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Public Policy Report for 31 August 2009

NSF Announces New Ethics Rules

On 20 August 2009, the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced plans for implementation of Section 7009 of the America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science Act (America COMPETES Act), which was singed into law in 2007. This section of the law requires that “each institution that applies for financial assistance from the [National Science] Foundation for science and engineering research or education describe in its grant proposal a plan to provide appropriate training and oversight in the responsible and ethical conduct of research to undergraduate students, graduate students, and postdoctoral researchers participating in the proposed research project.” These requirements will be instituted as of 4 January 2010 for all research proposals submitted to NSF. The agency will not require that training plans are included in proposals, but they are subject to review upon request. The new policy will be formally described in the NSF Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide (PAPPG).

During the public comment period for the new guidelines, 188 comments were received. Included among these were concerns about guidance for training and online resources. NSF noted that it does not intend to issue standards for training, recognizing that such standards will depend upon the needs of each institution and circumstance. Therefore, guidelines for training will be left to individual institutions. NSF also noted that supports two websites that will provide resources on ethics education in science and engineering. These online resources will serve as a foundation for ethics education in science and engineering. The resource will contain community-developed information on research findings, pedagogical materials, and promising practices regarding the ethical and responsible conduct of research, and will be used to train future generations of scientists and engineers.

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Five-Year Plan for USGS Climate Wildlife Science Center Released

Plans for the National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center (NCCWSC) continue to take shape. The Center was established at the United States Geological Survey (USGS) in 2008 with funds appropriated by Congress. In 2008, the agency formed an interim steering committee to develop guidelines and identify priorities for the Center. In fiscal year 2009, Congress provided a total of $10 million to support the development of NCCWSC.

Following a series of national and regional workshops held since December 2008, the Center completed a draft 5-year strategy document on 13 July 2009. This document outlines the Center’s history, mission, goals, science priorities, operations, and governance, and details how both the national office and regional hubs will work closely with science and resource partners and partner advisory groups. As described, the NCCWSC will be comprised of a small national office supporting a network of regional hubs across the country. The primary functions of the national office will be to provide leadership and direction for the Center’s science, information management, and communication efforts, coordinate with USGS and national partners, support the advisory board, develop minimum guidance and national standards, facilitate and fund research on national-level information on the effects of climate change on wildlife and aquatic resources, promote collaboration between hubs, and synthesize and deliver results to the conservation community.

The hubs will work to create models and tools that link physical factors with biological and ecological response variables, to develop response models and projections for priority species and habitats, to help partners define ecological outcomes and endpoints for their adaptation activities, and to facilitate and fund research on the effects of climate change on wildlife and aquatic resources. These hubs will be located at non-USGS institutions, such as universities, and will be selected based upon the interests of hosts and partners. Current resources for the NCCWSC are sufficient to support the establishment of three to four hubs.

The Center also announced that the internal Request for Proposals to conduct integrated, multi-scale research was strong, with over 150 proposals submitted. These proposals ranged from comprehensive, collaborative, multi-scale projects to population assessment and analysis at regional and local scales. Proposal funding decisions were announced on 21 August 2009.

For more information on the NCCWSC and the proposal awards, go to

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NSF Accepting Comments on Environmental Impacts of NEON

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has requested public comment on its preliminary environmental assessment for the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON). The proposed network would collect ecological and climatic observations in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. NSF expects the environmental impacts of NEON to be minimal, given that the program “would use existing infrastructure and research programs to the extent possible.” The proposed network will consist of environmental sensors and research experiments, linked by cyber infrastructure to record and archive ecological data. Permanent core sites will collect stream, soil, climate, and biota data for a 30-year period, whereas temporary sampling sites will collect data over periods of 3 to 5 years.

Two public meetings will be held in September to provide information regarding NEON. The first meeting will be held on 15 September 2009 in Arlington, Virginia, and the second meeting will be held on 17 September 2009 in Boulder, Colorado. Both meetings will be webcast. For information on how to participate in the public meeting via the internet, please visit

To view the preliminary environmental assessment or to submit comments, visit Public comments will be accepted through 28 September 2009.

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NOAA Asks the Public to Help Shape Its Future

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is seeking public input for the development of its Next Generation Strategic Plan, a blueprint for how NOAA will meet the needs of the nation and the world in the coming decades. In a short survey, stakeholders are asked to provide thoughts and insights on the trends that will shape NOAA’s future, the challenges and opportunities NOAA will face, and what NOAA should strive to accomplish. NOAA employees, stakeholders, and partners in academia, government, private industry and nonprofit organizations are welcome to participate. To take the survey, go to by 11 September 2009.

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Funding Available for Ocean Exploration

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has announced the availability of $3 million for grants “to search, investigate, and document poorly-known and unknown areas of the ocean and Great Lakes through interdisciplinary exploration, and to advance and disseminate knowledge of the ocean environment and its physical, chemical, and biological resources.” Funds will only be awarded to exploratory proposals. Pre-proposals are due by 8 October 2009. For more information, go to

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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 in the AIBS Webstore.

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Now 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

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

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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

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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