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Public Policy Report for 9 June 2008

Climate Legislation Dies in Senate

In recent weeks, Senators Boxer (D-CA), Lieberman (I-CT) and Warner (R-VA) have sought to build momentum for Senate action on climate change. Their push resulted in the Senate beginning debate on legislation. On 2 June, the Senate began debating the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act of 2008 (S. 3036). However, falling a dozen votes short of the 60 required to end a Republican filibuster, the legislation died by the end of the week. Senator Boxer, chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and manager of the legislation on the Senate floor said, "It's clear a majority of Congress wants to act." The bill would have mandated reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

The legislation was defeated on a cloture vote, a procedural vote used in the Senate to place a time limit on consideration of a bill and overcome a filibuster. Under the cloture rule, three-fifths of the full Senate must vote to invoke cloture. Sixteen Senators did not vote including Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Barack Obama (D-IL), and Hillary Clinton (D-NY).

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SWS Members Participate in AIBS Policy, Media Workshops

As part of the Society for Wetland Scientists recent annual meeting in Washington, DC, the AIBS Public Policy Office conducted two workshops for SWS meeting participants. SWS is an AIBS member society and Participant-level contributor to the AIBS Public Policy Office.

Ms. Megan Kelhart, AIBS senior public policy associate, conducted a 1-1/2 hour workshop entitled Congress 101. The session provided participants with a nuts and bolts understanding of congressional structure and function relative to science policy, including environmental policy and funding for research. Additionally, participants engaged in hands-on activities designed to provide scientists with the basic tools necessary to successfully meet with a member of Congress.

Dr. Holly Menninger, AIBS senior public affairs associate, conducted “Communicating Science to the Media” workshop. The program, which builds on the popular AIBS publication, “Communicating Science: A Primer for Working with the Media,” enabled participants to better understand how to prepare for interviews with news reporters.

AIBS Public Policy Office staff welcome the opportunity to provide similar workshops for other member societies or interested organizations. Please contact AIBS director of public policy, Dr. Robert Gropp, at 202-628-1500 x 250 for more information. "Communicating Science: A Primer for Working with the Media" is available now in the AIBS Webstore.

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AIBS Comments on American Academy of Arts and Sciences White Paper

On 3 June 2008, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences released a White Paper, “Advancing Research in Science and Engineering: Investing in Early Career Scientists and High-Risk, High-Reward Research.” With the release of the White Paper, the Academy has helped trigger additional important discussions about the actions required to reinvigorate the U.S. scientific research enterprise. AIBS commented on a final draft of the report prior to its release. To read the AIBS comments, please visit www.aibs.org/position-statements/. A copy of the White Paper is available online at www.amacad.org/ARISE.

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AIBS Opposes Anti-Science Legislation in Louisiana

On 3 June 2008, the American Institute of Biological Sciences added its voice to the chorus of scientific and educational organizations opposing passage of Louisiana Senate Bill (SB) 733, the so-called “Louisiana Science Education Act.” The measure, introduced by State Senator Ben Nevers, a Democrat, would negatively impact science education in Louisiana.

Nevers, an established proponent of teaching creationism/intelligent design represents the part of the state that includes the Ouachita Parish School Board, which sought a congressional earmark from United States Senator David Vitter (R-La) in 2007. The earmark would have provided $100,000 in federal funds to the district to "pay for a report suggesting 'improvements' in science education in Louisiana, the development and distribution of educational materials and an evaluation of the effectiveness of the Ouachita Parish School Board's 2006 policy that opened the door to biblically inspired teachings in science classes." The attempt to secure the earmark was unsuccessful, in part due to strong opposition from AIBS and several AIBS member societies.

SB 733 is the most recent attempt to redefine science in the state of Louisiana. However, this anti-science campaign is advancing unchecked. Various state newspapers have warned the state legislature to avoid the folly of other localities, such as Dover, Pennsylvania, which have incurred expensive legal fees and international ridicule as they have sought to, unsuccessfully, defend anti-science education policies. Scientists from across the state have also been working to defeat this measure, and national scientific organizations have warned state legislators of the negative impact passage of the measure will have on the state.

To read the letter AIBS sent to Louisiana House Speaker Jim Turner, please visit www.aibs.org/position-statements. Additionally evolution education resources are available from AIBS at www.aibs.org/public-policy/teaching_evolution.html.

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Employment Opportunity: AIBS Public Affairs Associate

The American Institute of Biological Sciences, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit scientific association with individual and organizational members seeks a Public Policy/Affairs Associate to join its energetic Public Policy Office. The Associate will work to develop and help advance science policy and media relations initiatives. Responsibilities include working on legislative and regulatory policy issues; developing and maintaining communications and media relations programs; writing press releases; writing policy analyses for online and print publications; making public presentations and representing AIBS in a variety of settings.

Minimum Requirements:

    1. Excellent and demonstrable written and oral communication skills; 2. Excellent and demonstrable science policy analysis skills; 3. Understanding and appreciation of the scientific community, the nature of science, and the goals and objectives of a professional, membership organization such as AIBS; 4. Reliable, detail-oriented, and able to work under strict time constraints; 5. Ability to self-direct, think creatively, and anticipate work needs as part of a team of public policy professionals; 6. Ability to synthesize and accurately communicate complex concepts to varied audiences; 7. Possess common sense and good judgment; 8. Strong interpersonal skills and sense of humor; 9. A Bachelor's degree in the biological sciences, science policy, or a closely related field. A graduate degree is highly desirable. 10. Prior work experience in public policy/affairs is highly desirable.
      Compensation and Benefits:

      This is a full-time position in Washington, DC. Salary is commensurate with experience. AIBS offers a competitive benefits package that includes a retirement plan, health and disability insurance, paid annual and sick leave, and paid holidays.

      For further details and application requirements, go to http://www.aibs.org/classifieds/aibspositionsavailable.html#4872.

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New in BioScience: "Shale Oil: Alternative Energy or Environmental Degradation"

In the Washington Watch article in the June 2008 issue of BioScience, Noreen Parks explores the on-going debate over a policy to exploit oil shale in the western United States. This and prior Washington Watch articles may be viewed for free at http://www.aibs.org/washington-watch/.

An excerpt of the June article follows:

In the continuing quest to diminish US dependence on foreign oil, in 2005 Congress passed the Energy Policy Act (EPAct), which calls for developing unconventional fuels. To fast-track the commercial development of oil shale and tar sands, the law directed the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) for a leasing program, and to issue leasing regulations within two years thereafter. Last December the BLM released its draft EIS, endorsing a strategy to open roughly 1.9 million acres of public lands for development in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming.

Shale-oil development was last on the national energy scene after the 1970s Arab oil embargo, when the Synthetic Liquid Fuels Program burned through $8 billion of congressional subsidies and propelled western Colorado through a boom-and-bust economy before Congress shut the program down in 1985. “Despite all the attempts to develop a shale-oil industry in the US over the past 100 years, the fact remains that no proven method exists for efficiently removing the oil from the rock,” Bob Loucks, a former shale-oil project manager, attested at a Senate committee hearing last June.

Continue reading at http://www.aibs.org/washington-watch/washingtonwatch2008_06.html

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Now In the AIBS Webstore: "Communication Science: A Primer for Working with the Media"

Evolution, climate change, stem cell research -- Scientists are frequently called upon to provide expert information on hot button issues that pervade the daily news headlines, yet most find themselves woefully unprepared for the bright lights of the television studio or leading questions from a newspaper journalist. A new publication from AIBS, "Communicating Science: A Primer for Working with the Media," by Holly Menninger and Robert Gropp in the Public Policy Office, will prepare scientists for successful and effective media interviews.

Recognizing that many scientists are reluctant to engage in media outreach, "Communicating Science" outlines compelling reasons for scientists to interact with the media and describes key differences between journalism and science that may not be apparent to practicing scientists. Step-by-step, Menninger and Gropp walk scientists through the entire interview process - from appropriate questions to ask when a reporter calls to practical advice for looking and sounding one's best on-air or on-camera.

The information and advice in "Communicating Science" is presented in eight easy-to-read chapters that provide vital information for scientists new to media outreach, as well as a quick refresher for seasoned experts - an ideal text for a graduate course on science communication or a professional development course for students and faculty. The primer's authors speak from their own experiences as PhD scientists in the biological sciences with years of experience in media outreach.

The concise, user-friendly volume has several unique features that set it apart from other media guides for scientists. "Communicating Science" includes first-person interviews with nearly a dozen scientists who have successfully navigated print, radio, and television interviews. The scientists-including the "Island Snake Lady," Kristin Stanford, recently featured on the Discovery Channel show, "Dirty Jobs" - share advice and experiences on a number of topics, including safely speaking on behalf of an organization, avoiding trouble when discussing socially or politically controversial topics, and reflections on first interviews.

"Communicating Science" also provides worksheets to assist readers with interview preparation: building a message framework with talking points and transition phrases, developing analogies, and using illustrative props or images. It includes pages for readers to organize contact information of journalists with whom they have worked directly and those who have reported on stories related to their own research to keep as potential contacts for future story pitches.

"Communicating Science: A Primer for Working with the Media" is available now in the AIBS Webstore.

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