Public Affairs

Bringing Biophysics to the Public—Maryland Day

On April 27, the University of Maryland (UMD) Biophysics Program, with support from the Biophysical Society, the Houston Museum of Natural Science, the National Science Foundation, and NCMI, featured the Biomolecular Discovery Dome at Maryland Day, a campus-wide open house. The Dome was one of more than 400 free events offered on the College Park, Maryland, campus, showcasing the University’s research, educational, and cultural activities. There were thousands of students, professors, and members of the general public in attendance. The Dome, which has also been featured at the 56th and 57th Annual Meetings of the Biophysical Society, demonstrated how cells and viruses come to life through 3-D films and hands-on activities. Two new films were created by University of Maryland students for the event: “Cells in Motion” by Deborah Hemingway, PhD student in biophysics, and “Proteins in Motion from Birth to Death” by Mark Nakasone, PhD student in biochemistry. Other University of Maryland biophysics students helped visitors fold their own DNA, and led a “collective motion” activity in which the participants were tracked while in motion followed by analysis of the motion to determine the extent of correlation. BPS President-Elect Dorothy Beckett, UMD, and BPS member Wolfgang Losert, UMD, spearheaded the effort along with Matt Doherty, NCMI, and Tony Butterfield, Houston Museum of Natural Science.

Biophysical Society Weighs in on NIH Biomedical Research Workforce Proposals

In response to a request for input, the Biophysical Society’s Public Affairs Committee submitted comments to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) on April 22 regarding an NIH advisory panel’s plans for addressing issues in the education and training of the biomedical research workforce. In the comments, the Committee agreed that in order to move forward in creating a sustainable biomedical workforce, attention must be paid to the training of students and postdoctoral fellows and to collecting better data on these populations, but expressed concern about the undue burden collecting such data will place on principal investigators. This applies to collecting information on current trainees, career outcomes, and individual development plans. The committee expressed support for the use of individual development plans, but not for requiring annual updates to NIH. In regards to the review of training grant applications, the committee encouraged NIH to guide reviewers to view a broad array of career outcomes as successes of a program. Since NIH’s mission is “to seek fundamental knowledge about the nature and behavior of living systems and the application of that knowledge to enhance health, lengthen life, and reduce the burdens of illness and disability,” jobs related to that goal should be seen as successes. This includes jobs such as science writing, grants management, teaching positions, staff scientists, and policy advisors, among others. To read the comments in full, visit www.biophysics.org/AboutUs/NewsReleases/tabid/2243/Default.aspx.

Thousands Rally for Medical Research

On April 10, over 18,000 scientists across the United States showed their support for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as part of the Rally for Medical Research. The physical rally took place in Washington, DC, and drew a crowd of several thousand. At that event, speakers poignantly made the connection between research and cures, drawing from their own experiences. The virtual rally took place on the internet, with supporters watching a live webcast and contacting their elected leaders about the need to fund the NIH.

The rally was not only powerful for those in attendance and watching online, it also garnered media attention to the important cause. The story was featured on local newscasts in Washington DC, Boston, New York, Florida, Michigan, and Arizona. Nationally, the event was covered by CNN, USA Today, About.com, The Hill, and several medical publications. On Twitter, the Rally hashtag, #Rally- MedRes, was a top trending topic globally, reaching the second position on that site while the rally was taking place. There were over 6,500 tweets about the rally during the time it was taking place.

President Obama also released a statement supporting the rally, saying, “To meet the challenges of the 21st century we must commit to a serious sustained effort to advance medical research.” The Biophysical Society was one of over 200 organizations that supported the rally, which was spearheaded by the American Association of Cancer Research.

President’s 2014 Budget

On Wednesday, April 10, President Obama released his budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2014. While not all of the federal science agencies fared well in the proposal, several did, including the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy Office of Science, and the National Institute of Standards and Technologies. The proposal, in comparison to FY 2012 and FY 2013, is summarized in the chart below. The White House made all of its comparisons to FY 2012, since the final budget for 2013 was only approved two weeks prior to the release of the 2014 proposal. The House and Senate Appropriations Committees are in the process of learning about the budget proposal from administration officials at Congressional hearings and creating their own budget proposals. The 2014 federal fiscal year begins October 1, 2013.

June 2013 Table of Contents