Science Policy Report
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Thank you, The Science Policy Office team.
04 November 2015
In This Issue:
Policy News~ Science Policy activities at the 2015 ASA, CSSA & SSSA Annual Meeting
~ Congress passes bipartisan budget deal
~ Ask Congress to support geoscience research and restore cuts to NSF GEO
~ Societies ask for research funding support in FY2016 appropriations negotiations
~ Agency won’t give GOP internal docs on climate research
~ Give U.S. national labs freer rein, commission urges skeptical senators
~ Farmers want reasonable UAV regulations
~ White House honors Champions of Change in sustainable agriculture
~ Stabenow eyes GMO labeling bill by end of year
~ Senators continue efforts to strengthen American R&D policy, competitiveness
Science News~ Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research announces first projects
~ Science is cool in ‘The Martian.’ Can it be compelling in the classroom too?
~ California’s growers bear brunt of drought woes
~ APLU study finds $8.4 Billion in deferred maintenance at schools of agriculture in U.S.
~ Call for white papers: Decadal survey for Earth science and applications from space
~ SoAR Foundation announces Scientific Advisory Committee
~ Study claims that rising temperatures will sharply cut economic productivity
~ U.S. rivers show few signs of improvement from historic nitrate increases
~ GMO backlash threatens beet farmers as foodmakers swap sugars
~ Good news for ag science majors: The job market is hot
~ We need an energy miracle
International Corner~ China’s vanishing coastal wetlands are nearing critical red line
~ EU lawmakers block opt-out from GMO rules
~ Where to next for Cuban food and agriculture?
~ Neuroscientist tapped as Australia’s chief scientist
~ Paris climate summit will hinge on climate aid-poor nations
Research, Education, Extension Funding Opportunities~ Specialty Crop Research Initiative Request for Pre-Applications
~ Solid Waste Management
~ Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program
~ Improvements in Facilities, Communications, and Equipment at Biological Field Stations and Marine Laboratories
~ Big Data Regional Innovation Hubs: Establishing Spokes to Advance Big Data Applications
~ Environmental System Science
~ UF Fellowships in Biological Engineering in Food Systems
~ Biotechnology Risk Assessment Research Grants Program
(TOP) ~ Science Policy activities at the 2015 ASA, CSSA & SSSA Annual Meeting
The Science Policy Office is hosting several events for Annual Meeting attendees to get involved in. The Science Policy Office is asking all meeting attendees to share their stories about the importance of scientific conferences. Tell us why YOU attend the annual meeting each year. Is it collaborations? Networking? Career opportunities? Speak out at the Science Policy Booth in the Society Center. Graduate students are invited to attend the Science Policy Graduate Student Luncheon. The luncheon will give attendees an introduction to science policy and insight into why it’s so critical for scientists to engage in advocacy. There will be a short panel presentation before breaking into small group discussions about science policy and the ways graduate students can engage. Also learn “Everything You Wanted to Know about NIFA” and receive an “Introduction to the Foundation for Food and Agriculture.” See details on all science policy events.
(TOP) ~ Congress passes bipartisan budget deal
Last week, the White House and House Speaker John Boehner revealed the bipartisan budget deal that would raise the spending caps imposed by sequestration. The two-year budget blueprint would increase total discretionary spending by an additional $80 billion; of that increase $50 billion would be allocated in FY 2016 and the remaining $30 billion for FY 2017 to be split equally between defense and nondefense discretionary accounts. However after FY 2017, the budget would drop again to the post-sequestration discretionary levels as laid out in the Budget Control Act of 2011. The bill passed through both chambers and was sent to the President for his signature. AAAS breaks down the budget deal and what it could mean for research funding agencies. Read the full article.
(TOP) ~ Ask Congress to support geoscience research and restore cuts to NSF GEO
This year, the House appropriations bill that funds the National Science Foundation, includes language that directs NSF funding away from the Geoscience Directorate in order to prioritize funding to other programs, resulting in what would amount to a 16 percent cut to NSF GEO. Fortunately, the Senate version of this bill does not include this language. Over the next few weeks, the House and Senate appropriations subcommittees must work together to finalize funding levels for programs like NSF. Now is the time to email your members of Congress and ask them to remove language that would cut geoscience research funding at NSF and speak out on the value and importance of the geosciences. Email your members of Congress here.
(TOP) ~ Societies ask for research funding support in FY2016 appropriations negotiations
This week, thirteen science coalitions representing over 500 industrial, academic and scientific organizations, including ASA, CSSA and SSSA, sent a letter to House and Senate Appropriations leadership on the recent passage of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015. Since the new budget framework provides additional funding, the letter asks appropriators to make strong investments in America’s innovation ecosystem by increasing federal research funding by at least 5.2 percent above FY 2015 levels—the same level of increase to discretionary spending. Read the letter here.
(TOP) ~ Agency won’t give GOP internal docs on climate research
The federal government’s chief climate research agency is refusing to give House Republicans the detailed information they want on a controversial study on climate change. Citing confidentiality concerns and the integrity of the scientific process, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said it won’t give Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) the research documents he subpoenaed. At the center of the controversy is a study that concluded there has not been a 15-year “pause” in global warming. Skeptics of climate change, including Smith, have cited the pause to insist that increased greenhouse gas emissions, mostly from burning fossil fuels, are not heating up the globe. Read the full article.
(TOP) ~ Give U.S. national labs freer rein, commission urges skeptical senators
For decades, directors of the national labs have grumbled that DOE micromanagement leaves them little leeway to guide their institutions. So, not surprisingly, a commission requested by Congress to study the labs recommended that DOE give them greater latitude to pursue goals set by the mothership. For just as long, however, Congress has complained about cost overruns and mishaps at the labs. So, just as predictably, at yesterday’s hearing some senators—including the one who requested the study—expressed skepticism about giving the labs more freedom. Read the full article.
(TOP) ~ Farmers want reasonable UAV regulations
The National Corn Growers Association is assuring the government that farmers are perfectly willing to abide by new drone regulations, so long as they are reasonable. NCGA, on the heels of the news that DOT will require recreational users to register their flying machines, said drones are becoming increasingly important to American farmers. The corn group said the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International is predicting that the agriculture sector will make up 80 percent of commercial use for drones. Drones can be used on farms to spread fertilizer, detect crop pests and other chores, NCGA said. Read the full article.
(TOP) ~ White House honors Champions of Change in sustainable agriculture
On Monday, the White House honored 12 Champions of Change for Sustainable and Climate-Smart Agriculture who are implementing practices to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve environmental conditions while sustaining local economies. In panel discussions at the White House, the Champions shared the techniques they are using on their farm such as planting cover crops, practicing no-till, installing biodigestors, and optimizing nutrient application. Read the full article.
(TOP) ~ Stabenow eyes GMO labeling bill by end of year
Federal regulators defended the safety of biotech foods at a congressional hearing as senators prepared the groundwork for moving a compromise bill to block states from requiring labels on GMO products. The ranking Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee, Debbie Stabenow, who is playing a leading role in negotiations on a compromise bill, announced that she hoped to have the legislation passed by the Senate before the end of the year. Stabenow told reporters she doesn't back Pompeo's Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, but she isn't signed on to Boxer's Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act either. Read the full article.
(TOP) ~ Senators continue efforts to strengthen American R&D policy, competitiveness
U.S. Sens. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Gary Peters (D-Mich.), members of the U.S. Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee and leaders of the innovation and competiveness working group established by Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.), today offered an update on input they received as part of bipartisan efforts to gather input from the U.S. science and research community and other interested parties on federal research and development (R&D) policy priorities. Read the full article.
(TOP) ~ Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research announces first projects
The newly formed Foundation for Food and Agricultural held its first public meeting Wednesday, announcing two projects - one aimed at honoring emerging researchers and another that will create a “rapid response” program targeting new threats. The projects will be funded from a $200 million congressional allocation intended to catalyze agricultural research, which FFAR Executive Director Sally Rockey said is in need of major attention. Rockey added that how the way projects are chosen by the foundation, which was created by the 2014 farm bill, will be “one of the most important aspects of what we do.” Read the full article.
(TOP) ~ Science is cool in ‘The Martian.’ Can it be compelling in the classroom too?
Cool science: an oxymoron? Not according to thousands of moviegoers who have been mesmerized by “The Martian,” in which an astronaut uses his science and math skills to survive being marooned on Mars. “I’m going to have to science the s— out of this,” he declares. It is riveting stuff. If only we could translate this kind of suspense and excitement to the science classroom. For most students, science class means memorization, with few opportunities to investigate, problem-solve or discover. In observing countless high school classrooms around the country over the course of more than 25 years, we have seen that most science learning is pretty much the opposite of riveting. Read the full article.
(TOP) ~ California’s growers bear brunt of drought woes
The historic drought in California, and much of the West, has caused farmers to take drastic measures and suffer with rising water cost, but consumers are barely feeling the pain at the grocery store. Despite the cost borne by growers, average retail prices for fresh fruits are actually down three percent and vegetables are only up one percent. Overall, food prices are up two percent. As consumers see little change in the food aisle, growers feel more of the cost. Read the full article.
(TOP) ~ APLU study finds $8.4 Billion in deferred maintenance at schools of agriculture in U.S.
Sightlines and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) released a comprehensive study that found there is a collective total of $8.4 billion in deferred maintenance at the buildings and supporting facilities at schools of agriculture authorized to receive U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) funding. Perhaps even more alarming, the study found that 29 percent of the asset value of these campus buildings has deteriorated as a result of deferred maintenance. Read the full article.
(TOP) ~ Call for white papers: Decadal survey for Earth science and applications from space
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has begun the next decadal survey for Earth Science and Applications from Space. Sponsored by NASA, NOAA, and the USGS, the survey will present a decade-long strategy commencing in late 2017 for achieving consensus science goals driven by input from the scientific community and policy experts. The Academies is seeking responses to a Request for Information (RFI) on the top-level challenges and opportunities that should guide the work of the survey. White papers will be accepted through the end of the calendar year. Read the full article.
(TOP) ~ SoAR Foundation announces Scientific Advisory Committee
The Supporters of Agricultural Research (SoAR) Foundation announced the formation of its Scientific Advisory Committee, an eight-member panel led by Vicki Chandler, PhD, Dean of the College of Natural Sciences at the Minerva Schools at KGI. The Committee’s primary mission is to strengthen agricultural research and raise its profile within the broader science community. Special focus will be placed on the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) program, the nation’s primary source of competitively awarded funding within the US Department of Agriculture. ASA and SSA member, Chuck Rice, was named as one of the committee members. Read the full article.
(TOP) ~ Study claims that rising temperatures will sharply cut economic productivity
In a sweeping new study, a team of researchers say there is a strong relationship between a region’s average temperature and its economic productivity. Culling together economic and temperature data for over 100 wealthy and poorer countries alike over 50 years, the researchers assert that the optimum temperature for human productivity seems to be around 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Once things get a lot hotter than that, economic productivity declines “strongly.” Read the full article.
(TOP) ~ U.S. rivers show few signs of improvement from historic nitrate increases
During 1945 to 1980, nitrate levels in large U.S. rivers increased up to fivefold in intensively managed agricultural areas of the Midwest, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey study. In recent decades, nitrate changes have been smaller and levels have remained high in most of the rivers studied. The greatest increases in river nitrate levels coincided with increased nitrogen inputs from livestock and agricultural fertilizer, which grew rapidly from 1945 to 1980. In some urbanized areas along the East and West coasts during the same period, river nitrate levels doubled. Read the full article.
(TOP) ~ GMO backlash threatens beet farmers as foodmakers swap sugars
America's sugar beet growers are under siege as U.S. food companies increasingly shun genetically modified (GMO) crops. In the past seven years, the farmers – many in Minnesota, North Dakota, Michigan, and Idaho – have all switched to GMO seeds created by Monsanto Co and sold by others as they seek to increase yields and cut costs. Genetically Modified Organisms include plants that have had been created through gene splicing — the introduction of DNA from a different species to make a new one. Read the full article.
(TOP) ~ Good news for ag science majors: The job market is hot
Close to 60,000 jobs are set to open up in agriculture, food and natural resource sectors each year for the next five years, according to a report from Purdue University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The American agriculture industry has a problem though; there are not enough grads to fill them. The report projects about two open jobs for every qualified graduate. That’s left the USDA, land grant universities and private industry scrambling to try and bridge the gap. Read the full article.
(TOP) ~ We need an energy miracle
Bill Gates is on a solo global lobbying campaign to press his species to accomplish something on a scale it has never attempted before. He wants human beings to invent their way out of the coming collision with planetary climate change, accelerating a transition to new forms of energy that might normally take a century or more. To head off a rise in average global temperatures of 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels—the goal set by international agreement—Gates believes that by 2050, wealthy nations like China and the United States, the most prodigious belchers of greenhouse gases, must be adding no more carbon to the skies. Read the full article.
(TOP) ~ China’s vanishing coastal wetlands are nearing critical red line
Along China’s coastline, rapid development has transformed marshes and mudflats into ports and urban sprawl; a line of concrete seawalls and sandbags now stretches longer than China’s Great Wall. The decline of wetlands is nearing a critical threshold below which the losses could inflict severe and lasting harm on ecosystems—driving numerous migratory bird species to the brink of extinction and jeopardizing nearly 20% of the world’s fisheries, warns a new report from Chinese and U.S scientists. Read the full article.
(TOP) ~ EU lawmakers block opt-out from GMO rules
European Union lawmakers have rejected a draft law that would have allowed countries to ban certain genetically modified food and animal feed even if the produce was authorized by EU authorities. Lawmakers fear the move could force a return to border controls to keep GMO produce out of some countries. The decision to reject the law was taken on Wednesday by an overwhelming majority. The environment spokesman for the assembly's biggest political group, Peter Liese, said that "we need to avoid chaos for consumers and farmers." Read the full article.
(TOP) ~ Where to next for Cuban food and agriculture?
The United States has begun to normalize its relationship with Cuba and many agricultural exporters are eyeing Cuba. The Foreign Agricultural Service, USDA issued a Global Agricultural Information Network report outlining how U.S. suppliers can legally position themselves in the Cuban market while reducing financial risks. The report goes in-depth on the history of U.S.-Cuban relations, current steps that the U.S. government is considering, and how the current relations between the two countries may affect trade. Read the full article.
(TOP) ~ Neuroscientist tapped as Australia’s chief scientist
Neuroscientist Alan Finkel will be Australia’s next chief scientist, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced at a press conference in Canberra today. As the government’s chief scientist, Finkel—president of Australia’s Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering and former chancellor of Monash University in Melbourne—will provide independent advice and work to lift the profile of Australian science. Two priorities, Finkel says, are to boost Australia’s poor innovation record and set the nation on the road to a fossil-free future. Read the full article.
(TOP) ~ Paris climate summit will hinge on climate aid-poor nations
Poor nations say they are far more vulnerable than the rich to powerful hurricanes, heat waves, droughts and rising sea levels and want clear promises that aid will rise from an existing goal of $100 billion a year by 2020. Other controversies are likely to be how to toughen national plans for curbs on GHG emissions beyond 2025 and 2030. Developed nations want guarantees that the poor will step up their actions to slow rising emissions. Read the full article.
Research, Education, Extension Funding Opportunities
(TOP) ~ Specialty Crop Research Initiative Request for Pre-Applications
The purpose of the SCRI program is to address the critical needs of the specialty crop industry by awarding grants to support research and extension that address key challenges of national, regional, and multi-state importance in sustaining all components of food and agriculture, including conventional and organic food production systems. Projects must address at least one of five focus areas: Research in plant breeding, genetics, genomics, and other methods to improve crop characteristics; Efforts to identify and address threats from pests and diseases, including threats to specialty crop pollinators; Efforts to improve production efficiency, handling and processing, productivity, and profitability over the long term (including specialty crop policy and marketing); new innovations and technology, including improved mechanization and technologies that delay or inhibit ripening; and methods to prevent, detect, monitor, control, and respond to potential food safety hazards in the production efficiency, handling and processing of specialty crops. Deadline, Dec. 3. Read the full annoucement.
(TOP) ~ Solid Waste Management
Funds may be used to: Evaluate current landfill conditions to determine threats to water resources in rural areas; provide technical assistance and/or training to enhance operator skills in the maintenance and operation of active landfills in rural areas; provide technical assistance and/or training to help associations reduce the solid waste stream; and provide technical assistance and/or training for operators of landfills in rural areas which are closed or will be closed in the near future with the development/implementation of closure plans, future land use plans, safety and maintenance planning, and closure scheduling within permit requirements. Deadline, Dec. 31. Read the full announcement.
(TOP) ~ Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program
The Department of Defense’s (DoD) Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP) is seeking to fund environmental research and development proposals. SERDP is DoD’s environmental science and technology program, planned and executed in partnership with the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency, with participation by numerous other Federal and non-Federal organizations. The Program invests across the broad spectrum of basic and applied research, as well as advanced development. Proposals responding to focused Statements of Need in the following areas are requested: 1) Environmental Restoration; 2) Munitions Response 3) Resource Conservation and Climate Change; 4) Weapons Systems and Platforms. Letter of intent deadline, Jan. 7, full proposal deadline, March 8. Read the full announcement.
(TOP) ~ Improvements in Facilities, Communications, and Equipment at Biological Field Stations and Marine Laboratories
Biological Field Stations and Marine Laboratories (FSMLs) are off-campus facilities for research and education conducted in the natural habitats of terrestrial, freshwater, and marine ecosystems. FSMLs support environmental and basic biological research and education by preserving access to study areas and organisms, by providing facilities and equipment in close proximity to those study areas, and by fostering an atmosphere of mutual scientific interest and collaboration in research and education. To fulfill these roles, FSMLs must offer modern research and educational facilities, equipment, communications and data management for a broad array of users. In recognition of the importance of FSMLs in modern biology, NSF invites proposals that address these general goals of FSML improvement. Deadline, Jan. 11. Read the full announcement.
(TOP) ~ Big Data Regional Innovation Hubs: Establishing Spokes to Advance Big Data Applications
This Big Data Regional Innovation Hubs: Establishing Spokes to Advance Big Data Applications (BD Spokes) solicitation extends the BD Hubs network by establishing multi-institutional and multi-sector collaborations (i.e., across academia, industry, government, non-profits, etc.) focused on topics of specific interest to a given region, which build upon the capabilities and strengths of said region. Working in concert with the corresponding regional BD Hub, a BD Spoke would work on a particular topic that requires Big Data approaches and solutions. Each BD Spoke would function similar to a BD Hub—in that it will take on a convening and coordinating roll as opposed to primarily carrying out research—but with a narrower and goal-driven scope. The set of activities managed by a BD Spoke would ensure that progress is made toward providing solutions in the chosen topic area. Letter of intent deadline, Jan. 12, full proposal deadline, Feb. 25. Read the full announcement.
(TOP) ~ Environmental System Science
The Office of Biological and Environmental Research (BER) of the Office of Science (SC), U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) hereby announces its interest in receiving applications for research in Environmental Systems Science (ESS), including Terrestrial Ecosystem Science (TES) and Subsurface Biogeochemical Research (SBR). The mission of the Climate and Environmental Sciences Division (CESD) within BER is to advance a robust predictive understanding of Earth’s climate and environmental systems and to inform the development of sustainable solutions to the Nation’s energy and environmental challenges. The goal of the Environmental System Science (ESS) activity in the Office of Biological and Environmental Research (BER) is to advance a robust predictive understanding of terrestrial environments, extending from bedrock to the top of the vegetated canopy and from molecular to global scales in support of DOE’s energy and environmental missions. Deadline, Jan. 22. Read the full announcement.
(TOP) ~ UF Fellowships in Biological Engineering in Food Systems
Three fellowships in the Agricultural and Biological Engineering Department at the University of Florida are available for Ph.D. Degrees in Biological Engineering with an emphasis in Food Security. Engineers will be trained to build the tools that will improve food security as the climate changes. These fellowships will complete a multidisciplinary curriculum that integrates four foundations in: 1) Big Data analyses, 2) Modeling of Biological Systems; 3) Plant-Water-Soil and Atmosphere continuum; 4) Teaching, leadership, and entrepreneurial skills. Deadline, April 1. Read the full announcement.
(TOP) ~ Biotechnology Risk Assessment Research Grants Program
The purpose of the BRAG program is to support the generation of new information that will assist Federal regulatory agencies in making science-based decisions about the effects of introducing into the environment genetically engineered organisms (GE), including plants, microorganisms (including fungi, bacteria, and viruses), arthropods, fish, birds, mammals and other animals excluding humans. Investigations of effects on both managed and natural environments are relevant. The BRAG program accomplishes its purpose by providing Federal regulatory agencies with scientific information relevant to regulatory issues. Letter of intent deadline, Feb. 12, full proposal deadline, April 15. Read the full announcement.
Sources: NSF; USDA; DOE; DOD; AAAS; ScienceInsider; Washington Post; The Hill; NOAA News; The White House Blog; Agri-Pulse; NCGA News of the Day; wbur; Wall Street Journal; APLU News; National Academies News; SoAR News; Harvest Public Media; USGS News; The Atlantic; Associated Press; Reuters
Vision: The Societies Washington, DC Science Policy Office (SPO) will advocate the importance and value of the agronomic, crop and soil sciences in developing national science policy and ensuring the necessary public-sector investment in the continued health of the environment for the well being of humanity. The SPO will assimilate, interpret, and disseminate in a timely manner to Society members information about relevant agricultural, natural resources and environmental legislation, rules and regulations under consideration by Congress and the Administration.
This page of the ASA-CSSA-SSSA web site will highlight current news items relevant to Science Policy. It is not an endorsement of any position.