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Public Policy Report for 6 July 2009

AIBS Public Policy Office to Host Communicating Science Webinar: Register Today

Funding agencies increasingly encourage grant recipients to communicate their findings to appropriate stakeholders. Many researchers, particularly those involved with projects with implications for environmental or public health management and policy, want to communicate research findings to appropriate decision makers, news media outlets, or the general public. This webinar presents information and findings from the HBFR Science Links Program, an experiment conducted by scientists and engineers affiliated with the Hubbard Brook Forest Research program. The HBFR Science Links Program demonstrates how a team of scientists can identify and plan a program that effectively delivers timely scientific findings to audiences that need the information to inform decision making.

The webinar will be held on Thursday, 30 July 2009, at 2:30 PM EDT. The agenda includes:

  • Introduction: Dr. Robert Gropp, AIBS Director of Public Policy;
  • Keynote Presentation: Dr. Charles T. Driscoll, University Professor, CESE Director, Syracuse University; and,
  • Question and Answer: Webinar participants will be able to engage in a question and answer session with Gropp and Driscoll.

Pre-registration is required for this webinar.

For more information and to register, please go to http://www.aibs.org/events/webinar/the-hbfr-science-links-program.html.

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House Passes Climate Change Bill

A legislative milestone was marked on 26 June 2009 when the House of Representatives by a seven vote margin (219-212) approved HR 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009. Ultimately, 44 Democrats opposed and 8 Republicans voted for HR 2454, also known as the Waxman-Markey bill.

HR 2454 includes a long list of environmental provisions, including an amendment to the Clean Air Act that establishes a cap-and-trade system intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, and 83 percent below 2005 levels by 2050. The plan seeks to implement a market-based approach to establish an absolute cap on emissions and would allow trading of emissions allowances.

The Waxman-Markey bill also outlines a Natural Resources Climate Change Adaptation Policy. Toward this end, the chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality would chair a panel that coordinates federal strategies for reducing greenhouse gases and advises the President on policy implementation. Within one year of enactment, the President would develop a strategy that assesses natural resource vulnerability to climate change, describes current climate change research and monitoring activities, identifies natural resources that have the greatest need for protection, and discusses actions for the implementation, and coordination of the plan by federal agencies.

HR 2454 also authorizes a National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center within the United States Geological Survey (USGS) that would assess, synthesize, and highlight gaps in current scientific knowledge in order to forecast the ecological impacts of climate change on fish and wildlife. Funding for this effort has been included in appropriations and the USGS has been working to establish the center. Additionally, the bill would require the Secretaries of Commerce and the Interior to establish a Science Advisory Board with expertise in fish, wildlife, plant, aquatic, and coastal and marine biology, ecology, climate change, and ocean acidification. The Board would advise the Secretaries on current science and mitigation strategies pertaining to climate change and ocean acidification, and would identify and recommend priorities for research.

Natural resource adaptation policies would be funded by 1 percent of the emissions allowances generated by industry. Of that, 38.5 percent would be distributed to states, within which 84.4 percent would go to state wildlife agencies, and 15.6 percent would go to state coastal agencies. The remaining 61.5 percent of the emissions allowances for natural resource adaptation would be used to establish the Natural Resources Climate Change Adaptation Fund. This fund would be disbursed to six federal funding bodies, with the Department of Commerce and the Land and Water Conservation Fund getting the largest proportions, at 40.6 percent and 19.5 percent, respectively.

Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has indicated a desire to begin Senate debate on climate change legislation this fall, after the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and other panels in the Senate have had an opportunity to consider legislation.

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Interior Appropriations Moving Through Congress

The US House of Representatives voted 254-173 on 26 June 2009 to pass a $32.3 billion fiscal year (FY) 2010 appropriations bill (HR 2996) that funds the Department of the Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the United States Forest Service (USFS). This amount is just slightly below the President’s request, but includes several significant funding increases.

For the Department of the Interior, the House would provide $10.98 billion, $7 million less than the White House request and almost $900 million above FY 2009 levels. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) would receive approximately $1.64 billion, about $195 million above FY 2009 levels and just slightly below the President’s budget request. This funding would provide funding for ecological services, fisheries, migratory bird management, and the National Wildlife Refuge System above that requested by the President. The National Park Service (NPS) would receive $2.72 billion, which is $27 million above the President’s request.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) would receive just over $1.1 billion, $7.9 million above the President’s request and about $62 million above current levels. Within the USGS appropriation, $202.5 million is intended for biological research, $3.2 million above the budget request. The House spending plan would also increase by $5 million funding for USGS climate change science support to the USFWS, $4.2 million to expand research on changing Arctic ecosystems, and $2 million for Cooperative Research Units. An additional $69.2 million within USGS would be provided for science support.

The USFS would receive $308.6 million for forest and rangeland research, $8 million more than the Administration’s request.

The EPA would get $10.6 billion, $84 million above President Obama’s recommendation and nearly $3 billion more than the current funding level. The bill includes riders intended to shield agricultural interests from federal climate regulations, bans the EPA from requiring greenhouse gas reporting from factory farms and cattle stock yards. Overall, the spending bill would provide $420 million for climate adaptation and scientific efforts at EPA, $24 million above the President’s requested level and $189 million above the FY 2009 level. The bill would provide $849.6 million for science and technology, $59.6 million above the FY 2009 enacted level and $7.3 million above the President’s request. This includes significant increases over FY 2009 levels for research on clean air, clean water, human health and ecosystems, sustainability, and land protection. It also includes a 4 percent increase to the Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program, the competitively awarded, peer-reviewed grant program that engages university and other extramural researchers in a number of scientific and engineering disciplines.

The report accompanying the bill noted that global climate research and water restoration were major concerns that needed to be addressed with the bill. As such, a $58.2 million appropriation for the global climate change research program was approved, which matched the request and is $17.5 million above the FY 2009 enacted level. The bill would provide the largest increase ever to support continued efforts to protect and restore the nation’s “Great Water Bodies.” This includes $475 million for the Great Lakes, including funds to implement the Great Lakes Legacy Act, and $28 million for the National Estuaries Grant Program, which would provide $1 million for each of the 28 National Estuaries.

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved its version of the Interior and Environment Appropriations bill on 25 July 2009. At $32.1 billion, the Senate version of the bill would provide slightly less funding than the House bill. The Senate has included $130 million more for the Department of Interior than the House, although funding for the USGS is comparable between the two chambers. The EPA would receive $410 million less than the House, but still a $2.5 billion increase over FY 2009.

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Senate Committee Proposes FY 2010 Funding for NSF, NOAA

The Senate Appropriations Committee has passed the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, which would fund the Departments of Commerce and Justice and several independent agencies (e.g., NSF) in fiscal year (FY) 2010. Collectively, these agencies would receive $64.9 billion. Overall, the bill would spend $500 million more than the House-passed version of the bill. The Senate bill includes $6.917 billion for NSF, $20 million below the House mark, but an increase of $426 million above the FY 2009 enacted appropriation. Research and Related Activities at NSF would receive $5.55 billion, $92 million below the House’s proposed funding level.

The committee report accompanying the Senate bill included tough language about NSF’s workforce management. “The Committee is deeply concerned with systemic workforce management problems propagated from senior management creating a hostile work environment between Federal employees, rotational directors and the [Senior Executive Service] SES-level directorate.” The Committee is concerned with NSF’s lack of action to address “poor management oversight” and with the agency’s “enforcement of policies prohibiting gender discrimination, offensive work environments, and retaliation.” The committee report also addressed NSF grant management, and calling for more performance evaluation of awarded grants. Even if this language is not included in the final appropriations report, it suggests that the Senate has real concerns with NSF management and will expect some level of response from the agency.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) would receive $4.77 billion, a $170 million bump from the House’s mark.

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Comments Sought on Ocean Research Plan

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy is seeking public input to revise and refresh the federal government’s ocean research priorities plan. Released in January 2007, “Charting the Course” was developed by federal agencies and outside stakeholders to identify and prioritize ocean science and technology endeavors over the next decade. The plan is now being revised to reflect recent scientific advancements and new ocean management challenges. Comments are due by 17 July 2009. For more information, visit http://www.aibs.org/federal-register-resource/20090624.html#010728.

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In the AIBS Webstore

“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 - "A Rising Tide of Support for a National Climate Service"

In the July/August 2009 issue of BioScience, Robert Gropp reports on growing support for the creation of a new federal program to coordinate and synthesize climate information. 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/.

Climate change is a hot topic in the halls of Congress. News coverage has centered on the Waxman-Markey climate change bill, The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (HR 2454), which the House passed by a slim margin—219 to 212—on 26 June. The House Committee on Science and Technology has also been busy, crafting legislation to create a National Climate Service.

Hot air emanating from some media talking heads might lead the casual observer to believe that Congress routinely creates new agencies; in fact, however, lawmakers rarely direct the establishment of a new federal office. Nonetheless, stakeholders ranging from scientists to local utility managers have been encouraging Congress to create a new climate forecasting function—a “National Climate Service” or “Climate Services Program,” which would be housed in NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration).

To continue reading this article for free, visit http://www.aibs.org/washington-watch/washingtonwatch2009_07.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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NSF Funds Stimulus Study

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has funded two research projects designed to evaluate the long-term impact of science initiatives funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009. Researchers at the University of Virginia will study the impact of stimulus funding on employment in science and engineering, and researchers at the University of Michigan will develop a database of the outcomes of social science projects funded through ARRA awards.

The University of Virginia study will allow researchers to measure the labor market response to science and engineering. It is believed that ARRA funds will have significant impacts on the hiring rates in university science programs, and researchers will investigate whether or not the supply of science doctorates can meet the demand to fill these new positions. Researchers will also compare how domestic relative to foreign doctorates fill employment needs.

The University of Michigan effort will track the investments into, and economic, scientific, and social outcomes of social science research funded by the ARRA. This study is novel because it will track the full life cycle of an award and will help researchers design future projects and funding agencies better understand the broad scale social and economic consequences of science investments.

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