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Public Policy Report for 12 April 2010

House Science Committee Formulates America COMPETES Reauthorization

The House Science and Technology Committee is making headway on a reauthorization of the America COMPETES (Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science) Act. On 25 March, the Energy and Environment Subcommittee “marked-up” several provisions that address energy research. Included is language that would increase the funding authorization for the Department of Energy (DoE) Office of Science to $8.154 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2015. The funding authorization levels being considered for the Office of Science would sustain the funding trajectory established by the 2007 America COMPETES Act. That law authorized a doubling of the budgets for the National Science Foundation (NSF), the DoE Office of Science, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) over a seven year period.

The marked-up bill also lays out plans for the Biological and Environmental Research (BER) program within the Office of Science. Under the developing bill, BER would engage in research and development of biofuels, biological carbon sequestration, and bioremediation of environmental contaminants. Additionally, DoE would be directed to collaborate with other federal agencies to “carry out the selection and development of a next-generation ecosystem-climate change experiment to understand the impact and feedback of increased temperature and elevated carbon levels on ecosystems.”

Meanwhile, other pieces of legislation relating to science education, NSF, and other issues are moving through other subcommittees. It is expected that the various subcommittee bills will ultimately be blended into one measure by the full Science and Technology Committee in the coming weeks.

In an effort to shape that legislation, several natural science organizations have requested that the Research and Science Education Subcommittee include science collections in the reauthorization. These organizations, which include The Field Museum, the California Academy of Sciences, Arizona State University, Tulane University Natural History Museum, and the Natural Science Collections Alliance, have requested that the final bill include language establishing an entity that can serve to establish a persistent and formalized federal structure that would consider the needs of federal and non-federal science collections.

Once a bill incorporating the efforts of the various subcommittees is approved by the full Science and Technology Committee, the measure will be considered by the full House of Representatives. Key sources from the Committee have expressed a desire to have the bill voted on by the full House before the Memorial Day recess.

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NPS Finalizes Policy to Require Benefits-Sharing Agreement for Research

The National Park Service (NPS) has finalized a policy that requires researchers using specimens collected from national parks to enter into a benefits-sharing agreement with NPS if their research produces discoveries or inventions with a commercial application. Under the new rule, researchers with commercially successful discoveries would provide monetary or non-monetary compensation, such as scientific equipment or lab work, to the national park on an annual basis, subject to the terms of their benefit-sharing agreement.

The decision was published in the Federal Register (http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2010/2010-7871.htm) on April 7, 2010. The decision is an outgrowth of several commercial applications of scientific discoveries made in national parks, the most notable being the invention of PCR from the study of a microorganism discovered in Yellowstone National Park. The new policy will not affect current requirements or the application process for obtaining a permit to conduct research in a national park, as the benefits-sharing agreement would be initiated after permitted research was conducted.

More information is available at http://parkplanning.nps.gov (select “Washington Office” from the park menu and then follow the link for benefits-sharing).

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Ph.D. Candidates Engage in Interdisciplinary Research

According to a new report from the National Science Foundation (NSF), about a quarter of Ph.D. candidates conduct interdisciplinary research. This proportion has remained relatively stable over the last decade at approximately 28 percent. The report is based upon self-reported data from new Ph.D. recipients collected by the Survey of Earned Doctorates.

Not all scientific disciplines equally participate in interdisciplinary research. Recent doctorates whose primary thesis research was in agriculture were most likely to report a secondary field of research (39 percent). Biology and earth/atmospheric/oceans sciences ranked second with 35 percent of doctorates conducting interdisciplinary thesis research. Computer science, math, and psychology recipients were the least likely to report conducting interdisciplinary research.

Interdisciplinary thesis research was most likely to occur within the same broad field, such as biology. For instance, a doctorate may report that their primary field of research was in biology (e.g. ecology) and that their secondary field was also biology (e.g. cellular biology). This was most prevalent amongst doctorates in the biological sciences, with 81 percent of interdisciplinary biology doctorates reporting secondary research in biology. This was also the case among most other scientific disciplines. However, when scientists from other fields did select a different secondary field, it was most often biology.

To read the NSF report, please visit http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/infbrief/nsf10316/.

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Help Influence FY 2011 Science Funding: Write Congress Today

Through the AIBS Legislative Action Center it is possible to send letters to your members of Congress requesting their support for increased funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the United States Geological Survey (USGS) in fiscal year (FY) 2011. Letters from constituents at this time will help remind members of Congress that their constituents care about funding for these agencies. Please visit the AIBS Legislative Action Center today to quickly send a letter to your elected officials.

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FWS Seeks Comments on Permits for Migratory Birds

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is requesting public comments regarding the agency’s application and reporting requirements for the take of migratory birds. Several FWS permits regulating the disturbance and taking of migratory birds are scheduled for government review this year. Of potential interest to scientists are forms 3-200-6 (import/export of migratory birds), 3-200-7 (scientific collection of migratory birds), 3-200-10d (special exhibition for education), and 3-200-15, 3-200-16, 3-200-71, 3-200-72 (disturbance and taking of eagles and nests). Additionally, a new permit (3-200-82) is proposed to regulate the import and export of eagle specimens for temporary scientific or exhibition purposes, such as a museum display.

The FWS is seeking comments on the necessity of the collection of information, ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected, and ways to minimize the burden of the collection of information on respondents. Comments must be submitted by 7 June 2010. For more information, please visit http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2010/2010-7807.htm.

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Short Takes

  • The National Science Foundation (NSF) is soliciting proposals for five new cross-directorate grants. Designed to support innovative research and education, these grants will advance knowledge in several areas: biodiversity, water sustainability, ocean acidification, decadal and regional climate prediction, and climate change education. For more information, please visit http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2010/nsf10040/nsf10040.jsp?WT.mc_id=USNSF_25&WT.mc_ev=click.
  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Office of Ocean Exploration and Research is seeking comments on its strategic plan for 2011-2015. The draft plan describes the vision, mission, core activities, and organization of the Office of Ocean Exploration and Research. Specifically, comments are sought on the implementation of research goals. For more information, please visit http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2010/2010-7020.htm.

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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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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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