Federal scientists, unpack your bags. That's the message from Congress, which for a second time in a matter of weeks passed a bill that would severely limit the ability of federal scientists to attend scientific meetings.
A task force, organized by the ASCB to consider the next scientific steps in the stem cell revolution, unveiled its preliminary report on Friday Nov. 13. The report highlighted three "opportunities" for using cultured human embryonic (hES) and human induced pluripotent (iPS) stem cells in both human and animal model systems. The ASCB Stem Cell Task Force predicted that the greatest scientific payoff for stem cell research in the next few years would come from strengthening our basic knowledge of cell and developmental biology, through better understanding of genetic variation within and between species, and finally by taking advantage of what's already been learned from stem cell biology about biological mechanisms to construct artificial or enhanced organs.
Two days after the government's 16-day closure came to an end, the NIH announced that it would delay the final approval of grant applications submitted in fall 2013 until spring 2014. Two days after that, the NIH changed its mind again, announcing that it would "now reschedule most of the 200+ missed peer review meetings so that most applications are able to be considered at January 2014 Council meetings."
At 12:25 am this morning, President Obama signed legislation ending the 2013 federal fiscal standoff and opening the government after a 16-day shutdown. Minutes later, the Office of Personnel Management sent out an email notifying federal employees that they "are expected to return for work on their next regularly scheduled work day."
Just hours before the government may close down, federal employees around the world are waiting to hear if they will have to go to work in the morning. The question of the day in government buildings is which employees will be declared "essential" or "nonessential." Essential employees must show up for work even if the government is closed.
ASCB's Public Policy Committee is running a dead-serious but amusing contest to collect group photos of every basic biology research lab in the U.S. It's called We Are Research, and the idea is to show the lab portraits to Congress as proof that scientists are flesh and blood and that if we continue to choke off science funding, those young smiling faces of future Nobel winners will go away. The sucking sound that Congress will hear in 5-10 years will be American leadership in bioscience and health research.
At first glance, possible U.S. military action in far-off Syria may not seem to have implications for the American biomedical research community. However, any debate in Congress on whether to give President Obama authorization to launch military strikes on Syria could have significant impact on both research funding and immigration reform affecting the scientific workforce.
The inhabitants inside the Washington Beltway love secrets. They love knowing them, they love keeping them, they love letting people know they know them, and they love reading them after someone else has leaked them to a reporter. One Beltway resident recalls a neighbor's garden party where a fellow guest announced that she would have to kill her listener if she were to reveal where she worked. "I'm still not sure if she was serious or not," the party goer recalls somewhat nervously.
Given Inner Washington's passion for secrets, it is curious that the House of Representatives' secret task force on immigration reform has apparently disappeared without a trace.
Sometimes you actually have to feel sorry for members of Congress. In many ways, the job of a member of Congress is all about making choices—which bills to sponsor, which issues to champion, and which bills to vote for. Sometimes there are no good choices.
If you were playing with an app on your phone, you would have missed it. Earlier today, the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, Education Appropriations Subcommittee approved the FY14 Departments of Labor, Health & Human Services, and Education appropriations bill without amendment and by voice vote. The bill, which is notable for its funding for the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), includes $30.9 billion for the NIH, which is $1.6 billion more than the NIH's FY13 budget, after sequestration.