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Public Policy Report for 17 August 2009

Nationwide Event has Biologists Meeting with Members of Congress

Scientists and educators from across the country are participating in the first Biological Sciences Congressional District Visits Week from 17 to 21 August 2009. Participating scientists, students, and science educators are meeting with their members of Congress while the members are back in their districts for the August recess. Event participants are using the opportunity to share with their elected officials the importance of sustained federal investments in biological sciences research and research infrastructure, such as field stations and natural science collections.

Biological Sciences Congressional District Visits Week is sponsored by the American Institute of Biological Sciences, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Natural Science Collections Alliance, Sevilleta Field Station, and the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry-North America.

Individuals unable to participate in this event may instead visit the AIBS Legislative Action Center at to send a letter to members of Congress that demonstrates the value of federal investments in biological research.

In coordination with this national event, the AIBS Public Policy Office has prepared new fact sheets which scientists can download and use to help educate decision-makers about the importance of scientific research. These documents, a fact sheet on the FY 2010 appropriations and a fact sheet on "place-based research" are available at and, respectively. Other fact sheets and materials are available at

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Energy Department Announces New Stimulus Funds for Scientific Research

On 4 August 2009, the United States Department of Energy (DOE) announced more than $327 million in new funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) for scientific research, infrastructure, and instrumentation projects. Approximately one-third ($107.5 million) will fund projects at universities, non-profits, and private firms, while the remaining $220 million will be spent at ten of DOE's national laboratories in six states.

The new projects focus on several topics, including advancement of civilian supercomputing, improvement of high-intensity light sources, integrated climate research, upgrading facilities and equipment at national labs and the DOE Bioenergy Research Centers, and new equipment for the DOE Joint Genome Institute. Biological science will get a boost at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which will receive funds for equipment and research. Included in the funding to the facility is $3.2 million to seed development of a computerized database for integrating masses of data flowing from DOE-supported genomics and systems biology research programs.

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White House Sets Priorities for Federal Science Investments in FY 2011 Budget

The White House has released its priorities for science and technology in fiscal year (FY) 2011. In a joint annual memo from the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Office of Management and Budget, the White House has informed heads of all federal agencies to "build upon the science and technology priorities already reflected in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the FY 2010 budget." Federal investments should focus on four practical challenges: economic recovery and growth, energy independence and mitigation of the impacts of climate change, improvement of human health, and defense technologies. To address these issues, agencies should increase productivity of research centers and non-government partners, strengthen science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education, improve infrastructure, and enhance space capabilities.

In addition, the memo outlines several guiding principles for science within the federal government. Agencies are to strive for transparency and scientific integrity, as well as to promote high-risk research. Additionally, agencies should strive "to take advantage of today's open innovation model-in which the whole chain from research to application does not have to take place within a single lab, agency or firm-and become highly open to ideas from many players, at all stages."

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Senate Confirms Science Nominees for State, NIH, and FWS

Before leaving Washington, DC, for the August recess, the Senate confirmed dozens of nominees for posts throughout the Obama Administration. Included were nominees for key science positions at the State Department, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS).

Dr. Kerri-Ann Jones was confirmed as Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs at the State Department, where she will oversee international efforts on climate change, whaling and wildlife trade, and ocean and polar science. Jones was formerly the director of International Science and Engineering at the National Science Foundation and served as Associate Director of National Security and International Affairs in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy during the Clinton Administration.

The nomination of Dr. Francis Collins to serve as director of NIH was also approved. Collins served as Director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, part of NIH, from 1993 until August 2008, during which time he directed the Human Genome Project.

Sam Hamilton, a biologist and a 30-year FWS employee, was confirmed as director of the agency. He previously served as director of the FWS's Southeast regional office.

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Creationist Exams Approved in United Kingdom

Evolution education in the UK sustained a blow when a government agency approved a creationist curriculum for use by Christian schools throughout the UK. The National Recognition Information Centre (NARIC), which advises universities and employers on the validity of lesser-known academic and professional qualifications, has ruled that the International Certificate of Christian Education (ICCE) is comparable to qualifications such as the international A-levels offered by the Cambridge International Exam Board.

The ICCE curriculum is based on the Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) program, which originated in Texas in the 1970s. The curriculum obtains half of its course material from U.S. evangelical textbooks and is taught to hundreds of teenagers at approximately 50 private Christian schools in the UK. The textbooks teach students, for example, that apartheid helped South Africa because segregated schools "made it possible for each group to maintain and pass on their culture and heritage to their children." The textbooks also challenge the theory of evolution by contending that the Loch Ness monster, which "appears to be a plesiosaur," could not have evolved because "no transitional fossils [between fish and reptiles] have been or ever will be discovered since God created each type of fish, amphibian, and reptile as separate, unique animals."

After the ruling, NARIC's spokesman issued a statement noting that the agency's role was to guide universities and employers on the rigor of qualifications, and that investigating curriculum content was outside its jurisdiction.

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In the AIBS Webstore


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 at

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

Quick, free, easy, and effective! 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

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 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 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

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