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Science Policy Report

Address all comments to the Science Policy Office at:
sciencepolicy@sciencesocieties.org

30 July 2014

In This Issue:

Policy News

~ Meet with your members of Congress during the August recess
~ Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research board members announced
~ Senate bill calls for NSF funding boost
~ International conference travel bill
~ Administration releases FY 2016 budget priorities
~ Public officials in support of biotechnology
~ Senate version of secret science bill introduced

Science News

~ Departments of Agriculture and Energy announce bioenergy research projects
~ GMOs could be better received if consumers knew benefits
~ “Peak soil” threatens future global food security
~ National Academy of Science to produce GMO study
~ Climate change and air pollution will combine to curb food supplies
~ New tool eases task of simulating aquifer refill
~ Launch of Food Resilience theme of Climate.Data.Gov
~ Scientists trot out dueling analyses of deadly landslide

International Corner

~ Global plans of action endorsed to halt the escalating degradation of soils
~ June 2014 was Earth’s warmest on record as ocean temperatures surged
~ Australia repeals carbon tax
~ Saving soil: digging for solutions beneath our feet
~ OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook

Research, Education, Extension Funding Opportunities

~ Call for abstracts: perspectives and challenges in modeling soil processes
~ Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention Grants
~ Innovation Grants Program
~ International Research Experiences for Students
~ Conservation Innovation Grants
~ Research Experiences for Undergraduates
~ Brownfields Area-Wide Planning Grant
~ Partnerships for International Research and Education
~ Office of Science Graduate Student Research

Policy News


(TOP) ~ Meet with your members of Congress during the August recess

It’s not too late to schedule a meeting or tour with your members of Congress. The ASA, CSSA and SSSA Science Policy Office is encouraging members to schedule a local meeting with their members of Congress while they are at home during the month of August. Tell Congress about the important and exciting research being done in their own backyards and ask for their support during the fiscal year 2015 budget process. Learn more about the August Challenge and register to schedule a meeting here. Register today!


(TOP) ~ Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research board members announced

US Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, announced the members of the Board of Directors for the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research. Congress created the Foundation in this year’s farm bill as an effort to foster new partnerships with private stakeholders and generate additional sources of funding for food, agriculture and natural resources research. The bill authorized $200 million in mandatory spending to attract matching amounts from the private sector to finance research. ASA, CSSA and SSSA member Douglas Buhler, the Director of AgBioResearch and Senior Associate Dean for Research for the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at Michigan State University, was named with 14 other members of academia and industry. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ Senate bill calls for NSF funding boost

Last week, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation held a hearing titled, The Federal Research Portfolio: Capitalizing on Investments in R&D in preparation for the release of the draft version of the America COMPETES Act of 2014. The proposed legislation calls on Congress to increase NSF’s budget by nearly 40 percent, to $9.9 billion, by 2019. It also endorses NSF’s current policies for reviewing grant proposals and emphasizes the importance of the social sciences as part of a balanced research portfolio. Read the full article


(TOP) ~ International conference travel bill

A bipartisan substitute amendment to S. 1347, Conference Accountability Act of 2013 will be marked-up today by the Senate Homeland Security Committee. The bill would put into law the OMB travel restrictions on the number of federal employees attending international conferences (no more than 50 per conference) and the $500,000 threshold on spending by any one agency for a single conference. The substitute adds Congressional pre-notification for any waivers to these thresholds, in addition to adding onerous reporting requirements for conference spending over $50,000. ASA, CSSA and SSSA signed on to a letter that focuses on the impact of existing OMB restrictions on the S&E community and makes the case they should be lowered not raised, drawing heavily on past letters and testimony for the January hearing on this issue.


(TOP) ~ Administration releases FY 2016 budget priorities

Last week the White House released a quartet of memos dealing with the FY 2016 budget request, including the annual science and technology priorities memo from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). Even as Congress is tackling FY 2015 appropriations, agencies have been at work for months formulating the FY 2016 budget request, which is in theory due in February of next year. The joint OMB/OSTP memo, typically released in mid-summer, identifies areas for particular emphasis in agency budgets (see this overview for more on how the memo fits into the overall process). A given administration's science and technology priorities don't typically change much year-to-year, and so it's no surprise that most of the priorities listed in this year's memo are variations on themes from earlier years. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Public officials in support of biotechnology

ASA, CSSA and SSSA signed on to two thank you letters, which recognize public officials who have recently spoken out in support of modern agricultural tools, including the use of biotechnology in food and agricultural production. The first letter is addressed to former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, thanking her for her recent remarks supporting agricultural biotechnology.  The Secretary was recently criticized for her stance on the use of biotechnology in agriculture. The second letter is addressed to Reps. Austin Scott (R-GA) and Kurt Schrader (D-OR), the chairman and ranking member of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Horticulture, Research, Biotechnology, and Foreign Agriculture, thanking them for their recent hearing exploring the societal benefits of biotechnology. 


(TOP) ~ Senate version of secret science bill introduced

Last week, eight Senators, including Environment and Public Works Committee Ranking Minority Member John Barrasso (R-WY), introduced a companion bill to the House Secret Science Reform Act (H.R. 4012) which passed the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee on June 24. The bill would prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from proposing, finalizing, or disseminating regulations or assessments unless all underlying data were reproducible and made publicly available.

Science News


(TOP) ~ Departments of Agriculture and Energy announce bioenergy research projects

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced the selection of 10 projects that are being awarded funding aimed at accelerating genetic breeding programs to improve plant feedstocks for the production of biofuels, biopower, and biobased products. The investment is part of the Obama Administration's broader effort to diversify the nation's energy portfolio and accelerate development of new clean energy technologies designed to decrease dependence on foreign oil, providing a more secure future for America's energy needs and enhancing rural economies. Read the release here and learn more about the program here.


(TOP) ~ GMOs could be better received if consumers knew benefits

If given the information that genetically modified organisms can produce foods which provide better nutritional value, 9 out of 10 Iowa grocery shoppers say they would be more likely to buy them, according to research prepared for Iowa Farm Bureau Food and Farm Index by Harris Poll. The research, conducted online, found that 84%of Iowa grocery shoppers would be influenced to buy GMO foods once they learn that GMOs can reduce pesticide use, and 82% would be influenced to buy if they found that GMOS could provide food with better texture or flavor. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ “Peak soil” threatens future global food security

The challenge of ensuring future food security as populations grow and diets change has its roots in soil, but the increasing degradation of the earth's thin skin is threatening to push up food prices and increase deforestation. While the worries about peaking oil production have been eased by fresh sources released by hydraulic fracturing, concern about the depletion of the vital resource of soil is moving center stage. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ National Academy of Science to produce GMO study

Claims and research that extol both the benefits and risks of GE crops have created a confusing landscape for the public and for policy makers.  An upcoming National Research Council study intends to provide an independent, objective examination of what has been learned since the introduction of GE crops, based on current evidence. The study will assess whether initial concerns and promises were realized since the introduction of GE crops and will investigate new concerns and recent claims. Read more.


(TOP) ~ Climate change and air pollution will combine to curb food supplies

Many studies have shown the potential for global climate change to cut food supplies. But these studies have, for the most part, ignored the interactions between increasing temperature and air pollution — specifically ozone pollution, which is known to damage crops. A new study involving researchers at MIT shows that these interactions can be quite significant, suggesting that policymakers need to take both warming and air pollution into account in addressing food security. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ New tool eases task of simulating aquifer refill

How quickly a lake fills after water is drawn for irrigation or drinking is easily measured, but that’s not true for underground water reserves, called aquifers. Because it takes place belowground, groundwater replenishment—or recharge—can’t be directly observed. Scientists must estimate it, often by using complex mathematical models. A new screening tool may now ease the task. In a study published in the Vadose Zone Journal, scientists describe a method for identifying timeframes and regions where the seepage of water into an aquifer is likely constant, rather than fluctuating with rainfall patterns or climate. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Launch of Food Resilience theme of Climate.Data.Gov

To help communities and individuals plan for the risks of drought, floods, and other climate-change-related impacts, the U.S. Government is releasing today a collection of datasets containing information relevant to the effects of climate change on the food system. These data are also being made available via mapping services on Geoplatform.gov. Find out more.


(TOP) ~ Scientists trot out dueling analyses of deadly landslide

One of the deadliest landslides in U.S. history was unleashed when part of a mountain collapsed onto a rain-sodden slope, sending a wall of mud shooting through a Washington state neighborhood, according to a federal landslide expert. The new account from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) differs from the explanation offered by the Geotechnical Extreme Events Reconnaissance (GEER) Association. The difference revolves around a critical question: What caused a hillside with a history of relatively minor landslides to suddenly turn into a tsunami of mud and debris that sped about a kilometer across a valley? Read the full article.

International Corner


(TOP) ~ Global plans of action endorsed to halt the escalating degradation of soils

Urgent action is required to improve the health of the world's limited soil resources and stop land degradation, so as to ensure that future generations have enough supplies of food, water, energy and raw materials, government representatives and experts meeting at FAO warned last week. The Global Soil Partnership has endorsed a series of action plans at its plenary assembly in Rome to safeguard soil resources which provide the basis for global agricultural production. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ June 2014 was Earth’s warmest on record as ocean temperatures surged

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports that June was the globe’s warmest in 134 years of records following its report that May was also the hottest on record.  These reports are feeding anticipation that 2014 could become the warmest year on record. Primarily, it was the oceans of the world that pushed the mercury into the red zone. According to the report, June was the first time that the monthly global ocean temperature difference from average was higher than 1.08°F. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Australia repeals carbon tax

The Australian Senate voted last Thursday to repeal the country's carbon tax; this measure was approved earlier in the week by the House of Representatives. Australia is one of the world's largest producers of carbon emissions, and the tax, which was effective in 2012, required their largest companies to pay about $25 AU per metric ton of carbon dioxide. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Saving soil: digging for solutions beneath our feet

One of the most overlooked ingredients in farming exists right beneath farmers’ feet—healthy, fertile soils. Unfortunately, this vital ingredient is being degraded and eroded at unprecedented rates across the world. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 25 percent of the planet’s land is highly degraded, and only 10 percent is improving. All continents are experiencing land degradation, and the loss of soil quality is not only an issue for farmers, but for all of us. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook

The twentieth edition of the Agricultural Outlook provides market projections to 2023 for major agricultural commodities, biofuels and fish across 41 countries and 12 regions: OECD member countries (European Union as a region), key non-OECD agricultural producers (such as India, China, Brazil, Russian Federation and Argentina) and groups of smaller non-OECD economies in a more aggregated form. This edition includes a special focus on India. Read the full report.

Research, Education, Extension Funding Opportunities


(TOP) ~ Call for abstracts: perspectives and challenges in modeling soil processes

The 2014 AGU Fall meeting is still accepting abstracts. Of particular interest is the session on perspectives and challenges in modeling soil processes. Learn more about the session and submit your abstract here. Deadline, 6 August.


(TOP) ~ Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention Grants

The USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is seeking applications from land-grant institutions that have Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) programs and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-Education (SNAP-ED) Implementing Agencies for the SNAP & EFNEP: Regional Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention Centers of Excellence (RNECE) for fiscal year (FY) 2014 to establish four Regional Centers of Excellence – one in each of NIFA’s four administrative regions and to establish one National Coordination Center. This is part of a combined effort by Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) and NIFA to build the evidence-base for nutrition education and obesity prevention strategies and interventions that produce measurable improvements in health, obesity, nutrition (food behavior), and physical activity-related outcomes of interest to USDA; and develop effective education/extension, environmental, systems, and policy translational activities that promote health and prevent/reduce obesity in disadvantaged low-income families and children. Deadline, 15 August. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ Innovation Grants Program

The ASAE Innovation Grants Program provides awards to support innovation exploration and development in order to raise awareness and engagement in innovation efforts for the association community. Grant recipients receive $10,000 to dive deeper into innovation and get support to implement their project ideas, creating models of innovation for the entire association community. Letter of intent deadline, 15 August. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ International Research Experiences for Students

The International Research Experiences for Students (IRES) program supports development of globally-engaged U.S. science and engineering students capable of performing in an international research environment at the forefront of science and engineering.  The IRES program supports active research participation by students enrolled as undergraduates or graduate students in any of the areas of research funded by the National Science Foundation.  IRES projects involve students in meaningful ways in ongoing research programs or in research projects specifically designed for the IRES program. Deadline, 19 August. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ Conservation Innovation Grants

The purpose of Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) is to stimulate the development and adoption of innovative conservation approaches and technologies, while leveraging the Federal investment in environmental enhancement and protection in conjunction with agricultural production. CIG is used to apply or demonstrate previously proven technology. It is a vehicle to stimulate development and adoption of conservation approaches or technologies that have been studied sufficiently to indicate a high likelihood of success, and that are a candidate for eventual technology transfer or institutionalization. CIG promotes sharing of skills, knowledge, technologies, and facilities among communities, governments, and other institutions to ensure that scientific and technological developments are accessible to a wider range of users. CIG funds projects targeting innovative on-the-ground conservation, including pilot projects and field demonstrations. Deadline, 22 August. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ Research Experiences for Undergraduates

The Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program supports active research participation by undergraduate students in any of the areas of research funded by the National Science Foundation. REU projects involve students in meaningful ways in ongoing research programs or in research projects specifically designed for the REU program. This solicitation features two mechanisms for support of student research: (1) REU Sites are based on independent proposals to initiate and conduct projects that engage a number of students in research. REU Sites may be based in a single discipline or academic department or may offer interdisciplinary or multi-department research opportunities with a coherent intellectual theme. Proposals with an international dimension are welcome. (2) REU Supplements may be included as a component of proposals for new or renewal NSF grants or cooperative agreements or may be requested for ongoing NSF-funded research projects. Deadline, 27 August. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ Brownfields Area-Wide Planning Grant

This notice announces the availability of EPA grant funds and solicits proposals from eligible entities to conduct research, technical assistance, and/or training activities that will enable the entity to develop an area-wide plan for brownfields assessment, cleanup, and subsequent reuse. Brownfields area-wide planning (BF AWP) grant-funded activities must be directed to one or more brownfield site(s) located in a specific area, such as a neighborhood, a district (e.g., downtown, arts or shopping area), a local commercial corridor, a community waterfront, or a city block. Each project funded under this grant must result in an area-wide plan which includes specific plan implementation strategies for assessing, cleaning up, and reusing the brownfields site(s) as well as related brownfields and project area revitalization strategies. Deadline, 22 September. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ Partnerships for International Research and Education

Partnerships for International Research and Education (PIRE) is an NSF-wide program that supports international activities across all NSF supported disciplines. The primary goal of PIRE is to support high quality projects in which advances in research and education could not occur without international collaboration. PIRE seeks to catalyze a higher level of international engagement in the U.S. science and engineering community. This PIRE competition will be open to all areas of science and engineering research which are supported by the NSF. Deadline, 21 October. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ Office of Science Graduate Student Research

The Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Science is pleased to announce that the Office of Science Graduate Student Research (SCGSR) program is now accepting applications. The SCGSR program supports supplemental awards to outstanding U.S. graduate students to conduct part of their graduate thesis research at a DOE national laboratory in collaboration with a DOE laboratory scientist for a period of 3 to 12 consecutive months—with the goal of preparing graduate students for scientific and technical careers critically important to the DOE Office of Science mission. The SCGSR program is open to current Ph.D. students in qualified graduate programs at accredited U.S. academic institutions, who are conducting their graduate thesis research in targeted areas of importance to the DOE Office of Science. Deadline, 24 October. Read the full announcement.

Sources: USDA; NSF; EPA: DOE; Reuters; The Hill; ScienceInsider; AAAS; The New York Times; Farm Progress; MIT News Office; Christian Science Monitor; FOA; The Washington Post

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.