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Public Policy Report for 23 May 2011

National Academies Report Calls for U.S. Action on Climate Change

Climate change is happening and the U.S. government should take action to substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions and begin adaptation. These are the central messages of a new report by the National Research Council that aims to clearly articulate to policymakers options for responding to the risks posed by climate change.

The report urges Congress and the federal government to not delay taking action to “substantially” reduce emissions that contribute to climate change. The committee also countered an argument used by some climate change skeptics: that we don’t know enough about global warming to act. “Given the inherent complexities of the climate system, and the many social, economic, technological, and other factors that affect the climate system, we can expect always to be learning more and to be facing uncertainties regarding future risks,” the report stated. “This is not, however, a reason for inaction.”

The committee also found that actions by states, local governments, and private sectors will not be enough to mitigate global warming — coordinated action by the federal government is necessary. Although there are several options for mitigating climate change, “Most economists and policy analysts have concluded, however, that putting a price on CO2 emissions (that is, implementing a “carbon price”) that rises over time is the least costly path to significantly reduce emissions,” the committee wrote.

In addition to reducing emissions, the committee recommended that the federal government coordinate adaptation strategies. Science, technology, and information systems will play an important role in informing such decisions. Therefore, the report recommends that the federal government maintain and expand its research programs that aim to increase knowledge of the causes of climate change and that inform our ability to limit and adapt to its impacts.

The report is the final volume of “America’s Climate Choices,” a series of reports ordered by Congress. For more information, visit http://www8.nationalacademies.org/onpinews/newsitem.aspx?RecordID=12781.

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U.S. to Allow More Foreign STEM Graduates to Extend Stay after University

On 12 May 2011, United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced that it was expanding the list of degree fields that would allow students on visas to stay in the United States after graduating from college.

Typically, foreign graduates have 12 months after completing their degree to gain employment and seek a H1-B visa, otherwise they are forced to leave the country. Graduates of certain science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) degree programs can work for up to 29 months after graduation without changing their visa status.

Some of the degrees recently added include environmental science, marine science, neuroscience, and agronomy and crop science. To view the full list of exempted degrees, visit http://www.ice.gov/sevis/stemlist.htm.

According to the National Science Foundation, about 103,000 science and engineering degrees were awarded in the U.S. to non-residents in 2007.

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Some NSF Programs To Limit Researchers to One Proposal Per Funding Cycle

A recent dear colleague letter from the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences outlines changes to the division's procedures for research proposal submission and review. The letter follows:

Beginning in 2011, the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences in the Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO) will initiate new procedures, on a trial basis, for the submission and review of research proposals. BIO seeks to improve the efficiency with which it processes proposals while maintaining the highest quality of merit reviews and funding selections. The goal of these new procedures is to better manage proposal processing in the face of increasing numbers of proposals, to reduce the growing burden on the PI and reviewer community, and to improve funding rates.

As noted in the 2007 IPAMM Report, both the number of proposals submitted to NSF per year and the number of research proposals submitted per PI has increased substantially. A significant number of NSF reviewers surveyed for the IPAMM Report indicated that overall reviewer workload had increased in the preceding three years. If anything, the intervening years have only increased both the proposal submission rate and the resulting burden on the reviewer community.

In response to this growing problem, the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences is revising its procedures for submission and review of research proposals. The Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences (MCB) will implement an eight month cycle for proposal submission in order to give the PIs of declined proposals additional time for revision. Deadlines for full proposal submission will be: September 6, 2011, May 21, 2012 and January 28, 2013. In addition, the number of full proposals submitted per 8-month cycle by an investigator will be restricted to one proposal as a PI or co-PI. Full details about these changes can be found in the new Program Solicitation "Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences: Investigator-initiated research projects" (http://www.nsf.gov/publications/pub_summ.jsp?WT.z_pims_id=503626&ods_key=nsf11545) posted on the Division's web site. A set of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about these changes also can be found on the Division web site.

EAGERs, RAPIDs, and conference/workshop proposals will continue to be accepted at any time. Research at Undergraduate Institutions (RUI) and Research Coordination Networks (RCN) proposals targeted to MCB should be submitted by the Division deadlines listed above. Special activities such as CAREER will continue to be governed by their own solicitations, and are NOT affected by the changes described above. Supplement requests should be submitted by February 15 to be considered for funding in the same fiscal year.

Sincerely,
Dr. Joann Roskoski
Assistant Director (Acting)
Directorate for Biological Sciences

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Sign Up to Showcase Science to Policymakers This August

Would you like to help inform the nation’s science policy without trekking to Washington, DC? Do you want to meet with your members of Congress to discuss the importance of federal investments in science?

Register now to participate in the 3rd Annual Biological Sciences Congressional District Visits event. This national initiative is an opportunity for biologists across the country to meet with their members of Congress to showcase the people, facilities, and equipment that are required to support and conduct scientific research.

The 3rd Annual Biological Sciences Congressional District Visits event will be held throughout the month of August 2011, when Representatives and Senators spend time in their Congressional districts and home states. This event is an opportunity for scientists, graduate students, representatives of research facilities, and people affiliated with scientific collections to meet with their members of Congress to demonstrate how science is conducted and why a sustained investment in research and education programs must be a national priority. Participating scientists may invite their elected officials to visit their facility or can meet with them at a congressional district office.

Participants will be prepared for their congressional meetings through an interactive training webinar. Individuals participating in this event will receive information about federal appropriations for biological research, tips for scheduling and conducting a successful meeting with an elected official, and resources to craft and communicate an effective message.

This event is organized by the American Institute of Biological Sciences with the generous support of Event Sponsors Botanical Society of America, Museum of Comparative Zoology—Harvard University, Natural Science Collections Alliance, and Organization of Biological Field Stations, and Event Supporters National Ecological Observatory Network, Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, and Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections.

Participation is free, but registration is required by 15 July 2011. For more information and to register, visit http://www.aibs.org/public-policy/congressionaldistrictvisits.html.

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Join CERF for a Briefing on the Ecological Impacts of the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill

AIBS member society Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation (CERF) will host a briefing for policymakers on the environmental and societal impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The briefing, entitled “Gulf of Mexico Ecosystems One Year after the Deepwater Horizon,” will present the latest scientific information about the effects of the oil spill on Gulf ecosystems and communities, and lessons relevant to other coastal areas.

Speakers include Dr. Donald Boesch of the University of Maryland, Dr. Nancy Rabalais of the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, and Dr. David Yoskowitz of Texas A&M University.

The briefing will be held on Monday, 6 June 2011 at 4 pm at the Capitol Visitors Center in Washington, DC. The event will also be webcast live. For more information and to RSVP, visit www.aibs.org/public-policy/rsvp.html.

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Short Takes

  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture is seeking nominations for candidates to serve on the reestablished National Genetic Resources Advisory Council. The purpose of the Council is to formulate recommendations on actions and policies for the collection, maintenance, and utilization of genetic resources; to make recommendations for coordination of genetic resources plans of domestic and international organizations; and to advise the Secretary of Agriculture of new and innovative approaches to genetic resources conservation. Nominations are due by 30 June. For more information, visit http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-05-16/html/2011-11926.htm.

  • The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities is seeking input from the scientific community on the U.S. government's new Feed the Future Initiative, a campaign to reduce hunger and poverty worldwide. An online forum was recently launched to solicit ideas for research opportunities that support the initiative's goals. For more information about Feed the Future, visit http://www.feedthefuture.gov/. To join the forum, visit http://globalfoodsecurityresearch.net/forum.php.

  • The National Research Council recently released a booklet that explains the chemistry of ocean acidification and explores the impacts to marine life and coastal economies. "Ocean Acidification: Starting with Science" is available for free in print or electronic forms at http://oceanacidification.nas.edu/.

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2011 AIBS Congressional Directory: Now Available in AIBS Webstore

The American Institute of Biological Sciences is pleased to announce that copies of the AIBS guide to the 112th Congress are now available in the AIBS Webstore for only $19.95 per copy. There is a limited supply of this handy resource, so please order your copy today. To learn more about this or other publications available through AIBS, please visit http://webstore.aibs.org/category/35373945661/1/Books.htm.

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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 AIBS Legislative Action Center is an online resource that allows biologists and science educators to quickly and effectively influence policy and public opinion. Each day lawmakers must make tough decisions about science policy. For example, what investments to make in federal research programs, how to conserve biodiversity, 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.

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.

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.

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