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Public Policy Report for 04/27/2001

  • Report of First National Conference on Science, Policy, and the Environment released
  • Update on the Smithsonian's Conservation and Research Center
  • Ehlers renews call for Science Administrator for EPA
  • AIBS Congressional Handbook distributed

The AIBS Public Policy Report is distributed broadly by email every two weeks to AIBS membership leaders and contacts, including the President, President-Elect, Secretary, Treasurer, Executive Director, AIBS Council Representative, Journal Editor, Newsletter Editor, Public Policy Committee Chair, Public Policy Representative, and Education Committee Chair of all AIBS member societies and organizations (see the Membership Directories for contact information).

All material from these reports may be reproduced or forwarded. Please mention AIBS as the source; office staff appreciate receiving copies of materials used. If you have questions, comments, or suggestions, please contact the AIBS Director of Public Policy, Dr. Robert Gropp [publ...@aibs.org; 202-628-1500 x250].


REPORT OF FIRST NATIONAL CONFERENCE ON SCIENCE, POLICY, AND THE ENVIRONMENT RELEASED - On Earth Day 2001, the National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE) released a report reflecting the views of many of the nation's leading environmental scientists and decisionmakers calling for major changes in the relationship between science and environmental policy. The report emphasizes the need for "significant" investment in new approaches to science and for changes in governmental organization to address "serious voids" that impede efforts to acquire and translate scientific knowledge.

The report, which offers specific recommendations for improving the scientific basis for environmental decisionmaking, is based on deliberations by more than 450 scientists, policymakers, and stakeholders from a broad range of disciplines, interests, and locales. The group was convened late last year as the first National Conference on Science, Policy, and the Environment. NCSE asked participants to assess the current state of environmental decisionmaking in the United States and to advise the incoming Administration and the new Congress on needed improvements. The results are contained in a new report entitled "Recommendations for Improving the Scientific Basis for Environmental Decisionmaking," which can be found at www.cnie.org/2000conference Printed copies are available from NCSE: staff@NCSEonline.org or 202-530-5810.

NCSE Senior Scientist David Blockstein, a former AIBS Congressional Fellow and current AIBS Public Policy Review Committee member, was instrumental in organizing the meeting and compiling the report. AIBS Executive Director Richard O'Grady and Public Policy Representative Ellen Paul attended the meeting; Paul also facilitated the session on Federal Government Structure.

The report addresses the environmental challenges now facing our society through a detailed set of recommendations compiled by 14 expert working groups that met during the conference. Among the issues deliberated were:

* Biodiversity and Ecosystem Health
* Environmental Implications of Biotechnology
* Environmental Indicators
* Federal Government Structure
* Global Environmental Change
* Higher Education
* Human Health and the Environment
* Information Systems
* Invasive Species
* Pollution Prevention/Waste Management
* Population and the Environment
* Public Education
* Sustainable Communities
* Sustainable Resource Management

The report calls for a new interdisciplinary science of sustainability that integrates:

* Economic Security
* Ecological Integrity, and
* Social Equity.

Sustainability Science seeks to improve upon the substantial, but still limited, understanding of nature-society interactions. It aims to provide a better understanding of the complex dynamic interactions between human society and nature so that the alarming trends towards increasing vulnerability are reversed. Achieving sustainability will not only require changes in scientific collaborations and mindsets, but also changes in the institutions that fund and communicate science.

In addition to various programs recommended for development by key players such as the National Science Foundation, the National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council, and the Environmental Protection Agency, the report also advocates forming new or reinvigorated entities, including:

* a National Environmental Information Infrastructure that would support intensified public information, education, and training on environmental issues,

* a Bureau of Environmental Statistics, analogous to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, that would provide periodic "state-of-the-science" reports on key environmental issues,

* a Joint Committee on the Environment in the U.S. Congress, analogous to the Joint Economic Committee,

* a resurrected Office of Technology Assessment,

* Policy Centers within all federal science and resource management agencies.

Underscored throughout the report is the contention that sound environmental decisionmaking is dependent on "an effective interface between scientists and policymakers and the reliable and timely translation of information and views between the two communities." The report further emphasizes "the need for science-based education at every level of society if the general public and their elected public officials are to make informed, effective, and timely decisions."

For copies of the report, more detailed information on briefings, and assistance in scheduling briefings or interviews, contact:

David Blockstein at david@cnie.org and (202) 530-5810, ext. 205,
Rob Viehl at staff@ncseonline.org and (202) 530-5810 or
Deborah Strauss at dstrausslynch@aol.com and (202) 530-5810 or (301) 229-3123.


UPDATE ON SMITHSONIAN'S CONSERVATION AND RESEARCH CENTER - As the May 7 Smithsonian Board of Regents meeting approaches, letters urging that the Conservation and Research Center (CRC) are needed. Join Jane Goodall, Congressman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), who chairs the House Science Committee, Stephen Carpenter, President of the Ecological Society of America, AIBS, and the many others who have called for Smithsonian Secretary Lawrence Small to reverse his decision to close CRC, which has been characterized as a "crown jewel" of the Smithsonian. Daily updates and a list of addresses for the Board of Regents can be found at http://crcforever.50megs.com/ along with many articles and editorials from the Washington Post, New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and NATURE.


EHLERS RENEWS CALL FOR SCIENCE ADMINISTRATOR FOR EPA - Congressman Vern Ehlers (R-MI) has renewed the call to create a Deputy Administrator for Science and Technology at the Environmental Protection Agency by introducing H.R. 64, which would create a presidentially-appointed, Senate-confirmed six-year term for the science administrator. The National Research Council's 2000 report Strengthening Science at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Research-Management and Peer-Review Practices urged that such a position be created. In a March briefing sponsored by the American Chemical Society Science and the Congress Project, Rep. Ehlers spoke of his efforts to find co-sponsors for the bill, which was considered by the House Science Subcommittee on Environment, Technology and Standards on March 29. EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman has not yet expressed her views on the proposal to establish a position for a Deputy Administrator for Science and Technology.


THE AIBS CONGRESSIONAL HANDBOOK - has been mailed gratis to all the presidents, AIBS Council representatives, and executive directors of AIBS's member societies and organizations. Please contact AIBS if you are eligible for a copy and have not received it. Much of the content of the handbook can also be accessed free online by all readers at www.aibs.org, in the Legislative Information Center, in the Public Policy section.


 


The American Institute of Biological Sciences is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) scientific association headquartered in Washington DC, with a staff of approximately 30. It was founded in 1947 as a part of the National Academy of Sciences and has been an independent organization since the mid-1950s, governed by a Board of Directors elected by its membership. The AIBS membership consists of approximately 6,000 biologists and 80 professional societies and other organizations; the combined individual membership of the latter exceeds 240,000 biologists. AIBS is an umbrella organization for the biological sciences dedicated to promoting an understanding of the natural living world, including the human species and its welfare, by engaging in coalition activities with its members in research, education, public policy, and public outreach; publishing the peer-reviewed journal, BioScience; providing scientific peer review and advisory services to government agencies and other clients; convening scientific meetings; and performing administrative and other support services for its member organizations.


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