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Public Policy Report for 24 February 2014

President Obama Proposes $1 Billion Climate Fund for Research, Infrastructure

The Obama administration has again brought focus to the government’s role in addressing climate change. On 14 February, during a visit to drought stricken Fresno, California, President Barack Obama spoke on the importance of funding research on the impacts of climate change. In his 2015 budget, the President will ask Congress to fund a $1 billion Climate Resilience Fund to better prepare the nation for the impacts of climate change.

The fund is intended to:

  • Invest in research to better understand the impacts of climate change and how we can better prepare our communities and infrastructure.
  • Help communities plan and prepare for the impacts of climate change to help avoid future risks.
  • Fund new technologies and resilient infrastructure.

The program would also support new projects in the existing Climate Data Initiative, which was created to understand and analyze the impact of sea level rise on coastal communities. With the inclusion of research on impacts of climate change on weather patterns, the Climate Data Initiative would expand its focus to climate change’s effects on inland communities.

Some lawmakers criticized connecting the fund to California’s devastating drought. Congressman Lamar Smith (R-TX) argued, “Drought is a serious problem that should not be used to justify a partisan agenda or a new billion dollar climate change fund.”

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Science Advocate to Retire from Congress

United States Representative Rush Holt (D-NJ) announced on 18 February 2014 that he would retire at the end of his current term. Holt has served in the House of Representatives since 1998 and is one of a handful of scientists in Congress. Holt has a Ph.D. in Physics and is a former professor at Swarthmore College.

“There is no hidden motive for my decision,” Holt said in a statement. “As friends who have worked with me know, I have never thought that the primary purpose of my work was re-election and I have never intended to make service in the House my entire career. For a variety of reasons, personal and professional, all of them positive and optimistic, the end of this year seems to me to be the right time to step aside and ask the voters to select the next representative.”

Congressman Holt has championed research and science education. His is currently the sponsor of a resolution in recognition of Darwin Day, which celebrates the birthday and scientific accomplishments of Charles Darwin. In 2006, the Biological and Ecological Sciences Coalition (BESC), which is co-chaired by the American Institute of Biological Sciences, honored Holt during a congressional reception for his leadership on behalf of science.

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AIBS Asks Oklahoma Legislators to Oppose Anti-science Bill

AIBS sent a letter to the members of the Oklahoma Senate Education Committee urging opposition to the “Oklahoma Science Education Act.” The bill would encourage science teachers to assess the strengths and weaknesses of scientific theories. Many view the bill as a way to introduce creationism into the science classroom.

“The best and brightest scientists, whether working for a university, teaching in a K-12 classroom, or working for a private sector company, want to work in an environment that appreciates the nature of science, not one that periodically redefines science in service to political agendas,” states the letter.

The full letter is available at http://www.aibs.org/position-statements/20140210okscienceedact.html.

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Input Sought on Decadal Survey of Ocean Sciences

The National Research Council is conducting a Decadal Survey of Ocean Sciences and is seeking public input. The purpose of this National Science Foundation (NSF) sponsored decadal study is to review the current state of knowledge, identify compelling scientific questions for the next decade, analyze infrastructure needed to address these questions versus the current NSF portfolio, and identify opportunities to maximize the value of NSF investments.

Input is sought from across the entire spectrum of ocean sciences supported by NSF, especially early career researchers. An ocean sciences town hall will be held at the 2014 Ocean Sciences Meeting in Honolulu, Hawaii on 25 February 2014 at 6:30 PM. Feedback can also be provided through a virtual town hall at http://nas-sites.org/dsos2015/.

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New in BioScience: Congress Considers NSF Legislation

In the Washington Watch column in the March 2014 issue of the journal BioScience, Robert Gropp highlights congressional efforts to craft legislation to reauthorize the National Science Foundation.

The following is an excerpt from the article:

Beyond making appropriations to fund federal research programs, Congress is responsible for authorizing the activities and funding levels for federal agencies such as the National Science Foundation (NSF). Last renewed by the America COMPETES Act reauthorization of 2010, the agency’s authorization is set to expire in 2015. In anticipation, Congress has started work on NSF reauthorization legislation.

Amid a sluggish national economy and concomitant contentious political debate about federal budget priorities, some in Congress have questioned in recent years what types of research the government should fund and, periodically, specific research projects. Therefore, as Congress considers the future of the NSF, the science policy community has prepared for potential battles.

Continue reading the article for free at http://bioscience.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2014/02/13/biosci.biu014.full.

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Deadline Approaching: Join Us for the 2014 BESC Congressional Visits Day

Scientists and graduate students who are interested in communicating the importance of federal investments in scientific research and education to lawmakers are invited to participate in the Biological and Ecological Sciences Coalition (BESC) Congressional Visits Day in Washington, DC.

This event is an opportunity for scientists to meet with their members of Congress to discuss the importance of federal funding for biological research and education. Event participants advocate for federal investments in biological sciences research, with a primary focus on the National Science Foundation, as well as other federal agencies.

BESC is co-chaired by the American Institute of Biological Sciences and the Ecological Society of America.

This year’s event will be held on 9-10 April 2014 in Washington, DC. The first day is a training program that will prepare participants for meetings with congressional offices. The second day is spent on Capitol Hill meeting with members of Congress and their staff.

There is no cost to participate in this event, but space is limited. BESC and its member organizations are not able to pay/reimburse participants for their expenses.

Learn more about the event and express your interest in participating at http://www.aibs.org/public-policy/congressionalvisitsday.html. The deadline to sign up is 5 March 2014.

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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! (www.aibs.org/public-policy/legislativeactioncenter.html)

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. These exciting new advocacy tools 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 Entomological Society of America, Society for the Study of Evolution, Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography, and the Botanical Society of America.

AIBS and our partner organizations invite scientists and science educators to become policy advocates 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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