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Public Policy Report for 09/21/2001

  • The AIBS Public Policy Office grows by one
  • AAAS-recommended scientific expert appointed to aid federal court
  • Update on Smithsonian advisory committee
  • AIBS, member societies to comment on draft Canadian Animal Care and Use Guidelines

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].


AIBS PUBLIC POLICY OFFICE GROWS BY ONE - The AIBS proposal to its member societies and organizations to help fund expanded public policy activities for the common interests of all members of the AIBS federation has borne fruit. Dr. Adrienne J. Froelich (afroelich@aibs.org) has been hired to join the AIBS staff as a public policy representative. She will start in early October and will work with Ellen Paul, who now becomes the AIBS Senior Public Policy Representative. Dr. Froelich's time will be divided between projects directed by AIBS and by the American Society of Limnology and Oceanography--the latter, together with other aquatic science societies, provided a substantial amount of the funding for this position. Her areas of responsibility will include aquatic sciences (marine, estuarine, fresh water, and wetlands) as well as broader work for the general AIBS membership on public policy issues in organismal and integrative biology.

Dr. Froelich has a Ph.D. in Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology from Univ. of Notre Dame; she is a former National Sea Grant Knauss Marine Policy Fellow and worked for a year in the office of U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), now Chair of the Senate Science, Technology, and Space subcommittee. Most recently, she has been working as a policy analyst at NOAA.

Generous contributions from the following member societies and organizations, with AIBS's own additional funding, have made this public policy expansion possible:

American Fisheries Society
American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists
American Society of Limnology and Oceanography
American Society of Mammalogists
Association of Ecosystem Research Centers
Biological Sciences Curriculum Study
Estuarine Research Federation
Organization of Biological Field Stations
North American Lake Management Society
Society for Economic Botany
Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology
Society for the Study of Evolution
Society of Systematic Biologists
Society of Wetland Scientists

Additional contributions from other member societies and organizations are sought to help ensure the robustness of the funding stream for this position and for other AIBS public policy activities from one year to the next, which, with sufficient additional funding, could include additional public policy staff and/or intern positions. Contributions are made on a rolling 12-month cycle with a three-year commitment. All contributions to this initiative are ear-marked for public policy activities, some of which have a strong educational component. (NOTE: AIBS's activities in support of evolution education and research are jointly handled by the AIBS Public Policy Office and the AIBS Education Office.)


AAAS-RECOMMENDED SCIENTIFIC EXPERT APPOINTED TO AID FEDERAL COURT - A federal judge in Texas has appointed the first scientific expert to be recommended by AAAS as part of a project to provide independent scientific expertise to the federal judiciary. Ordinarily, litigants choose their own experts, who usually present opposing views on scientific issues; neither the judge nor the jury has a genuine opportunity to assess the experts' credentials. Although the Federal Rules of Evidence permit courts to appoint their own experts, judges - who rarely have scientific training - need guidance in selecting experts. The AAAS project seeks to help judges with the selection of expert witnesses. Deborah Runkle, AAAS's project manager for CASE, or Court Appointed Scientific Experts noted that the case concerns an intellectual property dispute and that the recently-appointed expert is a prominent Washington, DC, engineer with expertise in telecommunications. "The judge has asked the expert to write a report explaining the scientific principles in the case and the meaning of technical terms that appear in a related patent," Runkle said. "The expert may also be asked to testify." All costs associated with the expert's work, which will be charged at $300 an hour, will be paid by the two parties to the suit, Runkle said. CASE is a project of the Scientific Freedom, Responsibility and Law Program at AAAS. When requested to do so by the courts, the project assists federal district judges in finding experts who can help them understand and evaluate the scientific and technological issues that play a role in some complex cases. There is no list of experts on hand, Runkle said. Rather, she and her colleagues search for experts on a case-by-case basis. They are aided in their efforts by various scientific societies, as well as by the noted scientists who make up the CASE Recruitment and Screening Panel. According to Runkle, organizers of the project hope to help the courts resolve scientifically-complex litigation, while providing scientists with an opportunity to be of service and to help maintain the objectivity that is crucial to scientific integrity.


UPDATE ON SMITHSONIAN SCIENCE COMMISSION - On Friday, September 7, Jeremy Sabloff, who chairs the Smithsonian Science Commission, held a press conference. In his statement, which followed the first meeting of the 18-member SSC, Sabloff said that much of the time was devoted to procedural matters. The commissioners accepted a schedule of bimonthly meetings, with two more between now and the end of the year - one in late October and another in December. The commission expects to submit final recommendations to the Board of Regents, Sabloff said, "Given the importance and enormity of the task before us, we will take as long as it takes to do it right. Of the dates that have been bandied about, I can tell you we will not be finished by the end of this year, and not necessarily before the May 2002 Regents' meeting. Within a year is a good frame of reference, but we want to be sure that expectations and reasonable and realistic."

Sabloff stressed that the SSC is acutely aware of the perception among some scientists and researchers at the Smithsonian that normal activities are suspended pending the outcome of the commission's deliberations. He urged scientists to appreciate the distinction between the programmatic stalls imposed by financial constraints - some grant programs have been curtailed by the fiscal year 2002 federal budget, for example - and those actions that have to await the commission's report, many of which are organizational and administrative. Saying that the commission appreciates the extent of disruption to business-as-usual at the Smithsonian over the past five months, Sabloff said that the commission agreed to prioritize the answers to the questions in the charge by the Smithsonian, and would, if possible, make interim reports to the Regents in the interest of keeping things moving forward. In the meantime, however, the commission stressed the importance of carrying on the day-to-day activities of science at the Institution.

The commission is keenly interested in comments, suggestions, and perspectives from members of the Smithsonian's scientific community. To that end, the commission will be sending a letter to every scientist and researcher in the Institution in the next couple of weeks, soliciting individual input by letter and e-mail. Additionally, small, sub-groups of commissioners will conduct site visits and hold town hall meetings at each of the Smithsonian's research centers. Comments from the larger scientific community will also be welcomed and considered. The SSC now has a website: http://www.si.edu/sciencecommission. The charge to the commission is posted on the website, which will also be used to disseminate press releases and minutes of meetings.


AIBS, MEMBER SOCIETIES TO COMMENT ON DRAFT CANADIAN ANIMAL CARE AND USE GUIDELINES - The Canadian Council on Animal Care has drafted new guidelines on the care and use of wildlife in research. Gilly Griffin, CCAC Director, contacted AIBS Senior Public Policy Representative Ellen Paul to request a review by biologists. The draft has been shared with a number of biologists who work with vertebrates and their comments will be forwarded to the CCAC. The Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC) is the national peer review agency responsible for setting and maintaining standards for the care and use of animals used in research, teaching and testing throughout Canada. The CCAC was established in 1968. Its mission statement underlines the focus of the CCAC on the ethical principles of animal-based experimentation. The CCAC website (http://www.ccac.ca) states the organization's mission: "The purpose of the Canadian Council on Animal Care is to act in the interests of the people of Canada to ensure through programs of education, assessment and persuasion that the use of animals, where necessary, for research, teaching and testing employs optimal physical and psychological care according to acceptable scientific standards, and to promote an increased level of knowledge, awareness and sensitivity to relevant ethical principles." AIBS commends CCAC for seeking input from the regulated community in developing these guidelines. Most of the existing guidebooks on animal use and care were developed without input from biologists who study wildlife.

 


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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