CHIPS Legislation Marks Victory for Science
At the end of July, the U.S. Congress passed a historic, bipartisan science and innovation package. ASM has been working with Congress over the past 2 years to ensure that members’ priorities are front and center, including support for diversity, equity and inclusion through the National Science Foundation, the Combating Sexual Harassment in Science Act, the Bioeconomy Research and Development Act, the Department of Energy Science for the Future Act and support for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Institute of Standards and Technology and National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Once signed into law, this bill will directly impact federally funded microbiology research by directing federal agencies to support fundamental research for bioenergy and bioproducts, foundational functional systems biology research and the role of microbiomes in the environment.
ASM issued the following letter in response to the Congressional action.Dear Speaker Pelosi and Leaders Schumer, McConnell and McCarthy:
On behalf of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM), one of the oldest and largest life science societies in the U.S., I would like to thank you for passing the CHIPS and Science Act. As a global society whose mission is to promote and advance the microbial sciences, ASM appreciates your leadership and bipartisan commitment to basic, translational and applied research and the infrastructure needed to support that research. The CHIPS and Science Act affirms your commitment to maintaining American leadership in science and technology. We are particularly thankful for the dedication of House and Senate Committee leaders and staff for actively engaging stakeholders in the scientific community throughout this process.
Microbes are the foundation of scientific discovery, and federal science agencies are instrumental to microbiome research, the discovery of emerging pathogens and global scientific collaboration. The CHIPS and Science Act will enable further discovery in genomic science, ecosystem sustainability, new energy technologies and microbially derived bioproducts through fundamental research on microbes and microbial communities and the development of a national genomic sequencing strategy.
The U.S. is a leader in bold and innovative thinking on future directions for science and ASM supports the creation of a new, innovation-focused directorate at the National Science Foundation (NSF) with appropriate safeguards for existing directorates. Harnessing the innovation mindset is key to moving forward with this new directorate, and its effectiveness will be augmented by the required Office of Science the Technology Policy (OSTP) review of U.S. science and technology strategy and research priorities at the federal science agencies. It is our hope that this process will incorporate robust stakeholder input and broad collaboration on ongoing and emerging societal challenges.
Addressing Societal Issues Through Collaborative Research
Microbes both affect and are affected by climate change and microbial research will be indispensable in climate change adaptation, mitigation and resilience. This legislation authorizes both NSF and the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science to conduct forward-thinking multidisciplinary research, and ASM is grateful for the inclusion of research on climate systems and climate change, food-energy-water systems, biological threat preparedness and clean water research. NSF- and DOE-supported microbiome science will advance understanding of microbial communities and present unique opportunities to address the world’s toughest scientific and technological challenges in energy, food, health and environmental security and sustainability. Successfully leveraging these opportunities requires a robust and sustained federal investment in research and interagency coordination.
Fostering a Scientific Workforce for the Future
Being inclusive enhances innovation, broadens the research agenda, and furthers scientific advancement. The CHIPS and Science Act will strengthen science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education while tackling the pervasive problems of harassment and discrimination in STEM. Federal science agencies must embrace and promote diversity, equity and inclusion in science because doing so leads to better science and greater scientific advancement. ASM is committed to promoting and advancing the microbial sciences through the elevation, embodiment and sustainability of inclusive diversity with equity, access and accountability, and we stand ready to support federal science agencies as they implement these policies.
Advancing the Bioeconomy
The rapid acceleration of discovery demonstrates a need for better cross-agency coordination, greater technology needs and data sharing infrastructure. The microbial sciences are highly interdisciplinary, incorporating molecular biology, cellular biology, physics, geology, chemistry, materials sciences and engineering. This rich history is emblematic of a profound and general change in science and technology over the past 20 years. The new law will create a national initiative to advance engineering biology and strengthen the ability to translate scientific discoveries into tools, technologies and therapies that will benefit Americans, our economy, and the world at large. This will facilitate collaboration, cross-agency funding, database curation and the development of novel tools to accelerate translational research.
A viable future depends on science and technology, and microbiologists will play a key role. Federal science agencies operate at the frontiers of science and engineering, supporting foundational research; as well as high risk and transformative research not supported by other funding sources. This work is integral to the U.S. economy. As we continue to face daunting challenges such as emerging infectious diseases and global climate change, ASM applauds your efforts and stands ready to support implementation of this important legislation.