On 17 April, AIBS Executive Director Richard O’Grady and AIBS Public Policy Director Robert Gropp joined staff from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) to speak at the spring meeting of the Advisory Committee for the Biology Directorate of the National Science Foundation (NSF).
The agenda and slides from the meeting are online at www.nsf.gov/events. James Collins, NSF assistant director for biological sciences, spoke about the Biotechnology Industry Organization’s fiscal year 2009 funding priorities for “Life in Transition” studies. He also spoke about the new study that the NSF commissioned from the National Research Council, “The Role of Theory in Advancing 21st-Century Biology: Catalyzing Transformative Research.” Collins met with the AIBS Board of Directors in May.
Staff from AIBS, AAAS, and FASEB then spoke about “biology in the federal science enterprise” with respect to the following three points:
The talks went very well and discussions continue. In coming decades, the public and decisionmakers will demand that scientists provide answers to questions of great societal importance. Informed responses to global environmental change, sustainable development, biodiversity conservation, nanotechnology, biometrics, artificial intelligence, public health threats, and food security and quality, among many other issues, will require a coordinated and prioritized response from the research community. Currently, however, few individual scientists are prepared to provide this response. As a result, few scholarly or professional organizations are positioned to appropriately inform a collective response.
In order for the biological sciences to advance, a new, efficient, and coordinated transdisciplinary community will be required. Biologists need to employ new technical skills and theoretical frameworks that build upon and surpass traditional taxonomic and integrative approaches. More important, biologists from various subfields must be prepared to work collaboratively with each other and with scientists from other fields, members of the media, policymakers, and science educators. A cultural shift within the scientific community’s traditional organizations and new models for supporting research are required.
AIBS is pleased to announce the recipients of the following awards for 2008:
The awards were presented on 12 May at the AIBS annual meeting, “Climate, Environment, and Infectious Diseases.”
AIBS President Rita Colwell and Executive Director Richard O’Grady said in a joint statement: “We are pleased to honor these dedicated and talented individuals. From a variety of backgrounds, they have all made significant positive contributions to the field of biology.”
Below are descriptions of the award winners.
Terry L. Yates was posthumously given the Distinguished Scientist Award, presented to individuals who have made significant scientific contributions to the biological sciences. At the time of his death in December 2007, Yates was vice president for research and economic development at the University of New Mexico (UNM), as well as curator of genomic resources for UNM’s Museum of Southwestern Biology. From 2004 to 2007, he served as president of the Natural Science Collections Alliance, where he worked tirelessly on the national stage to increase awareness of the vitally important research in biological diversity, evolution, and ecology that is conducted at US natural science collections and museums. Yates was best known for his groundbreaking research that isolated the source of hantavirus, the serious respiratory disease that began afflicting people in the American Southwest in 1993. He was a member of the Board of Life Sciences of the National Academy of Sciences and an honorary member of the Society of Mammalogists, the highest honor bestowed by the organization. Yates’s wife, Nancy, accepted the award on his behalf.
David E. Blockstein received the Outstanding Service Award, presented in recognition of noteworthy service to the biological sciences. Blockstein is a senior scientist with the National Council for Science and the Environment, which he joined in 1990 as founding executive director. He is also vice president and acting secretary-treasurer of the US Partnership for Education for Sustainable Development, as well as executive secretary to the Council of Environmental Deans and Directors. Blockstein’s writing, mentoring, and organizational talents have bolstered environmental science policy, improving the linkage between science and decisionmaking on environmental issues, and increased the representation of minorities in the sciences. Blockstein is founding chair of the Ornithological Council, an association that provides scientific information about birds to policymakers, and is involved in ongoing efforts to conserve the critically endangered Grenada dove and the Grenada hook-billed kite.
Eric Klopfer received the Education Award, presented to an individual (or group) who has made significant contributions to education in the biological sciences, at any level of formal or informal education. At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Klopfer is the Scheller Career Development Professor of Science Education and Educational Technology and director of the Scheller Teacher Education Program (STEP). STEP prepares MIT undergraduates to become math and science teachers, and under Klopfer’s leadership, the program has developed an extensive network of K–12 teachers to enhance its efforts. His innovative research focuses on the development and use of computer games and simulations for building understanding of science and complex systems. He cofounded Education Arcade, a group that is advancing the use of games as learning tools in the classroom. In recognition of his ideas and energy dedicated to transforming science education, Klopfer was elected to the Santa Fe Institute’s Science Board, the recognized authority in New Mexico on K–12 education.
Ira Flatow received the President’s Citation Award, which recognizes meritorious accomplishments by an individual (or group) in the biological sciences. Flatow is a veteran science correspondent and award-winning TV journalist. For more than 35 years, he has been reporting and hosting lively, informative discussions on science, technology, health, space, and the environment. Flatow currently hosts National Public Radio’s Talk of the Nation: Science Friday. As a former NPR science correspondent, Flatow reported from Cape Canaveral, Three Mile Island, and the South Pole. His TV credits include six years as host and writer for the Public Broadcast Systems’s Emmy-award-winning Newton’s Apple, and science reporter for CBS This Morning and CNBC. He has talked science on Today, Charlie Rose, and Oprah. He is the author of several books, most recently Present at the Future: From Evolution to Nanotechnology, and Candid and Controversial Conversations on Science and Nature.
Douglas J. Futuyma received the Past-President’s Award, which recognizes the services of the immediate past-president of AIBS. Futuyma is a distinguished professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the State University of New York Stony Brook, where his research interests focus primarily on speciation and the evolution of ecological interactions among species. Before his term as president of AIBS, Futuyma served as president of the Society for the Study of Evolution and the American Society of Naturalists. He was a Guggenheim and a Fulbright Fellow, and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences. Futuyma is an editor of Evolution and the Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution and Systematics, as well as the author of two successful textbooks, Evolutionary Biology and Evolution. His leadership and service to AIBS go back more than a decade, with numerous board and committee appointments to cross-disciplinary projects, including the BioOne online journals initiative, the National Ecological Observatory Network, the Coalition on the Public Understanding of Science, and the Year of Science 2009.
Michelle Nijhuis received the Media Award for her articles “Beetle Warfare” and “Bonfire of the Superweeds,” part of a series on western invasions that ran in High Country News on 20 August and 26 November 2007. She is a contributing editor of High Country News. Her reporting on science and the environment has also appeared in Smithsonian, National Geographic, Audubon, and the anthology Best American Science Writing. Nijhuis has won several national honors for her science writing, including the Science Journalism Award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Nearly 40 scientists and graduate students were in Washington, DC, in April to participate in the annual congressional visits event cosponsored by the Biological and Ecological Sciences Coalition (BESC) and the Coalition on Funding Agricultural Research Missions (Co FARM). The two-day event began with a briefing by senior members of the science policy community. Following the briefing, event participants attended a BESC/CoFARM Capitol Hill reception at which Representatives Brian Baird (D–WA) and Brian Bilbray (R–CA) were recognized for their support of biological and agricultural research.
Congressman Baird brings a unique perspective to the House of Representatives as a PhD clinical psychologist who practiced in Washington and Oregon and taught at the university level before his election to Congress. As chairman of the Subcommittee on Research and Science Education of the Science and Technology Committee, Baird has strongly championed investments in all sciences, and defended the integrity of the scientific method and the peer-review grant–making process. Chairman Baird played important roles in the effort to pass the America COMPETES Act, which was signed into law by President Bush last year.
Representative Bilbray led a successful effort supporting inclusion of the biological sciences, social sciences, and interdisciplinary research in legislation reauthorizing the National Science Foundation (NSF). Additionally, Bilbray was centrally involved with an effort to include the biological and social sciences in a report that accompanied the NSF Authorization Act of 2007. Representative Bilbray serves on the House Science and Technology Committee, the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.
“Through their actions, Chairman Baird and Representative Bilbray have demonstrated that they understand the best investment for the nation is one that funds all fields of scientific research,” said Robert Gropp, cochair of BESC and AIBS director of public policy. “Answering the grand scientific questions and global challenges we must address in the coming decades requires a comprehensive approach—no one discipline will inform our actions.”
Participating in this year’s congressional visits were the 2008 AIBS Emerging Public Policy Leader Award (EPPLA) recipients, Cheryl Logan and Caroline Ridley. EPPLA Honorable Mention recipients Allison Leidner and Yiwei Wang also participated, as did three former EPPLA recipients. In addition, the Organization of Biological Field Stations—an AIBS member organization and participant-level contributor to the Public Policy Office—also sent four participants.
Participants in this year’s congressional visits event met with approximately 60 different congressional offices.
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