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Public Policy Report for 7 November 2011

OSTP Seeks Public Input on Open Access to Data and Publications

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy is seeking recommendations on approaches for ensuring long-term stewardship and public access to digital data and peer-reviewed scholarly publications that result from federally funded research.

Information is sought on ways to encourage public access to data and articles while protecting intellectual property, actions to improve compliance with federal data stewardship and access policies, the types of peer-reviewed publications that should be covered by the public access policies, and the appropriate duration of an embargo period after publication, among other topics.

The request for information is a result of the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act, which was enacted early this year. That law requires the establishment of a working group within the National Science and Technology Council to coordinate the policies of federal science agencies related to the dissemination and stewardship of research, including data and publications.

Comments will be accepted on public access to publications through 2 January 2012; more information is available at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-11-04/html/2011-28623.htm. Comments regarding public access to data will be accepted through 12 January 2012; more information is available at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-11-04/html/2011-28621.htm.

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Attention Graduate Students: Applications for the 2012 EPPLA Are Now Available

Applications are now being accepted for the 2012 AIBS Emerging Public Policy Leadership Award (EPPLA). This award recognizes graduate students in the biological sciences who have demonstrated initiative and leadership in science policy. EPPLA recipients receive first-hand experience at the interface of science and public policy.

EPPLA Winners Receive:

  • A trip to Washington, DC, to participate in the Biological and Ecological Sciences Coalition (BESC) Congressional Visits Day, an annual event that brings scientists to the nation’s capital to advocate for federal investments in the biological sciences, with a primary focus on the National Science Foundation. The 2012 event will last for two days and may be held between March and May. The official dates will be announced in 2012. Domestic travel and hotel expenses will be paid for the winners.
  • Policy and communications training, and information on federal science budgets and the legislative process.
  • Meetings with Congressional policymakers to discuss the importance of federal investments in the biological sciences.
  • A 1-year AIBS membership, including a subscription to the journal BioScience and a copy of “Communicating Science: A Primer for Working with the Media.”
  • A certificate and membership in the EPPLA alumni network.

Application Process and Requirements:

The 2012 award is open to U.S. citizens enrolled in a graduate degree program in the biological sciences, science education, or closely allied field. Applicants should have a demonstrated interest in and commitment to science policy and/or science education policy. Prior EPPLA winners and AIBS science policy interns/fellows are not eligible.

To apply:

Send a cover letter, statement, resume, and letter of reference to publicpolicy@aibs.org no later than 5:00 PM Eastern Time on Friday, 20 January 2012. The subject line of the e-mail must include “EPPLA 2012” and the applicant’s name. All documents should be included as attachments, with each file named as name-document (e.g., Sarah-Smith-Resume). A single PDF document is recommended.

  • Cover letter: Describe your interest in science policy and how participation in the Congressional Visits Day will further your career goals. Confirm your ability to travel to Washington, DC, to participate in meetings.
  • Statement: In 500 words or less, articulate the importance of federal investments in fundamental biological sciences research, such as that supported by the National Science Foundation. A successful statement will communicate to a non-scientist the benefits of biological research to the United States and draw upon the applicant’s experiences and research. The statement may reference local issues and concerns that may be of interest to your Congressional delegation.
  • Resume (1 page limit): The resume should emphasize leadership, policy, and communication experience — this may include graduate, undergraduate, or non-academic activities, relevant education, work experience, honors and awards, and scientific society memberships. Conference presentations and scientific manuscripts will not be considered in the evaluation of the application.
  • Letter of reference: A reference letter should be provided by an individual who can attest to your leadership, interpersonal, and communication skills, and who is familiar with your interest in or experience with science policy. The reference should send the letter to publicpolicy@aibs.org by no later than 5:00 PM Eastern Time on 20 January 2012.

Applicants will be notified by the end of February of the decision of the selection panel. Information about past EPPLA recipients is available at http://www.aibs.org/public-policy/studentopportunities.html. Download a copy of 2012 EPPLA announcement flyer at http://www.aibs.org/public-policy/resources/EPPLA2012_Announcement.pdf. Please direct questions to publicpolicy@aibs.org.

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House Science Committee Considers Role of STEM Professionals in K-12

As part of an ongoing look at the state of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education in the United States, the House Science Subcommittee on Research and Education held a hearing to examine the potential for STEM professionals to improve K-12 education.

“It is easiest to attract students to STEM careers when they are inspired by the best and brightest teachers, mentors, and professionals,” said Ranking Member Dan Lipinski (D-IL). “This is especially true at the K-12 level, where researchers can play a unique role in improving STEM education by volunteering, serving as mentors to students, and by becoming STEM teachers themselves.”

“STEM professionals bring unique knowledge and skills to the teaching profession that traditional undergraduate students do not have or have not had the time to develop,” said witness Dr. Michael Beeth, a professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh.

“Individuals who have spent time in a STEM profession bring a unique perspective to the classroom and can make a great contribution to our STEM education efforts,” said Subcommittee Chairman Mo Brooks (R-AL). “At the same time, industry experience, knowledge, and skills alone do not necessarily make a good teacher. Good teaching requires an additional and special set of knowledge and skills.”

Dr. Beeth added, “it would be beneficial if all STEM professionals received explicit training regarding how they can become engaged in the education of K-12.”

Witnesses also addressed the need for public and private programs to help prepare STEM professionals for their involvement in K-12 education.

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NOAA Estimates Value of Hawaiian Coral Reefs at $33.6 Billion Per Year

Hawaii’s coral reef ecosystems are highly valued by Americans, according to a new report commissioned by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The peer-reviewed study found that Americans assign an estimated total economic value of $33.57 billion for the coral reefs of the main Hawaiian islands. The estimated value includes both the value of direct uses, such as scuba diving and consuming fish, and the value of passive uses, such as conservation of the reefs for future generations.

“The study shows that people from across the United States treasure Hawaii’s coral reefs, even though many never get to visit them,” said Dr. Jane Lubchenco, under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “It illustrates the economic value of coral reefs to all Americans, and how important it is to conserve these ecosystems for future generations.”

To read the report, visit http://coralreef.noaa.gov/aboutcrcp/news/featuredstories/oct11/hi_value/.

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Top 40 Priorities for Science to Inform Policy on Conservation and Natural Resources Management in the United States

On 1 November 2011, natural resource scholars and policy experts shared with Congress, federal agency personnel, and nongovernmental organization representatives a set of priorities for multidisciplinary research that decision makers have said will address the nation’s most pressing environmental problems. The briefing drew attention to the most important areas of scientific inquiry decision makers have indicated are required for effective management in the domains of agriculture, biofuels, land use, climate change, and protected species.

The program, “Priorities for Research on Management and Conservation of Natural Resources,” is based upon a process that resulted in a peer-reviewed article published in the April 2011 issue of the science journal BioScience, published by the American Institute of Biological Sciences. Three of the 30 authors of the article presented the results of the process: the 40 top priority environmental research questions identified by natural resource decision makers. 


“The questions focus on assessing trade-offs among economic, social, and ecological issues,” said Erica Fleishman, the primary author of the paper and a researcher with the John Muir Institute of the Environment at the University of California, Davis. “We created a mechanism where decision makers said to scientists, ‘This is what we need to address society’s priorities for natural resources.’ ” 
Two other authors of the paper, Barry R. Noon, a professor at Colorado State University, and Jimmie Powell, Energy Team Lead at The Nature Conservancy, also participated in the briefing.

The three hope that the work of the larger group will help align scientific research agendas with the needs of natural resource decision makers. Although some relevant research is being conducted on all of the identified research priorities, many decision makers feel that answers are not emerging rapidly enough to inform policy during the next 10 years. Additionally, many academic researchers are unaware that answers to these questions are a high priority for decision makers.

The author’s argued that aligning natural resource management and conservation research with policy priorities would increase the relevance of ongoing research to society. Moreover, the group emphasized the benefits to the United States of processes to better enable sustained interaction between natural resource scientists and decision makers.

The article’s findings are based upon an innovative and intensive process to solicit and synthesize questions about research relevant to natural resource managers. Leading policymakers and scientists canvassed their colleagues to identify top-priority research questions to inform decisions about species and ecosystem management. Questions were submitted by 375 individuals involved with natural resource policy, management, or research. The project’s emphasis on direct engagement of decision makers and policy experts sets this effort apart from previous attempts to identify research priorities.

The authors expect that the 40 questions, if answered, will increase the effectiveness of policies related to conservation and management of natural resources.

The authors invite policy makers, resource managers, and researchers in the United States to participate in a survey they are conducting to maximize effectiveness of policy and management related to natural resources in the United States. The survey asks participants to prioritize the 40 research questions. Access the survey at http://www.envsurvey.com/40Q/cgi-bin/ciwweb.pl?studyname=40Q&AC=111222.

The AIBS Public Policy Office provided logistical support and planning assistance for this briefing. These services are among the policy and media outreach assistance that AIBS can provide to scientific societies and organizations. For more information about these services, please visit http://www.aibs.org/public-policy/ or contact AIBS Director of Public Policy Dr. Robert Gropp at publicpolicy@aibs.org.

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NRC Proposes New Integrative Approach as the Next Step in Precision Medicine

A recent report published by the National Research Council (NRC) calls for the establishment of a new data network that could transform the way medical diagnosis, treatment, and research is performed. It would involve integrating emerging research on the molecular makeup of diseases with detailed clinical data on individual patients. This innovative method would attempt to bridge the current disconnect that “exists between the wealth of scientific advances in research and the incorporation of this information into the clinic,” according to Dr. Susan Desmond-Hellmann, co-chair of the committee that authored the report.

The report outlines two major ideas that would need to be developed. First, a “new taxonomy” that defines disease based on underlying molecular and environmental causes is needed. This would be used in addition to the traditional method of tracking physical signs and symptoms, but would be much more specific and tailored to individual patients. Second, the creation of a “knowledge network” containing research and clinical data on individual patients that is widely accessible to researchers and clinicians. The network would contain archives that link layers of molecular data, medical histories, including social and physical environments, and health outcomes for individual patients.

The committee argues that these initiatives would improve health care and medical research by providing doctors and scientists more access to vast troves of patient information while still protecting individual rights. Additionally, it could greatly reduce the time it takes for medical research information to reach doctors and patients.

To learn more, please visit http://dels.nas.edu/Report/Toward-Precision-Medicine-Building-Knowledge/13284.

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Prize Winners Selected for New Subscribers

Five lucky new subscribers to the AIBS Legislative Action Center and Public Policy Report have been randomly selected to win a prize package. All winners received a copy of the AIBS Congressional Directory and a copy of “Communicating Science: a Primer for Working with the Media.” In addition to the AIBS publications, three winners received a $20 Amazon gift card.

The drawing was sponsored by the American Institute of Biological Sciences. AIBS helps scientists stay informed about rapidly changing developments in Washington, DC, that can have a direct and long-lasting impact on science and science education in the United States. To stay apprised of these developments, sign up for a free subscription to the AIBS Public Policy Report and/or AIBS Legislative Action Center.

The AIBS Public Policy Report provides the latest news and analysis of issues concerning the science community, including funding for scientific research, changes to federal research programs, support for science education programs and fellowships, threats to evolution and climate change education, and much more.

The AIBS Legislative Action Center is an online tool that facilitates quick and effective communication between scientists and their elected officials. Subscribers receive action alerts about specific opportunities to influence science policy.

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Short Takes

  • The Senate passed a package of three spending bills on 1 November 2011. The legislation (HR 2112) would cut funding for the National Science Foundation by $162 million. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration would receive a slight boost in funding, as would the competitive extramural research grants program at the Department of Agriculture. Since the funding levels included in the bill differ from House-passed spending plans, the two chambers are currently working on a compromise package.

  • A new report by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service highlights the economic value of the agency’s fisheries program. The program contributes an estimated $3.6 billion to the nation’s economy and support 68,000 jobs nationally. This represents a $28 return on each dollar spent on the fisheries program. Read the report at http://www.fws.gov/fisheries/.

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AIBS Congressional Directory 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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