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Volume 7, Issue 2

President's Letter


Special Interest Groups

ISCB Student Council

2004 Call for Nominations

PSB 2004


Introducing ASBCB

ISCB as Member of FASEB

Events and Opportunities of Interest


ISCB’s Membership in FASEB
By Barbara Bryant, Ph.D.
ISCB Secretary and representative on the FASEB Board of Directors

ISCB joined the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB; http://www.faseb.org ) in 2003. The ISCB Board had been interested in a number of public policy issues, including open source software (definitions, funding requirements, and the freedom of academic researchers to contribute open source code to the community), open access to scientific journals, government funding for bioinformatics, and better functioning of grant review bodies. We were interested in joining with groups that would give our Society greater access to government – to have our voice heard more effectively, to learn more about how things work, and to track current issues of relevance to ISCB members.

FASEB was our choice for gaining this access within the United States. We remain interested in identifying similar organizations and forging such relationships in other countries as well, and plan to dedicate part of our ISCB open business meeting during ISMB to that question; since we’ll be in Scotland this summer, we’ll focus particularly on how to expand our public policy voice within Europe.


FASEB has been a longstanding advocate for increased federal funding for biomedical research. The organization played a very active role in achieving the doubling of the NIH budget in five years. FASEB staffers keep tabs on the progress of budget negotiations, provide supporting information to Congress, and advocate for target budgets each year.

FASEB acts as a watchdog in science policy in Washington DC, responding to events and issues as need be. Some of the issues that were addressed recently include:

  • Conservative members of congress proposed defunding specific NIH grants (mostly related to behavioral research in populations like homosexuals and prostitutes at high risk for sexually transmitted diseases).

  • FASEB objected to the politically motivated replacement of two members of President Bush’s Bioethics Commission with people more aligned with the administration’s views.

  • New management at the Veterans’ Administration defunded grants whose investigators had been told were approved, and changed the grant evaluation process in a way that diminished the importance of peer review.

  • FASEB has done a lot of advocacy and educational outreach around stem cell research, which the current US administration will not fund.

  • FASEB participated in successful efforts to revise the Office of Financial Assets Control’s ban on editorial services to authors from nations covered by its embargo (including Cuba, Libya and North Korea)

  • Not-for-profit scientific publishers responded to calls for a wholesale move to the open access (author pays; reader gets immediate free access).

FASEB has active programs in educational outreach to the public and public policy decision-makers. The Breakthroughs in Bioscience series is an example. FASEB also works on training and career opportunities for scientists. Of particular concern to FASEB are pay, benefits and quality of work for postdocs. Recently, FASEB co-sponsored a meeting on this topic.

How ISCB interacts with FASEB

The primary interaction with FASEB is via ISCB Board and Executive Committee members Barb Bryant and David Rocke, and Executive Officer BJ Morrison McKay. Bryant sits on the FASEB Board, Public Affairs Executive Committee and Science Policy Committee. She chairs FASEB’s Corporate Relations Committee. Rocke sits on the Science Policy Committee and the Corporate Relations Committee. In these roles, they communicate ISCB’s priorities and stands on issues. They feed information back to ISCB Board and the relevant committees for a given issue. ISCB members are encouraged to send their thoughts directly to Bryant and Rocke, and to consult the Public Affairs section of the ISCB website. FASEB activities and updates are available on the ISCB website at http://www.iscb.org/faseb.shtml . Those interested in regular email updates and/or daily summaries of science policy issues in Washington DC should notify Barb Bryant.

As a fairly young society, ISCB also has the opportunity to benefit operationally from membership in FASEB. Our Executive Officer has access to management practices and expertise of the FASEB member societies, and we will participate in FASEB’s five-year strategic planning session in June.