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Public Policy Report for 11/16/2001

  • The numbers are in for the FY02 NSF, EPA budgets
  • Federal funds approved for pilot program to reinstitute Office of Technology Assessment in Congress
  • President's Science Advisor eliminates position of associate director for environment
  • U.S. Oceans Commission holds second meeting
  • Alabama State Board of Education adopts another textbook evolution disclaimer
  • Association of Ecosystem Research Center scientists take Washington by storm
  • AIBS roundtable on agricultural biosecurity, 11/30, noon - 3, National Press Club, Washington DC

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].


THE NUMBERS ARE IN FOR THE FY02 BUDGETS FOR NSF, EPA - On 6 November, Congressional appropriators completed the FY02 funding bill for the National Science Foundation and the Environmental Protection Agency. The final bill would provide NSF with $4.789 billion in FY 2002, $372 million or 8.4 percent more than FY 2001. This would be more than the administration's request of $4.5 billion and the Senate proposal of $4.7 billion, but slightly less than the $4.84 billion House proposal.

The Research and Related Activities (R&RA) account, which funds most of NSF's R&D, would receive $3.6 billion, 7.6 percent or $256 million more than FY 2001, in contrast to a requested cut from the Bush administration. Most of NSF's research directorates are slated to receive increases greater than 8 percent, in contrast to level or declining funding in the request, except for the Biology Directorate (BIO; up 4.9 percent to $509 million) and Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBE; up 2.7 percent to $169 million). The BIO appropriation includes a $75 million designation for the congressionally initiated plant genome research program, up from $65 million in FY 2001. The Congress did not consider funding for the proposed National Ecological Observatory Network, which was not included in the administration's request.

NSF's Education and Human Resources programs are in line for $875 million, 11.4 percent more than FY 2001. The administration sought $200 million for a new Math and Science Partnerships program to encourage academic institutions and schools to work together to improve math and science education. Although half of the program was proposed as new money, the other half would have come out of existing EHR programs. The final bill provides $160 million in new funds and restores funding to other EHR programs.

Although the FY 2002 EPA budget would increase by only 1.2 percent or $921 million to $7.9 billion, EPA's research program fared relatively well. The research program would be funded at $632 million, 3.8 percent or $23 million above the FY 2001 level. EPA requested a 6.5% cut in R&D down to $569 million - consisting primarily of congressionally designated research projects. The core research funding would have remained flat. Congress chose to fund most R&D programs at the requested level, but added nearly 50 congressionally designated research projects to the Science and Technology account and nearly 20 earmarked projects to the normally non-R&D Environmental Programs and Management account to bring FY 2002 R&D more than $63 million above the requested level and $23 million above the earmark-laden FY 2001 level.

Superfund used to transfer funds to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), for its research program on environmental health, but beginning in FY 2001 and continuing with the FY 2002 request and FY 2002 VA-HUD bill these funds are appropriated directly to NIEHS, and appear as part of the NIH budget. The NIEHS Superfund appropriation, funded in the final VA-HUD bill separately from the regular NIEHS appropriation, would be $70 million for FY 2002, the same as the request and up from $63 million in FY 2001.

(Thanks to the AAAS Research and Development Budget and Policy Project for these data and much of this analysis).


APPROPRIATIONS GIVES NEW, IF TEMPORARY LIFE, TO THE OFFICE OF TECHNOLOGY ASSESSMENT - In 1972, the U.S. Congress, recognizing the importance of unbiased expert information and analysis of major science and technology issues, established the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), an agency of the legislative branch. Over the next 23 years, OTA developed an experienced and knowledgeable professional scientific staff and, with the help of thousands of national and international experts and stakeholders, created a process, a culture, and a body of work in response to requests from Congressional Committees and OTA's bipartisan, bicameral Board of 12 Senators and Representatives. However, after the 104th Congress chose not to fund OTA's work after September 30, 1995, OTA closed its doors. The Office of Technology Assessment occupied a unique role among the Congressional information agencies. Unlike the General Accounting Office, which is primarily concerned with evaluation of ongoing programs, and the Congressional Research Service, which provides rapid information on legislative topics, OTA provided a deeper, more comprehensive, and more technical level of analysis. Through eleven Congressional sessions, OTA became a key resource for Congressional members and staff confronting technological issues in crafting public policy. Its existence brought a healthy balance to the analytical resources available to the executive and legislative branches of government.

In the 107th Congress, Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) sponsored legislation to revive the OTA. In a National Public Radio interview, two of the bill's co-sponsors, Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), Chairman of the House Science Committee, and Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-MI), a physicist by training, lauded the work of OTA and their "wonderful, detailed, long-term studies." However, Newt Gingrich, Speaker of the House of Representatives when OTA was eliminated, noted that many conservatives felt that OTA "was used by liberals to cover up political ideology with a gloss of science." Rep. Holt's bill would have revived OTA by simply reenacting its 1972 formative legislation and authorizing a budget of $20 million per year for five years.

Although the Holt bill failed to move through the House, the OTA is coming back to life next year, thanks to a Congressional appropriation of $500K that will fund a small one-year pilot program to develop a program within the General Accounting Office to provide scientific and technical advice to the Senate.

The General Printing Office maintains copies of OTA publications. Contact Superintendent of Documents, P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7974, [phone (202) 512-1800; FAX (202) 512-2250]. Publications are also available in paper or microfiche from the National Technical Information Service (NTIS). To confirm prices and to order, call (703) 487-4650; for rush orders call (1-800) 553-NTIS. An archival OTA CD-ROM set (S/N 052-003-01457-2) is available for $23.00 through the Superintendent of Documents, P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7974, [phone (202) 512-1800; FAX (202) 512-2250]. The OTA CD-ROM set includes all reports produced by the agency over its history, packaged along with much of the information formerly available via its world wide web site, OTA Online, as well as some additional historical material. It is a fully indexed collection, accessible via a Web browser such as Mosaic or Netscape and includes all OTA reports in portable document format [PDF] readable via Adobe's Acrobat reader software that is also packaged with the collection.

An OTA website, which includes all OTA assessments and a wealth of other information about OTA, is maintained jointly by Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public Affairs at http://www.wws.princeton.edu/~ota/ with a mirror site at the National Academy of Sciences [http://www.ota.nap.edu/].


PRESIDENT'S NEW SCIENCE ADVISOR ELIMINATES POSITION OF ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR FOR ENVIRONMENT - John Marburger, President Bush's newly-confirmed science advisor, has decided to eliminate the position of the associate director for environment in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). The Environment Division provides national leadership to ensure a sound scientific and technical foundation for environmental policies and programs and coordinates federal research and development strategies for environment and natural resource policies. The associate director for environment and the staff of the Environment Division support the Director in policy and technical areas that include: global climate change research, including climate observations and modeling, regional and national assessment of climate change impacts, and ozone depletion; technology for renewable energy and energy efficiency; ecosystem research, conservation and research regarding biodiversity and invasive and endangered species; oceans and coastal research, including hypoxia and harmful algal blooms and recovery of salmon resources; and natural disaster reduction. The Environmental Division also supports the development of integrated environmental monitoring and the development of methods and measures to determine the status and trends of the nation's ecosystems. Marburger intends to subsume environmental matters within the two remaining OSTP divisions - science and technology. Marburger also eliminated the position of the associate director for national security.


U.S. COMMISSION ON OCEAN POLICY HOLDS SECOND MEETING - The U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy - a 16-member body created under the Oceans Act of 2000 to undertake an 18-month study and to make recommendations to the President and Congress for a national ocean policy for the United States - held its second meeting on 13-14 November. The meeting served as a scoping session for the commission, which is charged with conducting a detailed review of existing and planned U.S. ocean and coastal programs and activities. The Commission is to provide recommendations for a coordinated and comprehensive national ocean policy on a broad range of issues, ranging from the stewardship of marine resources and pollution prevention to enhancing and supporting marine science, commerce, and transportation.

At the recent hearing, which was also attended by five members of Congress, 26 organizations, including the AIBS, which was represented by Adrienne Froelich, and AIBS member American Fisheries Society, presented information on a range of issues under consideration, including the need for increased funding for ocean exploration and for improved fisheries management. Several groups endorsed the recommendation of the original oceans commission (the Stratton Commission, which operated in the late 1960s) for an independent agency to regulate and manage all aspects of the ocean, including the Coast Guard, fisheries, research funding, coastal zone management and marine sanctuaries. Several groups also endorsed the concept of ocean zoning as a way to minimize conflicts between recreational and commercial fishing, aquaculture operations, oil and gas operations, and conservation areas. The 2-day listening session yielded immediate results for those pushing for ratification on the United Nations Convention Law of the Sea - a treaty which the United States signed in 1982, but has yet to ratify. After several presentations on the topic, the commission unanimously approved a motion to encourage the Bush Administration and the U.S. Senate to move quickly to ratify the treaty. According to witness testimony, the Bush Administration supports the move. More information on the ocean commission is available at its official website: www.oceancommission.gov. Full reports from the meeting will be posted to the site.


ALABAMA STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION ADOPTS ANOTHER EVOLUTION DISCLAIMER - The Alabama State Board of Education voted on November 8, 2001 to require that a statement referring to evolution as controversial be inserted in science textbooks. This new disclaimer will replace an earlier evolution disclaimer that has been pasted in Alabama's state-approved texts since 1995. Early this year the Board of Education adopted a new K-12 science education framework, the Alabama Course of Study: Science (ACOSS). Some observers had thought that Board might simply drop the previous disclaimer, given changes in ACOSS since 1995. However, the Board voted instead to require a new insert consisting of four paragraphs from the Preface to the 2001 ACOSS.

The new evolution insert reads:

"The word "theory" has many meanings. Theories are defined as systematically organized knowledge, abstract reasoning, a speculative idea or plan, or a systematic statement of principles. Scientific theories are based on both observations of the natural world and assumptions about the natural world. They are always subject to change in view of new and confirmed observations.

"Many scientific theories have been developed over time. The value of scientific work is not only the development of theories but also what is learned from the development process. The Alabama Course of Study: Science includes many theories and studies of scientists' work. The work of Copernicus, Newton, and Einstein, to name a few, has provided a basis of our knowledge of the world today.

"The theory of evolution by natural selection is a controversial theory that is included in this textbook. It is controversial because it states that natural selection provides the basis for the modern scientific explanation for the diversity of living things. Since natural selection has been observed to play a role in influencing small changes in a population, it is assumed that it produces large changes, even though this has not been directly observed. Because of its importance and implication, students should understand the nature of evolutionary theories. They should learn to make distinctions between the multiple meanings of evolution, to distinguish between observations and assumptions used to draw conclusions, and to wrestle with the unanswered questions and unresolved problems still faced by evolutionary theory.

"There are many unanswered questions about the origin of life. With the explosion of new scientific knowledge in biochemical and molecular biology and exciting new fossil discoveries, Alabama students may be among those who use their understanding and skills to contribute to knowledge and to answer many unanswered questions. Instructional materials associated with controversy should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered."


ASSOCIATION OF ECOSYSTEM RESEARCHERS TAKES WASHINGTON BY STORM - Led by outgoing President Lindsay Boring and incoming President David White, AERC is rapidly becoming adept at working with policy makers in Washington. At its 2001 annual meeting, held 13-14 November at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., AERC members met with a variety of federal officials and elected representatives to learn about the direction of federal research programs and research funding in the biological sciences. Keynote talks were given by Donald Boesch (President, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science) and David Blockstein (Senior Scientist, National Council for Science and the Environment). Other speakers included Rep. Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD), Adam Sulllivan, staff director for Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA), Chip Groat (Director, U.S. Geological Survey), David Evans (NOAA Assistant Administrator for Oceanic and Atmospheric Research), and Mark Poth (Division Director for the Natural Resources and the Environment Division of the National Research Initiative of the U.S. Department of Agriculture) and Joann Roskoski, (Deputy Division Director, Division of Environmental Biology (BIO/DEB), National Science Foundation). In addition, Boring, White, and Robin Graham visited their Congressional representatives on Tuesday afternoon.


AIBS ROUNDTABLE ON AGRICULTURAL BIOSECURITY - AIBS is holding the first of a series of public roundtables on bioterrorism: Friday 30 November 2001, 12 noon - 3:00 p.m., First Amendment Lounge National Press Club, 529 14th St. NW, 13th Floor, Washington, DC. Topic: Agricultural Biosecurity. Panelists: Laurence V. Madden, Department of Plant Pathology, Ohio State University; Mark Wheelis, Section of Microbiology, University of California-Davis, Davis, CA: Rocco Casagrande, Surface Logix, Brighton, MA; and a representative from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Register to attend by contacting Marsha Brown at AIBS, tel 202-628-1500 x 202; fax 202-628-1509; mbrown@aibs.org.


 


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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