The annual AIBS Council meeting for representatives from AIBS member societies and organizations was held in Washington, DC, 7–8 May 2005. The council reviews the actions of the AIBS Board of Directors and staff, makes recommendations on matters of policy for action and response by AIBS, considers agenda items brought before it, initiates agenda items for its meetings, and elects up to four of its members to the board of directors.
The briefing book for the 2005 meeting is online at www.aibs.org/council-news/. The site also includes links to the slides used in the keynote lecture, "The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment" (by Cristian Samper, director of the National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian Institution), and to special program content on open-access journal publishing.
Among the activities featured at the council meeting was the presentation of the AIBS annual awards. AIBS President Marvalee Wake presented the 2005 Distinguished Scientist Award to B. Rosemary Grant and Peter R. Grant, of Princeton University, stating, "For more than thirty years, Rosemary and Peter Grant have studied one of the classic examples of adaptive radiation, Darwin's finches. Their work showing the effects of drought on survivorship and the corresponding evolutionary response is a staple of introductory biology, evolutionary biology, and ecology textbooks worldwide. But this classic series of studies barely hints at the enormous range of topics their work has considered: sexual selection, species recognition, macroevolution, and phylogenetic history, to name a few. Their decades of work [have] led to fundamental new insights into one of the most widely known and important examples used in evolutionary biology."
Wake also presented the 2005 Outstanding Service Award to Jay M. Savage (retired) of the University of Miami. Introducing Savage, Wake remarked, "For more than forty years, the Organization for Tropical Studies [OTS] has been an important part of training organismal biologists, and Jay Savage may be the person most responsible for its founding and continued success, serving as its president from 1974 to 1980 and, according to those who know the organization well, saving it when its fortunes were low in the early 1980s. He was inducted into the Academia Nacional de Ciencias de Costa Rica in 1998 in recognition for his lifetime of efforts associated with OTS. In addition, he was a member of the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature for eighteen years [1982–2000] and of the Steering Committee for Systematics Agenda 2000. He has been president of the Southern California Academy of Sciences, the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists, and the Society of Systematic Biologists."
The 2005 Education Award went to Deidre Labat and the Department of Biology at Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans.The award was accepted by Michelle B. Boissiere, chair of the Department of Biology at Xavier University. Presenting the award, Wake said, "Deidre Labat is vice president for academic affairs at Xavier University and led an extraordinary effort, while dean of arts and sciences, to enhance the academic success of African-American students. In 1996, Xavier (enrollment 2800) had 77 black graduating seniors accepted to medical school—more than Stanford, Duke, and Cornell combined. Even more remarkably, many students admitted to Xavier had standardized test scores that would have kept them from being admitted to many larger, more 'prestigious' universities. By focusing on students and finding ways to help them to success, Xavier University has succeeded where many others have failed."
The 2005 President's Citation Award was presented to Kenneth R. Miller of Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island. AIBS Past-President Joel Cracraft, of the American Museum of Natural History in New York, presented the award. Cracraft noted that "Kenneth R. Miller, professor of biology at Brown University, has distinguished himself in both science and education. He has been one of the most effective and tireless spokespersons countering intelligent-design creationism through his writings (especially his book, Finding Darwin's God), his lecturing, interviews in the media, and testimony before school boards and the courts. He has received numerous teaching awards from Brown University and has written a number of widely adopted biology textbooks at the high school and college levels." (See www.aibs.org/council-news/ for slides shown by Miller during his acceptance speech, "Evolution Education Update.")
The 2005 Past-President's Award was given to Joel Cracraft. Marvalee Wake, who presented the award, commented, "Joel Cracraft has brought to his three years of commitment to AIBS, particularly his presidency and now his past-presidency, his usual energy, commitment, fervor, and broad ideas. Under his leadership, AIBS is expanding its membership to include college and university departments and centers, more museums, herbaria, and similar institutions, and the corporate world, so that the voice of biology is more widely expressed and communication is broadened. A second major achievement is that Joel initiated a program whereby AIBS, in partnership with the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study, presented a symposium on evolution at the annual meeting of the National Association of Biology Teachers, so that current research-based information--and means of incorporating it into teaching — is provided to teachers at the high school and college levels. The first program last year was so successful that it will become a feature for the next several years — thanks to Joel's leadership and energy."
As part of the AIBS Council meeting, AIBS convened a special meeting on open-access journal publishing, 8–9 May 2005. The first day's meeting was an "in-family" discussion among AIBS council members of this controversial topic, not only in terms of publishing activities but also in terms of how open access affects, and will affect, the way science is conducted and scientific organizations function. The second day's meeting was open, with a number of expert guest speakers and panelists. The meeting was sponsored by AIBS's business office service provider, Burk and Associates. The program and slides are online at www.aibs.org/special-symposia/2005-open-access.html. The meeting topics, speakers, and panelists are listed below.
8 May 2005
9 May 2005
At the end of 2005, three positions will become vacant on the 13-person AIBS Board of Directors: (1) president-elect; (2) a board member elected by the AIBS membership at large; and (3) a board member elected by the AIBS Council of member societies and organizations. The president-elect serves a one-year term and automatically succeeds to a one-year term as president, then a one-year term as immediate past-president. Board members serve three-year terms. This year's slate, assembled by the Nominations Committee chaired by Joel Cracraft and approved by the AIBS Board at its spring meeting in May, is as follows:
Candidates for president-elect
Candidates for board member elected by the AIBS Council
Candidates for board member elected by the membership at large
Online and paper ballot voting will begin after Labor Day (5 September 2005). Results will be announced after the polls close, approximately 30 days later. All terms start in January 2006.
Over the past several years, AIBS has expanded its education activities to address newly emerging threats to biology education. Educators' work of providing K–16 students with a foundation in modern evolutionary biology continues to be challenged by creationists, notably in their most recent incarnation as proponents of "intelligent design." Such attacks undermine all of science education.
Last fall, in partnership with the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study (BSCS; www.bscs.org) and the National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT; www.nabt.org), AIBS organized a major symposium on the teaching of evolution, held at the NABT annual meeting in Chicago. The symposium (see www.aibs.org/special-symposia/2004.html) provided science updates and pedagogical resources for the biology teachers in attendance (more than 400 were present for the opening session). The scientists in attendance also learned from the teachers about the latest developments in teaching approaches and classroom challenges. The 2004 symposium was a great success; a book based on the symposium is now in the final stages of copyediting and will be published by BSCS later this year.
AIBS and BSCS have decided to host another session on evolution at the next NABT annual meeting, to be held 7 October 2005 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Also involved in the symposium will be the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent; www.nescent.org), for which AIBS provides education and outreach services under a subcontract.
The all-day symposium, on the theme of "Evolution and the Environment," will feature updates from prominent researchers and educators on how an understanding of evolution is necessary to understand environmental health, environmental change, and the effects of modification of environmental parameters on the structure and composition of biota. Each 30-minute talk will be followed by a question-and-answer period. After the symposium, speakers' slides will be placed online as PDF files. The scientific presentations will be complemented by a workshop, led by BSCS, which will provide an excellent opportunity for educators to explore relevant teaching resources and to interact with the scientist presenters. BSCS will publish a book based on the symposium, which will be available online at no cost.
AIBS and BSCS hope to hold a symposium at NABT every year, with each year's symposium focusing on the importance of understanding evolutionary biology with respect to other specific areas of basic and applied science, such as the environmental sciences, agriculture, public health, and economic development.
The 2006 AIBS annual meeting has been scheduled for 23–24 May in Washington, DC. The theme is "Biodiversity: The Interplay of Science, Valuation, and Policy." Plenary speakers, breakout sessions, and a poster session are planned. The annual meeting will be preceded by an AIBS business meeting for the general membership, combined with a meeting of the AIBS Council of member societies and organizations, on 22–23 May. See www.aibs.org/annual-meeting/ for updates.
Representatives from a variety of NSF-funded scientific observing systems convened in Santa Fe, New Mexico, 23–25 May 2005, to discuss key "grand environmental challenges" that are the focus of current and planned observatory programs. The conference, "Observing Systems for Environmental Solutions," was hosted by AIBS in collaboration with Anthony Michaels (director of the Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies, University of Southern California) and Deborah Estrin (director of the Center for Embedded Networked Sensing, University of California–Los Angeles); the National Science Foundation sponsored the event.
The environmental challenges addressed at the conference were those recommended in a 2001 National Research Council report: biogeochemical cycles, biological diversity and ecosystem function, climate variability, infectious disease and the environment, land-use dynamics, hydrologic forecasting, institutions and resource use, and reinventing the use of materials. Researchers from established observational programs, such as the Long Term Ecological Research Network and EarthScope, joined representatives from projects in the planning stage, such as NEON (National Ecological Observatory Network) and the Ocean Observatories Initiative, to share their perspectives on the grand challenges. Special emphasis was given to the question of how common scientific and environmental questions create linkages across observing systems. In many respects, the conference was a first step toward broadening the context of observational systems for scientists who spend much of their time engrossed in specialized research.
A report tracing the overarching science challenges and detailing the observational programs represented at the Santa Fe conference will be published later in the year.
On Congressional Visits Day, held 10–11 May, biologists from AIBS and the Organization of Biological Field Stations (OBFS), an AIBS member organization, joined nearly 200 scientists and engineers to urge members of Congress to increase the federal investment in basic scientific research.
The AIBS Emerging Public Policy Leader of 2005, Karen Laughlin, a doctoral candidate at Cornell University, was among those participating in the event. Also in attendance were Robert Wyatt, OBFS vice president, and Matt Rahn, representing the San Diego State University field stations.
Despite the disruption caused by a brief evacuation of the Capitol after a small plane entered Washington's restricted air zone, all attendees called the Hill visits a positive experience.
"It is a rare opportunity as a graduate student in the sciences to directly participate in the political process to promote biological research," Laughlin said. "Through the Congressional Visits Day, I received rapid training on how to effectively deliver my message to Congress members. At the same time, I gained insight into different government officials' perspectives and approaches to federal R&D budgets. I was honored to represent AIBS and the biological community to Sen. Clinton and Rep. Hinchey's offices and thank AIBS for the opportunity."
Meeting highlights included personal meetings with Rep. Susan Davis (D–CA) and Rep. David Price (D–NC). Participants also visited the offices of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D–NY), Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R–GA), Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D–NY), and Rep. Darrell Issa (R–CA). The Congressional Visits Day was part of a two-day event sponsored by the Science–Engineering–Technology Work Group (SETWG). The event also included briefings by key government officials and a reception at which Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D–NM) and Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R–MI) received the 2005 George E. Brown Jr. Award for their longstanding support of federal R&D programs. SETWG chose AIBS Policy Assistant Kirsten Feifel to introduce Rep. Jay Inslee (D–WA) at this year's congressional breakfast.
Laughlin, Rahn, and Wyatt also attended a briefing on federal programs that support biological research, sponsored by the Biological and Ecological Sciences Coalition and the Coalition on Funding Agricultural Research Missions.
For more information on Congressional Visits Day, the Emerging Public Policy Leader Award, and upcoming Public Policy Office events, see www.aibs.org/public-policy/.
Original article in English
Spanish translation of previously posted article