Recent Public Policy Reports Online at www.aibs.org/public-policy-reports
December 6, 2010
Public Policy Report for 27 September
- Storm clouds build, NAS releases Gathering Storm II. On 23 September, the National Academies released a new report warning that "America's ability to compete for quality jobs in the global economy continues to deteriorate, and the nation needs a sustained investment in education and basic research to spur innovation and keep its competitive position from slipping further." The warning was issued in Rising Above the Gathering Storm, Revisited: Rapidly Approaching Category 5, a report prepared by some of the authors of the influential 2005 report Rising Above the Gathering Storm.
- Reports recommend improvements in STEM education. Mid-September marked the rollout of two major reports on the future of science education. A proposal from the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) recommends a two-pronged approach to improve K–12 science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education. "We must prepare students so they have a strong foundation in STEM subjects and are able to use this knowledge in their personal and professional lives," wrote John Holdren and Eric Lander, cochairs of PCAST, in their introduction to the report. "And we must inspire students so that all are motivated to study STEM subjects in school and many are excited about the prospect of having careers in STEM fields."
- Russian seed bank receives temporary reprieve. The Pavlovsk Experiment Station and its living plant collections in Russia have been threatened by plans to convert the facility into commercial development. A Russian court had rejected pleas to halt a planned land auction. However, following international expressions of concern, the facility has received a temporary reprieve. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev recently intervened in the matter and ordered a review of the proposed redevelopment plan. This has resulted in a delay of the land auction until October. Meanwhile, an independent, international commission will be established to assess the value of the plant collection. The station houses Europe's largest collection of fruits and berries. More than 90 percent of the collection is reportedly found in no other research collection or gene bank.
- Government-funded stem cell research awaits court action. Research involving human embryonic stem cells has resumed at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) after a court order suspended the work for two weeks. On 9 September, a federal appeals court suspended a preliminary injunction that halted NIH in-house research. The injunction was a result of a pending lawsuit filed by opponents of human embryonic stem cell research.
Public Policy Report for 13 September
- NIH halts intramural stem cell research. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has stopped all of its internal research involving human embryonic stem cells (hESCs). The move came in response to a recent ruling by a federal court that halts federal funding of research involving hESCs. Lawyers at the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the NIH, determined that the court's preliminary injunction applies to intramural research at the agency. Consequently, NIH researchers on eight projects have been forced to stop their work on hESCs.
- Review panel finds fault with IPCC. An independent panel has called for changes in the way the United Nations handles its assessments of climate change. Although the panel found that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has been "successful overall," it needs to improve its governance and management, review process, characterization and communication of uncertainty, and transparency.
- Judge blocks investigation of climate researcher by Virginia attorney general. A judge has blocked an investigation of climate researcher Michael Mann launched by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R). Cuccinelli, a vocal climate skeptic, was investigating whether Mann had committed fraud while applying for research grants to study climate change. The county circuit court judge ruled that Cuccinelli's subpoena of hundreds of documents from Mann's former employer, the University of Virginia, was unfounded. Judge Paul Peatross Jr. ruled that Cuccinelli failed to demonstrate that Mann had committed fraud while a professor at University of Virginia: "The nature of the conduct is not stated so that any reasonable person could glean what Dr. Mann did to violate the statute," the judge wrote. "The Court ... understands the controversy regarding Dr. Mann's work on the issue of global warming. However, it is not clear what he did that was misleading, false or fraudulent in obtaining funds from the Commonwealth of Virginia."