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Public Policy Report for 20 November 2006

Voters Support Evolution Education

On 7 November 2006, voters in Ohio, Kansas, and Pennsylvania elected candidates who support science. Notably, in the Ohio Board of Education District 7 race, former U.S. Representative Tom Sawyer defeated incumbent Deborah Owens-Fink. Fink was a consistent and vocal supporter of anti-evolution measures, leading the campaign to introduce intelligent design/creationism into the Ohio science curriculum. Pro-science candidates also won races in three other Ohio Board of Education districts: District 2 - John Bender, District 4 - G. R. "Sam" Schloemer, District 8 - Deborah L. Cain. In the Ohio gubernatorial election, voters selected Democrat Ted Strickland. Strickland accepts evolution and opposes the teaching of intelligent design in the science classroom. This is another important victory for Ohio science education because the Governor appoints 8 of 19 members of the Board of Education.

In Kansas, voters placed control of the state Board of Education back in the hands of members who support teaching evolution. Supporters of evolution education once again control the board with a 6-4 majority. Republicans Sally Cauble (District 5) and Jane Shaver (District 9), both supporters of evolution education, replaced anti-science members of the board. However, Republicans John Bacon (District 3) and Ken Willard (District 7) were re-elected. Bacon and Willard were part of the 6-4 anti-evolution majority that redefined science in 2005 and allowed the teaching of intelligent design/creationism. Incumbent governor Kathleen Sebelius (D) was re-elected to a second term. In October 2006, Sebelius called the Board of Education "an embarrassment to the state" and vowed to push for a constitutional amendment to make the board advisory and shift power to a Secretary of Education in the governor's Cabinet.

In Pennsylvania, with 59 percent of the vote, Democrat Bob Casey defeated incumbent Senator Rick Santorum (R ). Santorum, chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, was a powerful and influential supporter of the "intelligent design" movement. Santorum attempted to amend the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001 to permit the teaching of religious alternatives to evolution in the science curriculum. Santorum was also on the advisory board to the legal group that defended the Dover school board in the landmark case, Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, in 2005.

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Democrats Take Control of Congress: New leadership for Science and Environment Committees

In an election rivaling 1994 when Republicans swept into the majority in the House of Representatives, Democrats dominated midterm elections for both chambers. With seven House races yet to be determined, the Democrats claimed the majority in both chambers with 231 seats in the House and 51 seats in the Senate. Democrats picked up seats in 13 states, including seats from members Jim Leach (2nd Iowa), Nancy Johnson (3rd Connecticut), Clay Shaw (22nd Florida), and Curt Weldon (7th Pennsylvania) all who have been Members of Congress for twenty or more years.

In preparation for the 110th Congress and the 2008 presidential election, Senators are jockeying for leadership positions. Among the notable changes to committee leadership in the new Democratically-controlled Senate, is the head of the Environment and Public Works Committee. Losing the top spot on the committee is Oklahoma Republican James Inhofe, who will likely be replaced by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA). Inhofe, a vocal skeptic of climate change who has argued that climate change is the "greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people," may also lose his post as the ranking minority member on the committee. Late last week, Senator John Warner (R-VA) signaled his intent to utilize his seniority over Inhofe to assume the post of ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee. Senator Warner said in a recent interview that he is increasingly concerned about climate change.

Senator Boxer (D-CA) was a cosponsor in the 109th Congress of aggressive greenhouse gas (GHG) cap-and-trade legislation. Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), also a cosponsor of that bill, will chair the Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has also supported action on climate change.

The new leadership in the House of Representatives has begun to emerge. During the week of 13 November, House Democrats elected Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to be Speaker of the House. Pelosi is the first woman to hold the position. Filling the number two spot in the House will be Maryland Democrat Steny Hoyer.

New committee assignments are still being set, but some forecasts are possible. Representative Bart Gordon (D-TN) will likely chair the House Science Committee. Indications are that Gordon would like to maintain the committee's traditions of bipartisanship. Additionally, Gordon is expected to show interest in funding for scientific programs, continuing to boost U.S. competitiveness in the global research market, improving science education programs, and reducing the politicization of science. Taking the reigns of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee will be former chairman Representative John Dingell (D-MI). Representative Dingell is a supporter of the National Institutes of Health and will likely continue to work to increase funding for the agency. Representative Dingell has previously sided with Republicans on climate change issues, but has announced plans to hold hearings on climate change policy.

The change to the leadership of the House Resources Committee may have been one of the biggest gains for environmentalists and scientists concerned with resource extraction and endangered species legislation. Richard Pombo (R-CA), the former chair of the Committee, was defeated by John McNerney (D-CA), an engineer with experience in alternative energy technologies. Representative Nick Rahall (D-WV) will likely take over the chairmanship of the Resources Committee. He has not set an agenda, but some in the environmental community think that he will not pursue Pombo's agenda to weaken the Endangered Species Act or promote drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA) is expected to head the House Government Reform Committee, charged with oversight of the federal government. Representative Waxman may include among his priorities a review of the Bush Administration's science record, the politicization of science, and the impact of funding reductions at agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency. Representative David Obey (D-WI) is expected to take the reigns of the powerful House Appropriations Committee.

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Climate Change Gets a "Stern" Report

The Stern Report, written by former World Bank economist and head of the UK Government Economics Service Sir Nicholas Stern, was released on 30 October 2006. The 576-page report summarizes the economic impacts of climate change and the economic consequences of inaction. According to the report, the cost of doing nothing right now means that the future cost of addressing climate change will be much higher, because it will take even more global effort to reduce the effects of global warming. The report used economic models to analyze the costs of global warming. If countries do nothing about climate change and continue along the current trajectory, the overall costs may reduce the global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 5% each year. A broader estimate puts the losses at almost 20% of the GDP.

The report includes technical details such as warming trends, global projections of carbon dioxide levels, and the effects it will have on surface temperatures across the globe. The report summarizes political and consumer actions that can reduce the economic and environmental impacts of climate change. The report calls for global community response in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and creating incentives for low-carbon technology. British Prime Minister Tony Blair said the report, "demolished the last remaining argument for inaction," according to one news source. The Stern report was released as the European Union (EU) begins to unveil a new energy package that will focus on renewable energy and energy efficiency. The EU will release the complete energy plan in January 2007.

The United States released an official response addressing the Stern report. According to European news sources, White House spokesman Tony Snow stated that President Bush "has, in fact, contrary to stereotype, been actively engaged in trying to fight climate change and will continue to do so." According to James Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, "Hundreds of billions of dollars of investment are going into this very important issue, and trillions more will go into it in the coming decades."

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New in BioScience: "National Academy of Sciences Issues Gender Equity Plan"

In the November 2006 Washington Watch article in BioScience, Robert Gropp reports on the National Academies latest report to increase the representation of women in university science and technology faculties.

Following is a brief excerpt from the article:

Over the past several decades, various agencies, committees, and individual scientists have called for greater gender equity within the ranks of the science and engineering faculty at colleges and universities in the United States. Despite these calls to action, most workforce policy watchers note that progress has, at best, been slow.

According to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), "Forty years ago, women made up only 3 percent of America's scientific and technical workers, but by 2003 they accounted for nearly one-fifth." Moreover, women have accounted for more than half of the bachelor's degrees awarded in science and engineering since 2000. Nonetheless, the representation of women on university faculties of science does not reflect these trends. "Among science and engineering PhDs, four times more men than women hold full-time faculty positions. And minority women with doctorates are less likely than white women or men of any racial or ethnic groups to be in tenure positions," according to the September 2006 NAS report Beyond Bias and Barriers: Fulfilling the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering.

The full article may be read at: www.aibs.org/washington-watch/washington_watch_2006_11.html.

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Applications for 2007 AIBS Emerging Public Policy Leader Award Now Available

The American Institute of Biological Sciences is pleased to announce that applications for the 2007 AIBS Emerging Public Policy Leader Award are now available. The EPPLA was established by AIBS in 2003 as a way to recognize and further the science policy interests of graduate students in the biological sciences and science education.

More information about prior EPPLA recipients is available online at http://www.aibs.org/public-policy/policy_training.html.

Application information is below and available online at announcements/061106_graduate_student_policy_training.html.

AIBS Emerging Public Policy Leader Award
Applications Due by 5 p.m. Friday, 16 February 2007

As part of its focus on engaging scientists in the public policy process, the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) is pleased to offer the AIBS Emerging Public Policy Leader Award (EPPLA). The EPPLA is an opportunity for graduate students in the biological sciences to receive first-hand experience in the policy arena. AIBS pays travel costs and expenses for 1-2 EPPLA recipients to participate in a Biological and Ecological Sciences Coalition Congressional Visits Day (CVD) in Washington, D.C. on April 17-18, 2007 (dates subject to change). This is an annual event that brings scientists and science educators to Washington, D.C. to raise visibility and support for the biological sciences. The EPPLA recipient(s) will attend briefings by key officials from the White House and Congress and a reception honoring members of Congress for their work on behalf of biology. Participants will also meet with members of Congress and their staff to explain the importance of federal support for scientific research.

AIBS is now accepting applications for the 2007 Emerging Public Policy Leader Award from graduate students (master's or doctoral) in the biological sciences with a demonstrated interest in and commitment to biological science and/or science education policy. Submit applications electronically to publicpolicy@aibs.org NO LATER than 5 p.m. on Friday, 16 February 2006.

Applications should include the following materials:

  • Cover letter. Applicants should describe their interest in science policy issues and how participation in this CVD event would further their career goals. Applicants should also confirm their availability to attend the April 17-18 event.

  • Statement on the importance of biological research (max. 500 words). The objective of CVD is to communicate to decision makers the long-term importance of the biological sciences to the nation. How would you convince your congressional delegation of the importance of biological research? Prepare a statement that emphasizes the benefits of biological research, drawing on your own experience and/or research area, and referencing local issues that may be of interest to your congressional delegation as appropriate.

  • Resume (1 page). Your resume should emphasize leadership and communication experience - this may include graduate, undergraduate, or non-academic activities. Please include the following items: education (including relevant law or policy courses), work experience, honors and awards, and memberships. Please do not list conference presentations, abstracts or scientific manuscripts.

  • Letter of reference. Ask an individual who can attest to your leadership, interpersonal and communication skills to send a letter on your behalf to publicpolicy@aibs.org by the stated deadline. This individual should also be familiar with your interest in or experience with science or education policy issues.

Note: Prior EPPLA recipients and AIBS science policy interns/fellows are not eligible.

Questions about the award should be addressed to AIBS Director of Public Policy, Dr. Robert Gropp at (202)-628-1500 x 250.

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