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Public Policy Report for 11 May 2009

Administration Finally Releases Proposed FY 2010 Budget

President Obama released his long-awaited $3.55 trillion budget for fiscal year (FY) 2010 on 7 May 2009. Federal research and development (R&D) funding would increase by $555 million to $147.6 billion with most of the proposed funding increases directed to non-defense R&D and basic research. The budget plan includes more than a hundred budget cuts totaling $17 billion, half of which are directed at defense spending. Among the proposed non-defense reductions are $97 million for agricultural research facility construction, which the Administration considers to be congressional earmarks.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) would receive $7.0 billion in FY 2010. This would be an 8.5 percent increase over FY 2009 appropriated funding. The Biological Sciences Directorate (BIO) would grow to $733 million, an 8 percent increase.

The NSF budget would increase funding for graduate research fellowships from 1200 to 1600, with a goal of awarding 3000 fellowships per year by 2013. NSF also plans to emphasize high-risk transformative research, early career awards, climate change and climate change education (K-12, graduate, and public understanding), computer simulation, and clean energy research.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) would receive a modest increase in funding. The agency would receive $1.1 billion, up from $1.04 billion in FY 2009. The budget emphasizes several of Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar’s new initiatives, including energy, climate impacts, and youth training and education. Notably, the budget fully funds the agency’s fixed costs, such as salary and rent. In recent years, these costs were not always included in the budget request, forcing the USGS to reprogram funds from research and monitoring efforts.

The Biological Resources Discipline within the USGS would receive $198 million, a $13.9 million increase over FY 2009. New funds are proposed for several programs, including $4.2 million for research on climate impacts on Arctic ecosystems and wildlife, $5.0 million for biological research and monitoring to support the Fish and Wildlife Service, $1 million to support renewable energy efforts, and $2.4 million to fill staff vacancies at the Cooperative Research Units.

The budget would also increase funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which would have its budget bumped up by $109.8 million to $4.5 billion in FY 2010. Research and development would account for 13 percent of the agency’s budget. Of this, $177 million would be directed to climate research, including an increase of $4 million for monitoring and studying the ecological effects of ocean acidification. Research on deep sea corals, fish stock assessments, and the development of genetic stock identification tools would receive $55 million. Additionally, funding would be provided for implementation of the 2006 National Ocean Research Priorities Plan and Implementation Strategy. A $16 million investment would be made to address comparative analysis of marine ecosystem organization, forecasting the response of coastal ecosystems to extreme events, developing sensors for marine ecosystems, and assessing abrupt changes ocean circulation.

The budget for the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service would be trimmed by $40 million, dropping the program to $1.15 billion. The Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension (CSREES) Program would receive $1.11 billion for research and extension programs, down from $1.17 billion last year. The Agriculture Food Research Initiative, the competitive grants awarding body within CSREES would receive $202 million. The United States Forest Service would receive $301.6 million for forest and rangeland research, up from $296.4 million in FY 2009.

If enacted as proposed, the President’s budget request for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would provide $842.4 million for agency science and technology programs, a 6.3 percent increase from the current $790.05 million. Of that, $245 million would be directed to human health and ecosystems, $24 million for sustainability, and $110 million for clean water research. The budget also includes a massive $475 million influx for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. This funding would be applied to research and cleanup efforts.

The Department of Energy’s Office of Science would receive $4.94 billion, up from $4.77 billion last year. Biological and environmental research would receive $604 million, a $2.6 million increase. The budget prioritizes investments in environmental systems science (up $2.9 million), computational biosciences (up $3.8 million), the Joint Genome Institute (up $4.0 million), and climate and environmental facilities and infrastructure (up $5.0 million). Climate model visualization would be initiated. Genomics, radiobiology, and metabolic synthesis research would be cut by $10.0 million.

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Congress Considers New Climate Service

The House Science and Technology Committee is drafting legislation that would establish a National Climate Service to gather and disseminate climate information to state and local governments and the private sector. A Subcommittee on Energy and Environment hearing on 5 May 2009 considered how existing climate services within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) could be expanded. NOAA’s Administrator, Dr. Jane Lubchenco, has been a vocal supporter of a National Climate Service within the agency. Witnesses representing a spectrum of climate data users expressed support for the new service. Structuring a National Climate Service as a stand-alone program within NOAA, rather than maintaining its current position under the National Weather Service, has been a point of disagreement. Despite lingering questions about how to structure a National Climate Service, some on the Committee have expressed a hope to report legislation out of the Committee by Memorial Day and to have the measure incorporated into climate change legislation being developed by the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

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USDA Requests Comments on Agriculture Research Plan

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is accepting public comments through 31 May 2009 on the development of a strategic research, education, and extension plan. The plan will identify current trends, constraints, and major opportunities and gaps that no single entity within the USDA would be able to address individually. Public comment is sought on identifying critical issues in agriculture that crosscut USDA programs, criteria to prioritize agriculture science investments, and improvements to USDA partnerships and coordination. For more information, go to http://www.aibs.org/federal-register-resource/20090403.html#010137.

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Budget Cuts Forcing Some Zoos to Downsize

The Bronx Zoo in New York has announced that it will downsize its collection of animals due to state budget cuts. The Wildlife Conservation Society, which operates the Bronx Zoo and four other zoos and aquaria in New York City, faces a $15 million budget shortfall this year. An undetermined number of animals, including bats, porcupines, and antelope, will be relocated to other institutions around the country. Zoos in other states are facing budget reductions as well, despite strong public attendance. Many in the zoo and aquarium community had hoped for funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (PL 111-16) to save jobs and to address a backlog of maintenance needs. Section 1604 of the law, however, bans states and local governments from using funds from the stimulus for zoos, aquaria, and other institutions.

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Congress Looks at International Science

A number of bills affecting international science and conservation have recently received attention in the House of Representatives. On 29 April 2009, the House Science and Technology Committee unanimously approved legislation aimed at strengthening international science and technology research cooperation. This legislation, HR 1736, would reestablish the Committee on International Science, Engineering, and Technology (CISET), first created by President Clinton and later dissolved under President George W. Bush. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy would have jurisdiction over CISET, which would coordinate international science and technology partnerships between federal research agencies and the State Department. A goal of HR 1736 is to streamline ad hoc international science collaborations.

The House Oceans and Wildlife Subcommittee is planning swift action on two bills intended to strengthen international wildlife conservation efforts. The first, HR 1454, directs the United States Postal Service to issue a special stamp to benefit the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Multinational Species Conservation Fund (MSCF). Purchasers would pay a premium of 25 percent or more for the first-class stamp, with the extra money going towards conservation projects that currently benefit tigers, rhinoceroses, Asian and African elephants, great apes and marine turtles. To date the MSCF has financed more than 1,300 conservation grants in 75 countries. A second measure, HR 509, would reauthorize the Marine Turtle Conservation Act of 2004, and would use a portion of the MSCF funds for turtle conservation.

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Endangered Species Rule Rescinded

On 28 April 2009, the Departments of the Interior and Commerce announced that they would reverse a controversial Bush administration Endangered Species Act (ESA) rule change promulgated in December 2008. The rule would have made it easier for federal agencies to forgo scientific consultation with federal biologists when issuing permits for new transportation, mining, logging, and various other activities.

The consultation process now returns to that used until December 2008. Meanwhile, the Secretaries of the Interior and Commerce will conduct a review of the regulations to determine whether a new consultation process is needed. The original regulations required that all federal agencies consult with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) or the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), the two agencies that administer the ESA, before undertaking any new activities.

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In the AIBS Webstore

  • AIBS CONGRESSIONAL DIRECTORY

AIBS Congressional Directory - 111th Congress, 2009

A valuable primer on Capitol Hill and the legislative process, the Congressional Directory contains biographies, photographs, and contact information for all members of Congress. Contact information and assignments for all Congressional Standing Committees, Select Committees, and Joint Committees are included. This pocket-sized resource (9” x 4”, 190 pp., spiral bound) also includes Executive Branch and Supreme Court data, a glossary of legislative terms, and maps of Washington, DC, and Capitol Hill.

To pre-order your copy today, please go to https://ssl4.westserver.net/birenheide.com/secure/aibs/cart/. This publication is expected to be available for shipping after 16 April 2009.

  • “COMMUNICATING 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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New in BioScience - "Great Lakes: Sailing to the Forefront of National Water Policy?

In the Washington Watch column in the May 2009 issue of BioScience, Adrienne Froelich Sponberg, reports on significant water policy developments.

An excerpt from the article follows, but the complete article (along with prior Washington Watch columns) may be viewed for free at http://www.aibs.org/washington-watch/.

While all eyes were on the presidential election last fall, the US Congress quickly—and rather unceremoniously—approved legislation that will shape the face of US water policy for years to come. On 3 October, then President George Bush signed into law the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact (S.J. Res. 45). Although federal passage was swift, the compact itself was nearly a decade in the making, and it represents significant progress in how the Great Lakes are managed. In turn, the compact sets the stage for the future of water policy in the United States.

Accounting for 84 percent of the surface freshwater in North America, the Laurentian Great Lakes represent one-fifth of the world’s freshwater supply. Management of the lakes, with their more than 17,000 kilometers of shoreline, has always been complex. Two countries, eight US states, two Canadian provinces, 40 tribal nations, and numerous metropolitan areas, counties, and local governments in the Great Lakes basin share governance of the lakes. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that within the US federal government alone, 10 agencies administer 140 programs related to the lakes.

To continue reading this article, please visit http://www.aibs.org/washington-watch/washingtonwatch2009_05.html

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Become an Advocate for Science: Join the AIBS Legislative Action Center

Quick, free, easy, effective, impactful! Join the AIBS Legislative Action Center today!

The American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) has launched the AIBS Legislative Action Center. The online resource allows biologists and science educators to quickly and effectively influence policy and public opinion. The AIBS Legislative Action Center is located at www.aibs.org/public-policy/legislativeactioncenter.html.

This new tool is made possible through contributions from the Society for the Study of Evolution, American Society for Limnology and Oceanography, Association of Ecosystem Research Centers, and the Botanical Society of America.

Each day lawmakers must make tough decisions about science policy. For example, what investments to make in federal research programs, biodiversity conservation, how to mitigate climate change, or under what circumstances to permit stem cell research. Scientists now have the opportunity to help elected officials understand these issues.

This exciting new advocacy tool allows individuals to quickly and easily communicate with members of Congress, executive branch officials, and selected media outlets.

AIBS and our partner organizations invite scientists and science educators to become a policy advocate today. Simply go to http://capwiz.com/aibs/home/ to send a prepared letter or to sign up to receive periodic Action Alerts.

For additional information about the AIBS Legislative Action Center, please visit http://www.aibs.org/public-policy/legislativeactioncenter.html. To further help AIBS advance biology and science education, consider joining AIBS. To learn about other membership benefits and to join AIBS online, please visit www.aibs.org.

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