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Public Policy Report for 6 February 2007

An Early Look at the FY 2008 Budget for Biology

Although appropriations for fiscal year 2007 have yet to be finalized, on Monday, 5 February 2007 the President released the administration's budget request for the 2008 fiscal year. Aside from the widely reported plan to actually include a budget estimate for the cost of the war in Iraq and to reduce the deficit over the coming five years, the budget plan also articulates the administration's priorities for all federal agencies and programs. Based on an earlier and still preliminary analysis, some science programs at select agencies could see significant budget increases in FY 08 if the administration's budget numbers are adopted by Congress. Importantly, not all areas of research and not all federal agencies are slated for overdue budget increases.

At the National Science Foundation (NSF), the administration has requested significant budget increases for directorates viewed as central to the administration's American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI). Although the proposed increases vary by directorate, many of the physical science, engineering and cyber- related directorates would receive budget bumps ranging from nearly 7 to 10 percent. The BIO directorate would receive almost 4.1 percent in new funding, placing the FY 08 request at roughly $633 million or $ 25.15 million more than the administration's FY 07 request. Meanwhile, the social science, behavior and economics directorate would receive roughly 3.9 percent in new funding. Overall, for Research and Related Activities (RR&A) programs, the administration has requested $5.131 billion, an average increase across all directorates of roughly 7.7 percent over the FY 2007 request.

The AIBS Public Policy Office is now in the process of evaluating the federal budget for other biology and environment related programs and will include additional analysis in forthcoming reports.

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Attention Graduate Students: 2007 AIBS EPPLA Application Deadline Nears

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 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 18-19 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 by the stated deadline. This individual should also be familiar with your interest in or experience with science or education policy issues.

For more information, please go to 061106_graduate_student_policy_training.html

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Politicization of Science has an Ear in New Congress

In an effort to address political interference in climate change research, Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and vocal defender of federal scientists, has already convened a committee hearing to investigate reports of political interference with the reporting of scientific findings on climate change by federal scientists. Witnesses included Drew Shindell from NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies; Rick Piltz, a former senior associate, U.S. Climate Change Science Program; Francesca Grifo, Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS); Roger Pielke, Jr., professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado and environmental sciences fellow, Cooperative Institute for Research.

Ms. Grifo testified that the UCS questioned nearly 2,000 federal scientists and according to the final report, released the same day as the hearing, 44% of Fish and Wildlife Service scientists were requested, "to refrain from making findings that would protect a species." Additionally, 150 federal climate scientists stated they were subjected to political interference in the previous five years (report details may be found at: Other instances of interference were recounted by each of the witnesses.

Representative Brad Miller (D-NC), chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the House Committee on Science and Technology, also intends to look into reports of political interference in scientific research. Chairman Miller indicated that he has a backlog of nearly one hundred tips and complaints not previously covered in the press. Tips and complaints were recorded through a "tip line" found on the committee's website.

Information from the hearing, including witness testimony and opening statements is available.

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New in BioScience: "Declining Amphibian Populations: What is the Next Step?"

In the February 2007 Washington Watch article in BioScience, Megan Kelhart explores the state of amphibian conservation. An excerpt from the article follows:

"Declines in global amphibian populations have been in news headlines around the world since they were acknowledged in 1989 at the First World Congress of Herpetology. Eager to explain the causes, biologists have established ambitious research, monitoring, and inventory programs. But what is being done at the policy level to stem current declines and prevent future losses?"

"According to biologist Edmund Brodie, a professor at Utah State University, very little is being done."

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