How the CHIPS and Science Act Benefits Microbiology
The Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS) and Science Act, which President Biden signed into law on August 9, 2022, benefits a wide range of agencies and disciplines, including microbiology. The $280 billion package reauthorizes and supports the federal government's scientific research and development infrastructure. This legislation allows Congressional appropriators to fund multibillion-dollar budget increases over the next 5 years for key funders of microbial science research, such as the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The legislation also provides guidance for research programs at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
ASM has been working with Congress over the past 2 years to ensure that members’ priorities are front and center, advocating for the Combating Sexual Harassment in Science Act, the Bioeconomy Research and Development Act, the Department of Energy Science for the Future Act and the NSF for the Future Act, which this law helps address. The legislation also directs federal agencies to support research in core areas of interest identified in ASM’s policy principles:
- Bioenergy, bioproducts and new energy technologies.
- Research to combat the climate crisis.
- Foundational functional systems biology research.
- Microbiome and microbial communities.
- The development of a national genomic sequencing strategy.
CHIPS and Science Act Expands DEI in STEM Efforts
The CHIPS and Science Act authorizes numerous programs designed to broaden participation and advance diversity, equity and inclusion in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. The legislation also authorizes scholarship and fellowship programs for students pursuing STEM careers and the establishment of new programs that support development of innovative and engaging methods for teaching STEM, including for students in rural areas and from historically underrepresented groups. The CHIPS and Science Act requires federal research agencies to adopt policies to increase the participation of individuals from underrepresented groups in STEM research fields, help women and minority researchers access federal grant funding and combat sexual harassment.
CHIPS and Science Bolsters Microbiology Research at Federal Research Agencies
In addition to the bioeconomy provisions, the CHIPS and Science Act requires OSTP to establish a program of workshops to educate leaders at federal laboratories on methods to reduce implicit bias in the career advancement of academic and federal STEM researchers. OSTP must report to Congress within 4 years on efforts to reduce cultural and institutional barriers at federal research agencies and at research institutions that receive federal funding.
Additionally, the legislation requires OSTP to develop a U.S. Science and Technology Strategy and to conduct a quadrennial review of its strategy.
Key Technology Focus Areas
The law also identifies 10 "key technology focus areas" to help guide federal research and development in fields critical to U.S. national security and economic development:
- Artificial intelligence and machine learning.
- High-performance computing and advanced hardware and software.
- Quantum computing.
- Robotics, automation and advanced manufacturing.
- Disaster prevention and mitigation.
- Advanced communications technology.
- Biotechnology and synthetic biology.
- Data storage and cybersecurity.
- Advanced energy and industrial efficiency.
- Advanced materials science.
The CHIPS and Science Act will build research capacity through grants at institutions that primarily serve students who are underrepresented in science and will ramp up investment in academic institutions in states and territories that receive less federal research funding.
This law codifies the Biological and Environmental Research program and defines the scope of its mission to include research on biological systems science, climate and environmental science, fundamental genomic science and biomolecular characterization and imaging science relevant to the development of new energy technologies.
Specific to microbiology, this authorization lists the development of biomass-based fuels, bioenergy and biobased materials, as well as research to better understand microbial processes impacting the global carbon cycle, the role of microbiota in transforming, immobilizing or removing contaminants from subsurface environments and increase understanding of microbiomes in the environment.
The legislation also supports continued development of high-performance computational approaches and systems to facilitate metadata and metagenomic analysis, develop platforms for open access collaborative science and advance understanding and application of CRISPR and other gene editing tools.
Bioenergy Research Centers
Currently DOE funds 4 Bioenergy Research Centers to conduct fundamental research in plant and microbial systems biology, biological imaging and analysis and genomics. The new law allows DOE to establish 2 additional centers to help accelerate advanced research and development of advanced biofuels, bioenergy or biobased materials, chemicals and products that are produced from a variety of regionally diverse feedstocks; and to facilitate the translation of research results to industry.
Infectious Disease Computer Modeling
The CHIPS and Science Act also directs the Office of Science to work with other federal science agencies to establish a Biological Threat Preparedness Research Initiative to support efforts to prevent, prepare for, predict and respond to infectious diseases using the Office of Science's analytical resources, user facilities and advanced computational capabilities.
ASM thanks Congress and the Biden Administration for enacting this important legislation.