ASM Supports Microbial Sciences Research Funding at NSF

May 10, 2024

Testimony Prepared by the American Society for Microbiology
Submitted for the Record to the United States House of Representatives
Committee on Appropriations
Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies

May 10, 2024
Submitted on behalf of: Amalia Corby, Federal Affairs Director
American Society for Microbiology 

The American Society for Microbiology (ASM) urges Congress to increase funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF) to $11.9 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2025. This is consistent with the Coalition for National Science Funding, of which ASM is a member. The Biden Administration's FY25 Budget Request proposed $8.045 billion for Research and Related Activities within NSF. ASM requests that Congress allocate at least $8.045 billion for Research and Related Activities at NSF for FY25. We also request Congress support funding of at least $863 million for the Directorate for Biological Sciences, in line with the FY25 President's Budget Request. We also request increased coordination of microbiome research by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). 

ASM appreciates the opportunity to submit outside witness testimony for the Fiscal Year 2025 Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies appropriations bill. Established in 1899, ASM is the home for microbial scientists from around the globe to connect, learn, discover and prepare for the future. ASM is one of the oldest and largest single life science societies with 36,000 members in the U.S. and around the world, whose mission is to promote and advance the microbial sciences. We connect with millions of experts and harness their science to serve humanity to solve the world's most pressing problems. This includes utilizing microbes to create goods and services that contribute to agriculture, health, security, manufacturing and resilience to climate change, including natural and anthropogenic disaster prevention and mitigation.  

Supporting the Microbial Sciences at NSF

The NSF is a key supporter of microbiology research, including foundational research supporting ecosystems and biodiversity, mapping the microbiome and discovering emerging pathogens. NSF-funded researchers across the country are working to improve lives through research on human and animal health, agriculture, energy and the environment and biothreats. Fundamental research supported by NSF will enable new discoveries and solutions using biotechnology to promote the bioeconomy, forecasting and mitigating the impacts of global warming on essential ecosystem services and predicting and preventing the emergence and spread of infectious diseases. Basic research funded by NSF advances our understanding of 70% of emerging human pathogens that have non-human origins, which pose serious threats to human health and global health security. To continue to achieve its goals, it is critical that the FY2025 appropriations bill robustly fund NSF.

The Directorate for Biological Sciences at NSF supports fundamental research and infrastructure that promotes a unified understanding of all forms of life and at all scales. It is crucial for Congress to support all divisions within the Directorate for Biological Sciences, including the Division of Integrative Organismal Systems (IOS) and the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences (MCB). The IOS supports fundamental research and training on phenotypic characteristics of diverse organisms, prioritizing an understanding of the processes that build and maintain diverse organisms. The MCB supports research to uncover the basic principles of cellular function at the molecular level, including how information content in cells is maintained and transmitted to the next generation and guides expression of cellular characteristics, as well as how energy is absorbed, transformed and flows through biological systems. An increased understanding of the characteristics of organisms through the IOS and MCB has a profound positive impact on the key emerging industry of biotechnology.  

NSF funding is also critical to ensure our scientific workforce is prepared to lead the world in the emerging technologies that are key to our health, safety and security. ASM was pleased to see the bi-partisan CHIPS and Science Act authorized $15.7 billion for the NSF in FY2024 and helps to address various STEM initiatives, including 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. The legislation also directs federal agencies to support research in core areas of interest identified in ASM’s policy principles, including:
  • 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.
The CHIPS and Science Act also addresses growing workforce gaps in emerging technology areas by expanding its efforts in STEM education and broadening participation programs and advancing many priorities in foundational research and infrastructure programs. Prior to the enactment of the CHIPS and Science Act, NSF was unable to fund more than $2 billion worth of research proposals rated “very good or higher” each fiscal year. It is imperative that the rest of NSF see sustainable growth. New efforts can only be successful when built on a strong foundational research enterprise that supports research, education and infrastructure to sustain our science and technology ecosystem.

Support OSTP's Role in Microbiome Research

ASM is grateful for the inclusion of the requested language in the final FY24 Commerce Justice, Science and Related Agencies report. The language states: 
  • Microbiome Interagency Working Group—The Committee recognizes that microbiome research is foundational research with the potential to advance human, animal and environmental health through the bioeconomy. The Committee supports the continuation of the Microbiome Interagency Working Group and requests an update of the Interagency Strategic Plan for Microbiome Research. OSTP is encouraged to consider the renewal of the charter for the Microbiome Interagency Working Group.
Microbiome research aims to advance understanding of microbial communities (microbiomes) and how they interact with the world around us. Today it is understood that microbial communities exist on, in and around people, plants, animals and the environment and have symbiotic relationships that support immunity and protect against disease. The Interagency Strategic Plan for Microbiome Research FY2018-2022, developed by the Microbiome Interagency Working Group, provided recommendations for improving coordination of microbiome research among Federal agencies and between agencies and non-Federal domestic and international microbiome research efforts. The 5-year Strategic Plan coordinated microbiome research activities across 21 government agencies, describing the interagency objectives, structure and operating principles and research focus areas. ASM supports the continuation of the Microbiome Interagency Working Group and an update to the Interagency Strategic Plan for Microbiome Research in order to coordinate the important microbiome research within the federal government. We also encourage the OSTP to prioritize leveraging the National Microbiome Data Collaborative at the Department of Energy to ensure cross-agency collaboration and integration of microbiome datasets.

Author: ASM Advocacy

ASM Advocacy
ASM Advocacy is making it easy and providing opportunities for members to advocate for evidence-based scientific policy.