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Public Policy Report for 9/11/2000

AIBS TO HOST STRATEGY MEETING ON EVOLUTION - Eugenie Scott, Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education, will participate in a strategy session for the public policy representatives of a number of scientific societies that have agreed to join forces in the effort to protect the teaching of evolution. Scott, a national leader in this effort, will meet with representatives of AIBS, the Ecological Society of America, the National Association of Biology Teachers, the American Geophysical Union, the American Geological Institute, the American Physical Society, and others at a meeting arranged and hosted by AIBS on September 25. Representatives of the Society for the Study of Evolution plan to participate in the meeting by conference call. The goal is to develop an organized, multidisciplinary strategy to address the continuing attacks on the teaching of evolution.

AIBS JOINS OTHER SCIENTIFIC SOCIETIES IN OPEN LETTER TO SENATOR LOTT AND HOUSE SPEAKER HASTERT - Research!America, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Chemical Society, American Society for Microbiology, Council on Competitiveness, Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology sponsored advertising in the home town newspapers of Senator Trent Lott and House Speaker Dennis Hastert thanking them for their commitment to federally supported science and noting that their continued leadership is vital to increase support for research across disciplines. AIBS joined with these societies as part of its ongoing effort to promote better federal funding for all scientific research. Senator Lott and Representative Hastert, as leaders of the majority party, are key to federal funding levels, because they can agree to increase the amounts available to the appropriations committees. Members of the House VA-HUD-IA Appropriations Committee, including Chairman James Walsh, have expressed concern that they could not meet the requests of the federal science agencies because they have insufficient allocations. Increasing the allocations will mean exceeding the budget limits that the Republican-led Congress has imposed upon itself, but that are seen as increasingly unrealistic in a time of surplus.

Reminder: When Congress returns from its August recess, the push will be on to pass the FY2001 Appropriations bills as quickly as possible. Your help is needed now to persuade Congressional leaders to make more funding available for appropriations for scientific research. The AIBS funding alert, with a sample letter, addresses, and other information can be found on the AIBS website at

AIBS TO PARTICIPATE IN SCIENCE COALITION ADVOCACY EFFORT FOR SCIENCE RESEARCH FUNDING - The Science Coalition has invited AIBS to participate in its organized effort to maximize the impact on policymakers for the FY 2001 appropriations end game. Many organizations are pursuing individual or joint lobbying efforts. The Science Coalition hopes to marshal the forces together and create a significant impact toward increasing basic science funding in the FY 2001 budget. On Thursday, September 14th, an organized team effort to meet with key Members of Congress and congressional staff will take place. The Science Coalition hopes to bring together hundreds of activists in support for basic science research and funding during this critical time on Capitol Hill.

If you are available to participate, please contact Ellen Paul at We are seeking 10 scientists from the AIBS member societies to join in this effort. Society officers in particular should consider making the trip to Washington, D.C.

NATIONAL ACADEMIES REPORT ON SCIENCE AND MATH EDUCATION - The National Research Council of the National Academies of Science has issued a report entitled Educating Teachers of Science, Mathematics, and Technology: New Practices for the New Millennium (2000). The report advocate partnerships between school districts and colleges to provide ongoing education for K-12 teachers. The report synthesizes what is known about the quality of math and science teaching, draws conclusions about why teacher preparation needs reform, and outlines recommendations for accomplishing the most important goals before us. the book advocates partnerships among school districts, colleges, and universities, with contributions from scientists, mathematicians, teacher educators, and teachers. It looks carefully at the status of the education reform movement and explores the motives for raising the bar for how well teachers teach and how well students learn. Also examined are important issues in teacher professionalism: what teachers should be taught about their subjects, the utility of in-service education, the challenge of program funding, and the merits of credentialing. Professional Development Schools are reviewed and vignettes presented that describe exemplary teacher development practices. The report can be purchased from the National Academy Press or viewed online at

USDA MOVES FORWARD TO MODIFY ANIMAL WELFARE ACT REGULATIONS TO INCLUDE BIRDS, RATS, AND MICE, DESPITE OPPOSITION - After a federal court ruled that petitioners who had sued the USDA to force the agency to include rats, mice, and birds in the Animal Welfare Act regulations (see AIBS Report 12; August 2, 2000), the USDA has entered into negotiations with animal rights groups to develop these regulations. However, opposition to these settlement discussions is growing. The National Association for Biomedical Research (NABR), which represents more than 300 universities and hospitals, opposes these negotiations, saying that USDA should not make policy in this manner. NABR has asked the court for permission to intervene in the case. In fact, last year the USDA published a notice in the Federal Register saying that it was considering amending the regulations to include rats, mice, and birds. This notice was prompted by a petition to USDA Secretary Dan Glickman filed by the same parties who filed the federal court lawsuit. Under the Administrative Procedure Act, regulatory agencies are required to seek and consider the views of the regulated community and the public at large when developing new regulations or modifying existing regulations. The negotiations with the petitioners would appear to violate that requirement.

USDA CONSIDERING DEFINITION OF PAIN AND DISTRESS IN LABORATORY ANIMALS - USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has published a Federal Register notice calling for comments on the definition and reporting of pain and distress under the Animal Welfare Act. Although this term is used throughout the Animal Welfare regulations, it is not defined. The addition of such a definition would clarify what APHIS considers to be "distress'' and could help research facilities to recognize and minimize distress in animals in accordance with the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). Section 13(a)(7)(B) of the AWA requires research facilities to annually provide "information on procedures likely to produce pain or distress in any animal." APHIS is also considering replacing or modifying the system it uses to classify animal pain and distress.

APHIS is considering adding such a definition because of requests from the biomedical research community and animal advocacy groups. These parties have asked USDA to provide guidance on what is considered to be distress in a procedure involving research animals in order to improve recognition of animal distress, to classify and report it more accurately, and to create a heightened awareness of the regulations' requirement to minimize animal distress and pain.

The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB), which held a workshop on animal welfare on August 6 and 7, reports that the USDA is planning to adopt, at least on an interim basis, the following as a working definition of distress: "Distress refers to a state in which an animal cannot escape from or adapt to the internal or external stressors or conditions it experiences, resulting in negative effects on its well-being."

The full text of the notice can be found at Comments are due by November 7, 2000. AIBS is considering filing comments and would appreciate hearing the views of member societies on this subject.


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