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Science Policy Report

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22 February 2017

In This Issue:

Policy News

~ Trump administration to release ‘skinny budget’ in mid-March
~ U.S. Senate bill aims to make sure federal scientists aren’t ‘muzzled’
~ Societies applaud the passage of Energy Research and Innovation Bill
~ In reversal, USDA reposts some animal welfare records it had removed from website
~ AAAS President urges Trump to leverage science in policymaking
~ Top U.S. universities host 10,000 students and researchers from nations covered by Trump travel ban
~ One part of the Obama White House that will endure under Trump: Michelle’s vegetable garden

Science News

~ Climate-smart agriculture
~ Connection between water, food and energy undergoes in-depth investigation
~ U.S. scientists develop new way to measure crop yields from space
~ Harvard and M.I.T. scientists win gene-editing patent fight
~ Water sensor moves from basic research to promising business
~ Seasonal fate of phosphorus in vineyard soils
~ Don't call it wheat: an environmentally friendly grain takes root
~ Humans causing climate to change 170 times faster than natural forces

International Corner

~ Climate scientists wary of Trump: Please come to France, says presidental hopeful
~ China's latest farm policy shifts focus from output to demand

Research, Education, Extension Funding Opportunities

~ Reinvest ASA: Call for Project Proposals
~ Call for nominations: New Innovator in Food and Agriculture Research Award
~ California State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program
~ Call for nominations: Committee to Advise the U.S. Global Change Research Program
~ Tribal Colleges Research Grants Program
~ Karl C. Ivarson Scholarship for Students in Soil Science
~ FY17 and FY18 Region 10 Wetland Program Development Grants
~ North Central Region SARE Professional Development Grant Program
~ Whitehall Foundation: Bioscience Research Projects
~ Pollinator Health

Policy News


(TOP) ~ Trump administration to release ‘skinny budget’ in mid-March

President Donald Trump’s administration is aiming to release a fiscal 2018 budget outline, also called a “skinny” budget on March 14. That date is not set in stone and could change. Mick Mulvaney, the new director of the Office of Management and Budget, has only just gotten to work in the White House budget office. He was confirmed and sworn in to office on Feb. 16. No target date has been set for releasing the full budget, though speculation targets late April or even May. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ U.S. Senate bill aims to make sure federal scientists aren’t ‘muzzled’

Congressional Democrats are rallying behind a bill to protect federal scientists from attempts to interfere with scientific discourse and dissemination of research results. Senator Bill Nelson (D–FL) introduced a bill that would codify existing policies at some two dozen federal agencies. Those policies stem from a 2009 executive order from former President Barack Obama that required them to spell out how they would safeguard scientific integrity. The policies have dribbled out over the last 7 years. Although the topic may seem like motherhood and apple pie to researchers, some actions by President Donald Trump’s transition team and his fledgling administration have raised questions about its commitment to open scientific communication and respect for evidence. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Societies applaud the passage of Energy Research and Innovation Bill

The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously approved the Department of Energy Research and Innovation Act which provides policy direction to the Department of Energy (DOE) on basic science research, nuclear energy research and development, research coordination and priorities and reforms to streamline national lab management. ASA, CSSA and SSSA signed on to a letter of thanks to the House Science Committee, praising the passage of the bill and urging the Senate to pass similar legislation. The letter did however express disappointment that the bill do not include authorized funding levels for the DOE Office of Science which has seen minimal funding increases over the past few years. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ In reversal, USDA reposts some animal welfare records it had removed from website

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) restored some of the tens of thousands of animal welfare documents that it removed from its website early this month. In its announcement, the agency says that it is “posting the first batch of annual reports of research institutions and inspection reports” resulting from a “comprehensive review” that began with the complete removal of previously public documents that are generated by the agency as it enforces the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) and the Horse Protection Act. Those familiar with the records say USDA has so far restored only a small number of the previously posted documents. Among the data still unavailable are the vast majority of reports from regular inspections of animal-holding facilities that are monitored under AWA, including puppy mills and zoos. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ AAAS President urges Trump to leverage science in policymaking

AAAS President Barbara Schaal urges President Donald Trump to place credible scientists at all levels in his Administration and integrate science-based evidence into the policymaking process. In an editorial published in the 3 February issue of Science, Schaal says science "provides testable, fundamental knowledge of the world and how things work" and "to not have scientists who can convey credible information in these spaces risks making poor decisions." Schaal stresses that science is not a political construct or a belief system. Indeed, she writes, "Decisions need to be based on the best available science, rather than on beliefs, impressions and politics." Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Top U.S. universities host 10,000 students and researchers from nations covered by Trump travel ban

Sixty top U.S. research universities have roughly 10,000 students and researchers on campus from the seven countries covered in the travel ban announced last month by President Donald Trump. The new data are included in an amicus brief filed yesterday by the Association of American Universities (AAU) in a suit pending before the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York (Darweesh v.Trump). Several tables included in the brief detail the number of students, faculty members, postdocs, and other researchers from the seven Muslim-majority nations at 23 universities that are members of AAU (see graph, below). Last week a federal appellate court in San Francisco, California, blocked implementation of the 27 January executive order, which the Trump administration says it will reissue next week in a way that it hopes will pass legal muster. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ One part of the Obama White House that will endure under Trump: Michelle’s vegetable garden

It was less than a year ago that Michelle Obama referred to it as “her baby.” She wasn’t talking about her youngest daughter, Sasha, or the Obama’s pet dog Bo, but something undoubtedly dear to her during her time at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue: the White House vegetable garden. Her comments were made during her eighth and final spring planting, but “hopefully,” she added, “this will not be the last” one ever. First lady Melania Trump confirmed that although the garden’s founder may have moved away, her beloved garden lives on. Read the full article.

Science News


(TOP) ~ Climate-smart agriculture

Changing climate conditions will impact urban and rural communities worldwide. Agriculture may be particularly sensitive to rapid changes in climate and extreme weather events. Climate-smart agriculture focuses on ways to maintain or increase production under future climate scenarios while also reducing emissions. Climate-smart planning examples are unique to regions and industries, and here we summarize two approaches: One focused on soil organic carbon management and the other on weather and climate prediction tools. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Connection between water, food and energy undergoes in-depth investigation

The National Science Foundation and NBC Learn, the educational arm of NBC News, released an original video series that explores the connection between water, food and energy. The four-part "Human Water Cycle" series spotlights science and engineering research aimed at helping people use water more efficiently. Narrated by Anne Thompson of NBC News, the series will air on NBC stations and can be viewed online at this NSF Special Report, NBCLearn.com and Science360.gov. Each episode will focus on a different water issue, including segments on drinking water, agriculture, wastewater and the water-food-energy nexus. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ U.S. scientists develop new way to measure crop yields from space

U.S. researchers have come up with a new method of estimating crop yields from small farms in Africa using high-resolution images from the latest generation of satellites - a development which could help cut hunger in poor parts of the world. Improving agricultural productivity is one of the main ways to lift people out of poverty but without accurate data it's difficult to identify the farmers who need help, scientists from Stanford University said. Images from new, inexpensive satellites could be used to estimate yields and test interventions in poor regions where data is scarce, they said in a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Harvard and M.I.T. scientists win gene-editing patent fight

The Broad Institute in Cambridge, Mass., will retain potentially lucrative rights to a powerful gene-editing technique that could lead to major advances in medicine and agriculture, the federal Patent and Trademark Office ruled. The decision, in a bitterly fought dispute closely watched by scientists and the biotechnology industry, was a blow to the University of California, often said to be the birthplace of the technique, which is known as Crispr-Cas9. An appeals board of the patent office ruled that the gene-editing inventions claimed by the two institutions were separate and do not overlap. The result is that the Broad Institute, a research center affiliated with M.I.T. and Harvard, gets to retain more than a dozen patents it has already been granted on the use of the Crispr technique to modify DNA in the cells of humans, animals and plants. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Water sensor moves from basic research to promising business

A water sensor technology that began as basic research at Cornell is blooming into a business that fills a vital need for grape, nut, apple and other growers. While current water sensing tools are expensive, inaccurate or labor intensive, the new sensor tells growers when their plants need irrigation with accurate, real-time readings at reasonable cost. Much like a blood pressure gauge for humans, the sensor reads the water pressure inside the plant. When plants are thirsty, their water pressure is low, sometimes even negative. The sensor reads this pressure inside the plant to help growers ensure plant health and optimize water use in drought-stricken agricultural areas. Applying water at the right time can also greatly improve the quality of fruits, nuts and especially grapes for red wines. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Seasonal fate of phosphorus in vineyard soils

Growing premium wine grapes requires the right soil and climate. An ideal combination occurs in parts of California where the majority of the wine grapes in the United States are produced. As an agricultural system, wine grapes are a specialty crop, and there is limited research on the soils and nutrient dynamics that occur in vineyards. “There’s a huge need for a better understanding of nutrient cycling and soil fertility in vineyards,” says Stewart Wilson, lead author of a recent Soil Science Society of America Journal article titled, “Seasonal Phosphorus Dynamics in a Volcanic Soil of Northern California.” According to Wilson, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of California–Davis (UC-Davis), research presented in the article was initiated when growers in Lake County, CA, approached scientists at UC-Davis about fertilizer use in vineyards. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Don't call it wheat: an environmentally friendly grain takes root

Normal wheat dies every year, and farmers have to till the soil and plant new seeds. Not only does that mean more work, but the process also causes erosion, which makes farmland less healthy and can carry sediment and agricultural chemicals into nearby waters. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union claimed it had created a plant exactly like wheat that kept regenerating itself year after year. But the Soviets were bluffing. That's where Salish Blue comes in. It's a perennial, wheat-like grain that adapts to wet weather, and it's different from previous attempts because it's genetically stable, says Oregon State University researcher Michael Flowers, who was not involved in the study. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Humans causing climate to change 170 times faster than natural forces

For the first time, researchers have developed a mathematical equation to describe the impact of human activity on the earth, finding people are causing the climate to change 170 times faster than natural forces. The equation was developed in conjunction with Professor Will Steffen, a climate change expert and researcher at the Australian National University, and was published in the journal The Anthropocene Review. The authors of the paper wrote that for the past 4.5bn years astronomical and geophysical factors have been the dominating influences on the Earth system. But over the past six decades human forces “have driven exceptionally rapid rates of change in the Earth system,” the authors wrote, giving rise to a period known as the Anthropocene. Read the full article.
 

International Corner


(TOP) ~ Climate scientists wary of Trump: Please come to France, says presidental hopeful

The mediagenic wunderkind of French presidential politics has a message for U.S. scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs working on climate change and worrying about their future under President Donald Trump: Come to France. In a video posted to his Facebook and Twitter accounts, Emmanuel Macron renewed his commitment to fighting global warming and extended a warm welcome: "We want people working on climate change, energy, renewables, and new technologies. France is your nation." He may well get an opportunity to make good on his promise. Polls released this week suggest that Macron, the founder of a new center-left party who is campaigning on environmental protection, has soared past two more traditional candidates and is likely to face Marine Le Pen, in the 7 May runoffs. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ China's latest farm policy shifts focus from output to demand

China is embarking on a major shift in its agriculture policy, abandoning its long-held obsession with self-sufficiency in favor of better meeting consumer demand, a key rural policy document shows. Breaking with the tradition of the past six years, the closely watched "number one document" published late on Sunday omitted any reference to "basic self sufficiency" in food crops, a key pillar of the country's agriculture policy over the past decade. Its absence is the latest sign the government is shifting gears after years of supporting the production of major grains like corn, wheat and rice, which has led to huge grain stockpiles without a market. Now Beijing needs to soak up the crop glut and offset stagnating demand as growth in world's second-largest economy slows. Read the full article.

Research, Education, Extension Funding Opportunities


(TOP) ~ Reinvest ASA: Call for Project Proposals

Do you have a great idea to improve ASA's value to members and the profession? Submit a Reinvest ASA Proposal through the online Awards Program. Initiate applications by March 29 with final submission April 5. Any ASA member can apply, with up to $100,000 available to fund multiple member-driven activities, projects, and events, including Annual Meeting programming. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ Call for nominations: New Innovator in Food and Agriculture Research Award

The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) seeks outstanding early career nominees for the 2017 New Innovator in Food and Agriculture Research Award. Nominees will compete for up to 10 awards, with each award winner receiving up to $600,000 total over three years. FFAR created the New Innovator Award to help support the next generation of food and agriculture scientists who will spur innovation to meet the needs of a growing global population. The Award funds promising individuals pursuing research with potential to sustainably enhance agricultural production or improve health through food. Institutions of higher education, other nonprofit institutions and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are encouraged to nominate up to two candidates for the New Innovator in Food and Agriculture Research award. Deadline, February 28. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ California State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program

The California Department of Food and Agriculture is accepting applications for an estimated $3.75 million in competitive grant funding to provide financial assistance to implement irrigation systems that reduce greenhouse gases and save water at California agricultural operations. Agricultural operations can apply for funding of up to $100,000 per project for irrigation projects that provide quantifiable water savings and greenhouse gas reductions. Deadline, March 15. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ Call for nominations: Committee to Advise the U.S. Global Change Research Program

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine is seeking nominations for individuals to serve on the Committee to Advise the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP). This standing committee provides ongoing and focused advice to the USGCRP. The committee convenes key thought leaders and decision makers at semiannual meetings, provides strategic advice and reviews, and supports climate communication activities across the Academies. The committee is supported by the expertise of many units across the National Academies. Its membership is broadly constituted to bring expertise in all the areas addressed by the USGCRP, spanning the physical, ecological, and social science of global change. Members typically serve 3-year terms with an option to reappoint after the first term. Nominations are sought for the next rotation in membership to be conducted in the summer of 2017. Deadline, March 15. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ Tribal Colleges Research Grants Program

This program was designed to assist 1994 Land-Grant Institutions (Tribal Colleges) in building institutional research capacity through applied projects that address student educational needs and meet community, reservation or regional challenges.  Awards are to be made on the basis of a competitive review process. Collaboration with 1862 or 1890 Land Grant Institutions, the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS), a Non-Land-Grant College of Agriculture (NLGCA), or at least one forestry school funded under the McIntire-Stennis Cooperative Forestry Research Program is a requirement. Eligible institutions may propose projects in any discipline of the food, agricultural or natural resource sciences. Deadline, March 21. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ Karl C. Ivarson Scholarship for Students in Soil Science

The Dr. Karl C. Ivarson Soil Science Scholarship provides financial support to a student entering the second or subsequent year of graduate studies in soil science (in the areas of agriculture, environment, geology, agro-ecology or other related disciplines) at a Canadian university. Candidates must hold Canadian Citizenship or Permanent Residence status in Canada and be enrolled in their graduate program for at least one semester beyond the application deadline. Deadline, March 27. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ FY17 and FY18 Region 10 Wetland Program Development Grants

EPA Region 10 - Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington - is accepting grant funding applications to assist state, tribal, local government agencies and interstate/intertribal entities in developing or refining state/tribal/local programs which protect, manage, and restore wetlands. The primary focus of these grants is to develop/refine state and tribal wetland programs. A secondary focus is to develop/refine local (e.g. county or municipal) programs. Implementation of wetland protection programs is not an eligible project under this announcement. Deadline, March 28. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ North Central Region SARE Professional Development Grant Program

NCR-SARE’s Professional Development Program (PDP) provides funds for professional development projects that provide sustainable agriculture training to agricultural professionals and educators in the Cooperative Extension Service (CES), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), other governmental agencies, and educators in the profit and non-profit sector serving the food and fiber system. Projects can be up to three years in duration, and funding level is capped at $75,000 for each project, but projects requesting less than full amount are encouraged. Approximately $450,000 will be available for funding projects. NCR-SARE will be accepting online proposal submissions using our online submission system. Deadline, April 5. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ Whitehall Foundation: Bioscience Research Projects

The Whitehall Foundation assists scholarly research in the life sciences through its research grants and grants-in-aid programs. 1) Research: Research grants of up to $225,000 over three years will be awarded to established scientists of all ages working at an accredited institution in the United States. Grants will not be awarded to investigators who have already received, or expect to receive, substantial support from other sources, even if it is for an unrelated purpose. 2) Grants-in-Aid: One-year grants of up to $30,000 will be awarded to researchers at the assistant professor level who experience difficulty in competing for research funds because they have not yet become firmly established. Grants-in-Aid can also be made to senior scientists. To be eligible, applicants must hold the position of assistant professor or higher; have Principal Investigator status; and be considered an "independent investigator" with his/her own dedicated lab space or have lab space independent of another investigator. Letter of Intent deadline, April 15. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ Pollinator Health

The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, a nonprofit organization addressing food and agriculture challenges through innovative science, has launched the Pollinator Health Fund with a $10 million commitment toward reversing the pollinator population decline in the United States. The first grant opportunity available through the Fund invites institutions of higher education, nonprofit organizations and businesses to submit research proposals. Preproposal deadline, April 17. Read the full announcement.

Sources: USDA; NSF; The Whitehall Foundation; AAAS; FFAR; ScienceInsider; RollCall; Washington Post; The New York Times; Reuters; Cornell News; NPR; The Guardian

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.