USDA REGULATION OF RATS, MICE, AND BIRDS UNDER THE ANIMAL WELFARE ACT - The USDA on 28 September 2000 settled the litigation regarding the inclusion of rats, mice, and birds under the Animal Welfare Act regulations. The agreement requires the agency to begin a formal rule-making process to determine the minimum standards of care for care of these animals in research labs. On Friday, 6 October 2000, USDA Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Michael V. Dunn held a conference call to explain the USDA's rationale in settling the lawsuit and to outline the steps the USDA plans to take to comply with the settlement. The USDA settled to avoid a Court order to immediately include rats, mice, and birds under the present rules and guidelines. USDA felt that the present rules and guidelines are inapplicable to these taxa and that an order of this nature would violate the Administrative Procedure Act, which affords the regulated community, other interested parties, and the public an opportunity to comment on proposed regulations.
The USDA will keep all interested parties informed of the status of the process which will begin with an Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) workplan. The USDA will publish a notice in the Federal Register seeking information on the possible effects of such a regulation. Using the information obtained from the comments and other sources, a proposed rule will be developed and published for comment. After considering comments on the proposed rule, a final rule will be promulgated. The process is expected to take about 3 years. The USDA may also hold formal hearings before promulgating the final rule. The USDA may also hold informal hearings during the information-seeking process.
USDA is likely to be constrained from proceeding for at least one year because the Agriculture Appropriations bill conference report contains language that prohibits the USDA from using any appropriated funds to develop a proposed rule to re-define the term "animal" - meaning that at least for Fiscal Year 2001, the USDA can't take any action to implement the terms of the settlement.
NATIONAL CONFERENCE ON THE TEACHING OF EVOLUTION HELD IN BERKELEY - The Society for the Study of Evolution, the University of California Museum of Paleontology, the Geological Society of America, the Paleontological Society, the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, and the BioQuest Curriculum Consortium organized the National Conference on the Teaching of Evolution, held at the UC Museum of Paleontology October 5-8, 2000. The focus of the meeting was to develop an action plan to ensure that evolution principles are taught in K-12, college, and teacher preparation classrooms as well as in the informal science environment. Working groups discussed issues including K-12 students and teachers, undergraduates, and the general public as recipients of information about evolution and K-12 teachers, scientists as individual teachers and communicators, professional organizations, museums and science centers, and the media as providers of such information. Each working group developed a list of action items intended to improve the teaching of evolutionary science across disciplines and to foster scientific literacy among the public. The results of the conference, which was funded by an NSF grant, will be published at http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/ncte/aboutncte.html.
The participants did not decide if the action plan should be implemented by individual scientific societies and scientists or whether a new structure or organization is needed. They did agree that some actions can be taken in advance of the development of the action plan or the resolution of the organizational issues. For instance, all societies can post a statement on their websites about the value of teaching evolution. They can ask their Boards to appoint committees to carry out efforts to improve the teaching of evolution, to implement action items recommended by the conference, and to work with the committees of other scientific societies.
Further details can be obtained from AIBS Public Policy Representative Ellen Paul (firstname.lastname@example.org), who participated in the conference and co-facilitated the session on scientists as individual teachers and communicators.
UPDATE ON THE CONSERVATION AND REINVESTMENT ACT - Momentum towards enactment of the Conservation and Reinvestment Act, which passed the House of Representatives with overwhelming support in May 2000 and had 66 sponsors in the Senate, has been derailed by the House Interior Appropriations Committee, which came up with what is being called "CARA-lite" by the coalition that has been championing CARA for years. This coalition, led by the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, the American Birding Association, and others object to the Interior Appropriations bill, devised by Norman Dicks (D-WA), saying that it (1) does not include discrete funding for state fish and wildlife programs; (2) places these programs in competition with other "state conservation programs" with appropriators having the power to allocate limited funds among such programs; (3) does not guarantee multi-year funding for states, which is a fundamental premise of CARA. The funding measure was incorporated in the Interior Appropriations Conference Report, which was accepted by the Senate on 5 September 2000 and by the House on 3 October 2000.
CARA supporters are trying to persuade the Senate to bring CARA to a vote before the Congress adjourns. They have enlisted the support of Senate Majority and Minority Leaders (Senators Lott and Daschle respectively) and Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee (Senators Murkowski and Bingaman respectively) who have pledged to secure enactment of CARA this year. CARA's support coalition urges those in favor of CARA to fax their senators with a short message such as this:
Be Part of the Great Wildlife Rescue!
Don't Leave Wildlife Stranded!
TAKE CARE OF CARA!!
City, State, Zip
Senate fax numbers and constant updates on the status of CARA can be found at http://www.teaming.com.
DEMOCRATS VENT SPLEEN ON COUNCIL OF ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY FOR ABANDONING CARA - Two key Democrats have reacted to the CEQ's abandonment of CARA in favor of the Interior Appropriations measure with legislation to abolish the CEQ Council on Environmental Quality and efforts to block Congress from confirming George Frampton as its chairman. Frampton and the CEQ endorsed the CARA substitute inserted into the FY2001 Interior spending bill. It is reported that Mary Landrieu (D-LA) has placed a hold on Frampton's confirmation bid -- a move that effectively forces him to give up the post at the end of the administration. Landrieu and John Dingell (D-MI) said they were not pleased by the actions of CEQ officials, who promised that the White House would support the CARA bill. An administration official defended the CEQ's negotiations, saying that it was clear that Senate leadership was not going to bring CARA up for a vote. Dingell's bill is quickly gathering support among Republicans who have long harbored frustrations with the CEQ. The House Resources panel plans to send the legislation straight to the floor for consideration. Dingell acknowledges that the bill stands little chance of moving this year but he plans to continue the push next year.
INVASIVE SPECIES REPORT AVAILABLE; COMMENTS SOUGHT - Pursuant to Executive Order 13112, the National Invasive Species Council has announced the availability of the draft of the National Invasive Species Management Plan, "Meeting the Challenge" for public review and comment for a period of 45 days. The Executive Order set up an inter-agency council to prevent and control invasive species to minimize their economic, ecological and human health impacts. The Council is co-chaired by the Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce and the Interior; and includes the Departments of State, Transportation, the Treasury and the Environmental Protection Agency. The Plan seeks to address invasive species in the areas of prevention, coordination, control, rapid response, monitoring, and information sharing.
The Council is seeking comments on the draft Plan, which can be obtained via the Council's website: www.invasivespecies.gov; by contacting the Council Staff at 202-208-6336 (phone); 202-208-1526 (Fax); or by e-mail at email@example.com. Comments can be submitted to the Council Staff at the fax, e-mail, or mailing address given above. All Comments must be received by close of business (6:00 p.m.-- eastern time) on November 16, 2000.
VARMUS HERALDS IMPORTANCE OF BASIC RESEARCH AND CHAMPIONS INCREASES FOR NSF, DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY OFFICE OF SCIENCE - Writing in the Washington Post on 4 October 2000, Harold Varmus, former director of the National Institutes of Health and president of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, wrote that medical advances such as radiographs and more sophisticated imaging techniques were made possible by basic research funded by the National Science Foundation. Varmus called for the doubling of the NSF budget and urged that the effort be extended to the Department of Energy's Office of Science [Note the "Doubling Bill" would include all federal research agencies].
APPROPRIATIONS UPDATES - FY 2001 appropriations for R&D are far from complete. Only 2 of the 13 appropriations bills have been signed into law, leaving the final budgets of all nondefense agencies unfinished. Negotiations are continuing on the VA/HUD bill (H.R. 4635). House VA/HUD. Subcommittee chairman James Walsh (R-NY) yesterday said a deal on a final bill was "really, really close." He said funding issues were pretty much settled but disputes over four environmental policy riders remained to be resolved. Senate Majority Leader Lott expressed optimism that Senate VA/HUD ranking member Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) would be able to persuade her Senate colleagues to allow a VA/HUD conference report go forward, even though the original Senate VA/HUD bill was never considered on the floor. Informed sources close to the VA/HUD negotiations are indicating that the Administration and the Republicans have reached final agreement on an overall increase of $529 million, or 14 percent, for the National Science Foundation. This increase is $146 million less than the increase the President had originally requested. Within NSF, the agreed-upon number for Research and Related Activities is said to be $3.350 billion, an increase of $391 million, or 13 percent (but $191 million less than the President had requested). The reported agreement includes a $75 million increase for the biocomplexity initiative, an increase of 50 percent (but $49 million less than the request).
While OMB apparently considers all these numbers to be final, some others in the Administration are apparently still pushing behind the scenes for more NSF funding, particularly for the initiatives the Administration especially favors.
Thanks to the Association of American Universities for this information!
HOUSE SCIENCE COMMITTEE HOLDS HEARING ON BENCHMARKING STATUS OF U.S. SCIENCE - The House Subcommittee on Basic Research on 4 October 2000 held a hearing to examine the use of international benchmarking to determine the standing of U.S. efforts in various research fields. The hearing focused on the results of a study undertaken by the National Academy of Science's Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy (COSEPUP). In 1993, COSEPUP suggested that a comparative international assessment might prove valuable for the Congress to determine funding levels for basic research that resulted in the U.S. being among the world leaders in all areas of science and a clear leader in some major areas of science. COSEPUP developed a set of experiments to test its proposed benchmakring technique. In March 2000, COSEPUP reported on its findings in Experiments in International Benchmarking of U.S. Research Fields (available at http://books.nap.edu/books/0309068983/html/R1.html). According to this report, the benchmarking methodology which included a "virtual congress" to identify experts in each discipline, citation analysis, journal publication analysis, quantitative data analysis of the number of graduate students, extent of funding, and other indicators, prize analysis, and invitations to speakers at international congresses successfully produced an assessment of the status of U.S. science that was rapid and inexpensive compared with procedures that rely entirely on the assembly of a huge volume of qualitative and subjective information.
UPDATE ON DOUBLING BILL, NOW SUPPORTED BY GINGRICH - Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich has penned a letter to House Science Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner, urging support for doubling all R&D spending. Gingrich's support for the Federal Research Investment Act (S.2046) is based on his belief that it will help to ensure America's leadership in the world and provide the discoveries and innovations that have been the backbone of our booming economy. He says that the Doubling Bill does not infringe on the Science Committee's authority to determine funding authorizations for specific programs and agencies and strongly encourages Mr. Sensenbrenner to work out a bill before Congress adjourns that sends a clear message to communities of scientists and to the world that America will continue to lead the world in research and development. Copies of the letter went to House and Senate leadership.
AIBS joined with 22 other scientific societies in a letter urging Mr. Sensenbrenner to reconsider moving comprehensive legislation (S. 2046; also known as the "new doubling bill") this year that sets multi-year budget targets and overall goals for civilian research. The letter points out that, despite its undeniable contribution to the growing economy and federal budget surplus, R&D investment continues to receive low visibility on America's political landscape. It asserts that establishing some guiding principles and budget goals could give a real boost to civilian research and serve as a springboard for the more critical agency-specific work. It also notes that the Doubling Bill would result in the stability in outyear science funding that Mr. Sensenbrenner himself has called for and that the legislation is largely consistent with his committee's landmark Unlocking our Future science policy study.
PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY FORUM - The American Association for the Advancement of Science on 5 October 2000 held a forum for the presidential candidates to present their views on science and technology issues. [Note: the forum was webcast and can be viewed at http://www.aaas.org/news/forum.html until 5 November; the candidates' answers to questions from Science will be published in the 13 October issue and can be found at http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/data/289/5488/DC1/1]. Former House Science Committee Chairman Bob Walker represented the Bush campaign. Walker heads Governor Bush's science and R&D team. David Beier spoke on behalf of Vice President Gore. Beier has been chief domestic policy advisor to the Vice President since April 1998. Each made an opening statement. Beier stressed Gore's 24-year abiding interest in science and technology, including his tenure on the House Science Committee and the Senate Armed Services Committee. He asserted that Gore is an expert on the policy implications of science and technology, such as the role of science and technology in addressing social and policy problems such as environmental protection and defense needs. Gore recognizes the need for a balanced porfolio between basic and applied research and among scientific disciplines. He would be sure that science and technology research has concrete goals derived from the values of the American people and has relevance to their well-being. If elected, Gore would stress a comprehensive approach that includes a high priority on research into energy and biomedicine.
Bush recognizes that the 21st century economy is scientific knowledge. He proposes ways to increase our ability to expand and use that knowledge. Specifically, he would reform the education system in order to eliminate our "economic recession" with devices such as additional educational technologies, year-round schooling, and accountability for teachers and schools. He would introduce a permanent research and development tax credit and put more money into defense research and development. He would double the NIH budget and increase the NSF budget, saying that NSF has to become the center of peer-reviewed, university-based science in the U.S. He sees the primary federal role as the encouragement of basic science. Finally, he supports tort reform to remove barriers to innovation posed by the threat of lawsuits and regulatory reform such as liberalization of export controls.
In response to questions about specific issues:
- Walker could not say where Bush stands on the issue of teaching evolution and creationism as the campaign has not yet issued a position. Gore is clearly opposed to the teaching of creationism except in classes about religion.
- Bush is concerned that health and safety regulation of agricultural biotech crops be based on sound science and is concerned about the European ban on some U.S.-grown crops. He would work to be sure that the European Union removes those restrictions. Gore stresses the potential of this technology to stabilize the world's food needs. He also wants science-based regulation and supports voluntary labeling, with regulation focusing on the accuracy of label information.
- Gore would improve the education system by providing funding for universal preschool, new physical plants and schools for K-12 schools systems, reducing class size, and improving math and science education in the early years. He would also provide a tuition tax deduction of up to $10,000 and would give tax credits for lifelong learning programs that are necessary to enable people to meet new career challenges. Bush would encourage math and science partnerships between school systems and universities. He would provide incentives to students to take advanced college prep courses while in high school and would encourage math and science majors to teach in low-income schools by increasing student loan forgiveness for those teachers.
- Gore considers the international space station as both a scientific project and one that serves our national defense interests. He recognizes that there is a need to modify our mission to make it more productive. The cuts in the space program were made by the Republican Congress, not because the administration doesn't value the space program. Bush sees the space program as a learning tool for students and says it should be expanded by encouraging commercial uses backed by tax policy incentives.