The House of Representatives passed the first of twelve appropriations bills for fiscal year (FY) 2010 on 18 June 2009. The Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Activities Appropriations bill (HR 2847) provides funding for the Departments of Commerce and Justice, as well as the National Science Foundation (NSF). Crosscutting the various agencies in the $64.4 billion package, the House has provided $30.6 billion for science, technology, and innovation (an increase of $1 billion over FY 2009), $1 billion for science education ($36 million increase), and over $2 billion for climate change research ($64.6 million increase), according to congressional documents. Despite days of debate on the House floor, consideration of over thirty amendments, and protests over procedure from House Republicans, the funding levels are largely unchanged from the version of the bill crafted by the House Appropriations Committee.
The House bill would provide NSF with $6.937 billion in FY 2010. This funding is roughly 7 percent above the FY 2009 level, but $108.5 million below the President’s request for FY 2010. HR 2847 would provide $5.642 billion for research ($459.0 million increase over FY 2009), $114.3 million for Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction [MREFC ($37.7 million decrease)], and $862.9 million for the Education and Human Resources directorate ($17.6 million increase).
The President’s FY 2010 budget request for NSF’s Biological Sciences Directorate (BIO) included an 11.8 percent increase for BIO, just above the 10.6 percent average increase for all Research and Related Activities programs. This percentage may slide down if the numbers approved by the House are also adopted by the Senate. However, as outlined in the President’s budget request, the five BIO divisions would be funded accordingly:
1) Molecular and Cellular Biosciences (MCB) - $128.8 million, a 6.2 percent increase 2) Integrative Organismal Systems (IOS) - $221.8 million, a 4.8 percent increase 3) Environmental Biology (EB) - $133.9 million, a 11.2 percent increase 4) Biological Infrastructure (BI) - $130.1 million, a 11.4 percent increase 5) Emerging Frontiers (EF) - $118.27 million, a 37.9 percent increase
Of interest to organismal and biodiversity scientists, BIO would invest an additional $20 million in Research Resources and Centers. This program would continue efforts to digitize and network specimen-based research collections. These collections provide proper validation of species and ancillary data such as DNA samples and environment/habitat information. These data provide the baseline for our knowledge of life on Earth. Filling these gaps is required for understanding the biodiversity of the planet, both in space and time, and the history of climate change.
The House spending plan for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) would add 5 percent to the President’s budget request. As provided by the House, NOAA’s budget would grow by roughly $129 million to a total of $4.6 billion. Although much of the funding increase would be directed to the agency’s satellite acquisitions, some funding would be made available for the establishment of a new National Climate Service.
The Senate has yet to act on its version of the FY 2010 Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations. Ultimately, HR 2847 will have to be reconciled with a Senate bill prior to a measure being sent to President Obama.
The House Appropriations Committee has passed appropriations bills for the Departments of Interior (DOI) and Agriculture (USDA). The Interior and Environment appropriations bill would fund the DOI at $10.97 billion in FY 2010, a 9 percent increase over FY 2009. This is a rare increase for DOI, which has been the only Department in recent years to experience consistent budget cuts. The US Geological Survey (USGS), a bureau of DOI, would receive $1.1 billion in FY 2010, an increase of $62 million over FY 2009. The Biological Resources Discipline within USGS would receive $202.5 million, with much of the $17.2 million increase going towards climate change research, Arctic ecosystem research, and the Cooperative Research Units. Roughly $15 million would be directed to the National Global Warming and Wildlife Science Center for wildlife adaptation to climate change. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), also funded through the Interior and Environment appropriations legislation, would receive $10.46 billion (27 percent increase from FY 2009), of which $17 million is for the continuing development of a greenhouse gas registry.
USDA is funded through a separate appropriations subcommittee. The appropriations plan providing funding for USDA has moved through committee. As drafted, the measure would provide $2.4 billion for agricultural research at the USDA, a $34 million increase over FY 2009.
Rumors and reports indicate that the Interior and Environment as well as the Agriculture appropriations may be considered by the full House of Representatives in June and July.
Through the AIBS Legislative Action Center it is possible to send letters to your members of Congress requesting their support for the President’s proposed increased funding for the National Science Foundation and the USGS. Appropriations for these two agencies are moving through Congress quickly. Letters from constituents at this time will help remind members of Congress that their constituents care about funding for these agencies. Consider visiting the AIBS Legislative Action Center at http://capwiz.com/aibs/issues/?style=D& to quickly send a letter to your elected officials.
You may also use the center to send a letter to your members of Congress to ask them to support funding for other agencies, such as NOAA, EPA, USDA, USFS, Energy or NIH. Simply go to http://capwiz.com/aibs/dbq/officials/ and enter your zip code to find your elected officials. Once you have your congressional delegation, simply click on the desired member of Congress. From their page, select “Contact” and then the button that permits you to send a prepared letter or the one that allows you to draft your own personalized letter.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is improving its scientific integrity, according to a government auditor who testified before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on 9 June 2009. Specifically, the Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS), which establishes safe exposure levels for over 540 chemicals, will now be regulated directly by the EPA. During the Bush administration, interagency consultations on risk were coordinated by the White House Office of Management and Budget. This process led to accusations by various stakeholder groups that Bush administration officials were interfering with the use of science in the regulatory process. Under the new process, EPA will be able to independently gather input from other agencies as long as it is from scientists focusing on technical matters, and all written comments on IRIS are made public.
On 11 June 2009, the National Science Foundation (NSF) released proposal guidelines for the new Basic Research to Enable Agricultural Development (BREAD) program. The purpose of the program is to support innovative scientific research that addresses constraints on small stakeholder farmers in the developing world. The program is cosponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and is administered through NSF’s Plant Genome Research Program. BREAD places an emphasis on crop improvement, but also encourages cross-cutting proposals from all fields of science and engineering that adhere to program guidelines. BREAD is novel for NSF because although the focus is on transformative research, the proposals must also consider the implications of that research for policy and practice.
Letters of intent are due by 5 August 2009, and full proposals are due by 9 September 2009. For more information, please visit http://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgmsumm.jsp?pimsid=5338
In a 12 June 2009 memorandum, President Obama announced the creation of a new interagency Ocean Policy Task Force. The interagency panel, which will be led by the chair of the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality, is charged with developing a national policy that ensures the protection, maintenance, and restoration of ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes ecosystems and resources, enhances ocean sustainability, enhances understanding of and capacity to respond to climate change, and is coordinated with national security and foreign policy interests. The framework for the policy is intended to be a comprehensive ecosystem-based approach and will take into account ecosystem research, economic activity, and user conflicts.
The push for a national ocean policy is not new. In 2000, Congress established the US Commission on Ocean Policy. In 2004, President Bush created the Committee on Ocean Policy. Obama’s memorandum instructs that the task force will be comprised of the same senior policy-level officials in the executive departments, agencies, and offices that were represented on Bush’s committee. The Obama administration Task Force, however, has been instructed to develop and draft policy recommendations within 180 days and develop a framework for costal and marine spatial planning. Presently, it is estimated that 140 different laws and 20 different agencies oversee ocean policy.
On 9 June 2009, President Obama nominated Sam Hamilton to be director of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). Hamilton is a 30 year employee of FWS, serving as director of the FWS Southeast region since 1997. As southeast regional director, he oversaw the management of 128 national wildlife refuges totaling 4 million acres, 14 national fish hatcheries, and 54 field offices. If confirmed, Hamilton could have significant influence over the Obama administration’s policies on endangered species and climate change adaptation. While many view the nominee as fair, reasonable, and well qualified, some environmentalists fear that Hamilton will not be able to fix serious problems within the agency, such as political interference with science. Hamilton has a bachelor’s degree in biology from Mississippi State University.
The House Science and Technology Subcommittee on Energy and Environment has approved legislation to designate natural areas around Department of Energy laboratories as environmental research parks. The bill, HR 2729, sponsored by Representative Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM) would authorize and permanently protect seven such areas around the country. Created between 1972 and 1992, the research parks have been used by Department of Energy scientists for long term ecological studies, to investigate the environmental risks posed by energy technologies, and to study environmental remediation and restoration techniques. The lands were originally designated as buffer zones around nuclear research facilities and have consequently been preserved in their natural state. The seven parks collectively represent six major ecosystems and are located in Idaho, Illinois, Nevada, New Mexico, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Washington states.
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar recently signed an order establishing an Office of Youth in Natural Resources at the Department of the Interior. The Office is intended to support administration efforts to help develop career paths in natural resources for young people, “especially women and minorities who are under-represented in the sciences,” as noted by one official. The signature program for the new Office will be the 21st Century Youth Conservation Corps, which will be modeled after Roosevelt’s Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps. The aim of this new initiative is to involve young people in conservation projects and provide training for a new cadre of park managers and conservation professionals.
A report released by the interagency Untied States Global Change Research Program on 16 June 2009 summarizes the impacts of climate change on natural and human systems. The report calls for mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions sooner rather than later, because, as it observes, the impacts of climate change are appearing and will worsen in the future unless emissions are curtailed. This call for action is a departure from the position of past administrations. The need for further understanding of climate impacts is identified as a top priority. While the value of ecosystem observations and research are highlighted, the report fails to recommend expanded ecological monitoring.
To read the report, please go to http://www.globalchange.gov/publications/reports/scientific-assessments/us-impacts.
The Untied States Global Change Research Program is seeking experts to serve as authors and/or review editors of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report “Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation”. Experts are needed who can “integrate the findings of the climate change science; vulnerability, impacts, and adaptation to extreme events; and disaster risk management communities.” Contributors are needed for many chapters, including a chapter on the impacts of climate change on human systems and ecosystems. Nominations are due by 5 pm on 10 July 2009. For more information or to submit a nomination, go to http://www.globalchange.gov/ipcc/extremes.
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.
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.
In the Washington Watch column in the June 2009 issue of BioScience, Julie Palakovich Carr, reports on the need for monitoring the impacts of climate change on ecosystems.
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/.
Coral bleaching, earlier leaf budding, pika range shifts-these are only a few of the documented effects of climate change on species and ecosystems. Congress is trying to pass legislation responding to climate change, yet some scientists are wondering whether policymakers understand the importance of including ecosystem monitoring in the policy response to climate change.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and many biologists have voiced support for an ecosystem observation system to monitor climate-related changes in species’ distribution and abundance, ecosystem disturbance, phenology, nutrient cycling, and other ecological data. Such environmental observations, the IPCC says, are “vital to allow for adjustments in management strategies.” The Climate Change Science Program (CCSP), the inter-agency organization responsible for federal climate research, has identified a need to expand existing monitoring networks and to develop new capabilities for ecosystem observations. A 2009 review of the CCSP by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) reported that the establishment of a climate observation system to monitor physical, biological, and social systems was a top priority for the program. Progress has been slow despite the continuing need for data.
To continue reading this article, please visit http://www.aibs.org/washington-watch/washingtonwatch2009_06.html.