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Public Policy Report for 29 September 2009

New Reports Set Course for Biology, Environmental Science

On 21 September 2009, the National Research Council released a new report, “A New Biology for the 21st Century: Ensuring the United States Leads the Coming Biology Revolution.” Prepared by a committee of 16 experts from biology, engineering, and computational science, the panel met between September 2008 and July 2009. The committee sought to answer questions about how to best develop, fund, and implement an interdisciplinary “New Biology” approach to solving broad societal problems in the coming century. The report identifies four major research goals: developing sustainable food plants, understanding ecosystem diversity, expanding alternative fuels, and understanding individual health. Among the many recommendations, the committee highlights the need for an interagency “National New Biology Initiative” that would prioritize collaborative and transformative sciences, and that would receive funding beyond current federal research budgets. The report is available from the National Academies Press at http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12764.

The National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Environmental Research and Education Advisory Committee released a comprehensive report in September. “Transitions and Tipping Points in Complex Environmental Systems,” is an update to the committee’s 2003 report. The new document which is available at http://www.nsf.gov/geo/ere/ereweb/ac-ere/nsf6895erereport_090809.pdf includes recommendations for NSF and other federal sponsors of environmental research and education. The report also has recommends for the academic research community.

A draft report released by the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force on 17 September 2009 outlines a new national policy for protecting and restoring the nation’s oceans, coasts, and Great Lakes. Among many recommendations, the Task Force identifies the need for increased scientific understanding of marine ecosystems and for “decisions affecting the ocean, our coasts, and the Great Lakes [to] be informed by and consistent with the best available science.” Public comments regarding the draft report will be accepted until 17 October 2009. For more information, please visit http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2009/E9-22868.htm.

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FY 2009 Drawing to a Close, FY 2010 Appropriations Unfinished

Fiscal year (FY) 2009 will end on 30 September 2009, but no FY 2010 appropriations bills have been enacted. As of 28 September 2009, the House of Representatives had approved all 12 appropriations bills while the Senate had passed six. The conference process to work out differences between the bills passed by the two chambers has been completed only for the Legislative Branch bill. Legislators have attached a 30-day continuing resolution (CR) to the Legislative Branch spending bill. The CR will keep the government running for a month at FY 2009 levels while work continues on the remaining appropriations bills.

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Ecosystem Scientists Brief Policymakers

On 24 September 2009, the Association of Ecosystem Research Centers (AERC) briefed policymakers on Capitol Hill about the impacts of climate change on urban ecosystems. The briefing provided information about how climate change may impact urban infrastructure and water resources. Information about sea level rise, water availability, urban infrastructure, and watershed planning was presented. The briefing was held in conjunction with the annual AERC science meeting. Presentations were made by Dr. Donald Boesch and Dr. Allen Davis, University of Maryland; Douglas Farr, Architect, Farr Associates; Dr. Nancy Grimm, Arizona State University; and Dr. Peter Groffman, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies. For more information about AERC, please visit www.ecosystemresearch.org.

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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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Now 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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