ASM Comment on 2021 Science Infrastructure Proposals

April 15, 2021

On April 14, 2021, the American Society for Microbiology issued the following letter to the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee.

Dear Chairwoman Cantwell and Ranking Member Wicker:

On behalf of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM), one of the largest life science societies composed of more than 30,000 scientists and health professionals, thank you for the opportunity to comment on legislative efforts to foster American innovation in science and technology. ASM urges Congress to work together to pass legislation that fortifies our commitment to foundational and applied research and the infrastructure needed to support that work. As we continue to grapple with a deadly pandemic and face daunting challenges such as global climate change, ASM applauds efforts to restore science to its rightful place in the development and implementation of policies that affect human health and the world around us. A viable future for our planet depends on science and technology, and microbiologists will play a key role.

Microbial science is a cross-cutting endeavor, and our members’ federally funded research is fundamental to advances in human health, agriculture, energy and the environment. Advancing the microbial sciences requires robust and sustained investments in basic and applied research across multiple agencies. Microbiologists have been on the front lines of helping our nation address the unprecedented challenges SARS-COV-2 has presented to our society, our healthcare system and our economy. Yet even while working to develop the diagnostics and medical countermeasures that will see us through the COVID-19 pandemic, our researchers have faced ongoing disruptions to their work. These disruptions to the broader research enterprise and our failure to modernize the research facilities that support this work will have long-term consequences if not addressed and will impede our ability to address societal challenges such as combating antimicrobial resistance, boosting food production and safety, and combating climate change through innovative use of microbes.

ASM and our members are grateful to Congress and the Biden Administration for crafting proposals, including the American Jobs Plan, Endless Frontier Act, NSF for the Future Act and the Securing American Leadership in Science and Technology Act, that recognize the need to ensure global competitiveness with robust and sustained funding for scientific research. The National Science Foundation is a leader in bold and innovative thinking on future directions for science, and ASM supports the creation of a new directorate at NSF, with appropriate safeguards for existing directorates. Harnessing the innovation mindset is key to moving forward with this new directorate, and it should be provided with a coherent and sustainable strategy that allows for consideration of ongoing and emerging societal challenges.

This work must also include substantial support for the scientific workforce, with a continued focus on diversity, equity and inclusion. ASM strongly supports efforts to foster a diverse and inclusive workforce, as we believe government has a significant role to play in terms of efforts to both increase diversity and to prevent and respond to discrimination and harassment. Together, we can promote an environment that both allows for the free expression and exchange of scientific ideas and promotes equal opportunities and respectful treatment for all.

To that end, legislation to bolster federal investment in science and innovation should include the following bills:
  • The Combating Sexual Harassment in STEM Act, which addresses the pervasive nature of sexual harassment in academia
  • STEM Opportunities Act, which provides guidance, data collection, and grants for groups historically underrepresented in STEM education at institutions of higher education (IHEs) and at federal science agencies
  • MSI STEM Achievement Act, which supports efforts to increase STEM education at minority-serving institutions of higher education.
Working together, we can ensure a brighter future for all by advancing science and by breaking down systemic barriers to progress. ASM and its members look forward to next steps in this endeavor and stand ready to assist you.