integration of science efforts within the agency, strengthened scientific capacity inside and outside the agency, and support of scientific integrity and quality.There will be a webinar discussing the second report on September 28. You can find registration information on the website. Here's the bullet point that caught my eye:
To meet national needs for improved climate information over the next several decades, U.S. climate modelers will need to address an expanding breadth of scientific problems while striving to make predictions and projections more accurate. Progress toward this goal can be made through a combination of increasing model resolution, advances in observations, improved model physics, and more complete representations of the Earth system. As a general guideline, priority should be given to climate modeling activities that focus on addressing societal needs and where progress is likely, given adequate resources.
English: Logo of the National Science Foundation (NSF). For NSF logo information visit: http://www.nsf.gov/policies/logos.jsp (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Please take the time (< 2 min) to fill out an important survey to "take the pulse" of the ecological and environmental science community regarding the new proposal submission and review process in the Division of Environmental Biology (DEB).
The context for this survey derives from our recent open letter to NSF that was signed by >550 scientists in one week, http://www.cbs.umn.edu/labs/shobbie/EcologistsLetter-NSF.pdf. This letter concerned changes made in 2012 by NSF to the proposal submission process within the Biological Sciences Directorate (BIO) to address the increasing workload faced by NSF program staff and the community. Several of us were fortunate to have a productive meeting with the BIO leadership at the LTER All Scientists Meeting on Sept. 10 when we discussed these issues and alternate solutions. Discussions with the community and NSF indicate that the three most important issues concerning the new process are (1) the restriction on the number of proposal submissions per investigator per year, (2) the move to a single submission deadline per year, and (3) the willingness of the community to step up and participate more fully in the ad hoc review and panel processes. We are confident after our conversations with NSF that #1, the restriction on the number of proposal submissions per investigator, will be rescinded. To provide NSF Division of Environmental Biology (DEB) with feedback from the community regarding issues #2 and #3, the number of deadlines per year and the community's willingness to help ease the burdens faced by NSF, respectively, we ask you to fill out a very brief survey.
PLEASE DISTRIBUTE THIS SURVEY WIDELY TO YOUR COLLEAGUES IN ECOLOGY AND ENVIRONMENTAL BIOLOGY. Time is very short if we are to have an opportunity to influence the process in 2013, so please respond by 5pm CST on Sept. 18, 2012.
Editors will grade the candidates' answers for SA's November issue, which will be available on the iPad and in print in mid-October.
In the meantime, we need your help with this project. Do you find that the candidates' answers adequately address the thrust of the questions or do they sidestep important issues? Do the answers put forth concrete solutions? Did you find any of the answers particularly helpful or surprising?
We will highlight the most thoughtful and constructive comments and consider the best, verifiable information that you give us in our own deliberations and analysis. Please make sure to register with accurate contact information so that we can email you directly for followup questions, if need be.