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Public Policy Report for 21 July 2008

Academies Report on Need for Professional Science Masters Degree

On 11 July 2008, the National Research Council of the National Academies of Science issued, “Science Professionals: Master’s Education for a Competitive World.” Chairing the Committee on Enhancing the Master’s Degree in the Natural Sciences, the committee responsible for the report, was American Institute of Biological Sciences President Dr. Rita R. Colwell. "Industry, government, and nonprofits need employees who have deep scientific knowledge as well as skills to apply that knowledge in innovative ways," said Colwell.

The report urges state and federal governments, universities, and industry to work together toward the development of professional master's degree programs in the natural sciences in order to meet the growing demand from industry, government, and non-profits for individuals who can manage science-based programs and spur innovation. The report illustrates how master’s educated science professionals can contribute to U.S. competitiveness by building a workforce with an interdisciplinary training in science, management, economics, and communication skills. The America COMPETES Act, P.L. 110-069, authorized a new grant program at the National Science Foundation to help universities create or expand professional science masters programs. Funds have not yet been appropriated for this program.

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Cheney Staff Censored Climate Testimony, says Former EPA Official

In a letter to Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW), former Environmental Protection Agency deputy associate administrator Jason Burnett alleged a staff member from Vice President Cheney’s office made the decision to edit six pages of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) congressional testimony. The testimony was provided last year by CDC director Dr. Julie L. Gerberding, during an EPW hearing exploring the “Human Health Impacts of Global Warming.” According to a recent Washington Post article, Gerberding planned to testify that the “CDC considers climate change a serious public health concern.”

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EPA Warns that Warming is Threat to Humans

On 17 July, despite a Bush Administration decision not to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, the Environmental Protection Agency released a new report, "Analyses of the Effects of Global Change on Human Health and Welfare and Human Systems." Among the findings included in the report is that it is very likely more people will die in coming years due to climate change. The report also points out dangers from hurricanes, dwindling water supplies, and increased food- and water-borne diseases could increase in the future. The report was prepared under the EPA's leadership but released by the U.S. Climate Change Science Program.

United States Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, released the following statement regarding the report: "If you read between the lines, this EPA report on the health effects of climate change provides further evidence that our families and communities are seriously endangered by global warming, and that we must act now. Unfortunately, as the Bush administration made clear last week, they have no plan to address this serious threat."

The AIBS 2008 Annual Meeting focused on the theme of "Climate, Environment, and Infectious Diseases.” Interrelationships of climate, environment, and human health are manifested in infectious disease patterns, notably seasonality. Vector borne diseases, such as malaria, dengue, avian influenza, SARS, and related diseases are closely linked to the environment and, more recently, to climate. In the coming weeks, online videos of the presentations made at the 2008 meeting will be posted online in the AIBS video library. To view video presentations from past AIBS meetings visit http://www.aibs.org/media-library/.

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FDA Launches Science Policy Program

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced the launch of a new two-year fellowship program to provide health and science professionals an opportunity to join the FDA. The first class of “FDA Commissioner’s Fellows” will begin their program in the fall of 2008. Fellows will train minutes from the nation's Capital at FDA's new state-of-the-art campus in White Oak, Maryland or at other FDA facilities of their choosing. Under the guidance of a senior FDA scientist, Fellows will explore a scientific aspect of FDA regulatory science. Fellows will also complete an array of formal coursework designed to provide an in-depth review of the sciences behind regulatory review, encompassing the activities of the FDA across foods, drugs, devices and cosmetics. Coursework during the two years includes public policy, FDA law, leadership skills, epidemiology, clinical trials, statistics as well as devices and radiological health.

For more information about this new program, please visit http://www.fda.gov/commissionersfellowships/default.htm.

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New in BioScience: "A New Farm Bill, Research Structure at USDA"

In the Washington Watch article in the July/August 2008 issue of the BioScience, AIBS senior public policy associate Megan Debranski Kelhart explores the new research framework at the United States Department of Agriculture.

An excerpt from the article follows:

The significant challenges facing national food, fiber, and bioenergy systems call for a robust agricultural research system, whether for addressing food safety, security, and availability; thwarting disruptions to food supplies; or managing agricultural and natural resource systems. The federal framework supporting the agricultural research infrastructure was recently changed in an effort to meet those challenges.

The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (also known simply as the Farm Bill, or PL 110-234) is a more than $300 billion response to the range of issues concerning agricultural systems, including research. The new law aims to streamline and boost funding to "ensure the technological superiority of American agriculture," according to the USDA Research, Education, and Economics Task Force appointed by the secretary of agriculture in 2003 at the request of Congress.

To continue reading this article for free, please go to http://www.aibs.or/washington-watch/.

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