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Public Policy Report for 16 April 2007

AIBS PPO Congressional Testimony in Support of Increased FY 2008 Funding for NSF

AIBS director of public policy, Robert Gropp, recently submitted congressional testimony in support of increased fiscal year (FY) 2008 appropriations for the National Science Foundation. Testimony was provided to the House and Senate appropriations subcommittees on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies.

In short, the testimony encouraged Congress to provide at least the President's fiscal year 2008 request of $6.43 billion. However, Congress was encouraged to provide additional funding for NSF's Research and Related Activity (R&RA) accounts to enable a 7 percent increase for the Biological Sciences Directorate. The Administration's request for NSF included a 4.1 percent increase for BIO, below the 7.7 percent average increase proposed for the various R&RA directorates.

As Gropp testified, "According to NSF data, BIO provides 68 percent of federal grant support for fundamental biological research conducted at our nation's universities and other nonprofit research centers." Gropp continued, "Members of the biological sciences community appreciate the proposed increase. However, there is growing concern that BIO funding is not keeping pace with the need and demand for biological sciences research. When adjusted for inflation, the requested FY 2008 budget for BIO places the program only slightly above the 2001 funding level and near the 2003 funding level. Scientists dependent upon BIO grants for research support are feeling the pressure. Over the past four years, the research grant funding rate for BIO has been lower than the NSF-wide funding rate. Yet the number and scope of problems requiring biological information continues to increase."

The testimony also encouraged increased support for the various formal and informal science education and training programs administered through NSF's R&RA accounts and the Education and Human Resources Directorate.

To read the testimony, visit http://www.aibs.org/position-statements/.

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Proposed Legislation Would Support Communications Training for Science Graduate Students

On 9 March 2007, U.S. Representative Doris Matsui (D-CA, 5th) introduced HR 1453, legislation that would authorize the National Science Foundation (NSF) to make grants to institutions to develop programs to provide communications training to science graduate students. As introduced, the “Scientific Communications Act of 2007” would authorize $10 million for the NSF to make grants “on a competitive, merit-reviewed basis, in a manner so as to ensure relevance to public policymaking.” The legislation would also require that NSF incorporate the new grant program with existing graduate student training programs, such as the Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) program.

The legislation--cosponsored by Science and Technology Committee Chairman, Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN, 6th), Rep. Thomas Allen (D-ME, 1st), and Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ, 12th)--has been referred to the House Committee on Science and Technology.

As justification of need for the new program, HR 1453 would “Find” that:


  1. with the increasing presence of science and technology in public policy issues, a greater national effort needs to be made to train scientists to engage in the public dialogue;
  2. graduate training programs in science and engineering often lack opportunities for students to develop communications skills that will enable them to effectively explain technical topics to nonscientific audiences;
  3. providing training in communications skills development will ensure that United States-trained scientists are better prepared to engage in dialogue on technical topics with policymakers and business leaders;
  4. given the enormous annual investment that the Federal Government makes in the United States research enterprise, training scientists to interact with policymakers will improve accessibility to information and ensure that technical expertise is included in the public policy dialogue; and
  5. providing early career preparation for interaction with nonscientists will improve the ability of research scientists to engage in public/private partnerships to facilitate product development based on United States research discoveries.

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GBIF Requests Input

The Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) will make seed money awards for development of data content once in 2007-2008. Advice and input is sought concerning priorities for these awards. Please see http://www.gbif.org/News/NEWS1175263670 for details.

GBIF is seeking input from taxonomists, curators, observational data providers, data user groups and other interested parties to facilitate the development of a unified and comprehensive plan for prioritizing the GBIF digitization (DIGIT) and electronic names cataloguing (ECAT) efforts. GBIF welcomes your insights about which taxonomic groups, thematic groups or regional floras/faunas should be priorities for the seed money awards made as part of the 2007 - 2008 GBIF Work Program.

To solicit this input, simultaneous discussions of priorities for DIGIT and for ECAT will be carried out via e-conferences from 10 April through 24 April 2007. These e-conferences will address priority-setting for the GBIF seed money awards that are part of GBIF's Content Theme, which includes both the DIGIT and ECAT work programs.

The goal is to select priorities that will result in quality data sets that are rich enough and have enough geographic coverage to demonstrate to the scientific community, to politicians and to funding agencies the value of global efforts to digitize primary species occurrence data and to develop comprehensive taxonomic authority files.

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Tech-No Education

For years now, considerable attention and resources have been dedicated to efforts to increase the use of technology, including learning software, in classrooms. A recent report, “Effectiveness of Reading and Mathematics Software Products: Findings from the First Student Cohort,” from the Department of Education suggests that software and technology alone do not necessarily improve student learning. Mandated by Congress, the report was prepared by the Institute of Education Sciences’ National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance.

According to the Department of Education, the report is based upon “scientifically based research methods and control groups to focus on the impact of technology on student academic achievement.” Thirty-three districts, 132 schools, and 439 teachers participated in the study. Sixteen products were selected for the study based on public submissions and ratings by a study team and expert review panels.

Findings in the report include:

-Test scores were not significantly higher in classrooms using the reading and mathematics software products than those in control classrooms. In each of the four groups of products—reading in first grade and in fourth grade, mathematics in sixth grade, and high school algebra—the evaluation found no significant differences in student achievement between the classrooms that used the technology products and classrooms that did not.

-There was substantial variation between schools regarding the effects on student achievement. Although the study collected data on many school and classroom characteristics, only two characteristics were related to the variation in reading achievement. For first grade, effects were larger in schools that had smaller student-teacher ratios (a measure of class size). For fourth grade, effects were larger when treatment teachers reported higher levels of use of the study product.

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Now Available: The AIBS Directory to the 110th Congress

A limited supply of AIBS’s 110th Congressional Directory are available for purchase from the AIBS Bookstore for $11.95 each. A valuable primer on Capitol Hill and the legislative process, the Handbook contains biographies, photographs, and contact information for all Members of Congress. Contact information and assignments for Congressional Standing Committees, Select Committees, and Joint Committees are included. This pocket-sized resource also includes Executive Branch and Supreme Court data, and a glossary of legislative terms. For ordering information, please visit http://www.aibs.org/bookstore/congressional_directory.html.

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New in Bioscience: "Transforming the Rules on Federal Regulations"

In the April 2007 issue of BioScience, Noreen Parks reports on recent federal actions that will change the way federal regulations are developed.

An excerpt from the article follows:

In mid-January, as national attention focused on congressional reorganization and the never-ending controversies surrounding the Iraq war, the White House rewrote key chapters of the book on federal regulations. In one fell swoop, Executive Order 13422 made economic criteria the primary basis for regulation, placed fresh restrictions on agencies, amplified the role of the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and extended the already protracted process of rulemaking. US Chamber of Commerce spokesman William Kovacs hailed the moves as the "first truly significant attempt...to hold federal bureaucrats to account and insist they act with discretion when imposing new and expensive burdens on businesses and consumers." But government watchdogs contend that the new order further politicizes the regulatory system, subverts agencies' abilities to fulfill their legal mandates, and erodes Congress's role in setting regulatory standards.

In brief, four important changes were enacted, affecting the federal agencies responsible for public health, safety, and environmental regulation.

To continue reading this article for free, visit www.aibs.org/washington-watch/washington_watch_2007_04.html.


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Graduate Student Science Policy Internship At AIBS

The American Society of Mammalogists (ASM) and the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) are pleased to announce the availability of an internship in the Washington, DC AIBS Public Policy Office. The internship is open to ASM student members who are currently enrolled in a graduate program and who are engaged in research that involves the study of mammals. The internship is for 3 months during fall 2007, and carries a monthly stipend of $2000. Selection criteria include demonstrated interest in public policy process, strong oral and written communication skills, and excellent academic record.

The AIBS Public Policy Office focuses on science and science education public policy (e.g., federal R&D funding policy). The office does not routinely address environmental policy matters. Additional information about ASM and AIBS can be found on their respective websites (www.mammalsociety.org, www.aibs.org).

The goal of the ASM-AIBS Public Policy Internship is to provide an opportunity for a student to gain hands-on experience in public policy at the national level that relates generally to biology and specifically to matters of interest to ASM. By working with the AIBS Public Policy Office, the intern will learn how scientific societies, non-governmental organizations (NGO's), executive branch agencies (e.g., NSF, NOAA), and the legislative branch interact in crafting public policy. While the intern will work primarily on U.S. policy matters, issues that affect international scientific collaboration (such as U.S. visa policies) as well as concerns particular to non-U.S. entities (primarily Canada and the European Union) will also be tracked and addressed as appropriate. Duties may include, but are not limited to, the following:

-Attending science coalition meetings, congressional and agency briefings, hearings, press briefings and other relevant events;
-Assisting AIBS Public Policy Office staff with tracking and analysis of relevant issues;
-Assisting AIBS Public Policy Office staff with planning Capitol Hill briefings or press events; and
-Preparing a written report on the internship experience.

Application requirements:

-Letter of application describing the applicant's interest in science policy issues and detailing how this fellowship would enhance his/her professional goals. Applicant should include the names of two individuals other than their advisor from whom recommendations can be requested. These individuals should be able to address the candidate's leadership, interpersonal, and communication skills.

-A two-page resume that emphasizes leadership and communication experience, including graduate, undergraduate, or non-academic activities. It should include the following items: education (including relevant law or policy courses), work experience, honors and awards, memberships, presentations, and publications

-A statement describing the importance of federal support for fundamental mammalian research (500 words maximum). The statement should draw on the applicant's own experience and/or research area, and should illustrate how the applicant would try to convince his/her own congressional delegation that federal support for research, particularly on mammals, is important.

-A letter of support/recommendation from advisor.

-Copies of transcripts from each college or university from which applicant received a degree and/or is currently enrolled. If selected, official transcripts may be required.

-Applicants are not required to be ASM members at the time of application but, if selected, must join the Society prior to starting the internship.

Deadline:
All application materials must be received by 1 May 2007 and should be sent to Dr. Alicia V. Linzey, Evaluation Committee Chair, 148 Double Brook Dr., Weaverville, NC 28787. Questions about the award can be addressed to Dr. Linzey at avlinzey@iup.edu.

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Plan to attend: 2007 AIBS Annual Meeting

The 2007 AIBS annual meeting will be held 14 to 15 May 2007 in Washington DC, on the theme of “Evolutionary Biology and Human Health,” at the Capital Hilton Hotel. The program chair is 2007 AIBS President Douglas Futuyma, State University of New York at Stony Brook.

Plenary speakers and discussion groups will approach the meeting’s topic from a variety of cross-cutting themes involving science, education, and public policy. Principles and methods of evolutionary biology are becoming increasingly important in many aspects of health science, among them understanding the human genome, the normal functions and malfunctions of human genes, and the origin and evolution of infectious diseases. These are among the topics addressed in sessions on Infectious Diseases; Genes and Genomics; and Human Adaptation and Malfunction. The rest of the meeting’s program will be rounded out by events such as a contributed poster session, a diversity lunch, and AIBS awards.

The AIBS annual meeting this year is a joint meeting with the Natural Science Collections Alliance, whose meeting program will come online here when ready. Registration for the AIBS meeting includes entrance to all NSC Alliance events. The AIBS and NSC Alliance meetings take place immediately after the International Union of Biological Sciences (IUBS) Conference and General Assembly (requires separate registration, see the IUBS meeting website), 9 -12 May at the Capital Hilton.

NOTE: The 2007 meeting of the AIBS Council of member societies and organizations will be held immediately following the AIBS annual meeting, in the same hotel, 15 May (2:00 pm - 5:30 pm) and 16 May (9:00 am - 12:30 pm).

For more information or to register online, please visit
http://www.aibs.org/annual-meeting/annual_meeting_2007.html

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