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Public Policy Report for 14 September 2009

Campaign for Science Collections Grows Stronger

A growing number of scientists and scientific organizations have joined the campaign to ask President Obama to sign a Presidential Executive Order for the preservation and use of scientific collections. The effort, launched in June by AIBS member organization the Natural Science Collections Alliance (NSC Alliance), seeks to have the President formally establish via an Executive Order an interagency committee to improve planning and policy development for the nation’s scientific collections, including non-federal collections held at universities, state and local agencies, and free-standing natural history museums.

Various organizations, ranging from taxonomic societies to geological and ecological science societies, have endorsed the proposed Presidential Order. Additionally, leading natural history museums and scientists have begun to lend their names to the campaign.

For more information about the proposed Order and to see a list of some of the organizations that have already endorsed the plan, please visit http://nscalliance.org/?p=144. To send a letter to President Obama, individuals can visit http://capwiz.com/aibs/issues/alert/?alertid=13948726.

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Biologist to Lead National Park Service

President Obama has announced the nomination of biologist Jon Jarvis to be the next director of the National Park Service. The 33-year NPS veteran has served as both a park manager and a scientist. Since 2002, Jarvis has been director of the Pacific West region. As regional director, he pushed for increased environmental and financial sustainability standards in the region’s park units. Additionally, Jarvis directed all parks under his authority to be carbon neutral by 2016. Jarvis also coordinated a series of regional scientific workshops on climate change.

Thus far, the President’s selection has been well received by NPS employees and scientists. Many NPS watchers believe that Jarvis can bring an important focus on science and science-based decision making to the nation’s parks at a time when they face the challenges of climate change, biodiversity loss, and many other issues.

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NRC to Release Report on Future of Biology

The National Research Council will host a public briefing for its new report, A New Biology for the 21st Century. The briefing will be held on 17 September 2009 at 10:00 AM at the National Academy of Sciences building in Washington, DC. The report’s authoring committee co-chair Phillip Sharp of MIT, and committee member Keith Yamamoto of the University of California at San Francisco, will share the report’s findings about the potential of biology to contribute practical solutions to major challenges confronting the world. The report is also expected to include recommendations for a new biology initiative to support an interdisciplinary, problem-focused approach to biological research.

If you are interested in attending this event, please contact Amanda Cline at acline@nas.edu to register (guests will also be able to register at the door).

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Obama Administration Taking New Approach to Species Backlog

The Obama Administration is working to quickly make Endangered Species Act (ESA) listing decisions for hundreds of plants and animals, some of which have been on a “candidate species” waiting list for 25 years. This designation offers no legal protection for the species in question, and is intended to be temporary. However, nearly 100 species have been on the ESA waiting list in excess of 10 years and 73 species in excess of 25 years, according to recent news reports.

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the Department of the Interior agency responsible for managing endangered species, has said that it is working on accelerating its listing process, and can hopefully cut this “candidate” list by 25 percent by the end of 2010. The new FWS approach is twofold. First, the agency is putting more money into the endangered species program. The budget has doubled since early in the Bush administration, going from $9 million in 2002 to $19 million in fiscal year 2009. Second, FWS intends to clear up the backlog by using a sweeping, ecosystem-based approach to listing that could address many species once. This approach would cluster multiple species from a single ecosystem into a single ESA listing.

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USGS Coalition to Honor Senators Feinstein and Murkowski at Congressional Reception

Senators Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) will be presented with the annual USGS Coalition Leadership Award at a congressional reception on Monday, 14 September 2009. They will be honored for their continuing support for the United States Geological Survey (USGS). Senator Feinstein is the Chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and Environment and Senator Murkowski is the Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Additionally, the USGS Coalition reception will highlight the research, information sharing, and services provided by the USGS.

Dr. Robert Gropp, co-chair of the USGS Coalition and director of public policy at the American Institute of Biological Sciences said, “Data and products derived from USGS research benefit everyone. The work conducted and supported by the USGS informs drinking-water studies, biological and geological resource assessments, natural hazards monitoring, and other activities. The USGS is more essential than ever before to our national efforts as we try to conserve a growing list of threatened species, develop sustainable and cleaner energy sources, ensure that all Americans have access to clean water, and understand how our rapidly changing environment will impact our way of life.”

“Senators Murkowski and Feinstein are keenly aware of recent volcanic eruptions in Alaska and ongoing wildfires in California,” said Dr. Craig Schiffries, co-chair of the USGS Coalition and director for geoscience policy at the Geological Society of America. “The USGS provided advanced warning of explosive volcanism at Alaska’s Mt. Redoubt and it is working with other agencies to provide maps of California wildfire locations and the potential spread of fires. The USGS helps prevent natural hazards from becoming natural disasters. It plays a pivotal role in reducing risks from volcanic eruptions, wildfires, earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, landslides, and other natural hazards that jeopardize human lives and cost billions of dollars in damages every year.”

USGS scientists and their collaborative partners will be on hand at the reception to discuss the vital work the USGS conducts in the biological, geographical, geological, and hydrological sciences. The reception will take place from 5:30 to 7:30 PM in the Gold Room (Room 2168) of the Rayburn House Office Building.

For more information about the USGS Coalition, please go to www.usgscoalition.org.

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Federal Reports on Chesapeake Bay Recovery Call for Scientific Investments

On 10 September 2009, seven federal agencies released draft reports aimed at accelerating the cleanup and recovery of the Chesapeake Bay. The reports are an outgrowth of an Executive Order issued by President Obama in May 2009 and will be used to develop an integrated strategy for restoring the Bay, which remains degraded despite decades of restoration efforts.

The draft reports identify seven priorities for protecting and restoring the watershed, including: 1) developing new tools and regulations for restoring water quality, 2) better prioritizing conservation resources, 3) improving storm water management practices, 4) assessing the impacts of climate change, 5) protecting open spaces and expanding public access to the Bay, 6) strengthening science for decision making, and 7) protecting and restoring habitats.

While much of the plan focuses on the prioritization and acceleration of funding, interagency/intergovernmental coordination, and new regulations, the need for science crosscuts many recommendations. Ecosystem-based management is identified as the approach necessary for achieving sustainability in the region. The report also calls for the development of a new Chesapeake Bay research plan and for the expansion of existing monitoring and observation networks to encompass the entire watershed, from uplands to estuaries to the ocean. One of the recommendations regarding climate change is to create a central climate coordination program for the Bay. Additionally, new climate models, remote sensing, and observation stations are needed to better understand, predict, and prepare for the impacts of climate change.

The reports were prepared by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Homeland Security, Interior, and Transportation. To read the draft reports, please visit http://executiveorder.chesapeakebay.net.

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NIH Updating Women's Health Research Priorities

The Office of Research on Women’s Health (ORWH) is updating its research priorities for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for the coming decade. To do this, ORWH is convening a series of four regional scientific workshops and public hearings across the country, the first of which was held in St. Louis in March 2009. The next meeting will be convened at the Women and Infants Hospital, in Providence, Rhode Island on 21-23 September 2009. The purpose of the meeting is to make sure that NIH continues to support cutting-edge women’s health research that is based upon the most advanced science and technology. The meeting is formatted to promote an interactive discussion among leading scientists, advocacy groups, public policy experts, health care providers, and the general public. Some of the focus areas to be discussed during the meeting will include: prenatal through middle years, pregnancy, menopausal transition, healthy aging, oral health, and careers. The ideas and recommendations emerging from this meeting will be used to inform women’s health research priorities at NIH.

For meeting details, please visit http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2009/E9-18535.htm.

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Call for Nominations for Science Public Service Award

The National Science Board is seeking nominations for individuals and groups who have made substantial contributions to increasing public understanding and appreciation for science and engineering. The Public Service Award honors one individual and one group each year in May for their work in mass media, education, and/or training programs. Past recipients have included Ira Flatow, host of NPR’s “Science Friday”; the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation; Bill Nye, The Science Guy; and NOVA, the PBS television series. Nominations are due by 4 November 2009. To make a nomination or for more information, please visit http://www.nsf.gov/nsb/awards/public.jsp.

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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 - "Debate Over Science Funding Heats Up in Canada"

In the September 2009 issue of BioScience, Adrienne Froelich Sponberg reports on Canada’s science research funding policies and the recent round of budget cuts that may impact them. 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/.

Two years ago, the Canadian government launched a new strategy to improve the country’s scientific competitiveness by, among other things, promoting partnerships with industry and improving scientific infrastructure. In June, the government trumpeted its success in Mobilizing Science and Technology to Canada’s Advantage: Progress Report 2009. But however pleased the government may be with its progress, researchers are becoming increasingly vocal in their dissent, arguing that the government’s policy is missing the mark and threatening the future of the country’s scientific enterprise.

The progress report touts the country’s largest-ever investment in science and technology, including $4.5 billion for infrastructure through the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI). So why are researchers upset? A primary concern is that the greater support for infrastructure displaces funds for the researchers who use the equipment. In Canada’s Budget 2009, funding was cut by 5 percent for the country’s three granting agencies: the National Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

To continue reading this article for free, visit http://www.aibs.org/washington-watch/washingtonwatch2009_09.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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