The 10th annual Brain Bee held by SFNKC will be held this Saturday, February 11th at the University of Kansas Medical Center, in the Hemenway Life Sciences building*.

Registration begins at 8:30 am, and the contest will start at 9:00 am. The event runs until noon.

Prior years have seen impressive displays of knowledge and quick thinking, as participants answered all types of questions sourced from the Brain Facts book, which is available free at brainfacts.org. This year should be no exception, and we look forward to seeing everyone there from first time participants to returning champions.

For more information on this and other SFN-KC events, be sure to follow us on Facebook.

*Free Parking will be available at Lot 98 by the Bluff Garage (#98 in blue in this parking map), located just north of the Hemenway building. A walking bridge takes you from the parking garage into the building, or you may use the North ground floor entrance of Hemenway. Other entrances may require a key card or may be inaccessible due to construction of the new health education building.

 

It’s that time of year! Get ready for SFNKC’s Brain Discovery Fair on April 9th! Volunteers always appreciated.

Find out more and stay tuned with SFNKC on facebook.

Here is the Brain_Discover_Fair_2016_flyer — please share!

2016 Brain Discovery Fair

2016 Brain Discovery Fair

 

Thank You to everyone who participated in the 2016 Kansas City Brain Bee held at KU Medical Center. Students showed great knowledge and quick thinking, making for an exciting contest and a successful event. The winner goes on to participate in the National Brain Bee held in the spring.

See photos of the event at facebook and stay up to date at https://www.facebook.com/sfnkansascity/.

Congratulations to our very own Heather Wilkins, Ph.D., SFNKC Co-President who received the Allen B. Rawitch Professional Excellence, Outstanding Woman Scholar Award.

Find out more about this award here.

2015 Brain Discovery Fair

March 6th, 2015

2015 Brain Discovery Fair flyer

The SFNKC annual Brain Discovery Fair will be April 11 from 10 am – 2 pm at the Hemenway Life Sciences Innovation Center on the campus of the University of Kansas Medical Center located on the NE corner of 39th and Rainbow Blvd, Kansas City, KS.

This event is free for the community; no advanced registration is required!

Please see our facebook page for photos from last year’s Brain Discovery Fair.

 

For any questions, please contact us at SFNKC@kumc.org

Brain Bee, 2015

December 4th, 2014

brain bee header

 

SFNKC is holding its 8th Annual Brain Bee Competition this January 31, 2015, and we would like to invite all area high-school students to participate in this competition.

 

The Brain Bee is a live Q&A competition that tests the neuroscience knowledge of high school students. The winner of our Brain Bee is eligible to compete in the National Brain Bee in March. We hope to increase our number of participants even further this year with representation from a number of school districts in Missouri and Kansas.

 

The winner of our regional competition will not only get the opportunity to compete in the National Brain Bee, but also the opportunity to compete for a spot in the International Brain Bee in Washington, DC, in which winners receive cash prizes or a paid summer neuroscience fellowship.

 

This competition promotes neuroscience education in a fun and competitive manner, is an excellent opportunity to establish contact with neuroscience professors and provides opportunities to volunteer at additional neuroscience outreach events.

 

The competition questions are derived from Brain Facts, which may be downloaded here.

 

If you would like more information or would like a member of SFNKC to come talk to your school about the competition please email us at sfnkc@kumc.edu.

 

To register, send an email to sfnkc@kumc.edu with the following information:

  • Student’s name:
  • Student’s grade:
  • Student’s high school:
  • Name of student’s science teacher:
  • Email for contact:

 

 

Official 2015 Brain Bee flyer

Official 2015 Brain Bee flyer

The midterm “why-bother” election?

vote

With voter turnout constantly underwhelming expectations, the midterm elections are just-as, if not more-important than the general, quadrennial elections held every 4-years. Midterm elections feature races for Governors, Senators, Representatives and other state-officials. Many individuals keep up with these races, but may be less familiar with ballot initiatives. Therefore, this blog post is going to summarize the issues appearing on the ballot on both sides of the state line.

Disclaimer: SFNKC takes no stance on any of the issues stated below. This post is meant to be a summary of the issues only. References are provided. Please remember to vote.

 

Missouri

Amendment 2 (Child Sex Crimes)

If passed, this would allow prior evidence of child sex crimes to be admissible in court against those accused of sexual crimes against a minor. This amendment involves what is known as propensatory evidence in jurisprudence. It means that evidence of one’s involvement in unlawful activity in the past can be used against you when accused of unlawful activity in the present.

Support: 40 other states already permit this action, including a federal law that allows propensatory evidence to be used in cases of sex crimes involving a minor. Provides context in sex offender cases by allowing the jury to be aware of potential repeat-offenders in court.

Opposition: Past evidence that was never proven can be used against you in an alternate crime. It makes the defense of that person more difficult because it takes multiple accusations under account that is not related to the current prosecution charges. Opposition says this undermines the notion of being “innocent until proven guilty.”

Additionally, opposition says this law provides precedence to expand previous, unproven evidence to other [non-sexual] cases of criminal prosecutions.

  • References

    http://ballotpedia.org/Missouri_Relevant_Criminal_Evidence_Amendment,_Amendment_2_(2014)

 

 

Amendment 3 (Teacher tenure):

This amendment would implement evaluations for previously tenured public school teachers by shifting them to 3-year contracts whereby then that individual may be dismissed, retained, demoted or promoted based on performance standards.

Support: Evaluating teachers based on performance rather than tenure and holds more accountability in public school system. Does away with the “last-in-first-out” system where ineffective teachers may be retained due to seniority while effective teachers may be dismissed. Also allows for regular re-evaluation similar to other professions.

Opposition: Undermines some job security teachers have and might teach to performance standards. Seen as an effort to fracture the bargaining power of teachers’ unions. The measure could force teachers to “teach to the test” and does not evaluate the full spectrum of a teachers’ effectiveness. Costs associated with additional standardized testing are unknown.

References

  • http://ballotpedia.org/Missouri_Teacher_Performance_Evaluation,_Amendment_3_(2014)

 

 

Amendment 6 (early voting):

Allows 6 days of advance voting in Missouri starting in 2016.

Support: An improvement to the current standards in that it expands the eligible voting period for those who cannot make it to the polls during the designated time.

Opposition: The amendment isn’t specific enough in that it doesn’t specify the exact dates for the early voting period, just 6 days. Those 6 days would not be on weekends or early/late business hours and therefore does not provide a sufficient alternative to the current eligible voting period. Most states allow two-weeks early voting that includes weekends and nights. The amount of money to allocate to this project isn’t defined.

References

  • http://ballotpedia.org/Missouri_Early_Voting_Period,_Amendment_6_(2014)

 

 

 

Amendment 10 (restricts governor’s power over budget):

One of the most controversial amendments on the ballot, this would decrease the governor’s authority to reassign budget allocations to alternate projects depending on surpluses or deficits in a given fiscal year.

Support: Limits the governor’s ability to shift tax revenue from project to project even when revenues collected meet projected estimates. Currently no restriction on how the governor chooses when or where to reallocate funds and therefore such reassignments might be biased based on pet projects.

Opposition: Undermines the governor’s authority to maintain a balanced budget when revenues collected differ from projections. Oppositions to the amendment says it undermines constitutionally assigned gubernatorial authority. Might alter the state’s bond-rating. Changing the current budget process might have unexpected consequences.

References

  • http://ballotpedia.org/Missouri_Gubernatorial_Budgetary_Recommendations,_Amendment_10_(2014)

 

 

Kansas City, MO voters

 

These two questions provide sales taxes to fund a light-rail line from KCI airport to the Plaza.
Question No. 1 asks, “Shall the City of Kansas City impose a sales tax of one-quarter percent for 25 years for the purpose of funding capital improvements?”

Question No. 2 asks, “Shall the City of Kansas City impose a sales tax of one-eighth percent for 25 years for the purpose of providing a source of funds for public transportation purposes?”

There is some back story to these questions that involves the light-rail advocate, Clay Chastain. He originally advocated for the light-rail initiative in Kansas City several years ago, and these two questions are the subsequent result of his work. However, Chastain now opposes these questions claiming that the wording of the original initiative has been so broadly altered that it is no longer about a KC light-rail.  In fact, the words “light-rail” do not appear on the ballot. The questions are broadly defined and there is a possibility that the monies collected would be allocated to other projects. Chastain is so perturbed by the issue that he is now running for the KC mayor.

References

      • https://www.kceb.org/useruploads/Sample_Ballots/Sample_Ballot-FINAL-9-18-2014.pdf
      • http://www.kshb.com/news/political/little-to-no-support-for-two-sales-tax-questions-on-ballot-in-kansas-city
      • http://www.bizjournals.com/kansascity/news/2014/10/28/kcmo-sales-tax-questions-find-little-support.html
      • http://www.bizjournals.com/kansascity/news/2014/10/01/chastain-vote-against-my-light-rail-plan.html
      • http://www.kansascity.com/news/government-politics/article3397784.html

 

 

 

 

KANSAS

 

Constitutional Amendment (raffles):

Support: Technically, raffles are considered gambling in the state and therefore are illegal. Currently, organizations such as schools and non-profits are able to hold raffles by categorizing them as a fundraiser. This amendment would decriminalize public raffles.

Opposition: There is no official stance against this amendment.
References

  • http://ballotpedia.org/Kansas_Charitable_Gaming_Measure,_SCR_1618_(2014)

 

 

 

Author: Angela N. Pierce,
Society for Neuroscience Early Career Policy Fellow

CR definition

 

Right now, we are living in the world of a “Continuing Resolution” (CR). This means Congress did not pass an appropriations bill for FY2015 by Oct 1, 2014. This isn’t surprising. In fact, CR’s are frequently employed as a means to keep the government running. Literally, Congress has resolved to continue funding the government according to the statues of the previous fiscal year’s appropriations. Therefore, the first few months of FY15 are to be funded at the exact same levels (with minor modifications) as they were in FY14.  AKA: federal operations will continue at the current spending levels.

 

If the fiscal year were to end on Sept 30 and neither an appropriations bill nor a CR are passed, then beginning on Oct 1, the government would shut down. In fact, this is exactly what happened in 2013.  It was not a pretty thing.  There have been 18 shutdowns since modern budgeting process was enacted in the 1970’s.  A list of their dates, duration, and context may be browsed here.

 

A CR funding measure is not permanent. The current measure states that the budget must be appropriated by Dec 11, 2014 at which point appropriations must be determined or the government faces shut down once again. Unless, of course, Congress passes yet an additional CR. This can happen multiple times throughout a fiscal year. For instance, for FY2011, 7 CR’s were passed by Congress that delayed the final appropriations bill until April 9, 2011 (2). In effect, 52% of the fiscal year was over by the time a budget was enacted.

FY11

These days CR’s tend to be normal. Only 3 of the previous 28 years have been without a CR [or government shutdown]: 1989, 1995, 1997. The following graph from the Government Accountability Office (GOA) shows the duration and number of CR’s per fiscal year through 1999 (3).

CRs per year

Are CR’s a good thing? A bad thing? Many things are better than a government shutdown, but a full case study was published by the GOA that determined the effects of budget uncertainty on agency operations. The full study may be read here.

 

Stay tuned and we’ll find out what happens to FY15 as Dec 11, 2014 approaches.

 

References:

 

  • http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2014/09/19/what-s-continuing-resolution-and-why-does-it-matter
  • Public_Law_112-8
  • http://www.goa.gov

 

 

 

 

Author: Angela N. Pierce,
Society for Neuroscience Early Career Policy Fellow

Recently, Michael Cooper, a Ph.D. student in Neuroscience and a new member of the Kansas City chapter for the Society for Neuroscience participated in a Capitol Hill Day sponsored by the American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.  

 

American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Capitol Hill Day

IMG_0897

With the August Congressional recess wrapping up last Friday, it was crucial to begin advocating for National Institutes of Health (NIH) immediately. Thus, I spent this Tuesday on Capitol Hill with the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) meeting with congressmen from Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, and Indiana. Students and PhD’s in industry and academia from over thirty different states were sponsored by ASBMB to hold meetings with their representatives with all expenses paid.

 

Prior to the meetings with our representatives, ASBMB’s head of public affairs, Ben Corb, along with Chris Pickett and Erica Siebrasse provided all of us with a plethora of information and specific statistics for the individuals we were meeting with. Then, on Monday night we had a final preparation seminar to get everything set for our meetings; the main focus during our meetings was to advocate for the increase of the NIH budget by 3% to $32 billion from the current level of $30.1 billion for FY2015. In advocating for this increase, we tried to give the offices we were meeting with a better understanding of how the decrease of 20% in purchasing power by the NIH over the last decade has truly affected the immediate and long-term future of biomedical research and society.

 

Through this sponsorship, I was able to personally meet with a number of Congressmen including: Senator Jerry Moran, Senator Pat Roberts, Representative Kevin Yoder, Representative Emanuel Cleaver, Senator Roy Blunt, Senator Claire McClaskill, Senator Joe Donnelly, Representative Tim Griffin, and Representative Andre Carson.

 

 

IMG

 

Most of the congressmen from the direct Kansas City area are proponents of increased biomedical research funding. Senator Moran, Representative Yoder, and Representative Cleaver all publically support increases in research spending.

 

Senator Moran is on the appropriations committee responsible for writing the proposed budget for NIH and his committee has suggested an increase of $600 million for this coming year. While this proposed increase is well beneath the needed $32 billion increase it is still well above what other groups are proposing. Sadly, when I met with his aid, he said they are pessimistic that the appropriations bill at $600 million will even make it out of committee, and he went on to say that we should expect a much smaller increase in NIH funding for FY2015.

 

Senator Blunt’s office seemed extremely receptive to our meeting He was especially interested in the alternatives to increasing appropriations spending such as, continuing the R&D tax credit, increases in STEM programs across the country, and an immigration reform proposal that would allow the international students that come to train in NIH funded labs to have an easier path to staying in the country for employment after their training. Senator Roberts’ and Senator McCaskill’s offices were the least receptive to an increase in funding, and they were unreceptive to nearly all of our suggestions with the exception of a continuation of the R&D tax credit.

 

Overall, ASBMB was a fantastic organization to work! The organization was extremely well organized and provided wonderful information that I can forward to anyone interested if they email me at mcooper4@kumc.edu. This information included diagrams and explanations of the problems in NIH funding decreases, the rates of decline in Grant approvals, the decrease in purchasing power, and even the economic specific to the states of Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, and Indiana.

 

 

I would suggest looking here for more great advocacy information.

 

Author: Michael Cooper, SFNKC

 

Source: www.goodwill.org

Source: www.goodwill.org

Welcome back to the SAP blog!  In this post we’re going to see an update to the FY2015 appropriations bills.

 

The August Congressional recess is almost over. Next week, Congress will return to DC and resume finalizing budget proposals for FY15.

 

As a reminder: the United States fiscal year is the 12 month period ending on September 30 of that year. The name of the fiscal year is identified as the year in which it ends. Therefore, FY15 begins Oct 1, 2014 and ends Sept 30, 2015.

 

If we want to avoid a government shutdown, then the FY15 budget must be finalized and passed into law by Oct 1, 2014. This means the second half of September is incredibly important.

 

What still needs to be done?

Source: Win McNamee/Getty Images North America

Source: Win McNamee/Getty Images North America

 

The House and Senate must reconcile differences between their individual appropriations bills, but the Senate has yet to pass a single spending bill of their own for the year. Of specific interest to biomedical research:

 

  • The Administration has requested a $272 million dollar increase to NIH for FY15, which is less than a 0.9% increase to the ~$30 billion dollar institute.

 

  • The House has not yet passed the Labor, HHS, and Education bill (which includes NIH) but according to subcommittee, they would request a $595 million dollar increase to NIH compared to FY14, which would be a 2% increase to NIH.

 

  • The equivalent Senate appropriations bill provides NIH with $30.46 billion dollars, an increase of $606 million. This funding level when combined with FY14’s appropriations would fully replace NIH funding to pre-sequester levels and is slightly more than a 2% increase in total budget.

 

Clearly, Congress has a lot of work ahead of them in order to pass an Appropriations bill by Oct 1. However, this situation is not uncommon for the end of September.

 

On the next blog post I’ll discuss what happens if appropriations are not settled by the start of the new fiscal year.

 

As a side note, next year the Social Security Administration will give an estimated $950 billion to disabled Americans. The NIH research budget, at ~$30 billion is only 3% of that amount.

 

References:

  1. http://www.appropriations.senate.gov/news/fy15-lhhs-subcommittee-markup-bill-summary
  2. http://www.appropriations.senate.gov/news/fy15-lhhs-subcommittee-reported-bill-and-draft-report
  3. http://www.aaas.org/news/rd-funding-fy-2015-appropriations-so-far-roundup

 

Author: Angela N. Pierce,
Society for Neuroscience Early Career Policy Fellow

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