Science Policy Report


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Recent Issues

2017-11-15

2017-11-01

2017-10-19

2017-10-04

2017-09-20

2017-09-06


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04 October 2017

In This Issue:

Policy News

~ Short-term spending deal funds government through December
~ House clears omnibus spending bill
~ Deputy Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics to leave USDA
~ Tillerson says U.S. could stay in Paris climate accord
~ Golden Goose Award honors silly sounding science with a big impact
~ State Department seeks nominations for climate report authors
~ Republican Senator endorses 'price on carbon' to fight climate change
~ OpEd: Alarmism in climate reporting
~ Public funding of agricultural research: Assessment and suggested new paradigm

Science News

~ ***2017 ASA, CSSA, SSSA Annual Meeting***
~ Rising temperatures, rice, and arsenic uptake
~ NSF awards $36.6 million in new food-energy-water system grants
~ Grass-fed cows won’t save the climate, report finds
~ GAO report on NSF's oversight of indirect costs for research
~ Scientists work to grow food in space
~ Global methane emissions from agriculture larger than reported
~ Could this one simple idea be the key to solving farmer-environmentalist conflicts?
~ Understanding how genetics and the environment affect pea yield and nutrition in Montana
~ Intensive modern farming, not organics, credited with reducing greenhouse gases
~ Precision ag research means savings for South Carolina farmers

International Corner

~ Researchers caught in growing rift over Catalan independence
~ Monsanto banned from European parliament
~ This tiny country feeds the world
~ Canada names new chief science adviser

Research, Education, Extension Funding Opportunities

~ Duke Energy Water Resources Fund
~ Discovery Research PreK-12: Advancing STEM+Computing
~ Southern SARE On-Farm Research Grants
~ Specialty Crop Research Initiative
~ Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive Competitive Grant Program
~ Alliances for Graduate Education and the Professoriate

Policy News


(TOP) ~ Short-term spending deal funds government through December

The House and Senate adopted, and the president signed into law, legislation extending funding for federal agencies and suspending the debt ceiling until December 8. With regular appropriations still incomplete, the legislation was necessary to avoid a shutdown on October 1, when the 2018 fiscal year begins. The suspension of the debt ceiling, which limits how much the U.S. government can borrow, was also necessary as the government is expected to reach the limit later this month. While the president’s signature on the bill means that a crisis has been averted, it also sets up a contentious debate in November and December, with a broader spending deal still lacking for now. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ House clears omnibus spending bill

The House passed an FY 2018 omnibus funding package that contains its twelve annual funding bills. The omnibus reduces nondefense spending while boosting defense spending breaking the spending caps outlined in the Budget Control Act and triggering the across-the-board sequestration cuts if enacted into law. As such, the legislation has virtually no chance of gaining the Democratic support needed to pass the Senate. The good news for the research community is that t the House bill largely rejects deep cuts to science programs proposed by President Donald Trump earlier this year. However the FY 2018 appropriations battle is far from over. Both chambers will need to reach an agreement by December 8, when the current continuing resolution (CR) expires, or pass another CR to avoid a government shutdown. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Deputy Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics to leave USDA

Dr. Ann M. Bartuska, the Deputy Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics as well as Chief Scientist at USDA will join Resources For The Future (RFF) as Vice President for the newly formed Land, Water, and Nature Program. RFF’s Land, Water, and Nature Program will deliver research and solutions for cost-effectively managing key land, water, and marine resources that support a thriving economy and society, while ensuring healthy and productive natural systems and building resilience in a changing climate. Dr. Chavonda Jacobs-Young will now serve as the Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Tillerson says U.S. could stay in Paris climate accord

The United States could remain in the Paris climate accord under the right conditions, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Sunday, signaling a shift in tone from the Trump administration, which angered allies with its decision to pull out of the agreement. President Donald Trump is willing to work with partners in the Paris agreement if the United States could construct a set of terms that are fair and balanced for Americans, Tillerson said on the CBS’ “Face The Nation.” Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, struck a similar tone in television interviews on Sunday in which he said Trump had always been willing to consider changes on the climate pact. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Golden Goose Award honors silly sounding science with a big impact

Scientists and policymakers assembled at the Library of Congress in Washington D.C., to honor six researchers for the sixth annual Golden Goose Award. The award recipients dedicated years to federally funded projects that seemed downright odd at first, but made economically and socially valuable breakthroughs. The Golden Goose award celebrates scientists who conduct basic research — studies that reveal the fundamental truths of nature — and use creative solutions for wide-scale problems. Among the awardees is USDA-funded researcher Kaichang Li who developed a soy-based adhesive for wood materials. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ State Department seeks nominations for climate report authors

The United States Department of State, in cooperation with the United States Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), seeks nominations for U.S. scientists with requisite expertise to serve as Coordinating Lead Authors, Lead Authors, or Review Editors on the Working Group I, II, and III contributions to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report (AR6). The deadline for submitting names of candidates is October 17, 2017. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ Republican Senator endorses 'price on carbon' to fight climate change

Sen. Lindsey Graham endorsed a "price on carbon" to fight climate change, breaking with much of the Republican Establishment. Graham said he is working Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat, on legislation. Despite the statement, any significant global warming legislation would meet near-certain failure in the Republican-controlled Congress. Still, the announcement makes Graham part of an increasingly vocal contingent of Republicans on Capitol Hill bucking their party along with 28 Republican members of a bipartisan climate change caucus. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ OpEd: Alarmism in climate reporting

In the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, many members of the media and the political left have been quick to pin the blame for these storms on climate change. While there is no question that the hurricanes have wreaked havoc across many communities, including in my home state of Texas, these severe storms are not indicative of a climate trend — despite what the clickbait masters would have us believe. In fact, it is rare that a day goes by without some misleading, exaggerated or flat-out false statement about climate change showing up in the media. Often, journalists knowingly publish false information with exaggerated headlines to grab readers’ attention. This strategy comes at a high cost. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Public funding of agricultural research: Assessment and suggested new paradigm

Since the Hatch Act was enacted in 1887, public funding of agricultural research has been a U.S. priority and often is cited as a cornerstone for U.S. agricultural abundance. Public funding currently is centered in Title VII of the Agricultural Act of 2014. Researchers and some stakeholders contend Title VII is inadequately funded to meet today's need to produce more using sustainable methods. Some farm groups are considering whether to move research up their priority ranking. Despite notable dialogue, a large increase in U.S. public agricultural research funds is unlikely unless society's enthusiasm revives or choices of farm bill stakeholders change. A solution is to better align short and long term incentives. In the private market, consumers can buy products from a firm that pursues long-term benefits they value, thus enhancing the firm's profits. Funding research as a percent of the spending on other farm bill titles could create a similar connection. Read the full article.

Science News


(TOP) ~ ***2017 ASA, CSSA, SSSA Annual Meeting***

Don’t miss over 1,700 scientific presentation and 1,400 posters; register today for the 2017 International Annual Meeting, "Managing Global Resources for a Secure Future," in Tampa, FL, Oct. 22-25, 2017. The Science Policy Office is hosting several events for Annual Meeting attendees, including the Grad Student Science Policy Luncheon, a Science Policy Workshop, and many more. Learn more about the meeting and register here.


(TOP) ~ Rising temperatures, rice, and arsenic uptake

Arsenic is a widely distributed toxic element that naturally occurs in minerals. One of the most common pathways for exposure is when arsenic leaches into drinking water supplies. One crop known to take up arsenic when the element is available in soils or irrigation water is rice. Arsenic accumulates throughout the plant tissues including the grain that is consumed. Rice plants may be exposed to arsenic through soil or irrigation water. Specifically, rice plants release oxygen from their roots when flooded, and this oxygen reacts with iron forming “plaques” along root surfaces. The iron oxide plaques scavenge arsenic, and the plants take up arsenic released from the plaques or dissolved in the soil solution. One factor that can affect arsenic accumulation in the rice grain, is soil temperature. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ NSF awards $36.6 million in new food-energy-water system grants

Today, the number of humans alive on our planet is 7.5 billion. By 2087, projections show, 11 billion people will be living on Earth. How will we continue to have a sustainable supply of food, energy and water, and protect the ecosystems that provide essential "services" for humans? To help answer these questions, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has partnered with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to award $46.6 million in new grants through the joint NSF-NIFA program on Innovations at the Nexus of Food, Energy and Water Systems (INFEWS). Food, energy and water are, at times, in a three-way tug of war. Land-use decisions, climate change and increasing urbanization often pit one against the other. The goal of the INFEWS program is to minimize simultaneous risks to the security of food, energy and water supplies. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Grass-fed cows won’t save the climate, report finds

If you thought eating only “grass-fed” hamburgers could absolve you from climate change guilt, think again. There’s a lack of evidence that livestock (such as cattle, sheep, and goats) dining on grassland has a lower carbon footprint than that fed on grains, as some environmentalists and “pro-pastoralists” claim, according to a new report by the Food Climate Research Network, a group of independent scientists based at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ GAO report on NSF's oversight of indirect costs for research

The National Science Foundation awards billions of dollars annually to K-12 schools, universities, and others to support scientific research and education. NSF reimburses these organizations for direct costs, such as researchers' salaries and equipment, and has a formula for funding a portion of awardees' indirect costs like rent and utilities. The GOA report found that NSF does not consistently take steps to ensure it pays no more than its fair share of indirect costs, which could unnecessarily limit the amount of funds available for research. GAO recommends that NSF take three actions to improve its guidance for setting indirect cost rates, including adding certain details and procedures. Read the full report.


(TOP) ~ Scientists work to grow food in space

Eventually, when NASA astronauts are sent to explore the deep reaches of our solar system, they probably won't be able to bring everything they need for survival with them on the spaceship, like enough food and water to survive for many months or even years spent on the surface of Mars. Gene Giacomelli has some ideas on how to address that problem. He's director of the Controlled Environment Agriculture Center at the University of Arizona. And his team has worked with NASA to develop a kind of greenhouse so astronauts can grow crops while in space. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Global methane emissions from agriculture larger than reported

Global methane emissions from agriculture are larger than estimated due to the previous use of out-of-date data on carbon emissions generated by livestock, according to a study published in the open access journal Carbon Balance and Management. In a project sponsored by the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Carbon Monitoring System research initiative, researchers from the Joint Global Change Research Institute (JGCRI) found that global livestock methane (CH4) emissions for 2011 are 11% higher than the estimates based on guidelines provided by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2006. This encompasses an 8.4% increase in CH4 from enteric fermentation (digestion) in dairy cows and other cattle and a 36.7% increase in manure management CH4 compared to IPCC-based estimates. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Could this one simple idea be the key to solving farmer-environmentalist conflicts?

In response to the discovery of nitrogen contamination, a group of city officials, staff from the local conservation district, farmers, members of the agribusiness community, concerned citizens and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture decided to go beyond finger pointing. Instead, they held a series of meetings in the early 2000s that focused on both securing clean drinking water and ensuring a strong agricultural economy, and that were rooted in the context of local conditions. In doing so, they found that what at first may seem like an irreconcilable difference can actually be resolved when the opposing sides look for common ground — offering a potential model for other communities dealing with conflicts between farmers and citizens. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Understanding how genetics and the environment affect pea yield and nutrition in Montana

Peas have been part of the human diet for millennia, proving to be an important source of protein, carbohydrates, and several micronutrients. It’s not just their nutritional value, though; growing peas has several other benefits. For instance, bacteria living in root nodules of pea plants fix nitrogen from the atmosphere, making it available for plants, which reduces the amount of fertilizer farmers have to apply. That, in turn, lowers energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions from fertilizer manufacturing and crop production. Pea plants help to control weeds, diseases, and insects in a rotation system. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Intensive modern farming, not organics, credited with reducing greenhouse gases

To feed a global population that has expanded from 3.7 billion in 1970 to about 7 billion today, agriculture has had to up its game. During this same time, agriculture production has more than doubled. One concern about the earthly impacts of agriculture is the composition of the atmosphere, and climate change. Most agricultural practices contribute to the release of greenhouse gases such as methane, carbon dioxide and certain organic chemicals which have been connected to changes in the planet’s climate. When researchers measured emissions in a geographic area by looking at emissions per unit of product they saw that the most industrialized countries, which used more technologically advanced inputs including but not limited to genetic modifications, emitted the least amount of greenhouse gas per product produced. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Precision ag research means savings for South Carolina farmers

Most sandy soils in South Carolina have a compacted zone, called a hardpan that roots can’t penetrate. If the hardpan isn’t tilled, plant roots can’t reach the water and nutrients in the deeper soil. The hardpan costs a great deal of fuel to till, and it can also reduce crop yields by as much as 50 percent. Clemson University researchers are developing a real-time, variable-rate tillage system that uses sensor technologies to pinpoint the depth and thickness of the soil hardpan. The technology communicates with the tillage equipment to automatically adjust the blade depth. As a result, farmers don’t till soil and don’t till deeper than needed. Read the full article.

International Corner


(TOP) ~ Researchers caught in growing rift over Catalan independence

Scientists in Catalonia are feeling the ripples of a severe crisis as the region’s bid for independence from Spain comes to a head. Researchers have much at stake in the independence referendum, scheduled for 1 October in defiance of Madrid’s central government. Nationalists trust that Catalan science would thrive in a nimbler, independent state of 7.5 million people and become a beacon of a new, progressive republic. Others fear that the secession would plunge science into isolating uncertainty, cut access to essential funding streams and networks, and spark a brain drain. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Monsanto banned from European parliament

Monsanto lobbyists have been banned from entering the European parliament after the multinational refused to attend a parliamentary hearing into allegations of regulatory interference. It is the first time Members of the European Parliament (MEP) have used new rules to withdraw parliamentary access for firms that ignore a summons to attend parliamentary inquiries or hearings. Monsanto officials will now be unable to meet MEPs, attend committee meetings or use digital resources on parliament premises in Brussels or Strasbourg. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ This tiny country feeds the world

Almost two decades ago, the Dutch made a national commitment to sustainable agriculture under the rallying cry “Twice as much food using half as many resources.” Since 2000, Dutch farmers have reduced dependence on water for key crops by as much as 90 percent. They’ve almost completely eliminated the use of chemical pesticides on plants in greenhouses, and since 2009 Dutch poultry and livestock producers have cut their use of antibiotics by as much as 60 percent. The Netherlands is a small, densely populated country, bereft of almost every resource long thought to be necessary for large-scale agriculture. Yet it’s the globe’s number two exporter of food as measured by value, second only to the United States, which has 270 times its landmass. How on Earth have the Dutch done it? Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Canada names new chief science adviser

Mona Nemer, a cardiology researcher and vice president of research at the University of Ottawa, has been named Canada's new chief science adviser by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Nemer's office will have a CA$2 million budget, and she will report to both Trudeau and Minister of Science Kirsty Duncan. Her mandate includes providing scientific advice to government ministers, helping keep government-funded science accessible to the public, and protecting government scientists from being muzzled. She will also deliver an annual report to the prime minister and science minister on the state of federal government science. Read the full article.

Research, Education, Extension Funding Opportunities


(TOP) ~ Duke Energy Water Resources Fund

The Duke Energy Water Resources Fund, administered by the North Carolina Community Foundation, provides grants for projects benefiting waterways in North Carolina and South Carolina or immediately downstream of Duke Energy operational facilities in Georgia, Tennessee, and Virginia. The Fund supports programs that are designed to improve water quality, quantity, and conservation; enhance fish and wildlife management habitats; expand public use and access to waterways; and increase citizens' awareness about their roles in protecting these resources. Deadline, November 1. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ Discovery Research PreK-12: Advancing STEM+Computing

The Discovery Research PreK-12 program (DRK-12) seeks to significantly enhance the learning and teaching of science, technology, engineering, mathematics and computer science (STEM) by preK-12 students and teachers, through research and development of STEM education innovations and approaches. The DRK-12 program invites proposals that address immediate challenges that are facing preK-12 STEM education as well as those that anticipate radically different structures and functions of preK-12 teaching and learning. The DRK-12 program has three major research and development strands: (1) Assessment; (2) Learning; and (3) Teaching. The program recognizes the synergy among the three strands and that there is some overlap and interdependence among them. However, proposals should identify a clear focus of the proposed research efforts (i.e., assessment, learning, or teaching) consistent with the proposal’s main objectives and research questions. The program supports six types of projects: (1) Exploratory, (2) Design and Development, (3) Impact, (4) Implementation and Improvement, (5) Syntheses, and (6) Conferences. All six types of projects apply to each of the three DRK-12 program strands. Deadline, November 14. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ Southern SARE On-Farm Research Grants

The Southern Region Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SSARE) program is accepting proposals from agricultural professionals throughout the Southern region for a grant that affords them the opportunity to conduct on-farm research in sustainable agriculture. Agriculture professionals in Cooperative Extension, Natural Resources Conservation Service, universities, NGOs, and government and non-government organizations who regularly work with farmers/ranchers are eligible to apply. Deadline, November 17. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ Specialty Crop Research Initiative

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: 1) Research in plant breeding, genetics, genomics, and other methods to improve crop characteristics; 2) Efforts to identify and address threats from pests and diseases, including threats to specialty crop pollinators; 3) Efforts to improve production efficiency, handling and processing, productivity, and profitability over the long term; 4) New innovations and technology, including improved mechanization and technologies that delay or inhibit ripening; and 5) Methods to prevent, detect, monitor, control, and respond to potential food safety hazards in the production efficiency, handling and processing of specialty crops. Deadline, December 8. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive Competitive Grant Program

To support projects to increase the purchase of fruits and vegetables among low-income consumers participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by providing incentives at the point of purchase. The program will test strategies that could contribute to our understanding of how best to increase the purchase of fruits and vegetables by Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants that would inform future efforts, and develop effective and efficient benefit redemption technologies. Deadline, December 13. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ Alliances for Graduate Education and the Professoriate

The Alliances for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP) program seeks to advance knowledge about models to improve pathways to the professoriate and success for historically underrepresented minority doctoral students, postdoctoral fellows and faculty, particularly African Americans, Hispanic Americans, American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, and Native Pacific Islanders, in specific STEM disciplines and/or STEM education research fields. New and innovative models are encouraged, as are models that reproduce and/or replicate existing evidence-based alliances in significantly different disciplines, institutions, and participant cohorts. The AGEP program goal is to increase the number of historically underrepresented minority faculty, in specific STEM disciplines and STEM education research fields, by advancing knowledge about pathways to career success. The program objectives include: To support the development, implementation and study of innovative models of doctoral education, postdoctoral training, and faculty advancement for historically underrepresented minorities in specific STEM disciplines and/or STEM education research fields; and to advance knowledge about the underlying issues, policies and practices that have an impact on the participation, transitions and advancement of historically underrepresented minorities in the STEM academy. Deadline, December 8. Read the full announcement.

Sources: USDA; NSF; AAAS; ScienceInsider; CNN; RFF Blog; Reuters; PBS; TIME; Washington Times; Farm Doc Daily; NPR; GOA; Physics.org; Ensia; Genetic Literacy Project; Clemson Newsstand; The Guardian; National Geographic

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.